|Piece:||Compact Disc Tutorial (Excerpt)|
|Client:||Legal client of TrialGraphix|
|Piece:||Light Tutorial (Excerpt)|
|Client:||Legal client of TrialGraphix|
|Piece:||Localmotive Toys Streetcar Campaign|
|Media:||Adobe Illustrator, InDesign|
|Piece:||Impacted Molar Medical Illustration|
|Media:||Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft PowerPoint|
|Client:||Legal client of TrialGraphix|
|Piece:||Pennsic XL Cover Illustration|
|Medium:||Technical pen on 130# cover stock|
|Client:||The Society for Creative Anachronism|
Process-oriented graphic artist with solid information technology experience seeks to apply a meticulous sense of organization and balance to your graphic design needs. Accustomed to handling collateral, computers, and sticky situations. Exceptional ability to discover problems and inefficiencies and find solutions for them.
Recent Professional Experience
Senior Graphic Designer and Content Consultant
Freelance Work (Various Locations) ◊ Feb. 2015−Present
Information Design Specialist
TrialGraphix (Washington, DC) ◊ Feb. 2011−Oct. 2014
Graphic Designer and Production Coordinator
Kaiser Permanente (Rockville, MD) ◊ Jan. 2009−Oct. 2010
Senior Graphic Design Specialist
Corporate Executive Board (Rosslyn, VA) ◊ Apr. 2005−May 2008
Stephenson Printing (Alexandria, VA) ◊ Sep. 2004−Mar. 2005
Web and Graphic Design Intern
Cornerstone Media Solutions (Oswego, NY) ◊ Jan. 2004−May 2004
Art and Graphic Design Tutor
SUNY Oswego Office of Learning Services (Oswego, NY) ◊ Oct. 2002−Dec. 2003
Education and Certification
Apple Certified Support Professional 10.6
Apple Certified Support Professional 10.5
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) with Studio Emphasis: Graphic Design
State University of New York at Oswego (Oswego, NY) ◊ Summa Cum Laude 2004
Associate in Applied Arts (A.A.A.): Fine Arts
Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale, VA) ◊ Summa Cum Laude 2002
Digital images fall predominantly into two general types: vector images and raster images. This class focuses on the latter.
At its most basic, a raster image is one composed of many tiny blips of color that visually blend together to form an image. The most common raster images are digital photographs and those reproduced using process printing (using a limited palette of inks to create a broad range of color).
A good way to understand the build of a raster image is to zoom into a digital photograph and examine the grid structure. Each little square in the grid is one pixel. Each pixel is a single color. Taken together, these thousands or millions of tiny color squares disappear as individuals to give the illusion of a continuous flow of color.
The number of squares of color in a digital image is determined by the size of the grid. An image that is 1920x1080, a common size for a desktop background, has 2,073,600 total pixels (that is, 1,920 columns of pixels multiplied by 1,080 rows of pixels). The number of pixels in an image is directly related to its resolution, discussed in the next section.
Images on a printed page blend together in the same way. Magnifying a printed image reveals tiny individual dots of color. When viewed with the naked eye, these dots blend together to form a seamless printed picture.
size and resolution
One of the more confusing concepts when discussing raster images is the relationship between number of pixels and the physical size of the image when it is printed. Pixels do not have a permanent printed height and width.
The crucial concept connecting the digital image and its print is resolution. In the U.S., the resolution of a digital image is defined as the number of pixels per inch, abbreviated “ppi”. Number of pixels, printed dimensions, and resolution are interconnected:
Pixels ÷ Dimension = Resolution
As an example, a digital photograph that is 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels and is set to be printed at 6.4 inches by 3.6 inches has a resolution of 300 ppi, as 1,920 (pixels) ÷ 6.4 (inches) = 300 (pixels per inch). This resolution produces a decent printed photograph through a home or office printer.
The same digital photograph, but set to print at 32 inches by 18 inches, has a digital resolution of just 60 ppi (1,920 ÷ 32 = 60). The photograph itself hasn't changed, only the size it is set to be printed. If the digital photograph is printed at these larger dimensions, the individual pixels would be large enough to see with the naked eye. This causes the edges in the photo to look jagged, or pixelated.
