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Invisible design.

Posted by Tim Downs 4 years ago 0

When I was a kid, it never dawned on me that people designed magazines, newspapers, books or any printed stuff for that matter. I understood someone took a photo or created an illustration (I wasn’t completely oblivious) but the idea of design was foreign to me.

I fell under the spell of magazines at an early age, National Geographic was my first true love to be precise. I imagined myself in those exotic places, or on scientific missions of discovery, I could even see being the one on assignment shooting pictures of some faraway place, communicating with a tribe who may have never seen another person like me. I dreamt of going back to my rustic cotton tent, surrounded by mosquito netting and pounding out some beautiful vision on my ancient smith-corona, but never did I conceive how all that stuff ended up on those soft glossy pages that I still find so alluring. That’s because good design is invisible.

Whether you are designing a magazine, book, ad or marketing campaign, it’s important to remember the principal goal of design is the same in each, to tell a story with words and images. It’s about communicating quickly and beautifully with two things in mind.

  1. Who is my audience? what engages them, what excites them, and how can I best speak in a common visual language with them
  2. What is my sell goal? Editorial thinkers, please stay with me here. What is the point of what I’m designing? If it’s an ad I need to design in a way that my product, or service becomes desirable to the audience. Through my design I can make them ask themselves how in the world could they have lived without it before. If I’m designing a feature article in a magazine, it’s the same storytelling, only instead of a product, the darling of my design may be a story about getting the most gas mileage from your car, or an interview with someone your audience would love to meet. In all cases, choosing the colors, images, fonts, composition and visual emphasis that make the story we’re trying to tell most appealing, will ultimately help us as designers fade effortlessly into the background leaving only the story, and the readers imagination.

5 common design mistakes

  1. “More is better” don’t fall for this photo myth. Choose your images carefully to convey your message or create emotion, but don’t overdue it. Unless your piece is a photo-essay, give  your reader just enough information to make a buying decision or if it’s an editorial story, use your photos carefully, pacing them intentionally, so you don’t pull the reader’s attention away from the story.
  2. “Check out this cool font!” This mistake can often lead to “amaturish” design. Plan your type choices around the needs of your piece, not a trendy font.
  3. “I think I can fit that.” If your gut tells you there’s too much copy on the page there probably is. And ad shouldn’t read like an advertorial, and if it’s a marketing piece, make sure your call to action is clear and concise, not too wordy.
  4. “An hourglass and a jar of molasses?” don’t mix your metaphors, come up with one good concept, and stick with it.
  5. “I can really make this ‘pop’!” just because your layout application can make cool shadows and bevels, doesn’t mean it’s right for your design. Create interest with your composition and typographical choices, only use effects when they are intrinsic to your design.

When in doubt, leave design to the professionals. Here at Outreach, our seasoned, talented, design staff is just waiting to help you. With every purchase of a design product, you get two hours of free design time (a $110 value) from our expertly trained staff. Bring your ideas to us and let us help you customize one of our designs, or let us create something from scratch for you. Let us be your virtual design department!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be visiting many of the design principles that will enable us as graphic artists to become invisible to our audience. Check back soon for the next installment, “I love it! but can you use a font with more ‘flair’?”

Tim Downs is the Art Director for the award-winning Outreach magazine and Creative Director for Outreach, Inc. With over 20 years of consumer magazine, marketing and advertising experience, Tim brings his insights on design issues, management and creativity to you each month to help you share your gifts for outreach.

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