Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.

Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.

Three-Dimensional Designs

3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them.

Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Layouts

While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.

Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.

Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.

Open Compositions

Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?

For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.

Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it’s continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.

Duotones and Gradients

In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.

They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or “color transitions,” are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.

Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.

It’s an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting with us and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

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Find Language to Express Your Ideal Design

Design involves a special kind of communication.

First, creators must have an idea or concept in mind. Second, they need to articulate their ideas in ways graphic designers can bring to life on a page. This requires a common language, and sometimes graphic designers are known for having a vocabulary all their own.

If you’re working on a design concept, knowing the right terminology will help you communicate to produce the results you envision.

Here are some design adjectives that can help you articulate the concepts you’d like to see in your next print project:

Cool vs. Warm

On the color wheel, warm colors range from yellow to red-purple.

Those colors that are reminiscent of fire or the sun are called warm colors. These hues are reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks. Warm colors communicate energy, playfulness, happiness, sociability, and optimism.

Cool colors include blue, greens, and purple. These colors typically stand for sky, space, water, and nature, and communicate a calming or relaxing tone. Cool colors imply dependability, trust, growth, beauty, confidence, and power.

Minimalist vs. Maximalist

Minimalism is a style or technique that is characterized by cleanness, simplicity, and expressing the most essential ideas.

Minimalist designs use a small number of colors, simple lines, flat designs, or plenty of negative space.

Maximalist or baroque designs are lavish, highly decorative, or triumphant (think ornate wedding invitations). Minimalist designs are sparse and clean, while maximalist designs are exotic or busy.

Feminine vs. Masculine

Feminine designs are usually characterized by details such as soft color palettes, florals, and cursive writing. They may employ fluid, flowing fonts, pastel colors, facial close-ups or silhouettes, or feminine associations such as love, curves, fashion, or beauty.

Masculine designs are typically more rugged, monochromatic, or modern (think IKEA kitchen layouts). They may feature gritty images, thick fonts, hard edges, and darker color schemes.

Playful vs. Professional

Playful design styles are fun, giving an informal (rather than rigid) vibe.

Playful tones may be colorful, fantastical, non-realistic, or cartoon/caricature focused. Often these concepts focus around animals, mascots, illustrations, and impish font pairings.

Professional designs are usually characterized by muted colors and minimal details that represent conservative ideas. Formal tones are communicated with straight, classic font types, simple shapes or objects, minimalist and geometric use of line art, and cool colors (think college diplomas).

Abstract vs. Literal

Abstract designs shape images that are unhindered by what these objects might actually look in real life.

Abstract designs (like this Starbucks water bottle) are imaginative and varied, including ambiguous shapes, contemporary color palettes, curves and splatters, geometric patterns, or blurred images. Abstract art utilizes pure colors, shapes, and forms to express meaning (without getting bogged down in the storylines carried by objects and scenery). Abstract art can touch the emotions in a raw and powerfully direct way.

Literal designs are just the opposite, with concrete, objective ideas. Literal designs use sharp images, bold and simple fonts, and clearly defined limits.

Vintage vs. Modern

Vintage or retro (short for “retrospective”) is a style derived from trends of the recent past.

These designs incorporate rustic, nostalgic elements, including visual clues such as old letterpress, hand-drawn typefaces, ornate ribbons, sepia-filtered photos.

Modern designs are just the opposite, often changing in style. In 2019, modern graphic design trends include 3D design and typography, duotones and gradients, warm or moody color palettes for photos, and asymmetrical layouts.

One of the easiest ways to have a better client-designer working relationship is to align your project’s design style. Use this guide to get you started as a handy reference to communicate your ideas from start to print!

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Effortless: Three Tips to Boost the “Cool” Factor of Your Designs

Fashionable. Admirable. Timeless.

If you were to define cool, what words would you use?

Cool is just . . . cool.

In some sense, even describing what makes something cool can diminish its appeal. But in print and design, nothing is more appealing than cool.

What Makes a Brand Cool?

