Welcome to Design University - Sweb style. Design can take a lot of practice and creativity, but we’re here to reveal tips of the trade to help your pieces be clean, professional, and effective.

  1. Follow the “Z” - This is especially important for magazine work. The eye naturally follows a “z” pattern when it’s browsing printed material. Allowing elements of your design to settle in that space draws your eye actively along the page. The pattern can subtly be shaped by white space, the product placement on a page, and the logo placement. Don’t think too rigidly, it’s more of a flowing movement with this rule.
  2. Rule of Thirds - When working with a page, it is important to think about the overall weight of the page. Divide it into thirds. Generally speaking your most important visual/highest volume visual should take up a third of the page. How does the page feel? Does it feel to heavy? Are your eyes dragged to the bottom or top of the page too much? Is that your desired result?
  3. Keep it Simple - Don’t overcrowd or add too many details to a piece. The eyes can get easily overwhelmed by too much information and lose interest in continuing on, possibly not delivering your message to the viewer. A clean design lets your eyes rest and allows the content to shine. Don’t be afraid of white space, sometimes less is more.
  4. The Eye Catch - Be careful of an element with an odd shape or hole. Someone’s crook of their arm, an odd color change, an “o” that sits oddly in the middle of the page. The effect is the same as standing in front of someone and letting them run into you. An eye catch disrupts the reader as they view the page, distracting them and breaking their train of thought. This will most likely result in fragmented information to the viewer.
  5. Limit Your Fonts - A great rule of thumb is 2-3 fonts per piece. You want a header font and then a body font with multiple weights and styles. The third font can be a complement to the header font (thin vs. thick fonts, a script font to go with a stiff font, etc.).
  6. Focus on the Message - When speaking to the audience, it is important that the sizing and style of the font puts all the focus on the most important element of the message. You want the viewer to clearly see the concept within the first few seconds of looking at the piece.
  7. Create a Style Guide - Be Consistent. When you establish branding for the company, continue to use the same size body fonts for similar pieces, and of course use the same colors and styles across the board. A good goal is to stick between 2 primary colors and up to 2-3 secondary colors. Check out Pictaculous if you need helping generating your color palette. Make sure it differentiates you from competitors in the same industry.
  8. Resolution - This can destroy a great design. If you are working with images, and anything non-vector, the design standard is 300 dpi for printing. In a pinch, you can probably go to 200/250 dpi, but you will start to see pixelation at these sizes.
  9. Bleeds vs. No Bleeds - A brochure might look amazing in Illustrator, until you print it out and fold it up. Suddenly words are chopped in half, colors don’t line up with the folds, a woman’s forehead is cut clean off, and your type touches the edges of the page. Determining when a file needs bleeds is important to having the final piece print as intended. If you are planning on having any images or color extend all the way to the edges of a page, you’ll want to include a minimum of an ⅛” bleed.
  10. Adobe What? - Are you a small business not interested in the Creative Suite? Try gimp or canva. Otherwise, here is the breakdown of all those Adobe programs:

Illustrator - Invitations, Tri-Fold brochures, and typography-based creative projects. You are generally working with vectors in Illustrator. It’s also great for designing something at a smaller scale that can be enlarged later.

Indesign - Longer documents. Indesign has a great way to store files separate from the working file and linking them in. The system has a learning curve, but it’s awesome at taking a huge document (say 300 pages) and making it very easy to open and work in without lagging. It’s also great for long brochures. The only downside is that it’s really meant to be an assembling type program. It doesn’t have as many of the creative features as illustrator, so sometimes features have to be created outside of it and dropped in as a linked file.

Photoshop - Images of course! You can design in it, but you have to be very careful. A file created in Photoshop always has a pixel value (unless it’s a copied in vector file) so it will get blurry when scaled larger than 100%. It’s a great program for editing, making an amazing background or blending together multiple images (say for a band poster).

Like these general “rules of thumb?” Then stay tuned. Future articles will dive into more specific topics like color inspiration and standard dimensions so sign up for our newsletter if you want notified. Looking for a design consult? Email us directly!