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NOTE: This is a book in progress (draft 1). All

images will have permissions and additional content will be added. Fall 2012.

INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION DESIGN A look at the design elements and principles used to make effective and attractive design.


Portland State University Graphic Design Program Š2012


INTRODUCTION In order to communicate, graphic designers use various established visual elements (graphic marks) and guidelines for approaches (principles) to convey their ideas into a cohesive whole. You might think of these like ingredients and cooking methods (bake, sautee, broil, etc) for a chef, or words and grammar for writers. All creative people use some sort of physical element as well as some established ideas about successful approaches in their work. As you’ve no doubt heard the saying—”you’ve got to know the rules before you can break the rules.” These elements and principles have been identified after centuries of practice by artists, and eventually adopted and reworked slightly for design specifically. As you read through the various elements and principles, you’ll likely be familiar with the terms. You’ll now want to think of them in terms of graphic design and


ELEMENTS are the building blocks for graphic communication. We use these objects and styling effects—essentially a visual tool kit—to convey our messages as clearly as possible.


Toko, LBloomberg Businessweek, The Believer, Wired magazine, Nonformat, Nonformat

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Point/Line/Shape A point is the basis for all visual marks. It is the simplest geometric element. In mathematical terms, it’s a precise location or place on a plane—usually represented by a dot. For designers it’s similar, only it can be used as a building block to create another element—like a shape or line. Points can be used to create texture or an shaded visual effect. Lines connect two points mathematically speaking. In the realm of graphic design, lines can separate and organize, but they can also be grouped to create a shape. Lines can additionally be used to create a feeling movement and texture. Shape is defined as spatial form or contour—basically the outline of a form. A shape can take established geometric qualities or it can be organic and fluid— limited only by imagination.

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Points are used in these examples, as groups, coming together to create a larger image overall.


In The Believer and Wire magazines, lines are used both to oraganize information, and to create a figureative illustration of a man. In The Strength of Nations information graphic, lines are used to make connections between visual data groups. Design studios, Nonformat and Bibliotheque use basic shapes to create typographic forms and to reference Christmas objects in their holiday.

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Space can be used to activate the page as in the abstract shapes poster by Nonformat. In Christelle Menage’s landscape at right, letterforms interact with the environment, creating a unexpected visualization of space. A cramped, even uncomfortable feeling can be created by leaving little open space as in the Thom Yorke album cover in which the man is staving off the encroaching waves.

Nonformat, Christelle Ménage, Meg Hunt, Barakan Design, Stanley Donwood

Space You might consider space, the part of a layout in which there is nothing—no objects, or marks, anyway. The amount of space in a layout—lots or little—can add to the tone of a piece. More open space, white space (sometimes called negative space), can create an airy, light feeling. Less open space (or more positive space) can communicate as dense and heavy. Space can be used to activate a layout, calling attention to objects on the page, due to contrast with the negative space.

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Texture Texture can be described simply as the visual or tactile surface characteristics and appearance of a subrface. Using texture in a piece of graphic design can add depth and life-like qualities. It can help separate elements as well as be used to create a mood or help reference certain objects or materials. In addition to ‘realistic’ textures like wood grain, graphic patterns can be used to suggest texture in a layout. Patterns can be made from simple graphic elements like points or lines, or they can be more complex, and feature figurative imagery. Either way, pattern used across a surface or space in a composition can add depth, just as more literal textures.

In the Beck album cover, texture is used to create an ambiguous foreground versus background. The Alice and Wonderland illustration by Meg Hunt gives a richness and depth to the scene, differentiating various objects and materials. Finally, the hiragana structure, while digitally rendered, gives a sense of smoothness with its lack of texture and reflection of light.

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Wired magazine, New York Times Magazine, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Designer Unknown, Pidgeon, Designer Unknown

Scale Scale simply refers to the size of elements. Used at its most basic, a designer can apply varied scales to objects on the page to indicate size differences for comparison. She can also imply hierarchy by using bigger point sizes for type on important pieces of text. Designers often use a playfully exaggerated scale for objects or type in order to call attention to—or draw attention away from certain areas in a design. Layouts with little variation in scale often feel static or flat.

