Marketing is definitely one of the fastest-growing fields around and that means a lot of change has been taking place. What does this mean for graphic designers? Well, with new marketing strategies through social media and user-based advertising there has been a major shift from traditional (print) design to digital. While both print and digital design are taught in a classroom setting, I’ve found that in a post-grad setting it takes a specific set of skills and knowledge to work effectively and efficiently in both environments. Here’s what you need to know:
Design theory for traditional is not much different for digital design. Visual hierarchy between all elements, text, images, and negative space, is very important. The user should know intuitively where to look next, based on the layout and ultimately end, on the main call-to-action, if there is one. When all else fails, a big flashing red arrow pointing at your contact form can’t hurt (as long as it matches your branding)!
User Experience is Everything
As a young graphic designer in this career I am a heavy user of websites and social media, and I’m always judging and considering design choices. Not only does it make me more confident in my design skills (*pats self on back*) but it also helps me pick out others’ mistakes so I don’t make those in my own work.
When designing for the screen, the user experience has to be a main priority! User experience is about practicality and focus – not what I’m having for lunch or what I’m doing that night! I should be considering the user’s scrolling habit and points of interest. There should be text, images, negative space, etc, but the user should never doubt what the most important area of the advertisement is, whether it is print or digital. My consistent question when a client asks for a printed poster or a Facebook graphic: “What is the goal of this graphic?” This helps me to focus on what the client wants from the customer. Every design choice that I make should work to accomplish this singular goal.
Static vs. Responsive Design
After I find out the goal of the advertisement or the design, my next question is “Where is the graphic going to be implemented?” Is it a poster that the client will put in their waiting rooms? Will it be posted on their social media platforms? Or is it a slider on their fancy new website’s homepage? Designing for digital isn’t as simple as finding out what size an advertisement needs to be in inches or how much bleed should be included around its edge. With digital advertising comes the challenge of responsive design. Website graphics and social ads are meant to be seen on various platforms (mobile vs. computers) and will be move around based on the view port size. This extra dimension of design can add a little more challenge to my job but it’s nothing a little graphic design magic can’t fix. My graphic design goal is to make that ad successful no matter where it is seen!
- Website sliders, look great on a wide iMac screen, but when you scale the page down, it shows a bottom part of the slider so I have to prepare for that as well, so it looks awesome regardless of the size of the screen!
Color is different! RGB vs. CMYK
I know those are a lot of letters but they actually mean something, I promise. Any type of graphics that are seen digitally use RGB colors, which stands for Red, Green and Blue. It is also known as an additive model, where these colors are added together in pixels to create what we see on a screen. These type of graphics are made of pixels, where light is projected through them, blending the colors on the eye’s retina to create the desired colors.
Traditional printed graphic design uses the CYMK model, which stands for Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black. It is considered a subtractive model, but that fancy word just means that instead of pixels, this process prints tiny little dots in those colors. So when you look at a printed design, they blend together to the eye to appear the colors we want.
How does this affect your work? You just need to keep in mind that RGB colors are not going to appear precisely on paper as they appeared on your screen because the RGB model is comprised of light, where designs that utilize the CMYK model are comprised of ink.
Image size and format matter!
If you spend one day in our office, you’ll probably hear me say something about the importance of “horizontal pictures or high resolution images”, more times than you can count on one hand. High-resolution anything makes me happy; logos, photographs, illustrations etc. When designing for print, the resolution of photos and vectorized logos is super duper important. The optimal DPI (“Dots Per Inch”) for printed material is 300, which means that any images you are including in your design that have less than that is going to make the final product quality suffer.
When designing for digital, screen resolutions are set to 72 DPI, so there’s no point of including all those extra pixels because it won’t do you any good. In fact, working with images on your computer that are larger than 72 dpi may slow down your workspace significantly. There are specific file formats that are generally accepted online, such as JPEG and PNG. PNG files support transparency and JPEG files do not, so if there is negative space without any color, white is automatically saved.
Oh and horizontal pictures! On Facebook, horizontal photos look the best based on a golden ratio of pixels, between a page’s timeline and a user’s news feed. Vertical photos might look good on mobile, because of the orientation of the news feed, but on the desktop version of Facebook, it just leaves an awkward empty space next to them. So if my fellow TB Teamers, non-graphic designers remember anything from my blog, it should be this! #AlwaysHorizontal
Social Media Platform Design
Speaking about social media and their rules, the digital world is constantly changing. So I have to be on my toes at all times. From one day to another, Facebook could have changed how cover photos looked while distracting me with cute pictures of dogs and delicious food. Since things always changing, it’s important to stay up-to-date on all the updates made by these popular social media platforms:
There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Google Plus, Pinterest. From one little update, Instagram now allows users to upload any orientation of an image without cropping it to a square! Sounds silly at first for a non-designer, but it is HUGE for any marketing strategy because now you can use any image that fits your branding and doesn’t have to be a square. Being a graphic designer is a huge part of social media marketing so even these little marketing changes can make a big difference to designers.