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old fashioned metal letters for printing

Serif vs Sans Serif in Design

So does it matter if I pick a serifed or a sans serifed typestyle for my design project?
Yes and no. There aren't any hard and fast rules about which style to choose, however, there are some choices that are more pleasing to look at as well as easier to read. When designing a long format document especially, you'll generally have three options when it comes to the headlines, subheads, and body text:
  • All serifed type
  • All sans serifed type
  • A combination of sans serifed and serifed type
Option 1 is an example of a layout using an all serifed typestyle, Georgia. Looks okay, it'll pass inspection. It's got a bold headline, a couple of font treatments, not too shabby, but a little unimaginative. Option 2 is a version with all sans serifed type. Again, doesn't look bad, but could certainly use something to jazz it up a bit. Option 3 would be my personal choice. It combines a sans serifed style for the head and subhead, then the body text is set in an easy to read serifed style. I'd also use the sans serifed face to draw attention to other subheads, pull quotes, and image captions. Remember, there aren't any hard and fast rules when it comes to picking out typestyles for a project. Just try and keep them to a minimum:  three at the very most. Also, make sure that no matter the style, it's easy to read. Folks will give up on your content in a heart beat if it's difficult to navigate. Simple and clean is best. If you'd like to learn more, check out my Graphic Design Tutor Master Class. A graphic design course built specifically for businesses who'd like to save money by keeping their marketing designs in house.

all the colors in the rainbow spectrum

5 Basic Color Wheel Concepts

There are some simple concepts that everyone should know about color. Especially when you're trying to grab someones attention and inspire them to feel a certain way when consuming your marketing materials.

So how would I use a color wheel when designing my marketing project?
A color wheel will help you to determine color harmonies. For example:  yellow, yellow green, and green are a harmonious trio based on an analogous theory. In other words, colors that are similar (or close to each other on the wheel) go together. The wheel will also help you to quickly determine a colors compliment so you can always put an eye catching pop of color in your projects. Let's just touch on some basic theories:
  1. The chart below clearly shows the colors in the color wheel that is based on the primary colors Yellow, Red, and Blue.
  2. The secondary colors are the result of mixing the two adjacent primary colors. i.e. Violet is created by mixing Blue and Red.
  3. The secondary colors are also considered to be the primary colors compliment color. Complimentary colors are always opposite each other on the wheel. i.e. Green is the complimentary color to Red and Violet is the complimentary color to Yellow.
  4. The tertiary colors on the wheel are created when combining a primary color with a secondary color. i.e. Yellow Orange is created by mixing Yellow and Orange.
  5. Generally the colors on the right side of the wheel are considered warm and the left side is cool. However, there can be warm and cool variations of all the colors in the wheel.
There are volumes of information to be learned about color. If you'd like to learn more, I go in-depth about color for graphic design, including how colors make people feel, in the Graphic Design Tutor Master Class.

File Types for Graphic Design

When creating marketing materials for your business, you'll eventually need to deliver the project files either to your printer or upload an image to the internet via a social media platform or your website. Here's a handy list explaining the file types you'll most likely use when creating marketing projects.

  • JPG
    • This file is used for images. You'll need high quality, large photos. It will have a white background.
  • PNG
    • This is another image file. However, when saving to this type of file, the image or illustration will have a clear background surrounding it.
      • Note:  Other images files include:  TIF and GIF
  • PDF
    • PDF stands for "portable document format" and was introduced to ease the sharing of documents between computers and across operating system platforms.
    • This is a pretty universal file that can be read, but usually not modified, by almost all software programs. Your printer, whether an online or local vendor will most likely want your project files in this format. Vector files can be saved and read from this format as well if you're delivering illustrations or logo files.
  • EPS
    • EPS stands for "encapsulated post script" and is a file extension for a graphics file format used in vector-based images and text. These files can be read and edited by desktop publishing and layout software like Adobe Illustrator or InDesign.
I go into the specifics of file types and how they are used when creating marketing materials for business in the Graphic Design Tutor Master Class.

Stop Stretching Your Type!

Hands off the horizontal scale tool.
I mean it, don't touch it!

In most layout applications there is an option to change the width of text. This tool is generally called the "horizontal scale" tool. It's meant to stretch the width of characters from their original state.

All three of these sets of letters is the same size: 29 point. The top set is set at a normal horizontal scale, the center is set at 50%, and the bottom is set at 150%. Neither option is all that attractive and obviously manipulated.

One of the ways this feature could be utilized is in the creation of logos and illustrations. Think twice before using this option with characters or words used in every day text for projects and designs. Do some testing to ensure that the characters aren't over manipulated.

There are times when you'll need to shrink up the text in your document to fit a specific area or to make room for something else. You might feel tempted to shrink the text by changing the horizontal scale. Try not to do this. If over done, it will be obvious to your readers that the text has been manipulated in this way.

Here are three ways to manipulate the text to free up space:

  1. Change the font size - even .5 of a point can change the text area dramatically.
  2. Tighten up the kerning - be careful using this tool, it can get obvious and difficult to read.
  3. Tighten up the line spacing - again, be careful, tighten only slightly.

If done correctly and with care, all three of these tactics can be used to free up space by shrinking the text area. Remember, you don't want to sacrifice readability.

For a more in depth lesson on spacing, kerning, and layout, check out the Graphic Design Tutor Master Class.