Graphic Design

How to Become a Data Visualization Whiz

The digital revolution is a boon for graphic designers because it is constantly creating new job opportunities that may perfectly fit with one’s passions and daily activities. For instance, the age of static websites with text-only content is long past, and nowadays, there’s a huge focus in UI and UX that make surfing the web an enjoyable, easily comprehensible and interactive experience.

Whether it’s an ad, a movie poster or even an Instagram account, the key to its success lies in its visual aesthetics and data visualization forms an integral aspect of it. Which means there are more opportunities than ever for graphic designers who are whizzes with data visualization. Simply put, data visualization means representing information pictorially or graphically, so as to make it easier to understand and analyze or identify certain patterns. To do this, graphic designers will often work with a team of professionals to gather and interpret statistics.

Suppose your team has collected a whole lot of customer feedback and statistics for a company. You have all the information but just showcasing pages of text at a company meeting won’t help anyone. What you can do is work with your team to turn the data into a clear, coherent, and visually appealing image — perhaps a pie-chart, a graph, an infographic or a map — so that other people viewing it can understand your team’s goal. Data visualization is a team effort to communicate in a fast and effective manner to enable readers to make informed decisions.

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Think of it this way: learning becomes more fun when it’s supplemented with explanatory pictures and videos, right? This is why a power point presentation on a particular topic is way more useful than reading a textbook entry. It’s all about breaking information to bite-sized chunks and representing it pictorially so as to pinpoint certain trends, engage the audience, and get the message across ASAP.

If you’re considering a graphic design career with a focus in data visualization, here are some tips to bear in mind as you build up your skills.

1. Study How Images Work

Look up how images have always been used to represent information, ideas and thoughts — whether it’s ancient cave paintings, Egyptian hieroglyphics, medieval maps and illustrations, or even picture books and graphic novels where there’s a constant interaction between text and image. Next, look up the current trends in infographics or compare the visual representations of a particular topic to its text-only counterpart. Then take a look at what experts in the field have got to say such as Alberto Cairo, Edward Tufte, Max Roser, Mike Bostock and others. Also look at the online data visualization community such as this and this.

2. Cultivate Your Design and Analytical Skills

When it comes to design, choose courses that focus on color theory, branding, visual communications, color perception and data-ink ratio.

Remember it’s not just about being creative or having an aesthetic eye; rather, it’s all about conveying information quickly and efficiently. Master the use of software such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and database-management software such as Microsoft Excel. Learn a bit of programming such as JavaScript and its charting libraries like D3. And finally, take a course in statistical analysis and graphs as well as data analysis and profiling

3. Make You Own Stuff And Get Feedback

And as you read and learn, start making your own stuff as well. Take an infographic that you don’t like and redesign it, or take historical information and statistics and represent them pictorially to make a point.

Offer volunteering and freelancing services. If you work at a company, why not turn some of the company data to graphs and offer constructive feedback that will help the company to improve in a specific area? Share your work with others and repeatedly ask them for opinions — if they understood what you tried to convey and what would have made it easier. Be open to negative criticism as well and be on the look-out for self improvement.

4. Learn to Collaborate

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Collaboration is the key to creating great data visualization. It’s important to remember that data visualization is not a lone endeavor. You will most often work with fellow professionals, clients, and companies to collect and interpret data for specific purposes, and you’ll need to learn to communicate clearly and cooperate effectively with your team to achieve your desired goal. Like any graphic design challenge, data visualization is an opportunity to problem solve. It will be much more fruitful if you learn to collaborate with your teammates who can contribute great information and solutions as you seek the best solution.

Data visualization is a vast field, and before you find your niche, you must have a good grasp of the basics. Be prepared to do a fair bit of independent learning and practice if you’re serious about mastering the skill set for creating awesome data visualization. If you’re enrolled in a graphic design course, try to use those classroom lessons when designing your own pie-charts and infographics as well as read up some pioneering work in the field. If there’s an area you have no knowledge about, consider signing up for an online course or tutorial. And always keep in mind that that both your design and analytical skills are of tantamount importance here.

Ready to learn more about graphic design? Check out NYFA’s graphic design programs!

Freelance, In-House, Agency, Oh My: What Graphic Design Career Path is Right for You?

