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Technology and the graphic designer

September 29, 2015 by Klaus

In the mid-1980s, I was involved in an extremely labour-intensive wall mural brand project for a client. First, we had an illustrator render a finished visual to scale. Then that image was projected onto the designated wall for several nights in a row so that a mural painter could trace it onto the primed wall. From there, the team of painters spent days upon days painting the mural by following the image as we had commissioned. Finally, after weeks of work, and several thousand dollars, the mural was done.

And it stayed on the wall long after the campaign was over – it stayed there until arrangements could be made to paint over it.

Such creative campaigns were so costly, so labour-intensive and so time consuming that they were only really available to companies with the biggest of budgets. (Wow, we had one!)

Nowadays, it’s a different story. The mind-blowing pace in which technology has changed over the last several decades has meant that the process for a job like this has also changed.

Today, a similar job would first simply involve measuring the designated wall. Then an illustrator or designer would design an image using sophisticated graphic design and imaging software. When complete, the mural would be printed overnight on a high-quality printer and then mounted the next day. At the end of the campaign, the mural would simply be removed.

And all of this would be done at a fraction of the cost of the 1980s project. This alone means that bold and exciting creative concepts – whether a wall mural or another sensational initiative – are more accessible to a greater number of clients.

Rapidly changing technology has become a driving force behind innovative graphic design. Looking at that 1980s example, back then we only had two or three pieces of high quality software for creating concepts. Today, graphic designers have an entire suite of choices over a wide spectrum of applications – which allow for new concepts and a deeper delivery of work.

What does this mean? Rendering to a variety of sizes, for example, is a much simpler technique. So, a design can be applied to a side of a bus, a wing of a plane, a bench in a park or a page on a mobile site. Not the exact same design of course, because you can’t simply shrink something from airplane size to smartphone size and expect it to work in both places. But today’s technology allows a brand image to be manipulated so that it can be showcased in multiple formats without diluting its meaning or impact. This is not something that graphic designers could do 20 or 30 years ago – at least not without a tremendous amount of creative effort and money.

Stay tuned for a future blog post about technology and its impact on brand design. 


Typography Part II: Choosing the font to best represent your brand

September 10, 2015 by Klaus

In a recent blog post, I explained that choosing the right font is about knowing how to dress for the occasion. A fancy calligraphy font, for example, may be perfect for a North American wedding invitation, but chose that same script for an annual report and you’ll lose your readers by the second word. 

But there’s more to simply understanding a product and your audience when choosing amongst the 60,000 or more fonts in the world; you also need to understand what the brand wants to say, as a typeface should accurately reflect and represent that brand positioning

The question is though; can a poor font choice hurt a brand? The answer to that isn’t black or white. Certain typeface choices may be out-dated, yes, but that doesn’t make them wrong as long as there’s a rhyme and reason behind the choice and they effectively convey the message. Where font choice can hurt a brand lies in when a choice doesn’t appear to have a reason behind it.

As well, although it’s perfectly fine to select multiple typefaces to reflect a brand, mixing them in a willy-nilly fashion simply gives off a cluttered and unfocused appearance. Done poorly, this can reflect badly on your brand and your business, leaving customers (and potential customers) to question your sanity.

The easiest solution is to keep it simple. A simple choice maintains the integrity of your brand voice while conveying your message as cleanly as possible.

Two newer fonts that reflect that simple choice are Calibri and Neue Haas Unica. You may have heard of Calibri as in recent years it has become the Microsoft Word default font. Its default status is based on its even strokes that work in print and in digital media. And, most importantly it carries itself well in all forms of digital media, including on smartphones.

The other good font of choice, Neue Haas Unica, is based on two classic fonts – Helvetica and Universe. However, this newer font is warmer and cleaner than its predecessors. Its creators have taken the best attributes of its parent fonts but flushed them out to produce a clean sans-serif font. It works well in print and on screen. And, to top it off, it can support multiple languages – meaning that brands that need to translate their material can do so without changing the integrity of their design.

These are not the only two simple font choices, just two examples. It’s important to understand that simple doesn’t mean plain and boring, it means clean; and in today’s digital world, that’s how to best represent your brand’s voice.