How do you add this edge to set your products apart?

To find out, marketing scholars Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell carried out six experiments comparing consumer products, coolness ratings, and participant reactions.

In their research, Warren and Campbell discovered a relationship between the qualities of coolness and autonomy, finding designs perceived as cool were those that radiated autonomy in a socially acceptable way. Cool things tend to go a step beyond “stylish” things, so cool designs often push the boundaries of style. Think normative styles like jeans – but add excessive grunge rips. Or ordinary 1950s T-shirts – but add packs of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve.

Coolness is not an inherent quality, but rather a social construct. If coolness comes from stretching limits, one of the keys to cool designs is knowing your niche and understanding what customers perceive to be unconventional. As Warren & Campbell conclude: “objects and people are cool only to the extent that others consider them cool.”

Bringing Coolness to Life

Looking to push the boundaries in a way that’s meaningful to your customers? Here are three ways to set your designs apart:

1. Define the Gap in Your Market.

Look beyond your design to the people you are designing for.

What brands, social values, or fashion cues motivate them? Look at products your customers typically buy and find the “gap” between current designs and those that are too intense or extreme.

To design in the gap, add a bold twist to the colors, fonts, or ideas that might typically interest them. Wrapping paper company Gift Couture saw a gap in the market for wrapping paper “sets,” so they created a series of themed papers that coordinated together, like the Cheeseburger set (bun, meat, lettuce, and tomato wrapping papers) the steak set (raw meat and cutting board style designs), and the pizza set (pizza paper with a coordinating pizza box).

2. Bring Magic to the Mundane.

Cool people or concepts have a flow, grace, or character all their own.

Cool things often appear effortless (though they rarely are), so how do you add this sense of simplicity to your work?

Seek authenticity that focuses more on a core concept or idea than on the perfected final outcome. For a photographer, this might mean focusing on the moment, not the shot. For an advertiser, this might mean expressing character irrespective of the norms, beliefs, or expectations of others. For a designer, this might mean using minimalist designs, stark angles, or unfiltered photos one might generally reject.

3. Re-purpose the Old.

Sometimes the best designs are a twist on history.

Awaken inspiration for what WILL be cool by looking to what HAS been cool! From refinished wood to vintage art deco backdrops, sometimes the coolest things to come around are those that have been around.

Designs nodding to the past evoke nostalgia and spark a profound emotional response. And cool designs don’t just reproduce old styles; they recreate them in arresting new ways.

Find the Sweet Spot

Cool designs understand their consumers’ tastes and hit the sweet spot between the ordinary and the unconventional.

From the unique to the unexpected, when you appear effortless, incorporate the past, and design one step beyond the norm, it will give you an edge an set your products apart.

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5 Elements of Stunning Letterhead Design

Personalized mail is a special commodity these days, especially something that looks smart or sophisticated.

And everyone agrees that there’s a huge difference between a typed letter on a bland white page and one aligned smartly on a beautifully designed letterhead.

While many view letterhead as an afterthought, it’s time to raise the standard!

A sharp letterhead can communicate proficiency, increase response rates, and make your communication more memorable. As you craft a unique, professional look, here are some elements to help you cement your image without overplaying your hand:

1. Embrace Simplicity

One of the guiding principles of letterhead design is to make it flow simply.

While it’s important that your letterhead looks and feels great in the hand, it should still play second fiddle to the communication itself. If designs are too bold, you run the risk of competing with the page content to demand reader attention. When in doubt, simple is best.

2. Represent Your Brand

Letterheads present companies with a great opportunity to represent a brand with sharp fonts, crisp logos, and subtle borders or shading.

Look for ways to draw the designs of your website, envelopes, and letterhead into a more cohesive unit and add some extra depth to your marketing mix. When trying out size contrasts, try to balance the shape of your images with the offset to create a connected design.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of White Space

Like silence between musical notes, a break between elements communicates elegance and ensures a quality user experience.