So you’ve just completed a graphic design course and you’re on the lookout for the right creative job that utilizes your talents. They say being in the design profession is pretty tough, and if you can land a 9 to 5 job that pays most of the bills, you should consider yourself lucky. Armed with a list of job-related websites, advertisements and fancy references, you’re probably planning to say yes to the first offer of acceptance, even if the pay is modest. But the truth is that in order to make the most profitable use of your talents, you need to work with the right people and in the right environment. Your personality and your needs also must be factored in. Counter intuitive as it may seem, a well-paying office gig may not be the best fit for you.

Broadly speaking, once you’re out of graphic design school, you have three options to choose from. The first is working as a freelance designer and you may have already done a fair bit of freelancing as a student. Secondly, there’s the in-house path, where you join a particular organization and work only for them, strictly following schedules and collaborating with your colleagues. And thirdly, there’s the agency option, where you have a creative director mediating between you and your client as you work on several design problem-solving approaches. Each of these career paths, have their pros and cons, and below, we list them out for your consideration…

1. Freelance

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This is most suitable for those whose Muse is a free spirit and who hate the monotony of routines. As a freelancer, you have the complete freedom of choosing your own clients and projects and you’re the one who sets the deadlines and the prices. In short, you work whenever and wherever you want to, and you’re your own boss.

However, the downside to this is that you have to do all the negotiations and client-finding yourself. Freedom can also mean pay inconsistency, and there may be long periods when you’re unable to find suitable work.

Our advice: Always do a bit of freelancing work on the side, even if it’s just pocket money, as it will help you build a portfolio, make quick bucks, and maintain a list of trustworthy clients you can later ask for references. It can be difficult to establish yourself as a full-time freelancer directly out of design school. If freelancing is your goal, consider joining an in-house company or an agency, even if it’s only for six months or a year, to build your portfolio, establish contacts, and build your confidence.   

2. In-House

The in-house design path provides more job security and all the perks that a desk job entails. As a beginner, you have a stable role and a fixed list of responsibilities, and depending on your innovation and team spirit, you may be able to work your way up the ladder — say from being a graphic designer to a senior art director. However, many creative minds feel that a regular office job has the downside of sapping creativity and limiting the time you’ll have to work on your own projects. Depending on where you work, you may also find you won’t get much variety in your work. Nevertheless, in-house design jobs provide important opportunities to hone your skills, grow a sense of trends in the industry, and develop discipline.

Our advice: Even if you don’t immediately love it, working as an in-house designer for a company is crucial to your success. You’ll learn some important survival skills, such as dealing with difficult people, understanding how branding works, and completing assignments on time. We recommend you work in-house for a while, especially as a new graphic designer. If you like it stick to it, and if you don’t, you’ll gain enough experience to help you transition to freelance work or find a place more suited to your creative capabilities.

3. Agency

If you don’t want to handle the hassle of bargaining with your clients and still have enough variety in your work so as not to get bored, working at an ad agency or design studio may be a good fit. You’ll learn to contribute ideas and become a vital part of the design problem-solving team. The ability to collaborate and share responsibility are vital to the success of the young designer. In many cases, direct interaction with the client is minimal. Potential downsides might be that the agency may deduct a part of your earnings, and working 9 to 5 may be very strenuous.

Our advice: This is the best way to gain experience and have a regular source of income. Most agencies have HR professionals to help maximize the potential of the employees, so you’re most likely to get projects suited to your skill level and personality. However, if the monthly paychecks aren’t enough or your stress levels are rising, it’s time to seek work elsewhere.

So, how do you figure out which graphic design career path may be best for you? Before you start out, be clear about your needs and priorities. Is money the most important factor? When are you at your creative best? Do you enjoy collaborations? How good are your interactive skills? And most importantly, how amazing is your portfolio to attract the right type of clients?

If you need money and job security, go for in-house or agency. If you don’t want to make any compromises with your creativity are confident about your list of clients, there’s always freelancing.

Our advice is, once you complete your graphic design program, apply for a job or an internship at an agency so you have an idea of what the market wants and where you stand. Gain suitable experience in-house at a company or two, build your communication and negotiation skills, and build your network of contacts. Most importantly, learn to see your creative work from other points of view. And finally, when you think you have all the right skills and a decent income, you may find it’s the right time to turn to full-time freelancing.

