Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Infographics

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

what-is-an-infographicLast week’s blog post covered the use of photos in projects, such as websites or blogs. Now I’d like to introduce you to another type of visual media that can help make your project more engaging: infographics. Infographics, like photos, help draw in readers by presenting information in a visually appealing manner. Infographics are almost like pieces of art; a truly creative piece will attract positive attention. So if you have a lot of data or research to present to your readers, an infographic might be the way to go. After all, reading through chunks of numbers and statistics can be quite dreary. Infographics will help keep your readers engaged and make your information more accessible.

Whether you or a graphic designer will be producing your final infographic, there are some steps you can take and questions to ask in order to maximize your infographic’s success.

  1. Brainstorm Purpose: Why are you creating this infographic? Who is your target audience? How much data do you have, and how much do you want to include? Are you persuading or informing? Are there any central design elements or a theme you would like to include?
  2. Data Visualization: What sort of data visualization techniques will you use? Diagrams are good for showing chronological changes or relationships. Maps are good for showing locations or comparing geography of data. Charts are good for showing changes over time and organizational processes. Tables are good for showing direct relationships over a large data set.
  3. Design: In choosing design elements, decide how much text vs. data visualization you want on your infographic. Choose a set of fonts and a color scheme to keep your infographic consistent. Play around with organization of information. Look at other infographics to get a sense of what you might want in your own infographic. A good place to start is Dailygraphic.com. It’s a great website with new infographics on a range of topics published every day. Remember, infographics may have to go through several iterations before they look perfect! Don’t be afraid to scrap designs in order to achieve your final vision.

Finally, remember that your infographic has a purpose. It should have beginning, middle and end in order to illustrate a point. Your data should also be reliable; double check your sources before creating your infographic in order to boost its credibility! If used properly, a well-designed infographic can be a serious boost to your website. So don’t be afraid to get creative with your data. Engage and educate readers with a visually appealing infographic (and a few pictures too!).

Stock Photos

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

stockphotoimagePictures are great. They can help show a story, illustrate a concept, or send a message. In websites, blogs and books, photos can be used to break up long passages of text or capture a prospective reader’s attention. But chances are you don’t have quality pictures of coffee beans, the Eiffel Tower or a wide eyed squirrel waiting to be used. Sometimes the image you need for a particular project won’t be in your image library. And that’s where stock photos come in.

Stock photos are a wonderful resource to anyone who uses pictures for projects, either digital or print. Look at the header image for this post; a simple stock photo and large text help draw the reader’s attention to content of this blog post. Large, quality images are a surefire way to visually draw someone to important information on a page. And, if you recall our post about using Pinterest for social media, pictures are a great and easy way to let people “pin” your blog post or website. Pictures with text are even more popular on Pinterest, because they let users quickly see what sort of content they are pinning, and invite them to click on the image and explore your web page in detail.

So stock photos are useful. They can be a powerful tool in advertising a website or getting a message across. But what about actually finding these magical instruments? How do you sort through the millions of photos on the web to find high quality, interesting pictures? Here’s a hint: don’t start with a generic web search. Instead, try using a stock photo website. Most stock photo websites have a search bar, and have photos grouped into topics. If there isn’t a search option, I encourage you to explore the website anyway! You might find creative pictures that fit the project you need them for, even if they weren’t what you had in mind. Or you might find pictures you could use for a later project. Sorting through stock photos can take a bit of time, depending on how picky you want to be. But to sort through stock photos on a whim, it might be useful to know a website or two to start.

There are two routes to acquiring stock photos.

  1. You pay for them. The photographers will let you use their photos as long as you pay them their royalties. Popular stock photo websites, such as iStockphoto and Shutterstock, let you pay depending on the size of a particular photo. Others might have a monthly/yearly fee that lets you download unlimited photos.
  2. You use royalty free photos. These are free pictures you can use. However, you’ll need to read the licensing info for each picture. Some photographers want credit in the form of a caption or link to their work when you use their photo. Others will only allow non-commercial use of their photos. And others will let you use their photos for any type of use. Make sure to read the fine print before downloading any stock pictures you plan to use online.

Here are a few website suggestions to get you started if you want to take the plunge into stock photography:

  • Pixabay.com – not the largest archive, but it has a great search feature. Has both traditional photos and vector (cartoon-like) images.
  • Freedigitalphotos.net – a fairly large archive with traditional stock photos.
  • Freeimages.com – similar to freedigitalphotos. Substantial image archive and quality traditional photos.
  • Unsplash.com – a great, high quality archive of diverse photos. Less pictures of people and more creative photos. There’s no search feature, but you can search thumbnails of all the photos by clicking on the archive button.
  • Freerangestock.com – a smaller archive, but lets you search for photos. A few amateur photos mixed in, but still good to search through. Must register (for free) to download pictures.

Scouring the internet for the perfect picture can be quite fun, and have a serious impact on your website/blog/poster/pamphlet/etc. So go ahead, give it a shot! Spice up your latest project with some fun photos. After all, sometimes you really do need a photo of a cow in rollerblades.
cowrollerblades

Typography and Design

Monday, June 16th, 2014

One of the most overlooked aspects of website design – and of graphic design in general – is typography.  Typography is simply the art of arranging type in a way that achieves a desired visual effect and that conveys the meaning of the reading material.

For a good primer on typography, check out this blog entry on Typography 101.

But is typography really that important?  I’d argue strongly that it is the biggest component in a website design, for nearly all types of websites.  The obvious exceptions are sites for photographers, models, illustrators, etc.  In those visually-oriented sites, images don’t just make sense, they are essential.  The key to using images on a website is not to scatter pretty pictures around just because you think it needs them or because it’s the trend, but to make sure the images make sense for the purpose of the website.

Understanding the basic components of good typography makes it possible to use text as a design element, one that can be every bit as effective as an image.  It can be huge, simple, colorful, or crazy.  But make sure that whatever you’re using doesn’t obscure the content. After all, if I can’t read it or make sense out of it, it’s not very effective.

Three sites that make effective use of typography:

typography2

When you’re a copywriting firm, using only text makes perfect sense. Especially when it’s as eye-catching as this.

typography1

Just two simple images, and even one of them features typography, show case the words beautifully.

typography3

Words take front and center on this site. Even mixing several different fonts (in general, a no-no), adds to the whole effect, and focuses your attention on the individual pieces.

Typography can make or break your website.  It can take your site from good to great… or to confusing.  Choose carefully!