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Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know
Illustration by John Hersey

Keep it simple: Part 2


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Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know

with John McWade

Video: Keep it simple: Part 2

Another example is to use simpler photos, especially if those photos are going to be small. Here is a case where we're making just a very small web ad. So, it's not only a small size, but it's in low resolution. And there is this perfectly good picture of the New York waterfront. But when it's reduced to small size, it's not particularly clear. So, the solution here is to not do that at all, but to rather choose a simpler picture.

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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 2

Another example is to use simpler photos, especially if those photos are going to be small. Here is a case where we're making just a very small web ad. So, it's not only a small size, but it's in low resolution. And there is this perfectly good picture of the New York waterfront. But when it's reduced to small size, it's not particularly clear. So, the solution here is to not do that at all, but to rather choose a simpler picture.

In this case, it's an iconic one of the Statue of Liberty. Has a clear silhouette, much easier to see at small sizes. Similarly, we have a gorgeous kitchen here, but to use at small sizes, it becomes very difficult to see. So, just pick an object or two from the kitchen, and picture those instead, add your words to it, and you're done, you have a very clear simple presentation.

Of course, if the kitchen itself is your product, or if that waterfront itself is your product, this won't work. But you get the idea. Simpler pictures just communicate better than complicated ones. Another way to simplify is to use fewer elements, and often make them bolder as well. Here is an example of a banner. This could be a web banner. In this case, it's a large banner that's going to go near the ceiling on a tradeshow floor.

We're seeing a logo, we're seeing a large black rectangle that really is a non-communicating element, and we have an attractive photo. It's all very busy, lots of information that you're going to want your customer to know, but there's too much to this. Here's a solution. Simply eliminate about half the words, stick with your main thought, "Big sound, quietly." Give your name, say where you are, in this case in Booth 12, eliminate that huge oppressive rectangle, and let the photo just open into white space.

Now when I saw this after, I had to get out my ruler to convince myself that the photo in the after was the same size as the one in the before, because it looks much larger. But it is indeed the same size and the same cropping. If you compare these side by side, you can see the enormous difference, and you can really see the difference when we put them on the ceiling. First the before... And then the after...

The simpler design is the far more powerful design. So, use fewer elements.

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