Keep in mind that every graphic designer is different, and these general guidelines are simply meant to help you weigh your options. Happy hunting out there!

Have you found your graphic design career path? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re ready to study graphic design, check out our intensive, hands-on programs.

What to Know if You’re Considering a Career in Motion Design

You’ve probably wondered, when you look at an interactive menu on a DVD or a website: who makes this? Or maybe you’ve seen the opening for a video series on your favorite source for news. Who is behind these dynamic graphics? Motion designers.

Motion designers work to make graphics pop through a unique mix of technical knowhow and artistic inspiration, and they get compensated, on average, 53k a year in the New York City area, according to indeed. If this sounds like something that might interest you, then here’s a small guide and introduction to the field. We’ve linked an outstanding design reel above to give you an idea of what the field can achieve. But how can you achieve it?

What Skills do You Need?

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Pluralsight has put together a great guide to what you need to enter this growing field. We’ve linked the article above so you can get a better idea, but the field requires a mix of a few skills. Here’s what you’re going to need:

Animation: A good basis in animation and 3D modeling skills will make all of your enhancements top of the line.

Graphic Design: Of course, “design” is even included the job title for a motion designer. While you are putting your graphics into motion, you do need the a good graphic design education and experience. You’ll also still be working with typography in many cases.

Communication Skills: Looking on indeed.com, you’ll notice that many of the motion design jobs are part of established business like Conde Nast. You’ll need to be able to work on a team to achieve your goals and you’ll need to speak with clients so they know what you can do, what you plan on doing, and how it fits in with their model. And of course, you’ll have to know how to collaborate and make adjustments.

Inspiration: After all, inspiration is what makes any artistic endeavor a success. All the technical facility in the world still needs help from what’s unique about you, about what you bring to the table, and what makes your gears tick.

How NYFA Can Help

NYFA has a number of options to help you develop the tools you’ll need to enter the rapidly growing field of motion design. Our faculty includes several prestigious graphic designers including Sophia Bilynsky, the founder of AlleyCat Design. NYFA has a four year graphic design degree program. There is also a more intensive one year program. The “Type and Motion” course will give you a basis and introduction into the field.  You can also supplement your Motion Design knowledge studying history (“History of Graphic Design”) with Keith Godard, and when you finally get ready to make the big pitch to a client, you’ll be well prepared by the “Portfolio Production and Business Practices” and “Communication Strategies – Branding and Visual Identity.” If you have other questions, the NYFA’s “Graphic Design School” page, linked here, includes contact information, times for open houses, and a link to apply once you’ve decided when you’d like to proceed.

Are you interested in motion design or have extra helpful tips? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s programs in graphic design and animation.

A Beginner’s Guide to User Interface Design

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Design are rapidly growing fields in the graphic design industry, and may appear quite difficult to break into. These days, just knowing how colour and branding works may not be enough to secure a job; you need to adapt and modify your design skills as per industry requirements. User Interface Design in particular is a very creative and challenging industry and offers the scope of a very rewarding job.

Simply put, UI design basically involves designing user interfaces for software, websites and machines — making navigation as simple and as efficient as possible. Have you ever come across a website and couldn’t find what you were looking for because the layout was cluttered and confusing? Or perhaps you’ve recently switched from a Windows Phone to an Android for increased functionality? In both cases, the UI design played a role in your responses.

So how do you go about being an efficient UI designer? These tips will help you out:

Learn Graphic Design and Typography

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This goes without saying, but a strong foundation on how the visual medium works — its signs and semiotics — will go a long way. Don’t aim for artistic brilliance, but rather focus on how design can be best manipulated to serve utilitarian needs. Focus on courses that cover topics such as branding, logo design, product design and advertisements. Also sign up for a separate typography course, which will help you choose the right fonts and teach you how to balance the different elements on the screen.

Clarity Is Very Important

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Remember that for whatever you design, the user must find the product very easy to use and not face any hassle or confusion. The interface should be clear, very easy to understand and navigate, and preferably interactive. Also, you should design in such a manner so as to grab the user’s attention and keep it. And finally there shouldn’t be any bugs or glitches in the system.