A related, but independent, concept is the resolution of printed images. Printed image resolution is measured in dots per inch, “dpi”, or sometimes lines per inch, “lpi”. The calculation of printed resolution is similar to that of digital resolution:
Dots ÷ Dimension = Resolution
As with digital resolution, the higher the dpi of a print, the better the quality of the image.
Lastly, the final quality of a printed image is dependent on both the original digital resolution and the print resolution. An image with a high ppi but printed with a low dpi will look fuzzy. Conversely, an image with a low ppi will not be improved by printing with a high dpi. To achieve the best quality final output, the image needs both a suitably high ppi in its digital state, and a suitably high dpi when printed.
There are many different models used to classify and understand color, but there are two that most often apply to digital and printed images. The first is the Red-Green-Blue model, abbreviated RGB. The second is the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black model, abbreviated CMYK. These models, in addition to being the most common, are closely related.
RGB is the model used for color displayed through computer monitors and television screens. Each color the screen displays is made of different intensities of three base colors of light, which are red, green, and blue.
The RGB color model is called an additive model. The intensities of red, green, and blue lights add together to form a specific color. The brighter the red, green, and blue lights, the lighter the resulting color. When all three lights are at their brightest, there is white. When all three lights are turned off, there is black (the color of the screen).
The CMYK model is used for printed colors, and these colors are made of different amounts of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. Black is abbreviated as “K”, which stands for “key color”; this reduces confusion with the color blue.
The CMYK model is a subtractive model. The more ink that is added to an area, the darker the resulting color becomes. When all inks are layered 100%, there is black. When no ink is present, there is white (or the color of the paper).
In a perfect setting, layering 100% of cyan, magenta, and yellow together produces solid black. But in the real world, the black produced by layering the three color inks is dull, so printers add a true black ink on top of these areas to deepen the effect. The black that is made of all four ink colors is called “rich black”.
These two models are intimately linked. When 100% cyan ink is layered on 100% magenta ink, the resulting color is blue - the same blue in the RGB model. Combining 100% of magenta and yellow produces red, and 100% of yellow and cyan produces green.
Raster images can be saved in hundreds of different file formats, depending on the program saving the file and the needs of the user. While there are many formats — especially in the fields of medicine, physics, and mapping — there are only a handful in general use.
The best known is perhaps “.JPG”, used by many consumer-level digital cameras and on most websites. “.PNG” and “.GIF” are also quite popular on the web, due to their small size and suitability for display on screen.
Moving toward the print-focused formats, “.TIF” images are popular cross-platform files, with the Adobe Photoshop-native “.PSD” format also common.
the pros and cons
Choosing to create a picture as a raster image or a vector image requires knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of each format.
The biggest advantage to using a raster image is the format's ability to easily render photorealistic images, which is difficult and time-consuming to accomplish in a vector format. It takes a digital camera less than a second to create a realistic raster image of an apple, but can take an artist hours to create a realistic vector image of the same apple.
The most glaring downside to using a raster image is the loss of quality when the image is resized. The digital photograph of an apple may look great when printed at home, but appears blurry and indistinct when it is printed on a large sign due to the pixelation that occurs at the smaller ppi.
Another consideration when working with raster images is the file size of the image. In a raster image, the file needs to remember the color of each individual pixel, and the number of pixels can reach in the millions. Where a vector image may only be 100 KB, a similar raster image may be 100 MB, which is one thousand times larger. Larger files require more computer resources — hard drive space, memory, etc. — to manage.
This class has only just touched on raster graphics to give non-designers a feel for the fundamentals of the format. Adobe and other organizations offer a wealth of free and paid training materials for further study, and there are several raster-editing programs available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Unix environments to practice practical raster skills.
Digital images fall predominantly into two general types: vector images and raster images. This class focuses on the former.
At its core, a vector image is one created with points (anchor points) and lines (paths) using a vector-editing program (e.g., Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape). To understand a vector image is to understand these anchor points and paths, which compose the underlying structure of all vector graphics.
