Information graphics

You don’t have to be a pro to design some awesome information graphics or warning signs.

I love these, spotted by a friend in a local station; great typography, straight to the point, carefully crafted message. And an excellent sequence that grabs the attention and peaks the curiosity, draws the audience in and eventually connects them with the product…

nasty-puddle

Excellent work.

  • Thanks to Steve P. for the pics.

Troubled by noise.

I have great problems using popular shopping sites because I can’t separate the signal from the noise. Extraneous “offers”, buttons, icons, ads, box-outs, tiny ads between bigger ads, text-only repeats of graphic buttons, recent history, things I may be interested in, things others also bought, random crap…

When I do manage to drill down to the tiny bit in the middle that should detail The Thing I’m interested in, I still suffer noise overload.

6types

This image shows the tiny bit of real info in the middle of a hugely complex and noisy Amazon window. It took me about 30 seconds to find out whether or not delivery is free because for some reason I simply blanked out the large “Delivered Free in the UK”.

In the highlighted part, there are 6 styles of type. That’s one line of text with 6 styles of type! In that small section as a whole I think there are 17 different styles of type. It goes against everything I was ever taught in graphic design school, and it just looks absolutely horrible. It’s insane, but I wonder why I find it so troublesome and why no one else seems to.

I mean, I assume they have run tests and know this is what the majority of people want, and that most people don’t have an issue. Haven’t they?

Let me tell you about people who dress right and turn up on time…

As an arty-farty, graphic designer type, I often have to deal with the rule-the-world, businessman type. You know; the moisturised face, shaven to within a picometre of its life, stiff suit, ties with big blue knots coordinating beatifuly with their striped and shiny shirts.

I find these people try to impose their mores and values on everything and everyone they meet. Like robins and bluetits, they’ll peck to death any one who dares to exhibit non-standard behaviour or independent thinking. And they’ll do this because they genuinely think it will improve the world: If they can force everyone to look uniformly neat, turn up on time and meet their deadlines, then everything will be OK… won’t it?

Not necessarily.

I’m a bit, well… Bohemian of appearance. I’m sometimes late and I’ll occasionally miss an unimportant or arbitrary deadline by about a day. But I’m a helluva designer: Use me and you’ll get something off-the-wall, eyecatching and professional that will do the job better than a similar peice of work from most in my geographical area.

So why is it that I was recently told my services were no longer required after sending some proofs to a client a few hours (well alright, a day) after I said I might? This client was your typical business type; filofax’d and Vodaphone’d to the eyeballs; suited and booted; Saab; spikey hair; the lot. The thing is, he’d previoulsy had a logo and leaflet designed and had given me the artwork on CD so I could use some of the elements for the job I was working on.

Not only was this artwork technically very poor and no doubt caused the printer massive headaches; but it was also designed very badly; like someone had quickly run it up in Microsoft Word. Bad fonts, clip-art and all.

My ex-client was very happy with it, though. No doubt because the “designer”, who quite clearly couldn’t design his way out of a wet paper bag, turned up on time, met his arbitrary deadlines and wore a suit.

This small rant isn’t about why I can’t be a slacker and get away with it. It’s about why the business-types who rule the world can’t accept that some of us are not business-driven and don’t want to rule the world: Or the consequences of their being unable to see beyond the narrow, hot-desking, water cooler chat, name-badged world they live in.

Business-types can’t design, so they come to a designer for great-looking material. Yet they insist on the designer they choose putting aside the very things that make him creative and capable of thinking outside the box. They insist on their designers becoming… well, becoming business-droids.

Choose a business droid to do your design and you’ll get design that looks like it was done by a business droid.

Business card design

How a properly designed business card is one of the most important parts of the image you project.

Designing a business card really isn’t like designing anything else in your brand or identity system; which should at minimum have logo, business card, letterhead – or more commonly nowadays, email footer or signature, and can have other things such as sales material, notepads, invoices, vehicle graphics, web site.

Your card is often the first exposure someone will get to your business brand or identity – it will probably be seen more than your letterhead or email signature and by more people. Your cards could be passed around from person to person without your knowing. It needs to clearly and instantly communicate who you are and what you stand for whilst at the same time suggesting quality and reliability.

So don’t just settle for VistaPrint’s thousand cards for £50: They’re badly printed, cheap and generic and will make you and your business look cheap and generic. Someone receiving an unpleasant card will subliminally assume you’re not taking your business seriously, or are running it like a hobby.

And don’t do it yourself! There are rules…

  1. Don’t use Comic Sans (for anything at all); your business is not a joke!
  2. See rule 1.

A designer won’t choose any default Mac or PC font for your business card because it would send a very bad subliminal message: Just as the feel and quality of cheaply printed cards does, it suggests that your business is generic and lacks originality. Your card should differentiate you and help your business stand out from the crowd. Times and Arial (not a real font, in any case) are so familiar that they will fade you into the background of the typographic landscape.

Having said all this, don’t go on to pick a silly font that looks like flames or is very curly or “gothic”…

There are graphics and aesthetic rules about what fonts should and can be used, where and how. A designer will know what kind of font to use near to the font in your logo for example, without weakening it. S/he’ll know how big to make the type, which weights or variations of the font to use and where. A designer will maximise the use of the tiny space available in a business card, s/he will know how to use colour, layout and positioning to convey style and sophistication.

A properly designed and nicely printed card will win you business, get you remembered and get you ahead in the race to be noticed.

Kevin Simpson can design and supply artwork for card that will help you stand out from the crowd. Get in touch to find out how quick and easy it is to up your game by improving your image.

Jan 2011, Kevin