Research Is Key

Once you understand the basic principles of a successful user interface, you’ve done half the job. The next stage is research, where you have to keep in mind the company or brand goals as well as the customer’s needs and expectations. Thus the final design must not only be effective but also have a personality unique to the brand you designed for. For instance, an iPhone is very easy to use, can anticipate the user’s needs, and has a distinctive look.  

Conduct Tests On Actual People

Once you have designed a prototype, conduct tests on real people. Ask them to interact with the interface you’ve made, record their responses and check for any errors or inconsistencies. Ask them repeatedly if they’ve faced any problems or if they have any ideas as to how to make it better. Remember, this feedback is possibly the most important step in making a successful user interface.

Once you’ve mastered graphic design as well as understood the philosophy and principles behind UI, it’s time to build up your practical experience. Soon enough, as your portfolio improves, you’ll be landing high-paying gigs and ambitious projects as well.

Interested in studying graphic design? Check out NYFA’s graphic design programs!

How to Create a Graphic Design Resume

In this day and age, the likelihood of landing your dream job can depend a lot on your resume. As a graphic designer, you’re supposed to be creative, original and hard-working by default. Not only must your CV list your skills and achievements, but the CV itself should be very well designed with a clear typography. So if you’re going to submit an 8.5 x 11 print-out of an MS Word Doc, you might as well not even apply. However, putting together a killer resume is not as hard as it sounds. These tips can help get you started.

1. Adapt The Resume To Your Needs

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Have a basic resume always ready, but make sure you customize it when you’re applying for a job. Keep it brief and — above all — keep it relevant. Ask yourself: Who is their ideal candidate and how can I assume that role? Which skills of mine are best suited for the job? You may be a pro at Adobe After Effects, but if the job calls for photo editing, highlight your skills in relevant software. In other words, maximize your potential of landing the job by focusing on the areas that present you as the perfect candidate.

2. Show Off Your Creativity And Personality

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Be unconventional. Make use of blank space. If you’re sending a physical resume as opposed to a soft copy, use high quality paper. Be innovative in terms of packaging. Do you want it folded? Do you want it as a brochure or a leaflet? If you’re emailing it, consider designing your resume as an infographic. In other words, your future employer should get an idea about your superb skills and the kind of person you are, even before glancing at your portfolio.

3. Tick Off These Boxes

Don’t forget to include the standard stuff, and make it very very clear and easy to find. This includes your name and contact info, past job and internship experience, software skills, awards, education, capabilities and interests. You may also include a personal statement. And while you’re at it, pay attention to the typography. Good typography is essential. It is the first thing a potential employer will look at. If the type is very good, they will most likely want to meet you. If the type is weak, even if you are qualified, they will not want to meet you.

4. Don’t Lie/Plagiarize/Forget To Spell-Check

Even if you feel you’re under-qualified, don’t lie or copy someone else’s design template. Plagiarism is unacceptable, and many employers have methods of checking out your claims and credentials to make sure you are original, and if you lie or bluff through your achievements, remember they may check references or ask you to demonstrate something that you lied about doing. Don’t ever compromise on your personal integrity. And yes, even if your English skills aren’t up to the par with your design skills, try not to give that impression. Ask a friend or co-worker to proofread your CV before handing it in. An unintended spelling error may earn you a thumbs down from the company.

Above all, continue to work on your resume. Remember, you are always evolving, both as a designer and as a human being. Your resume should reflect that, albeit in an aesthetically-pleasing manner. Good luck!

Interested in learning more about pursuing graphic design? Visit NYFA’s Graphic Design School today.

What is Color Psychology and How to Use it in Your Graphic Design

Colors affect us. Whether we’re picking a dress for a party, buying a gift or shopping for daily groceries, we often make instant decisions based on color. Certain colors have particular meanings in specific contexts which we have grown accustomed to — the red for traffic lights is different from the red that splatters Valentine’s Day products. Similarly, the color green is used simultaneously in marketing related to finances as well as in environmental activism. But color psychology is more than about knowing your client’s favorite color or using stereotypical color associations when branding or marketing products. It is about using certain colors to effectively market a brand and subtly persuade the customer to trust it, thereby influencing their purchasing decisions.

