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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Typographer's ToolBox

This is a little resource for anybody interested in graphic design. Here, I will expel my knowledge in a very basic manner. Previous versions of the Toolbox have been quite wordy, so I'm going to try to cut down and get straight to the point.

Typeface Use
Use one typeface per design. If absolutely necessary, use 2. However, make sure each has a specific purpose. One might be for important information, the other might be for body copy.

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem Ipsum is dummy copy. It's filler just to see how a paragraph of type will look on a design. Check out [link] for a Lorem Ipsum Generator.

Design Software
The following is a list of design software and what it should be used for:

  • Adobe Illustrator.
Use this for single-page layouts, logo design, illustration, typesetting. Do not use Illustrator for editing photographs, making website layouts, or making multiple-page designs. It gets a bit laggy when setting a big block of text, so use InDesign for the larger jobs.

  • Adobe Photoshop
Use this for editing photography, drawing photographic imagery, and designing web-page layouts. Do not use Photoshop for typesetting, making document layouts, or multiple-page designs.

  • Adobe InDesign
Use this for multiple page layout design. It can also be used for typesetting, but it does not have as many drawing capabilities as Illustrator. It's really best when you have a lot of text to set. Do not use InDesign for editing photographs or making websites.

  • Macromedia Flash
This is ONLY good for animation/interfaces. It is functional as a website design program, but it requires a lot of additional coding knowledge that many creative people do not have. Do not use Flash for any print work at all. It is only good for web use.

  • Macromedia Freehand
This program is comparable to Adobe Illustrator. It doesn't work exactly the same, but it can do a lot of the same illustration things. If you're comfortable with Freehand, by all means use it as you would Illustrator. However, be aware that it is not compatible with any Adobe programs, and is likely to be discontinued because of the recent acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe.

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver
This is what I use for website compilation. I don't actually design the website here. Instead, I drag and drop elements and do some code editing. It's simple and fast, but not entirely necessary if you can write code by hand. It is also known for being a poor WYSIWYG, in that what it shows you is not always exactly how it'll look in a web browser.

  • Quark Xpress
Do not use Quark for anything. Some people are happy with Quark, but I am wary to trust them. Quark is comparable to InDesign in many ways, but its usability is very low and it is not at all intuitive. All good printers have switched over to InDesign, so there is absolutely no reason to continue using Quark unless you're stuck in the stone age. Okay, that may have been harsh, but Quark has become dramatically surpassed by InDesign in every way. There's no reason to keep using a sub-par program.

  • Final Cut Pro
This is for film/video editing. I prefer this program to After Effects, but the downside is that Final Cut Pro is only for Mac computers. Final Cut is the industry standard for film editing.

  • Adobe After Effects
Comparable to Final Cut Pro, but a little more confusing. The interface is similar to most familiar Adobe interfaces, but it doesn't functional as well as it should and runs a little slower than I'd like. Still, it can do most everything Final Cut can.

Setting type is an important skill. So is spelling. When setting type, give it at least 5pt of tracking, and it's usually a good idea to give it good leading. Make the leading equal or 2pts higher than the size of the type, and you should be fine. Also, be sure to kern by hand. Kerning is adjusting the spacing in between individual letters, while tracking is the spacing in between all of the letters as a whole. Computers cannot kern well by themselves just yet, so it is up to designers to know how to do it.

Finding a good print source is important for any designer. Most offset printers are crap, so here are some things to look for:

1. Do they care about your project? If they treat your project like a hassle, don't give them your business.

2. Do they print using PMS (pantone) colors? A good printer will. This is also referred to as offset printing. A good offset printer will use Heidleberg printers.

3. Are they willing to work with you on the price? Good printers can give you discounts if you ask. They might not be huge, but every bit helps.

4. Nearby Location. It's a good idea to find a printer close to you. Don't use internet-based printing companies unless their printing locations is nearby. Why does this matter? You need to be able to go on press checks, and by living nearby you'll also save on shipping costs. If you can pick the work up yourself, why bother shipping?

5. Do they allow and encourage press checks? A press check is when you, the designer, visit the printer to see the status of your print run. Check to make sure the color is accurate, and there is no blurring or smudging. If your project is worth a lot of money, most printers will treat you to lunch as well.

6. Do they support InDesign? Most all reputable printers have switched from Quark to InDesign, but there are still a handful that don't yet support it. Don't bother using a company that doesn't support InDesign, as they are clearly outdated.

Two good printers in the Los Angeles area:
Typecraft - These guys print all of the stuff for AIGA. They're expensive, but they're damn good.
Digital Room - A small print house. They mostly say they do 4-color printing, but they can also do PMS. Prices are cheap, but they can be a bit of a hassle to work with. They require a credit card to begin work, and rarely return calls on time. You really get what you pay for, in terms of service.

Logo Design
A good logo is unique, looks good, is appropriate, and is very graphic.
So, to elaborate, the logo should not look like any other logo. It should be pleasing to look at. It should fit with the company it's supposed to be for. It should be able to scale up and down and still look the same (you shouldn't lose lines or shapes at small sizes).

Logo vs. Logotype
A lot of idiots have argued with me on this. A logo is an all-inclusive term used to refer to any symbol used to represent something. A logotype is a logo made out of type.
If you want to get more technical, a mark is the symbol portion of an identity. A logotype is the lettering portion. A signature is the entire identity system as a whole.

Be Simple
Keep your message simple. Don't overcomplicate the idea you're trying to convey. If your design looks good, but is conceptually weak, then you've failed in design. Design isn't supposed to just look good, it's supposed to give people a message quickly and clearly. This is why graphic design is referred to as a communication art.

Soliciting Work
If you know of a company that needs a new logo, don't go out of your way to tell them how crappy their logo is. Instead, have a meeting with the owner of the company. Talk to him about how you have some idea that could improve his business. Let him know how a new or appropriate identity could attract more people and make him look more professional. Do not hand him your design. Even if you don't want money, it's good to get in the habit of getting paid for your work. If he owns a restaurant, he can pay you in food. If he owns a car wash, he can give you some free car washes. Your design is valuable, so don't short-change yourself.

Should You Be a Graphic Designer?
Not all artists are graphic designers, but all graphic designers are artists.
Just because you can draw well does not mean you have the knack for design. A good graphic designer looks at intricate details, and understands that everything has meaning. A good designer also has the ability to see things through the non-designer's eye. If you've always had a preoccupation with colors and shapes, see if graphic design is something you might be interested in.

- by Ryan Ford on DA
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