The path determines the area of the shape, but it is not explicitly drawn by the artist. The path is calculated based on the 'handles' of the anchor points. A handle is a way of telling the shape how to draw the path, but is not part of the visual image itself. Think of a handle in terms of throwing a ball. The length of the handle is how hard to throw; the longer the handle, the harder the throw. The angle of the handle is the direction of the throw.
In the third picture, two anchor points have been adjusted, resulting in the new path highlighted in yellow. On the first anchor point, the length of one handle has been decreased, but its angle has not been changed. The path from that point does not move as far in the direction of the handle before it curves back to meet the next anchor point at the top of the shape. The second anchor point has had the angle of one handle rotated clockwise approximately 90°, but its length has not been adjusted. This alters the direction of how the path leaves the anchor point.
Right now the shape has no color. If this image is printed, there would be nothing on the page. The paths and anchor points are the vector-editing program's way of showing the underlying structure of the shape. To color the shape, it can be outlined (adding a stroke) and it can be filled in (adding a fill).
At its most basic, a stroke is a single color and a uniform width. More complex strokes might have varying widths, multiple colors, or dashed styles.
Similarly, a basic fill is a single color filling the shape. Fills can also be gradients of two or more colors, patterns, pictures, etc. The attribute that defines a fill is that it fills the inside of the shape.
A shape can have no stroke or fill, a stroke but no fill, a fill but no stroke, a fill and a stroke, and even multiples of each. The fill and the stroke are not dependent on one another.
putting it all together
Complete vector images are made of many shapes. They are stroked and filled in different colors and styles, and layered on top of each other to create complex images.
Vector-editing programs offer additional settings for how shapes look and interact with other shapes, giving an artist lots of creative options. They can change shape transparency, how one shape is connected to another, and more. But the fundamental path and anchor point structure remains.
Vector graphics can be saved as different file formats, depending on the vector-editing program saving the file. While there are dozens of vector file formats, there are only a handful in common use.
Many vector-editing programs have a native file format that is their default. Adobe Illustrator uses “.AI” as its native extension, as CorelDRAW uses “.CDR” and AutoDesk uses “.DWG”. While these are considered proprietary formats, programs can often convert a non-native format to its native by using built-in or third-party converters.
Programs are also capable of saving files in formats that are more universal, such as “.SVG” and “.WMF/.EMF”. Inkscape's 'native' file format is in fact the open-source “.SVG”.
Lastly, there are 'wrapper' file formats that are capable of wrapping text, vector images, and raster images into a single file type. The most popular wrapper format is Adobe's “.PDF”, with “.EPS” also common.
the pros and cons
Choosing to create an image as raster or vector requires knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of each format.
One great advantage to using vector graphics is in their ability to scale physical size without loss of quality and sharpness. One image file can be printed in small scale on a postcard, then can easily be reused for a billboard graphic by increasing the dimensions of the art. Because the graphic is based solely on the position of the anchor points and handles, changing the physical size of the image has no effect on how clean and crisp the image looks.
The bulk of logos are created as vector graphics, so can be used in multiple ways without concern for the quality of the printed image (as is a consideration when using raster graphics).
The biggest drawback with vector graphics is an inherent difficulty in reproducing photorealistic images, though the gap between vector and raster in this regard is certainly closing.
Complex functions in vector-editing programs, such as the Gradient Mesh tool in Adobe Illustrator, allow graphic artists to create extremely realistic art. But there are considerations to balance. Many artists duplicate work from previous photographs, the art creation and editing is time-consuming, and there can be technical issues with the file when printing.
Before a vector image can be printed, it must be converted into a raster image that the printer can understand and reproduce. This process is called rasterization.
Rasterization can be done by the vector-editing program, the printer itself, or dedicated third-party software. The quality of the conversion will depend on the power and sophistication of the hardware and software performing the process. Basic rasterization software can handle simple vector images without trouble, but can output unexpected results when asked to process complex images.
This class has only just touched on vector graphics to give non-designers a feel for the fundamentals of the format. Adobe and other organizations offer a wealth of free and paid training materials for further study, and there are several vector-editing programs available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Unix environments to practice vector skills.