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As per a 2006 study, 90 percent of our instant judgments about products are based on color alone, which makes it very important to align the brand’s identity and personality with an appropriate color. But doing so can be difficult, because not only does a particular color have a myriad of meanings and associations (sometimes even contradictory ones), but also because an individual’s response to a color is shaped by their subjective personal experiences.

Keeping in mind these difficulties, we bring you some helpful tips on how to effectively use color psychology in your graphic design projects.

1. Learn about color theory: Colors don’t exist in isolation. Unless you’re working strictly in black and white, chances are you’ll be mixing different colors or even similar shades of colors in your design work. Color theory will teach you about primary, secondary and tertiary colors and guide you to the most effective specific color combinations. Whatever you’re designing, choosing the right combination of colors from a color wheel, will go a long way in making your design effective and eye-catching. 2. Research on colors used by similar brands: Knowing the traditional associations of a particular color may be useful, but it’s more effective to research what colors that brands similar to the one you’re designing for, use. For instance, did you notice that Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Vimeo all use blue in their logos? Or that both Nikon and National Geographic use yellow in branding? So whatever project you’re working on, take a look at the colors that major brands use and then you can decide whether you’ll stick to the same color or do something very different.

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3.  Keep in mind the “Isolation Effect”: Items that “stick out like a sore thumb” are more likely to be remembered. In other words, make sure your product is eye catching. So when designing, keep in mind the environment and lighting of the place where it will be displayed. So think of ways in which you can ensure the colors of the product can harmoniously blend with the surroundings as well as be noticed by the average customer.

4. Use descriptive color names: This is particularly important if you’re doing work in the fashion or cosmetics industry, where the descriptive name of a color can work wonders. For example, sky-blue is preferable to light blue, just as mocha works way better than brown. Think of the associations and metaphors you want a particular color to evoke and use creative and unusual names accordingly.

5. Don’t ignore your personal judgment: Don’t put so much emphasis on theory that you end up ignoring your practical reality. If for instance your research tells you that yellow is the best color, but your own response to it is that the color won’t work as well as say orange, follow your own judgment. Place yourself in a customer’s shoes and think accordingly. In other words, assess the effectiveness of your design from multiple angles and pay attention to your own intuition. As perception to color is very psychological, it is very very important that you don’t ignore your own hunches.

In short, although color psychology can appear ambivalent at first, is very important in graphic design and using it well, takes practice and you might have to do it in a trial and error way. But once you get the hang of it, it will pay off excellently!

Are you interested in graphic design? Learn more about the New York Film Academy’s Graphic Design School.

Lessons You Can Learn from Freelance Graphic Design

There are many career paths you can choose from if you want to be a full-time graphic designer. Companies are always looking for new talent to design their logos, give their website a modern look, or make their product irresistible. But today, working as a graphic designer doesn’t necessarily mean working in the same office or on the same project for weeks, months, and even years. Thanks to the power of the internet, graphic designers have more freedom than ever to carve their own paths as freelancers.

Even if your ultimate goal is to have a comfortable position at a company, here are a couple of lessons you can only learn as a freelance graphic designer:

It’s All About Self-Promotion

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In this day and age there are countless other graphic designers grasping for the same opportunities as you. As a freelance designer your goal is to get yourself noticed no matter what it takes. Whether you’re a veteran or new to the business, it is essential to self-promote and cultivate a vibrant professional network.

This is why every graphic designer should have a robust portfolio that showcases their skills. Your portfolio is your way of giving potential clients a taste of your talent and creativity, so be sure to put up and feature work that will leave them craving more. Freelance graphic designers learn the valuable lesson of carefully and diligently marketing themselves to stand out and win jobs, which in turn pushes them to produce better work that they can later show off.

Balance & Organization Is Everything

The average freelance professional often works from their own home, which is where they keep their TV, video game systems, and other temptations. Freelancers also make it their responsibility to earn enough projects to pay the bills without making the common mistake of spreading themselves too thin. This is why a freelancing professional won’t make it long without proper organization of workflow to keep them focused and on track.

