Graphic Design for the Advertising Industry

When tackling a graphic design for a commercial purpose, the first thing to do is listen to the client. Far too many designers get carried away with their own vision and completely ignore the needs and wants of the client. As a designer, it is your responsibility to interpret the client's ideas into a marketable design with imagination and punch. Some clients will give you only the vaguest specifications; others will point to an existing advertisement and proclaim "I want something exactly like that!"

Here are some things to think about.

Consider the environment

The approach to print advertising graphics will be quite different from graphics designed for the web. Print pieces generally stand alone, so your design will not be competing with other graphics on a page. For print, it is not your responsibility to be harmonious; your design must simply be striking. For web advertising, the designer must always be mindful of the busy nature of web pages and seek to stand out among the clutter. The most effective design can often be quieter than the surroundings, drawing the eye away from the chaos and into a resting place for the eye.

Range of color

While there are many schools of thought regarding color theory, one constant truism is "less is more". Limit your use of color to two or three at the most and use them strategically to best effect. Product, audience, and message should determine your color choice. Consider what kind of product it is and who the target market will be, and then decide what message the company is trying to convey. Sober, traditional colors like navy, forest green and burgundy convey a message of stability and trust and would be good choices for a lending institution, but to advertise a new mp3 player to a young demographic, colors should be hot enough to jump off the page.

Breaking out of the box

To make a focal image really stand out, break out of your design in some way. Cross a line. For example, position a big central image, say a person holding the product, against a two-color background featuring a curve. If the central image is on the curve, or the image extends above or below your "box", the design will jump right off the page. It's a simple technique to lend dimension to 2-D design.

Trends in advertising

Much like kitchen appliances - remember those avocado green refrigerators from the seventies? - advertising evolves, more slowly perhaps than fashion, where the trendy outfit you bought yesterday might be passé by tomorrow afternoon. It is a good idea to keep your eye on what's happening in the market in order to keep your design fresh and interesting. If your design is out of fashion, your statement will be ineffective and stale. New and innovative is certainly encouraged, but even new design must have some frame of reference to what's happening in today's market.

Reel it in

The mark of a truly inexperienced designer is over-design. Strive for simple, bold, and appealing. You are selling a product or service; stay focused on the task at hand. The one exception to this rule seems to be toys and video game packaging. If you are trying to attract children or gamers, over-the-top design and chaotic color is the trend.

Always remember that what you put out there is more than an advertisement for your client, it is your professional portfolio.

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            Master of Fine Arts: Graphic Design
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