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In the example at top, Wired magazine uses scale to create a comical relationship between type, graphic bars, and images of cats, while in the bottom example, it uses scale in an information graphic to help readers understand each country’s peace index rating based on size relationships. I N T R O D U C T I O N T O C O M M U N I C AT I O N D E S I G N


Form Form is a shape with volume. It’s the difference between 2 dimensions (shape) and 3, form. Using form in a design can add a sense of depth sometimes creating a realistic quality or other times simply offering a more visually engaging composition. The lettering in the US propaganda poster, is given depth by integrating 3-D rendering of type in with the illustrations of the various figures. In the Solutions type treatment, Designed by Pidgeon makes a playful reference to the hidden nature of some solutions using made-up forms to group together and create the emerging word out of forms and shadows. In the Sculpture Today cover, paper made into 3D typographical forms is used to reference the nature of the content inside, without having to actually show it—particularly nice as no one piece of sculpture featured in the book gets to take importance over the others.

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Chris Ware, Ariadna Vilalta Capdevila

In the infographic above, color is used to organized and distinguish elements for an easier read of the data. The poster at the top right uses a huge and bold color palette to grab the viewer’s attention. Target stores use red for their logo and throughout their stores to create a strong brand connection for shoppersThe cover of Candide, Or Optimism uses color to create a strikingly different mood and tone between the two halves of the layout.

Color Color is used in design to create a mood, establish a connection to a brand, relate to a particular era or concept, as well as to attract attention and create visual hierarchy. At its most basic, color attracts attention and can be used to allow a design to ‘shout’ above the rest. Imagine looking at a crowded bookshelf—the neon orange spine is likely to grab your attention over the many black spines. Mood can be driven a great deal by a color palette. Again, a bold and bright color palette will make for a lively and celebratory feel, while a soft, natural, color palette will create a more subdued quality—perhaps more appropriate for a serious or refined feeling. Color can be used to draw attention to some areas in a composition more than others. Naturally a brighter or darker color will stand out more than a soft pastel. This application of color is particularly useful when a hierarchy among text and data needs to be established. Certain colors often have established connections to certain concepts—white is pure, black is evil or ominous, red is passionate or violent. Because these are generally understand by society as a whole, colors can be chosen to underline a certain concept based on these existing associations.


Primary Colors are pure in make-up. They can’t be made from other colors.

Secondary Colors are made by mixing 2 primary colors.

Tertiary Colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.

Complementary Colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel.

Analagous Colors sit adjacent to one another on the color wheel.

Monochromatic Colors are varying values of a single color. They are achieved by adding white or black to a color.

»» Hue describes where a color falls on the color spectrum. »» Value Is the lightness or darkness of a color. »» Tint It’s created by adding white to a hue. »» Shade It’s created by adding black to a hue. »» Chroma (Saturation) Is the purity of »»

a color in relation to the addition of grey. Intensity Is the brightness versus the dullness of a color. A color is made duller by adding black, white or grey to it.

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PRINCIPLES are the established rules designers use to create effective and attractive pieces. These rules were initially articulated in relation to a psychological theory—Gestalt, which literally translates to ‘unified whole.’ At its most basic, gestalt psychology proposes that the human brain will always try to group and organize the elements it sees. Five principles of this theory were then borrowed by and applied to art and design— similarity, continuation, proximity, closure and figure-ground. More principles still, have been identified and added to the original, and still very relevant, gestalt principles.


Designer Unknown for Penguin Books, Designer Unknown?, Spin Channel 4 logo by Designer Unknown, Lisa Olausson

Similarity occurs when objects look similar to one another. People often perceive them as a group or pattern. When similarity occurs, an object can be emphasized if it is dissimilar to the others. This is called anomaly. On the Stigma cover, the repetition of similar shapes reads together as a unified group—all except for one black square indicating difference. The Salt cover uses similarity among illustrations to group together and create a unified set of letterforms. In the Livestrong website, the group of images in a consistent size and color treatment, create a unified whole, functioning almost as one large image.