How a designer assembles a layout can have a drastic impact on the ease of editing and reusability of a design. Experienced designers have their own preferences for setting up a layout, and each method has its pros and cons. Ultimately, a designer should use the method that gives him or her the greatest total benefit for the least effort expended, while still maintaining the desired look.
a simple spreadsheet
Here is a basic layout of information. It is a simple grid structure and is how the client wants this data to look. However the information is structured in the layout program, it must print to look this way.
There are three main options available to assemble this particular layout; using a table, text boxes, or text characters.
The preferred method for this type of layout is to use a table. Tables are available in nearly all layout and word processing programs, and are the most reliable way to structure tabular information — information in rows and columns.
The light blue lines in the image represent the hidden table structure that controls the information. The design will print as the client requests, as in the first image. Each table cell is set to center its content vertically, and the cell borders on the outside of the table receive a stroke to frame the text nicely.
The biggest advantage to using this structure is in the automatic alignment of the data. This method also allows for easy rearranging of rows and columns, and makes adding flourishes such as borders around the data a straightforward process.
A potential disadvantage lies in when the client specifies new data for the table, and how that data is provided.
If the client provides a word processor file that has a table with the same number of rows and columns, most layout programs allow a straight cut and paste of the new table directly over the old table in the layout. Then, only the text formatting needs to be checked and reapplied if necessary. However, if the client sends an e-mail with the new information as plain text, the information needs to be individually cut and pasted into each cell, or the table completely rebuilt.
The next method for arranging this kind of layout is to use individual text boxes for each bit of data. The text boxes can be selected, moved, and aligned easily, and there is finer control of spacing and alignment with text boxes than with a table.
Before using this method though, consider that it is difficult to select all the text at once and, in many programs, text boxes do not automatically expand to contain new text. Additional or revised text would require manually resizing and realigning the boxes.
An advantage to using text boxes is in the ease of rearranging data. In our example table, it is a safe bet that the client won't need to rearrange the data often. However, a different client might want a series of quotes in a similar layout. The quotes may be rearranged and edited multiple times to find the optimum arrangement, and the text box method excels for this fluid editing.
Using text characters to align information is perhaps the least reliable and the method most commonly used by amateur designers. But this method has its perks, and there are smart ways to go about building a character-based organization.
The light blue blips among the text are tab characters. It is the only character used to align the text. There is a single tab character before each column of text, and there is a custom tab stop for each of the three columns. The text as a whole has a standard left alignment.
The next setting to tweak in a well-built, character-based layout is the “space after”. The “space after” setting is usually under the “paragraph” options in a program. It specifies in quantitative terms how much white space there is after each paragraph before the next paragraph is to start. In this example the “space after” is set to 0.17 inches.
The layout program precisely aligns the text by using the tab stops and “space after” setting. The alternatives — using multiple tabs or multiple spaces, and multiple hard returns — is clunky and inexact. When there are multiple characters used to move text around to “what looks about right”, the impression is the designer is lazy and/or doesn't know any better.
For all its settings-tweaking glory, though, the biggest bonus to toughing it out with a text character-based structure is the ease of cutting and pasting information. This may not seem like much, until working with a client who insists on repeatedly providing new text. When an enthusiastic client sends over updated copy, it is straight-forward process to cut and paste the entirety of the new text into the layout, and to correct any missing or duplicate tab characters. The set tabs and the space after settings remain, preserving the spacing and layout.
If worked with intelligence and forethought, all three of these methods will produce a satisfactory layout for a client. The average designer will create a layout that fits his or her client's immediate needs using the easiest method. The superb designer considers the long-term rework potential and the type of information in addition to client satisfaction when choosing a structure, knowing that time spent getting it right at the start pays off in time saved through the whole project.
In the previous class, "the structure of information", several ways to structure a design were explored, with touches to the potential reusability of each structure. However, there are more reusability considerations than how a design is laid out on a page. When reusing designs over the short and long haul, designers have a range of layout and organization options available that can save significant time and effort over the course of a particular project. The further ahead a designer thinks when designing, the more efficient that designer is and the more valuable his or her effort becomes.
