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Design Principles

Design Principles

As such it’s clear that simple legibility and clarity are essential, but they aren’t enough to grab the reader’s interest in the first place. This interest is attracted by variety, but it can also be lost by it. A pull-out quote, for example, can draw the eye to an article, but equally it can distract and disrupt the reading flow and so potentially lose readers. Good design accommodates this apparent paradox by playing off one element against another: consistency against contrast, boldness against understatement, symmetry against asymmetry, unity against division. you get the picture. Good design is built on this internal tension and the balance of opposites.

Coming down to earth with a bump, it’s important to remember that good design doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is determined by real world considerations. The most important of these are the intended audience and the intended effect. If you are producing a mail-shot for a bargain-basement special offer, for example, a left-aligned mono-spaced letter that looks as if it has been knocked up on a typewriter will almost certainly be more effective than a lavish full colour brochure. Just as important are the practical considerations of time and money. The typewriter approach would not only be far cheaper to produce, but also far quicker.

For our project the parameters are clear. The publication is a programme of upcoming, mainly arts-based events organised by the French Institute in Edinburgh. It’s therefore safe to assume that the intended audience is sophisticated and that, with the events’ emphasis on contemporary art, the programme should be appropriately clean and modern. Budgets are tight, however, so all of the information must be fitted onto a single double-sided page. Full-colour is also out of the question, and in any case many of the supplied photos are black and white, so we’ll have to try and maximize the impact of two colours.

OK, we know what we’re supposed to do, so how do we go about it? Basically the process involves six separate stages (see Putting It Together walkthrough). First the layout grid is created by setting page size, margins and columns. Second the text is roughly laid up and positioned on the grid. Third the typography, the formatting of the text is determined. Fourth the graphics are introduced, sized and positioned. Fifth the overall effect of the combined text, graphics and colour is fine-tuned to create the maximum impact. Finally, when the design is complete, the separated output is proofed prior to sending out to commercial print.