Great graphic design is elemental
“My picture is too small.”
“It needs more bullet points.”
“Make my logo bigger.”
Graphic designers and creative
directors all over the planet just
twitched and rolled their collective
eyeballs skyward because, contrary
to clients’ belief, size or more bullet
points don’t matter—particularly if
emphasis is what you’re really after
with your visual message.
I learned that as CEO of a national
ad agency and marketing firm when
the creative team pulled me aside and
gave me a little in-service training on
the subject of graphic design.
According to the experts, the
following five elements should be a
part of any great design, whether
you’re talking about a one-sheet, postcard, brochure cover, business card,
flyer or HTML e-mail.
• Body copy
Balance vs. Emphasis. With five elements to work with, something has to
give. Pick one to be the focal point, or
dominant element. Don’t “balance” all
five because nothing will stand out, and
the ultimate result will be boring and
blah. And note the fifth element—white
space. There should be some. Plenty of
it, in fact. Just because your page is 8
inches by 10 inches does not mean you
have to fill it from edge to edge.
Attract the reader. Don’t repel.
Flowers don’t attract bees with a long
list of their pollen’s attributes. “Attract”
means to not just “draw the eye,” but
to please it as well. You may look at
your big photo and a long list of bullet
points and smile. But when your target
audience looks at it (for about 1.5 seconds or less) they see a blatant sales
pitch and skip it. Sorry, but great marketing is not directly proportional to
the size of your logo, or photo, or the
number of times you mention your
name and phone number.
Less is more. The problem with having
five elements is that the more there is
to dance in front of the eye, the more
there is to randomly distract it. The
easier it is for the reader’s attention
to slide right off that page on onto
the next one. So the trick is to minimize the number of distractions by
subtracting or minimizing elements.
What you remove might just make
it more powerful.
But what about the logo? Remember,
people don’t care about you. They care
about themselves. Your logo should
work the same way your signature
works at the end of a letter. It tells the
reader who’s talking. That’s it. If they
connected to the message, they like
what they’ve seen so far, they’ll want
to know who sent it. They’ll look for
it. And trust me, they’ll find it. Unless
you’re Nike, rarely should your logo
be the focal point of the design.
You’ve got enough competition. After
all, with thousands of images and messages competing with yours for the
audience’s attention, if and when
someone actually spends a few seconds
with yours, make sure the elements
within your design don’t end up competing with each other.
Terri Langhans is the former CEO of a
national ad agency and marketing firm
who speaks to audiences who want to be
anything but blah—in the marketplace and
in their workspace. She is the current editorial chair of Speaker magazine, and her
picture is the size of a postage stamp on
her one-sheet. Visit www.blahblahblah.us