The ever-changing value of Graphic Design

Graphic Design has always had a visual impact. The perceived image has been the most important factor. But over time, the values associated with the images have changed – or perhaps more appropriately – evolved.

Society today has turned from what is best for the masses to what is best for each individual. The advent of social media has allowed people access to information at a quicker, more immediate pace, and through the development of portable devices, such as smart phones and tablets, this information is available in a personalized manner 24/7 if desired. People have more of a need for immediate interaction, and what better way to catch someone’s attention than with a beautiful vibrant photograph, or a stunningly designed graphic.

But along with the growing need for interactivity and personalization comes increased social responsibility, and marketability. Brands have to hit emotions, needs, as well as practicality on a level desired by each consumer. Graphic Design, through its visual impact, has become the bridge between the individual and the brand.

Examples include the growing popularity of visual websites such as Pinterest and Instagram, and changes to social media stalwarts Facebook and Twitter to incorporate more visual elements into timelines and newsfeeds.

Graphic Designers have no choice but to keep up with current trends, or face the consequences of losing business to their competition. Experience and a solid design foundation is important, but a modern eye towards the “latest and greatest” trends and skill-sets is even more important. But the goal is still the same – deliver the message to the customer or consumer so that they are receptive to the message being conveyed.

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The Art of the Fold

Common folds

There is more to graphic design than creating a beautiful layout. One of the most important aspects affecting your final piece is how the document folds. In the world of printing, you will often hear the fold referred to as a “finishing” option.

The type and thickness of paper and the type of fold need to be determined prior to creating the layout. If a thick cover paper is used, the layout will need to be adjusted so that the document folds correctly. For example, the inside panels will have to be adjusted 1/32″ to 1/8″ to accommodate the thickness of the paper and the fold itself. This is called nesting.

Here’s some of the most common folds:

Gate fold (or window fold): In a gatefold, both the left and right edges fold inward with parallel folds and meet in the middle of the sheet of paper without overlapping.

Double gate fold: Using the gate fold as described above, the paper is then folded again down the middle so that the folded edges meet and a fold is created in center.

Accordian fold: An accordion fold is a simple tri-fold, but the two outer panels zig-zag in opposite directions. This is also referred to as a “Z” fold, a zig-zag fold or a concertina fold.

Half-Accordian fold: A variation on the Accordian fold where one panel is half the size of the other two.

Engineering fold: Similar to the half-accordian fold, but in this case one panel is twice the size of the other two.

C-Fold: This is the official name of the typical tri-fold often used on brochures and letters. C-folds have 6 panels with two parallel folds. Common names used for this fold are letter-fold, tri-fold, and a brochure fold.

Spiral fold: Similar to a C-fold, but instead creating more than 6-panels. The panels fold into themselves forming a spiral. This is often referred to as a barrel fold, a wrap fold or a roll fold.

Double Parallel fold: In this fold, the paper is folded in half, and then in half a second time. The second fold is parallel to the first. This is also called a double fold.

Cross fold: Cross folds have two folds going in different directions, forming 8 even panels. Often used in bookmaking, this type of fold is cut to form signatures. This is referred to as a French fold, quarter fold, or a right-angle fold.

Half fold: The simplest of all folds – basically folding a sheet of paper in half forming four panels. This is often called a single fold.

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What is practical graphic design sense?

There are a number of ways that a person sets out to become a graphic designer.  Many take the traditional go-to-college/schooling route.  Others learn while doing. Some have that built-in talent and native creative ability – and can just “do-it.”  I have always felt that a good graphic designer has a combination of the above, and also exudes a sense of what is practical and necessary on a per-job basis.

But I’ve frequently found in my experience that many design novices either have never been taught the structure of design, have never been in a situation to experience or learn practical structure, or choose to ignore it.  Without a good underlying practical structure – even the best creative design jobs are asking for failure.

Every design project is different.  Flourishes of color and artistic renderings may be fun, but often the latest design job is a boring old black and white form.  In actuality, the same concepts and structures are required to produce both scenarios successfully.

There are a series of questions the graphic designer must ask themselves when starting a project.  These are the basics and basis of practical graphic design.

— What is the finished size? For example, is it 8.5 x 11, 2 x 3.5, or 24 x 36?  Or is the finished size in pixels instead of inches?

— Is the finished piece flat or folded?  What type of fold will be used?  Are there multiple folds?  Does the fold include a score or perforation?

— How will the finished piece be produced?  Will it be process printed, copied, screen printed, embroidered, stamp printed, used on a website, or visible in a video production?

— What are the margins needed on the page – or does the image bleed off the edge?

— Will there be text present in the design?  If yes, what typefaces will be used?

— Will there be columns needed to facilitate the design?  What about headers or footers on the page?  Is a gutter needed?

— What are the primary and secondary colors used in the design?  Are the colors RGB, Pantone, Spot Colors, CMYK, etc.?

— What outside elements are used in the design?  Are there graphics, clip art, photos, videos, audio, etc. that need to be imported?

— Does the design involve pre-written copy? (Body Copy, Headlines/Titles, Sub-Heads, Captions, etc.)  Has the copy been proof-read and error-checked?  Is proper attribution present?

— Is there a specific focal point to the project?  This could be a graphical or photo element, a spotlighted quotation, a headline/title, etc.)

— How does the printer/programmer/etc. want the finished piece presented to them?  For example, do they want an X-1a PDF file of a “four-up flip with a reverse with a .125 bleed and a creeping gutter of 1% with color bars included” or the raw AI, PSD or INDD files?  This question should be answered prior to beginning the project as it could save a lot of headaches and do-overs down the road.

Once the structure of your project is formulated, and all the elements are in hand, then unleash the creative juices! The key to being a successful graphic designer is to possess practical design sense first, then add the creative elements, taking the project to new and effective heights.

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