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Closure Closure occurs when an object is incomplete or a space is not completely enclosed. If enough of the shape is indicated, people perceive the whole by filling in the missing information. In the Tokyo poster and Play glass door treatment, just enough of the letterform strokes are removed to allow the reader to connect and still read the words. In the Channel 4 logotype, the face of the numeral has no outline, but the still reads as the shadows of the form define enough for readers to understand.

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Proximity occurs when elements are placed close together. They tend to be perceived as a group.

Proximity of elements in the Link illustration bring loose objects together to feel connected to the figure. The grid of symbols on The English Marriage book cover show the individual stories that will be told, in a quick and organized way. The logo for the Museum of the African Diaspora uses point getting closer and closer together, until they actually come together enough to form letterforms.

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Continuation occurs when the eye is compelled to move through one object and continue to another object.

Jolby, Designer Unknown for Penguin Books, Designer Unknown for MoAD, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown?, David Gentleman

The ligtbulb cord in An Ethics of Interrogation directs the readers eye directly to the books title. Similarly, the arrow shape on the British stamp directs the viewers eye around the circle and back up to the dot. The shapes used in the Beethoven poster group together and in a similar direction, to create a frame around the content.

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Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown, Sonya Dyakova, Carlidge Leine, Caroline Fabès, Designer Unknown

Figure-Ground The eye differentiates an object from its surrounding area. A form, silhouette, or shape is naturally perceived as figure (object), while the surrounding area is perceived as ground (background). Balancing figure and ground can make the perceived image more clear. Using unusual figure-ground relationships can add interest and subtlety to an image.

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The cover for The Girl Who Played with Fire plays with the figure-ground by allowing the title to integrate with the hair background, rather than to sit simply on top. The scene in the Raking Leaves in the Wind poster offers a tradition figure-ground relationship with the yellow sky background and the various objects (figures) like the mountains in trees in the foreground. In the illustration of the woman at right, an ambigous figure-ground relationship is created, in which the flower feels a bit as if it’s inside the figure, but also could be in front of it.

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In the Younger Than Jesus book, a directory of artists sits on the cover, each section called out by a unique letter that is large, bold and easy to spot. In the layout above, the left-hand spread starts with smaller text, but as readers, we feel welcome to start on the right with the larger-sized text. In the bottom poster series, color, scale and contrast help the viewer decide what to read first and what is the most important information on the page.

Hierarchy Perhaps the easiest to grasp among the elements, hierarchy is the order of importance within a design. Hierarchy can be created with scale (larger is often visible first), color (brighter colors often stand out the most), and placement (location of elements can be easier to parse in some layouts more than others). Typographically, in addition to these uses of elements, designers can vary their typeface choices for differentiation and ultimately emphasis on some parts of text more than others.

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Contrast Contrast, or visual differentiation in two or more elements can be used to control hierarchy and direct attention. Colors can contrast, as can textures, typefaces, scale, and overall style.

Nonformat, SonnenZimmer, Stenberg Brothers, Designer Unknown

In the album covers above, contrast changes create a strikingly different effect on how the text treatment pops off the background. Similarly, on the book cover at right, low contrast deemphasizes the largish type, while the dark fly reads clearly despite its small size, due to the strong contrast with the pale background.

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In the music poster above, a heavy form fills the top left corner, but a large open space in the opposite corner allows it to balance the layout comfortably. The Stenberg Brothers, the figure is placed asymmetrically, and the curve of her body relates to the the angles that the buildings move in to the frame. The concentric circles emanating from the center to the bottom left make up for the space left open and creats a balance overall.

Balance Balance in a design is the point at which elements in the composition exist in harmony. A balanced design has comfortable relationships between objects whether is darker ones versus lighter ones, open space versus densely filled areas, or small objects versus large ones. Balance through symmetry is the easiest to achieve. It allows for a very stable feeling design, which in many cases is very appropriate. Asymmetrical balance gives a layout stability, while still allowing for tension to give the composition a dynamic feeling.