As a freelance graphic designer you’ll learn the value of staying organized. Instead of missing deadlines, you’ll deliver fantastic work because you made sure to give yourself enough time to do it. Success as a freelancer also comes down to how well you balance your work and regular life — otherwise you’ll either burn yourself out or always fall behind.

Good Work = Continued Work

The best graphic designers of our time didn’t reach the heights they achieved on their first try. Much like any other creative career, graphic designers don’t really discover what they’re truly capable of until after they’ve had years of experience. And there’s no better way to continue growing and learning than by winning repeat clients who are willing to keep paying you for your work.

Repeat clients are the best thing for a freelance graphic designer because it means you’ve found someone who not only loves your work, but trusts you and depends upon you for consistency. But to hook a repeat client, you have to impress them with the first work you produce. As a freelancer you’ll learn the value of always putting your best into each project, since you never know which client will end up filling your wallet for years.

Rejection & Failure Will Only Make You Better

If there’s one phobia most people can relate to, it’s the fear of rejection (you may have discovered this feeling with the person you had a crush on in school or during your very first job interview). As a freelance graphic designer, you’ll most likely run into rejection sooner or later, but that isn’t entirely a bad thing.

Losing a client for not meeting a deadline or delivering something that wasn’t accurate to their request is a valuable learning experience. It will teach you to be better organized and take more time to understand what the client wants. You may even get the courage to take risks and get more creative if you find that clients aren’t impressed when you give them exactly what they asked for.

There’s always something new to learn even from a project that doesn’t end well. Freelance graphic designers sometimes learn this the hard way, but this too can become a positive. Freelancers must learn to take rejection and failure and turn it into encouragement to do better the next time around.

What have you learned as a freelance graphic designer? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Common Mistakes that Beginner Graphic Designers Make

So you’re fresh out of design school and looking for a professional job to show off your skills? Or have you been tinkering with Photoshop and Corel Draw long enough to realize you can make a career out of designing things? If you’re a beginner in the big bad world of graphic design, there will be some mistakes that you’re bound to make (or are perhaps making at this very moment) that may leave you wondering why your career hasn’t kickstarted already. And so we’re here to help you avoid some very common mistakes and improve your skills as a designer.


1. Abusing Photoshop Tools and Trying Too Many Things At Once: So you’ve learnt all the nitty-gritties of Photoshop and can rattle off the shortcut keys with ease. But guess what: You’re absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge, and when you sit down to design a flyer or logo you experiment with all the tools … and the result looks like a child’s collage.
Quick Fix: Set challenges for yourself. Make a list of the tools you use the most and try to design something without using any of them. Restrict yourself to using a fixed number of layers or a black and white color palette. Not only will that make you creative, but it will save you the trouble of trying everything at once to see what works best.

2.  Making Poor Fonts and Typography Choices: You’ve discovered the world of free fonts and you’ve downloaded just too many brushes and the birthday card you’re supposed to design looks way too comical. Or the logo of a company just doesn’t look professional enough. Chances are you’ve gone on a font overload.
Quick Fix: Typography is a whole new field and if you’re not good at it, take a separate course to understand the fundamentals of how it works. Gaining some knowledge of calligraphy also might help. Once again, try to design with standard fonts and, if you’re using something fancy, limit yourself to one fancy font. Follow the aesthetics of simplicity and minimalism when it comes to fonts and you should be fine.

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3.  Relying More on Software Than on Your Originality: You have the latest versions of all the software installed in your computer and — sometimes even for a simple project — you usually end up using more than three programs to design something. And then you’re out of creative juices.
Quick Fix: Realize that design software is a means to an end, and you’re the designer. Rely more on your own originality than on snazzy photo-editing features. As a graphic designer, don’t forget to cultivate your skills in drawing, sketching and painting and sometimes take a break from digital art to practice doodling. Remember, it is your creativity (and not Photoshop) that makes the design.

4.  Not Reading the Brief Carefully Enough: If you’re a newbie, you may be overconfident and care more about showing off than understanding your client’s needs. So even if you make something that is truly brilliant, it may be rejected because it wasn’t what the client wanted.
Quick Fix: Read the brief as many times it takes you to understand exactly what your client needs. Call him/her up and clarify if you need to. Graphic design is a part of the utilitarian arts and whatever you create has a target audience. So, keeping that in mind, underline the keywords and make a plan before you begin designing.