In this era of electronic designs and interchangeable assets, it is easier than ever to construct a layout that allows for efficient and seamless edits and reuse. Yet despite the increasing mutability of design methods, many designers refuse to take the time to build usability — and reusability — into their work. Some designers claim ignorance of their options, others say a lack of time prevents them from adding flexibility, and still others believe there is little payoff to the time spent in doing so.
It is only in very few instances that the time spent getting it right at the start does not pay off over the sum total of a project or projects.
editing: reusability over the short haul
Let's face it, it is extremely rare for content in a design — pictures, text, data, etc. — to come from the client in a finished form. Invariably, the author has changes to the content while the design is in progress. These kinds of changes can be viewed as a short-term reusability issue.
Understanding the nature of the assets in a particular design is the first step toward planning for the unknown. Edits to different styles of content will lend themselves to different reusability considerations. There are few universally applicable techniques. Understanding the content stems from both design experience and being attentive to clients.
Is the design an annual report for a company? Then expect the final numbers to change and account for that possibility in the layout. Leave space for a few extra digits in the accounting sheets. That way, a mistake from a junior accountant that isn't caught until a day before going to the printer doesn't translate into a frantic hour of readjusting several pages. The extra white space also allows for easier reading, which is always a bonus
Does the client contact the agency every day with small text changes? Then leave text boxes with a little extra wiggle room at the bottom just in case the one small text change causes the whole paragraph to reflow.
There are so many different asset combinations that it would be difficult to touch on a significant portion of them in detail here. Being aware of and implementing the settings and techniques that save editing time over a project's length are largely a function of experience, either learning it the hard way or following the advice of those more experienced in design. Designing for short-haul edits is the first level in designing for usability and reusability, and the skill is worth the time for all serious designers to be actively improving.
repurposing: reusability over the long haul
The next level of designing for reusability concerns thinking ahead to future projects. Repurposing — taking an existing design and reusing it — is a common occurrence in the design world. There are two main kinds of repurposed documents.
The first kind is the accidental repurpose. This is the design that was initially intended as a stand-alone document, but circumstances dictated that it be reused. Perhaps the client postponed work on a document for several months, or a particular ad campaign did so well in one geographic area that the client wants to repurpose for another. Usually the considerations for short-term reusability are enough to efficiently carry these documents through to their final iterations.
The second kind of repurposed document is the template. Templates are documents whose specific purpose in life is to be easily revamped. Templates can be used in a single time frame for multiple versions of a design, such as a single brochure for different states, or for multiple time frames, such as a monthly mailer. By establishing a template document, much of the grunt work and decision making is completed just once.
When making a template document, a designer should think ahead to how other designers will use the file. The more self-explanatory the document is, the easier it is to use the template, and the more time it saves overall. The three best areas to pay attention to when building a template are in styles, swatches, and layers.
Styles are the bread and butter of a template document. They allow the same formatting to be applied consistently over and over again. Paragraph styles, and to a lesser extent, character styles, are the most commonly used, though advanced programs have table styles and object styles, too. The single most important consideration when creating styles is to have a logical system when doing so.
Have very specific names for styles, leaving no doubt as to where each style is used. Consider a prenumbering system for organization and quick reference. Put styles in the order they will be used on a typical page, or group similar styles together, depending on expected workflow. Whatever system is used, make sure it is consistent.
Another organizational tool available in most layout programs — and many graphics programs, too — are layers. Properly creating and maintaining layers is a step above styles. Unlike styles, many individual documents wouldn't benefit from separate layers. Templates, however, are a different case. Different content, such as different color variations, can be segregated in different layers in a single document. Rather than create and edit eight different files, a design can be constructed with one file with eight separate layers.
A useful trick with layers is to use a notes layer to help explain more difficult portions of a template. A notes layer is especially nice when there are a large number of designers using a single template. If one designer has a question about the template, the template's creator can add a bit of text to the notes layer to explain it, so that all subsequent designers who pull that template will have access to that information.
