Three Simple and Practical Design Tips You Should Be Using

By Ryan Tarbell, TH Mgmt., Inc. Communications Associate

As a communications associate at TH Mgmt., Inc. my greatest responsibility is to get a clear and engaging message out to our clients and members. My goal is to deliver a straightforward message, which provides our clients with the select information they need without it vanishing into the white noise of mass mailings cluttering up their inboxes. Given the variety of design platforms in use, and the inevitable emergence of new technologies, it is important to have a sound understanding of design fundamentals.

Practical design tips I like to keep in mind include:

  1. Traditional fonts. Legibility in type/text is crucial in user engagement. With thousands of fonts out there, it’s good to know a few time proven mainstay traditional fonts. Some of my “go to” fonts are the Univers, Helvetica, Frutiger and Garamond families. These font families have the benefit of being tried and tested over time, and hold up for their legibility and aesthetic value. I have found that working within constraints can actually enable creativity. While I will use non-traditional fonts on occasion (usually if I am trying to draw the eye to one area of the composition) I find that the traditional fonts lend themselves to the support role nicely. The body copy of a design acts as the skeleton the rest of the composition is hung upon. Tested fonts will help the structure of the image be successful. Designing like this will also force you to improve your working knowledge of typography, understanding the dynamic relationship between characters and character blocks. Remember, you have to walk before you can run.
  2. Consistent style. The sooner you can establish a consistent visual language for your promotions the better. Once established, don’t stray from the mark too far. It will help to keep you clients focused on the message you are trying to get across, without distracting them by offering something unfamiliar. A successful visual language can also find use on multiple design projects. If something is working, let it continue to work. When you are ready to roll out something knew, and you want your audience to recognize it as such, that is the time to make noticeable changes, while still remaining faithful to your overall vernacular. An adjustment to your style will help your audience recognized you are rolling out a new idea or concept. It will help engage them. Remember, successful interactive design comes from you doing the thinking for them. Attention spans are alarmingly short these days so getting the viewer to notice something is an accomplishment; it should not then be ruined by a difficult interactive experience. This leads us to our next design tip, simplicity.
  3. Simplicity. Understanding basic rules of composition is critical for a designer. Be careful not to over design your composition.  Often, the most basic design ideas lead to the most sophisticated pieces. This is where the fundamentals of design come into play. Understanding where the eye of your audience is likely to settle and move through the piece is essential. Again, there are rules and structure to any composition: following these rules and working with them, rather than at cross purposes, will compel you to push yourself. An example of this could be to limit the color palette you are using, or working in grayscale altogether until you have got the composition down, and only then adding color. Be familiar with the current trends in design, as well as past trends. An awareness as to what is happening now in the design world will keep your work fresh and relevant.Continuing education is important for any creative professional. In that spirit, here are some book recommendations:  Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang which gives some great insights on how to organize a composition with a visually pleasing aesthetic. Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland which gives tips on how to get over your hesitation and start working. And finally, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a must read for anyone, regardless of vocation, to learn how to overcome the struggle against daily resistance.
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