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Annouck Welhuis Designer Unknown, David Carson, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown, BibliothĂŠque

Rhythm/Movement Rhythm or movement within a composition exist to literally convey motion or to direct the viewer’s attention to a specific area. Repetition of elements can offer a feeling of movement and suggest direction for the eye, as can angles, steppes of color and not least of all, blurring. Why use rhythm or movement? Depending on your message, you can control the tone with the amount of movement (or stillness) visualized. Naturally a poster for a dance company will want to illustrate and emote the physicality of the performance. Perhaps a book of somber poems, on the other hand would rather create a sense of stillness and quite by avoiding movement in the composition.

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The annual report at the top left, creates a rhythm throughout the book with dramatic images and graph illustrations to counteract the somewhat dense body text. This helps keep viewers engaged. In the book cover for Rebound, the arrow stretching up the page creates a sense of movement up. The bottom left poster has a dynamic quality due to the varied angles used in the type and shapes.

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Symmetry and Asymmetry Repetition of... “size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or median plane or about a center or axis” “Symmetry in nature underlies one of the most fundamental concepts of beauty. It connotes balance, order, and thus, to some, a type of divine principle.” —Merriam Webster David Carson uses asymmetry on the cover of Raygun magazine to create a sense of discomfort and to activate elements on the page using negative space. The J. Hampton packaging uses symmetry to evoke a classic, and staid style of Victorian labels. The sweetner packaging below uses asymmetry for a more modern, less static feel. On the cover of The War on Words, a nearly perfect symmetry references the

aesthetic of printed matter during the American slave era. It creates a false sense of stabiity accented by the small bits of read and the imposing type style for the word War, for what is a very emotive subject matter.

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Made Thought, David Gentleman, Olivia Verdugo, Designer Unknown for Time, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown

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Tension Tension adds a little bit of discomfort or puts an element in a slightly unexpected spot, to create surprise and visual interest. A composition lacking in tension feels flat and static. One of the most common ways to add tension to a design, is to use asymmetry. The Japan poster leaves an empty area at the bottom, creating a space for the lettering to peel and fall off to. Tension is created as we wait for the pieces to fall. The bleeding of the type on the El Tercer Reich cover creates an uneasy feeling, indicating the contents of the book will likely be messy and rough. The seemingly real slice down the cover of Day of Empire creates discomfort, and hints at the breaking apart of the empires she discusses.

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Framing Framing can be used as a means to separate, highlight, or organize information and elements within a design. Traditionally we think of frames as the physical objects which contain and set off a piece of art. They allow us to focus on the image within them. In graphic design terms, frames can be made with space, line, dot, pattern and more to similarly set off a piece of the design. The less obvious use of frames in graphic design has to do with how images are cropped. An invisible frame contains the image—the co mposition of which the designer has chosen based what they cut out, or crop. Images that bleed, and are essentially cropped by the edges of the page can have a bold impact, and feel more dynamic. The margin of a page also functions as a frame for content. In its more technical use, it protects content from falling into an uncomfortably close area near the page’s edge, and allows a space for information like folios and running heads and footers in books. The dimensions of a margin can also determine the overall feel of the density of a layout— the larger they are the lighter and more open the page feels.

Plats Du Jour uses literal illustrations of plactes as frames. In the top right, a clear margin keeps all information neatly framed on the page. Similarly, the Time magazine covers use a red bar to contain all their cover art. In this case, the planes overlap the bar as if they’re flying over it. The book Raising the Perfect Child, uses an tightly exaggerated crop of a vintage image for an eye-catching and modernizing effect. The title of the book then sits centered and framed by the circle to contrast the drama of the image.