The third area that is essential to keep organized in a template is the swatches. How to handle swatches changes on a case to case basis. Some companies work with a single set of colors, and can be labeled with that in mind, for example, Coca-Cola Red. (To the best of my knowledge, there is no corresponding Pantone number for Coca-Cola Red, even though it is technically part of the Pantone Matching System. But that is a matter of some myth among non-Coke designers.)
If the process colors of a project are specific to that project, name the swatches in a logical way, meaning, if a shade of blue is used only in the header text of a booklet, title the color “Header Blue.” Specific color build information remains with the swatch details. Keep Pantone and other official color matching system colors in their given designations to avoid confusion down the production line.
On a related note, consider keeping a library of objects associated with a template. While technically not part of the design file, a library of standard objects will help maintain consistency and decrease the time needed to edit the template. Be careful to match the styles associated with the library objects with the template itself. If a style in a library object differs from the document into which it is pulled, it may change the style in the document or make a duplicate style, causing confusion.
the strategic view
Moving into the realm of truly strategic thinking isn't always the best use of a designer's time. It all depends on the designer's particular role in his or her organization. In general, as a designer moves closer to the responsibilities of a Principal in an organization, the more valuable strategic thinking becomes — not only because the designer now has the experience to successfully look further ahead, but he or she is also in a better position to enact the changes necessary to bring about the strategic vision.
When discussing reusability in the context of strategic thinking, the biggest boost to streamlining the design process is the creation of a manual of style. The specifics of what is contained in a manual of style will change from situation to situation, but the general purpose remains the same: establishing a rulebook of correct and incorrect. A clear and properly-enforced “MoS” is the biggest, baddest tool in ensuring professional consistency in design.
There are few areas of design that are universally correct. Even something as seemingly straightforward as the spelling of a word can change. Will a design originating in America be released in Britain? Is it worth converting the text from American English to British English? A manual of style allows the decision to be made once and recorded, so that when the situation comes around again, no time is wasted in redeciding and consistency is maintained.
Trying to codify all potential design decisions at once can be a daunting task. One way to bring the process to a manageable size is to start with a ready-made manual of style and add to it as decisions are made within the department or agency. A common starting point for many American designers is the Chicago Manual of Style. This online and print publication is a well-maintained work of rules and guidelines for American English. It covers everything from simple punctuation to dealing with mathematics in text.
Once the decision is made to invest the time in creating and maintaining an MoS, the next step is determining the form it will take. Do not place too much emphasis on a permanent solution, though. As an organization and its projects and responsibilities grow, so will the demands it places on its manual. It will naturally evolve over time.
The most developed manuals are found in large art departments with dozens of designers or multinational newsrooms. The manuals are professionally printed and bound for distribution to designers, editors, and content writers across the company. For an organization with fewer designers, a simple three-ring binder with removable pages that lives in a central location would suffice, or even an electronic version on the company intranet. For a single designer, the start of a manual may be hand-written notes in a personal notebook.
However an MoS is created, the most important purpose of it is to establish consistency in design. Designers must reference it, editors must enforce it, and content creators must respect it. Otherwise, the time invested in its creation is wasted. Enforcing a manual of style, however, is a tricky proposition. Adhering 100% to a written manual isn't always necessary.
Consider an internal design department versus an ad agency. From a consumer's viewpoint, designs being created by an internal design department come from one “source”—the department's company. For an ad agency, designs come from multiple sources—the agency's clients. If one client asks to display dates as “13 Nov. 2008”, and another asks for “November 13, 2008”, style isn't broken as long as the agency sticks with one particular choice through the client's project (and ideally through subsequent projects for that client). The manual has done its job if consistency is maintained for one source.
When it comes right down to it, building a manual of style to support reusability is a matter of legacy. It is a rare thing for a designer to maintain a relationship with one company from start to finish. Without a formal manual, the design work for the company will lack consistency over time as designers move in and out of the ranks. That is why the manual is such an important strategic tool — it allows a responsible designer to improve the professionalism of a company's work even after he or she has gone.
Taking all of the possible reusability considerations in at one time is an overwhelming proposition. Consider the skill of designing for reusability as akin to having an “artist's eye.”