White space is not “wasted” space, instead, it balances elements, organizes content, and creates spatial proximity so your readers can digest information quickly and simply. Use generous amounts of white space between a large heading and a block of subtext. Or experiment all text flush left or flush right to create more white space between margins.

4. Use Colors Wisely

On printed letterhead, nothing communicates like color.

Use color strategically to draw attention to specific areas of your letterhead, or to add subtle shading to a more grayscale design. If your brand features bright and bold colors, it may be best to use color sparingly in the letterhead but more prominently in your envelope design or packaging. Color can make or break the success of your design, so tread lightly.

5. Don’t Overlook Details

The most critical information to communicate in letterhead is your contact info.

Who is writing the letter, a company or an individual? Decide which pieces of information are critical and build your design around this hierarchy. Keep key information obvious and reduce print size for lower priority info. If you are updating designs or re-ordering, take a fresh look at your materials. If the company you are sending to no longer utilizes a fax machine, perhaps it is best to omit this number. If your organization is larger, consider tailoring several letterhead designs to specific departments.

Letterheads remain an integral part of a brand’s marketing mix. Inject new energy into your designs with thoughtful layouts, creative contrasts, or complementary envelopes that keep your messages stand out in a crowd!

We can help you with bright and stunning letterhead design, printing envelopes, business cards and other marketing products.

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Four Design Keys Every Novice Can Master

Ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to your print or graphics capabilities? “It’s impossible,” you say. “I just don’t have an eye for design.”

There’s hope for even you!

In today’s generation, incredible graphics, fonts, and digital capabilities are literally at our fingertips. And while design may not come naturally to you, everyone can make their projects look better. Whether you’re creating newsletters, small advertisements, or presentations, here are four concepts that are fundamental to every well-designed print project.

1) Proximity

The main purpose of proximity is to organize.

When you begin your layout, remember that items relating to each other should be grouped close together. This reduces clutter and gives your reader a clear sense of structure.

When you’re thinking about proximity, organize your elements as groupings that form one visual unit rather than scattering around several separate pieces. Physical closeness implies a relationship, so items not related to each other should be spaced apart, while elements you want to connect should be grouped.

Don’t be afraid of white space! Sprawling elements throughout a page to avoid white space will make a piece more visually challenging for your viewer to comprehend.

What to Avoid: Too many separate elements on a page, grouping unrelated items in proximity, sticking things in the corners or the middle to avoid empty space.

2) Contrast

Contrast is one of the best ways to add visual interest in your page.

Contrast excites the atmosphere, draws the eye, and clarifies communication. Contrast is nothing if not bold, so one goal of contrast is to avoid elements on the page that are merely similar. If fonts, colors, or outline borders are not the same, then make them extremely different: white on black, 24-point font above 12-point font, or neon shapes near pastel text boxes.

What to Avoid: Being wimpy, using similar typefaces, highlighting a non-focal element, creating unnecessary chaos on a page.

3) Alignment

Alignment unifies a page and creates flow and personality.

Nothing should be placed on your page haphazardly. Every element you use should connect with other elements to create a clean, sophisticated look.  When items are aligned, the result is a stronger cohesive unit. Be conscious of where you place elements and align pieces in a page even when the two objects are physically far apart (like a top headline with the bottom footnote).

What to Avoid: Using multiple alignment styles (i.e. some center, others left) on one page or always defaulting to centered alignment.

4) Repetition

Repeating visual elements of design throughout a piece will bring consistency and strengthen the unity of your projects.

Repetition can be used with colors, fonts, bullets, graphics, borders, subheadings elements, or anything a reader will visually recognize. Repetition is a conscious effort to unify all parts of a design: elements repeating through various pages, colors displaying patterns, drop caps in lead paragraphs or sidebars in successive layouts.

What to Avoid: Making repetitive elements too subtle or infrequent, being haphazard rather than intentional, or repeating an element so often it breaks the flow or the document as a whole.

While design may not come naturally to you, everyone has room to grow. By using these four principles, your work will look more professional, unified, and interesting. And you will have more fun creating!

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