Graphic Design Tips
Print design is a branch of the graphic design industry focusing on printed materials. That includes magazines, book covers, packaging, business cards, flyers, brochures, and anything that ends in a tangible printed product.
Before starting a project, make sure you have all the necessary information you need. Will you be working from a template or are you creating the design from zero? What are the brand guidelines you need to follow? Are the images provided optimal for printing? Double and triple-check the page size and ask what the final deliverable will be.
There are several basic key aspects to keep in mind when designing for print. Creating a file for printing has its own specific settings that, if not done properly, can have terrible consequences and result in wasted time and money. The basics are making sure that all print files have a CMYK format and are set at 300 DPI. Just as important is using appropriate bleeds and margins to ensure perfect printing.
Having a good relationship with your professional printer is a bonus, they are knowledgeable especially when it comes to packaging and custom sizes. Keep in communication with them as they can help you out when you can’t find an answer to your problem. As you send files to press, you can ask printers for proofs. These are great to make sure the design, color, and format are what you need. Proofs give you one last chance to change anything that might look off and to check the spelling. If you are working with heavy copy, have a second set of eyes or, even better, a copy editor to proofread the project.
Print design covers a wide range of printed pieces. If you are new to InDesign, this article covers some great tips you can follow to create some awesome projects.
1. Apply Grid Systems
Grid systems are one of the elements in design that go unnoticed because they are mostly behind the scenes. Whether you are designing one or hundreds of pages, a grid system is essential in developing a layout. Grids can help you position text and images so that the page will look polished and clean.
The structure is made up of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. It doesn’t end there—if you want to add complexity to your page, try adding angular or curved lines. There are no strict rules as to what is and what isn’t a grid. That’s the beauty of design—as a designer, you can create your own grid. As long as you follow it throughout a project, you will create clean pages.
Many designers think that grids are a synonym for constraints. While lines can appear to be limits, it is up to your creativity to work around them. Grids are open to plenty of options for us to play with.
2. Layer It Up
Gone are the days when layouts were simply flat. Print design has come a long way, and with the help of grids, we’ve started creating multi-layered layouts. We are not talking about the InDesign layers panel but the layered elements on a page. Images over colored backgrounds, type over images, graphics over type, etc.
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when creating a multi-layered document. If you happen to be working with heavy content, ask yourself if it’s legible. It all comes down to legibility, so if the copy is difficult to read, you might try choosing a lighter background.
Type over imagery is one of the easiest ways to apply multiple layers. Make sure the colors on the content and the colors of the image aren’t mixing to the point of illegibility. Ask yourself if it makes sense for the medium you are working in. If you are choosing to play with type over images, apply it throughout the design. Some people might think the decision was a mistake, so make it obvious.
3. Back to Basics
Minimalism never goes out of style. You can’t go wrong with crisp, clean, and organized. This movement has influenced multiple fields, from print design to user interfaces, films, and architecture. Create visual harmony with a few elements—not just any, but the best you can find. Select high-quality fonts and images, a muted color palette, and a basic grid. Minimalism can seem stark due to the lack of color, but use the content and images as elements to add contrast.
4. Play With Borders
This decorative element on the edge of the paper is not just an adornment. Borders can help you reinforce the theme of your project by stylising them. They can frame the page and create a strong delivery. This vintage style border uses intricate lines. With that alone, this element can bring the quality of your design to a higher level.
Borders can also be colorful. This bold border helps unify the theme of the design by complementing it. Use the design of the page as inspiration to add a border. If it becomes too crowded, try using fewer colors and a simpler design.
5. Use a Pattern
Patterns are extremely versatile and perfect for filling up empty space. If you’ve gone too far with minimalism and thought to yourself, “How can I make this special?”, patterns are the answer as they are flexible, functional, and visually effective. Not to mention that you can explore patterns for years—there are never two of the same.
6. Invert It
Colors evoke different feelings in design. While we see logos and printed materials in many different colors, black still holds strong. Black translates into high-end, luxury, and elegance. This mysterious color is the new ‘white canvas.’ Paired with other colors, it brings out a contrast that can’t be compared to white. The play of light and dark lends a sharp contrast to the page.
You can also use stronger colors over black. This business card template features a bright orange color. Due to the dark background, the color appears much brighter. A dark background mixed with a bright color can bring some visual interest to a minimalist design.
7. Brand Consistency
Turning a logo into a complete brand identity can be daunting. A professionally designed brand identity needs to be visually attractive and fresh. Aside from marketing, consumers will be looking at your branding to make sure you have a credible company.
An identity package consists of business cards, letterheads, invoices, envelopes, and creative folders. There are other materials that can be included, but these are the essentials. These elements need to work together cohesively. So if you are applying a pattern to a business card, this needs to extend to the rest of the stationery. This graphic translation will help you create a quality brand that will stand out from the crowd. The consistency doesn’t stop after printing—make sure that the brand identity is applied across multiple media.
8. Change Directions
There are a number of ways you can add emphasis and movement to your project. Colors and shapes are a couple. Rotating text from horizontal to vertical is a different way of adding movement and direction in your design.
When applying this tip, think as if you were the audience. In this InDesign template, details are aligned on the y-axis and aren’t too overwhelming. Leaving the date on the fold is a bold move too—and it looks great! In this case, the trifold brochure contains the long copy from top to bottom—remember we still need legibility. Do practice this tip carefully; overdoing it can cause disharmony on the page.
9. Basic Graphics Go a Long Way
There are some simple steps you can take to spice up a minimalist layout. One of them is using basic graphics that vary in size and color. These will add visual weight and help with direction by emphasizing content. If you open a brochure and you are not quite sure what to read first and how to follow the content, lean on basic graphics.
This InDesign template is a great example of adding basic graphics. Each panel contains at least two graphic elements. Each either contains color or a photograph highlighting the content. The graphics are smaller and occupy what might have been empty spaces.
10. Use High-Quality Images
Last but not least, high-quality images. It is no secret that using full-page, bleed-to-bleed images creates a major impact. While it seems as if it would be easy, it really isn’t. First, you need to find high-quality images that you can enlarge to a full page. If you use low-quality images and carelessly stretch them over a page, you can run into some unpleasant problems. Pixelated images aren’t pretty to look at, and they can be a bad reflection on the brand.
When you obtain an image, make sure you run it through Photoshop first. Make sure the resolution is set to 300 DPI before placing it in InDesign. Once you are in InDesign, use the image at 100% scale. You could go up to 120% in some cases, but always do a test print just to make sure you are in the clear.