Few designers enter this industry knowing instinctively what is going to work in a design. Artists and other designers develop their eye for art and design through careful layering of experimentation and attention to detail. The general rules of design gradually move from the consciousness to an intuitive sense of what works. The same process should occur to develop an eye for reusability.
Start with a consciousness of short-term reusability considerations. As implementing the methods to cope with short-term editing possibilities becomes second nature, move to considering the longer term. As in all skill building, establishing a solid foundation of basic skills and working up from there is the best course to a formidable new talent.
At some point in their career, most graphic designers will work closely with editors, illustrators and photographers, content owners, subject matter experts, and art directors. As a result, there are a number of skillsets tangential to design that should be actively improved with collaborative experience, that serve to build a well-rounded, more valuable designer.
editors: proofreading, editing, and fact checking
At first blush, it would seem the core of graphic artistry and of editorial are profoundly different – and in truth, they are. The base role of graphic designers is to visually organize information, while the role of editorial is to ensure accuracy of content. But these roles are as connected parts in an engine, interdependent and necessarily inclusive. In a smooth shop, editorial and design have a collaborative existence, rather than a combative one. In the ideal case, editorial and design have a mutually instructive existence; total work on a project is materially reduced when each participant understands the roles that others play.
As a concrete example, consider a new designer looking over a freshly edited brochure. The copy in the brochure was cut and pasted directly from the author’s text file, and editorial has made several changes, including adding punctuation marks (proofreading), rearranging some sentences for better flow (editing), and a question about the source of some bulleted figures (fact checking). The designer implements these changes and returns the brochure to editorial for a recheck, where it passes muster and is sent back to the author for review (along with the question about data source).
In this project, the brochure has been touched twice by each department before the author sees the first draft with changed copy, and it will be returned to the design process when the author provides the data source.
A year later, the same designer sits down to assemble a new brochure. Before she does, she reads over what the author has provided for copy and sees several items of editorial concern – incorrect punctuation marks, concepts mixed in paragraphs, and missing sources. Using experience gained from previous editorial review, she changes the punctuation automatically, and reaches out to the author for the missing sources and questions about concept flow. Only when the concerns have been addressed does she design the visuals of the brochure. The new design is submitted to editorial, passes review the first time, and is sent back to the author.
With the designer applying her editorial experience, the brochure has been touched only once by each department, and the author has already seen the changes to the copy. This means fewer review rounds with correspondingly increased efficiency for the whole process.
Although these two disciplines are intimately linked, designers should not be expected to perform as expert editors. With this in mind, here are a few examples of editorial concern that even a beginning designer should watch for:
illustrators and photographers: worth a thousand words
As purveyors of visual design, illustrators and photographers have perhaps the closest association with graphic designers. There are many overlapping core concepts to each profession, e.g., color theory, spatial proportion, asymmetrical balance, object focus. Because of this overlap, graphic designers are often also illustrators and photographers. But each is a specialized discipline in its own right, and a smart designer will keep an open mind to the additional intricacies of each.
It may be an old and overly-used adage, but pictures truly are worth a thousand words. Illustrators and photographers capture images with different methods, and designers incorporate these images into their designs to various ends. It can be for visual interest, an explanation of complex concept, identifying a subject, reinforcing a lesson, or a combination of these and others. Sources of visual assets are also varied. Images, illustrations, charts, graphs, and diagrams can be self-created, provided by internal specialists, searched on stock image company catalogs, or commissioned straight from a freelance artist.
In all cases, the more information that is provided — size, resolution, orientation, color scheme, content, style, media, etc. — the more appropriate the final image will be for the design. Understanding photography concepts like F-stop and depth of field, lens types, exposure, ISO, filters and lighting, and so forth, and illustration options such as 2D and 3D, line drawing, media (watercolor, pencil, collage), realism and idealism and romanticism, perspective, facing, and on, equates to a more intelligent and productive conversation with a freelance artist, a more targeted search in a stock catalog, and fewer edit rounds with team members.
content owners: democracy in action
Some of the most frustrating, but fertile times for a professional designer are when collaborating about design with a content owner. Content owners are the originators of a deliverable, and as such have a controlling interest in its creation. At the end of the day, graphic designers are working toward an item of use, be it product packaging, service brochures, logos, executive reports, internal presentations, or website layouts. Content owners start that process with a need for the item of use.
