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Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know
Illustration by John Hersey
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Keep it simple: Part 1


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Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know

with John McWade

Video: Keep it simple: Part 1

When it comes to communicating a thought or an idea, simple is best. By simple I mean basically less stuff, fewer elements, simpler elements, less to look at, less to process, less to think about. Just reduce your message to its essence. This is what can make it tricky because to do that you need to know your story. Right up front. You can't just add stuff to your page.

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Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know
1h 5m Appropriate for all Feb 27, 2013

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Appearance may not be everything, but how something looks has a fundamental impact on how it's perceived, what it communicates, and whether it succeeds. In this course, author John McWade of Before & After magazine shares foundational graphic design techniques that will make your page, screen, product, or presentation look and perform its best.

These design essentials can be used by nondesigners as tips, tricks, and shortcuts, and by professionals as building blocks to greater understanding. Each lesson is a short, easy-to-understand how-to that can be applied regardless of the brand of software and hardware you use. This course was created and produced by the Before & After magazine team. We are honored to host this content in our library.

Subjects:
Design Page Layout Typography Design Techniques Design Skills
Author:
John McWade

Keep it simple: Part 1

When it comes to communicating a thought or an idea, simple is best. By simple I mean basically less stuff, fewer elements, simpler elements, less to look at, less to process, less to think about. Just reduce your message to its essence. This is what can make it tricky because to do that you need to know your story. Right up front. You can't just add stuff to your page.

I mean, how many pages have you tried to improve by adding things to them? The correct answer is to know your story and take everything away that's not telling your story. And I have some examples of that. This PowerPoint slide was sent to me by a man who was kind of worried about the design of it. He had set it in Times Roman which was kind of his default.

He has a shadow on it, he has a blue bar on the left side and a bar across the top and he was concerned whether the colors were right, if he needed two bars instead of one, maybe he needed a curve or starburst or something like that. And he is just was having trouble getting the design of this to look right, and the problem is not any of the graphics that are on it. The problem is basically that what he has here is his published notes. Everything about this slide is wrong. He shouldn't be putting these words up on the screen at all.

These words are for him to say and what you want when you're making a PowerPoint presentation is to have your slides just be simple, memorable, memory hooks that support what you're saying. So here is our makeover. Two elements, one photograph, one headline, clear as a bell, couldn't be simpler to design, couldn't be simpler to design.

The question engages the audience, it's an intriguing photograph, all the difference in the world. Now the thing is, the after although it was much easier to design, it was harder to do. Because you had to think through to the story, to what you are actually trying to do with this slide rather than just throw your notes up there.

So a lot of work went into the simplicity of this. The payoff, however, is enormous.

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