Visual Branding (Logos), Publications (Brochures / Corporate Annual Reports), Websites for NYC Startups
The design process is typically linear no matter if it’s for logo designs, magazines, brochures, corporate annual reports, or startup websites. Steps include the initial brief, research, roughs, and so on. Along the way are basic components (or elements) that designers must consider and factor into every distinctive design solution.
Components of a Successful Design Solution
Time/Budget: The most concrete of graphic design components, defining it as an applied art with constraints.
Content: What needs to be included in the communication being made.
Form: The shape a design takes based on the content it needs to convey.
Function: The basic determination of a project’s goals. For example, a promotion for an event will have, as its main objective, to convince people to attend. Function defines the direction design will take.
Structure: A hierarchy to the audience: what to see and read first, then second, third, and so on. Every design benefits from some kind of structure or planned order to convey information.
Usefulness: A practical consideration to make a design useful for its audience. Usefulness can include many aspects, for example, typography with an “edgy” aesthetic might be appropriate for a music magazine, but not for a medicine bottle’s instructions.
Aesthetics: The way a design looks to draw an audience into a composition—aesthetic features are tied to usefulness in this way.
Distinction: The ways a design can be different from all that is around it. We are bombarded with all sorts of messages and images—your design must somehow stand out. If a wall of posters shouts, a unique quality might be achieved by a poster that whispers. The ephemeral nature of graphic design offers the possibility for a distinction to be made by what design does (it is functional, structured, useful, and aesthetically pleasing), but also what design doesn’t do.
Brand and Identity Design
For any company to succeed, it must establish its own, unique brand (an identifying personality) that is burnt into the mind of its audience. A logo (a graphic or symbolic representation) can accomplish this function by presenting a face for the viewer to see—a visual identity. A logo also differentiates one company from another, becoming quite valuable if used consistently in advertising, print collateral, websites, and broadcast media.
Graphic designers who work at corporations create a wide array of materials. Style manuals help coordinate how a corporate identity is applied to various communications from the annual report and websites, to business cards, advertising layouts, and environmental signage. The goal is to create a comfort zone for the general public by consistently presenting a familiar, instantly recognizable face.
Package design must function three-dimensionally and often utilizes texture as well as text and image. Industrial packaging is a major field, but it’s the consumer category that holds the most presence for industry, including food and beverages, cosmetics, household products, pharmaceuticals, and smaller groups. Decisions about size and shape are often impacted by government regulations, and decisions about the overall personality and approach are often determined based on focus groups and consumer feedback.
Magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and other periodicals all fall within the umbrella of publication design. Thousands of periodicals are published each year in the United States alone, and other countries are equally invested in their own periodicals. Categories include news, business, travel, retail, entertainment, and fashion, and these publications are distributed weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Each periodical strives for a unique identity, and the elements that provide this uniqueness are a blend of photography, typography, and continuity from page to page. In terms of design, a newspaper or newsletter might stress utility of reading, whereas a magazine will stress creative interpretation of each story.
Now that most publications have both a print and online presence, designers have to consider how their designs will function in both platforms. A particular printed font may not work well online, or a sequence of images in print may not present themselves in the same way on the screen. Do you design for print and adapt it for the Web or vice versa? Or do you design with both formats in mind from the beginning? These decisions challenge publication designers every day. As online technology advances, such design decisions become not only more complex but also more important for the publication.
Book publishers give the final, edited text to designers for layout. It is important that the designer understand the content when making decisions about the font, headers, and all other design elements. The style decisions need to be consistent with the subject matter. Illustrated books present a whole different set of design challenges.
Book Jacket Design
The success of a book, or a series of books, may be dependent on the cover design. The cover relays a great deal of nonverbal information about the content. The ultimate test is the bookshelf—either at actual book stores or on a website where a book becomes a mini-poster. The designer’s job is to attract notice and provide a point of entry for the book.
Helping people find their way through stores, airports, highways, and buildings is the main goal of signage design. A strong understanding of typography is essential in this area of design, as is an understanding of building plans, floor plans, construction, and exit procedures. Signage designers work with interior and landscape designers as well as architects to create signage—a sign, or system of signs, that will be highly visible but also will integrate with the space for which they are planned.
The presentation of information and data is both an art and a science. The designer must make data understandable and easy to use in a way that is effective, efficient, and attractive. Typical examples might include instructions for product use, signs, public information systems, computer interfaces, websites, forms, educational materials, maps, charts, graphs, and diagrams.
Promotion that supports or reinforces an identity, service, or event is considered collateral material. This type of material includes brochures, mailers, catalogs, announcements, and so on. These materials usually require copywriting (composing the words), photography, and illustration (stylized drawing/painting). While advertising agencies handle major campaigns for promoting a brand’s product or service, they will often commission designers to produce collateral pieces.
Graphic designers working within advertising media fuse their understanding of visual identity with campaign marketing strategies. Magazine advertising and direct mail are two potential directions for designers to take in this category. Designers can bring a graphic sensibility to traditional campaigns and help integrate type and image to strengthen advertising concepts. Advertising designers usually have a strong background in marketing.