The most advantageous skill a designer will learn when working with content owners is democratic teamwork. The principles of design and the needs of the content owner are not always in sync, and the ability to give and take when arriving at the final product is highly prized. This is dependent on a core set of communication steps vital to the collaborative process:
subject matter experts (SMEs): understanding content
The role of subject matter experts — SMEs — in the design process is as the highest authority of the factual accuracy of content. This is as important in a product brochure as it is in a medical textbook. No matter how beautifully a deliverable is designed, and how perfect the grammar of its copy, it counts for little if the content is incorrect. Also consider, although often one and the same person, an SME for the deliverable is not necessarily the content owner of that deliverable. Consider a marketing manager working with his communications department to create an informational booklet on the company's latest service offering. The marketing manager knows the needs of his audience, and so has final say in what should and shouldn't be included in the booklet. However, the marketing manager needs to defer to his company's technicians — the service offering SMEs — for included technical information. But how do SMEs affect the graphic designer? Surely designers and SMEs have little to talk about?
This is another case for a designer's added value. An average designer will take provided content and create a suitable design. A good designer will review the content provided to chunk the information into coherent and appropriately emphasized segments for audience consumption. A great designer will absorb and understand the content, and ask questions of SMEs if things don't line up. Like doctors and lawyers, SMEs are human too, and sometimes make mistakes. To illustrate, consider a brochure for a hardscaping product. It might list Cobblestone A as being suitable for vehicular traffic, but the summary chart in the back of the brochure does not have that feature checked for Cobblestone A. Well-rounded designers speak up, question, get confirmation: Which is correct? Is there a vehicular version and a non-vehicular version? If so, how can we make that distinction in the design? Done respectfully, this level of teamwork results in fewer mistakes and a more efficient design process. Naturally there is some overlap with editorial in this regard, so that communication among all stakeholders in a project is key to success.
art directors: total conceptualization
Whether it’s the general of an army, the CEO of a company, or the art director of a communications department, these individuals are paid the big bucks for the same objective: successfully guiding the strategic view. Relatively few people in the workforce at large have the intelligence, experience, and drive to step into a strategic position in an organization – to make solid, beneficial decisions that cascade through the long term. Strategic thinkers are required to have as complete an understanding of interactions and consequences as possible – a total conceptualization of their purview.
Not all graphic designers aspire to be art directors, and that is as things should be. But that doesn't mean having a grasp of total conceptualization isn't beneficial for a well-rounded designer. Understanding the larger picture can inform individual designs in a profound and positive way. A rather ubiquitous example can be found in logo design. As an example, perhaps a designer has accepted a freelance contract for a logo of a new company, RabbitCo. The owner of RabbitCo asks that the logo include a rabbit in the design, and use the color blue. These are broad guidelines from an owner not used to professionally interacting with designers. Many graphic artists would meet these criteria without problem with a design that is pleasing to the eye. The client is happy, the designer is paid, and that's the end of the relationship. But it can work much more beautifully when the graphic artist incorporates the larger picture into the design.
It starts with asking questions, both internally and of the client. What products and/or services does this company provide? Who are their intended clientele? What are some adjectives that describe the personality of the company (“modern”, “elegant”, “aggressive”)? How will this logo be used in the immediate future? How will the use of the logo change as the company grows? What are some potential coordinating assets for future branding? What companies are competitors, and what does their branding look like?
Knowing what to ask is largely a matter of experience, but is also a matter of paying attention to what other companies and designers have done — what solutions they've put forth for design problems. Loaded with additional information, the designer can create a logo for RabbitCo that not only meets the owner's requirements, but substantially expands on them both in the present and the future. Even if this doesn't result in additional freelance work for the designer, the industry and discipline as a whole is strengthened.
Like any profession, graphic design is so much more than just graphic design. The most successful graphic designers are those who interpret and absorb the skills and talents of those they work with and for. Strengthening core and tangential skills builds versatility and value as a designer, and can lead to some engaging – and well-paid – specialist opportunities.