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Saul Bass, Tibor Kalman, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown, Designer Unknown

Abstraction Abstraction is the simplification of form. It might be utilized for technical reasons—allowing a form to be more quickly and easily understood, or it might be done for aesthetic reasons, turning a straightforward form into something bolder, more eye-catching, or simply unique in execution. There are varying levels of abstraction. The least abstract visual representation Symbols are a form of abstraction as they are representation of

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Another Channel 4 logotype creates an overal silhouette of the numeral, but breaks it in to smaller geometric shapes, creating a less expected rendering of a wellknown brand. The cover for Self and Others creates a simple illustration of the subject matter, using only overlapping circles to indicate the relationships the book explores. The Talking Heads cover takes tightly cropped photos and adds a pixilated and abstracted digital wash over the faces for a creepy effect— appropriate for the tone of the album. The figure of Saint Joan is referenced, but not drawn literally by Saul Bass, above. The abstraction of her body gives us a hint to the fate of the character.


RESOURCES for technical questions that may arrise around these design fundamentals.


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bleed and crop marks // THE KEYS TO CLEAN MOCK-UPS

A Poster with a lovely design

Crop Marks: What are they for? Crop marks not only identify the edges of the page, but they serve as the guides to trim the piece when being mocked up or in the final printing. Bleed: What is it for? When you trim, you need a little bit of margin of error in case you don’t trim straight. This also goes for the trimming done with machines (guillotines). They need generally 1/8 inch of leeway for trimming (can vary, so check with your printer to find out what dimension of bleed they prefer). How do I make a bleed? This is usually something you can adjust in ‘document settings’ for any Adobe program. File>Document Setup>Add at least 1/8” bleed to all dimensions of your file. How do I make set crop marks? When you go to print or make a PDF, this is a setting offered in the dialogue box. It’s usually referred to as ‘Marks and Bleed’ in Adobe programs. In the preview box (bottom left corner) you will be able to see the crop marks as well as a pink outline, which indicates the bleed.

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A Poster with a lovely design


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Pantone Pantone is a company responsible for creating a library of colors (Pantone Matching System) used by designers and printers to achieve accurate print output. This system is used in a large chunk of the world. Other terms used for Pantone colors: Spot, Solid, PMS, Special. Why use Pantone Pantones allow a designer to spec a color and have a reference (swatch book) that he/she can hold the printer to. It’s important to understand that the same color may print quite differently on different types of paper, so if you’re using something unusual, it’s a good idea to have a drawdown done (a sample of the ink on that paper) to make sure it works well with the paper. Pantone and 4-color jobs YA four color job (full color) is comprised of 4 inks (CMYK). If you add a Pantone (spot) color to that job, you’ll significantly increase the cost, but you’ll also have much more control over the output of that one spot color. Special Benefits The nice thing about printing with a spot color, is that you can get a nice solid coverage of that color. You can also use it in tints (shown above from 100% to 10%). You can get a lot of tones out of just one color, which can keep your print costs down.

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When to use Pantone When your client doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on printing. One or two colors keeps costs down. When you need an extra punch of a specific color on top of a 4-color job (for example a neon, a special color that’s required and related to a given company, or a metallic). In school, you can use them to make creating tints easier in Illustrator (CMYK colors will not break down in to tints, you have to remix them slightly to get a lighter color, which can be less accurate). You will not be able to get accurate results out of a digital printer, however. It’s still up to you to get the color you were aiming for as digital printers vary as do monitor previews. Access Pantone swatchbooks These access points might change slightly as Adobe versions change, but it will likely be this or something similar.

InDesign

Illustrator

»» Illustrator Window>Swatch Librar»» »»

ies > Color Books > Pantone Solid (coated or uncoated) InDesign Swatches palette > New Color Swatch > Color Mode > Pantone Solid (coated or uncoated) Photoshop Click color swatch in the tools window > Color Libraries > Pantone Solid (coated or uncoated)

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INSIDE THIS BOOK POINT/LINE/SHAPE COLOR TEXTURE SPACE FORM SCALE GESTALT HIERARCHY CONTRAST SYMMETRY ABSTRACTION FRAMING


Intro to Communication Design