Graphic design is, literally, a “purposeful planning that uses any combination of forms, pictures, words, and meanings to achieve one’s goal.” In reality, it’s a form of problem-solving. Many designs are born out of a necessity for that design, i.e. needing a branding logo that quickly and simply represents the brand. Designs are everywhere, and all designs are made by someone. This post was designed by the website admin (that’s me!). The typeface font that my post was written in, a simple Sans Serif font called ‘Open Sans,’ was designed by someone. The screen you’re reading my Open Sans blog post on was designed by someone. The very pixels that make up the screen you’re reading my Open Sans blog post on were designed by someone, and so on. Everything was designed by someone. Designs are often born out of necessity (“Hmm, why aren’t there many simple Sans Serif fonts that suit these needs?”). It’s problem solving, and someone once said that “The best solution for a problem can usually be found in the best definition of the problem itself.” I’m including five good examples of everyday graphic design that I see around me often.
The WordPress Dashboard Blog Post Editor (2014)
Now that the blogs are up and running, I’ve begun to see this screen more and more often (including right now!). As the son of someone who runs a web-hosting company, I can tell you that WordPress is one of the most used (and prominent) higher-level website-building suites out there. It has to keep a balance of professionalism and ease-of-use, to live up to it’s own standards. All of the visuals were created by someone (more likely a team of someones), to keep up the standard. Many user interfaces in modern computing and websurfing are using this simple technique of design, having colors be more constant, rather than making everything have texture. I can easily navigate around the editor, and more easily see where I am in the navigation. Just as fashion trends change, so do program UI’s. The consumer world sees this as what is the best way to design things at the moment. Taking a look back at programs from the past will prove this. Speaking of programs from the past…
Paint Shop Pro 5 (1991)
There’s definitely a stark difference between the modern, simple graphics we use a lot today and this classic piece of software, but I still use it and it still works quite well. It’s no Photoshop CS6, but it’s still a great program that serves me very well. Many designs for photo editing suites (old and new alike) have some similarities to this one, and some differences as well. For instance, the tight, icon-based toolbars allow for the maximum possible room on the screen for your actual work. The color palette managed to take advantage of it’s limited space in a way that is still easily useable. One thing I’d like to point out, that I think may be the best part of the program, is the image window layout. Each self-contained image is a separate mini-window within the program that I can move around and maximize/minimize just as if they were full programs. This allows for me to easily crop part of picture one and put it on picture two with not much unnecessary navigation. Most programs in this niche that I see today (including the ever-popular Photoshop line) do not make use of this convenience. That one simple point of design easily changed a lot of how this software can be used.
I probably should be talking more about branding and label designs rather than software, but I put the previous two in to show that everything is design, even when you’re using that design to make more design. Now, we have the Geocaching logo. This image represents the geocaching game, which is a world-wide GPS-enabled treasure hunt, where you look for little boxes of goodies hidden by other geocachers. This image was adopted as the logo for geocaching early on, and it stuck for many years (a derivative of the design is still in use today), because it’s so iconic. Anyone who plays the game knows that the four colored squares means “geocache.” The idea of hiding a cache is simple: make it so geocachers will be able to find it, but normal non-cachers won’t stumble upon it. I like to think that this logo sticks with the theme. If you saw four colored squares on a bird feeder, you wouldn’t think twice about it. As a geocacher, I know to go over to that bird feeder and open it up to find a geocache inside. It’s simple yet distinct. The general coloring and shaping also lends itself to be used in other forms, such as nifty little widgets that tell people how many caches you’ve found. Another interesting thing about it is that there are logos within this logo. That flag in the orange, lower-right square is actually a common geocaching icon meaning a waypoint, or an important spot on a map. The one within the yellow, top-left square is the Groundspeak logo, which is the company that owns and operates the Geocaching game. This logo is very easily recognized, and it represents a great deal for what it stands for.
(Note: The Geocaching Logo is the sole property of Groundspeak, inc., and Blognamehere.com is not an affiliate. These images were used for the purpose of education.)
“Technician Class FCC Element 2 Amateur Radio License Preparation” by Gordon West
A lot of people who are in my visual design class have seen me carrying this book around (and, more often, studying it) for the past few days. This book is exactly what that long title says: a study and prep book for the Technician Class amateur radio exam. I could talk a lot about the useful stuff inside the book, but here at Visual Design, we judge books by their covers, and how well their covers are designed! The large red text on the top of the cover draws your attention to the most important part of the title, letting you know that this one is for the technician class. As your eyes draw downwards, you can see a set of three pictures depicting ham operators working with their equipment and enjoying the fun of ham radio, which puts the impression in your head that this is a fun hobby, if they’re enjoying it this much! The next thing you’ll be drawn to is the image of a man (specifically, the writer of this book, Gordon West) showing a child how to use the equipment. Both are still smiling and looking as if they’re enjoying theirselves with their hobby. There’s a picture of a small radio on the bottom, and lots of information on the side, telling you what to look forward to in the book. The overall background color is a moderate shade of yellow, which can represent satisfaction, happiness, or general pleasure. Though the cover seems a bit busy and crowded, it caters well to it’s target audience. (Plus, a lot of hams’ radio rooms look cluttered and crowded, so it fits the theme!)
Design literally is all around us. We were designed. Scientifically, we were designed based on the genes passed on from our parents. So our appearances were designed by natural processes and heredity. But, biology isn’t the topic of this blog; design is. So what design is in that picture of my face? To start with, I chose a specific frame for my glasses. I found that the rectangular shape complemented the area around my eyes quite well. The design of the glasses also gives off an air of intellect, and even maybe a bit of confidence. My hair is also a medium of design. I adjusted it in such a way as to prevent it from badly blocking my features (especially my eyes), and also exposing a portion of my forehead, which also is a sign of intelligence. The positioning of my head and hand is in a classic “thinker” position, which shows carefulness and decision-making skills. The slight smile is a fair balance between a happy personality and a confident disposition, which ends up looking like good leadership. This slight smile is also sometimes seen in professional campaigns for office, which is an association I also benefit from. The fact that I am looking fully and completely at the viewer is a confidence signal. There are some negatives to this image, too, as there are to any design. For example, sometimes being “stared down” by a poster can be unnerving. In all, this is a well-thought picture that gets the point across. My face may not be technically “graphic” design, but this image was taken for a campaign poster where all of these signs are beneficial.