And whatever you do, don’t set unrealistic goals. Be grateful at how far you’ve come and be excited that there’s so much more to learn and create!  

Is Age-Responsive Graphic Design the Future?

Responsive web design is the idea that a site can be created to provide the best viewing and interaction experience possible — no matter what device you’re using. In recent years this philosophy has become a popular topic of discussion among web designers.

This makes sense considering that people today are spending more time surfing the web on their mobile phones and tablets and less of that time on their desktops. Instead of crafting different layouts and navigation functions for different devices, a site designed with RWD adapts according to what is being used.

But due to the complexity of web design and various differences between desktop computers and smart devices, the responsive web design approach is not without its skeptics. This is why only so many publishers are using responsive designs while the rest continue creating unique designs for each platform.

Adapting To Your Needs

Despite the technical challenges, many are predicting that RWD will improve our internet experience in an innovative way soon. We’re talking about age-responsive design, which involves websites that are designed to restructure depending on the age and interests of the user.

Online advertising has sort of been doing this for many years now. In case you haven’t noticed, what you search for in Google and online retail companies like Amazon influences what ads appear while you’re surfing Facebook and other social media pages.

An age-responsive website can take things one step further by using that metadata to determine your age group. After all, the interests of a man in his 40s aren’t the same as a high school freshman. This means a middle-aged person won’t see the same content as a teenager despite visiting the same page.

User Experience Designed For You

Age-responsive websites can also be designed to provide the perfect user interface experience depending on your age. For example, it’s no secret that elderly people require bigger font sizes and spaces due to their poorer eye sights. This includes providing more muted palettes that are easier on the eyes as well as stripped-down interfaces that are less confusing.

Teens and adults, however, will want more options in a navigation menu and aren’t affected by attractive, colorful schemes and animated images. Of course, preteens and younger users may enjoy brighter colors but also require simpler layouts and big fonts. With age-responsive design, the user interface reshapes to accommodate the user based on their age group.

The Challenges Of Age-Responsive Graphic Design

Whether or not responsive web/graphic design is the future depends on how well today’s designers can overcome the many technical challenges. One strong case against RWD is the fact that web performance may be affected. People assume that because a mobile website is smaller and shows less visible content, it should load faster. Instead, tests have shown that a website page doesn’t not load quicker on a mobile phone when compared to a desktop browser simply because the screen is smaller.

The problem with this is that people expect their mobile experience to be the same as their desktop even though mobile internet speeds are slower than broadband. This means that a responsive-designed page, no matter how optimized, is unlikely to load as fast as a page specifically designed for mobile. In other words, age-responsive websites will most probably load slower on your mobile devices.

Other claims against RWD is the fact that designing one is very complex. This means these kinds of websites will require more time and effort to create, which means higher costs. As an aspiring graphic designer, this is great news if you learn how to design age-responsive websites. But when comparing costs, a client might prefer a regular website if it means they’ll spend less money.

Age-Responsive Design— The Future, Sooner or Later

Despite the challenges, it’s likely that age-responsive design will become prominent in the future. Companies and businesses will realize that even though it may cost them more money to make, it will pay off when they see more people visiting their site due to it adapting to their needs and age. Always-improving mobile internet speeds will also play a role in bringing us to a time when each website feels like it was made for you.

What to Include in Your Graphic Design Portfolio

Whether you’re still a student, fresh out of college, or already have a job but want a better one, a graphic design portfolio is vital nowadays. Your portfolio can be your key to entering the industry, and your strongest tool in presenting yourself, your design work, and your goals to prospective collaborators. Your portfolio is more than your calling card. Think of this as one of your greatest design projects so far: You are designing a project that communicates who you are as a designer to the world. Companies and clients don’t only want to hear you talk about how great you are at graphic design — they want to see your designs, and they want to get a sense of what sets you apart as a designer! Overall, an effective portfolio should showcase “design solutions that demonstrate effective communication.”

The following are four tips we recommend when deciding what to include in your graphic design portfolio. No matter which aspect of the graphic design industry you have your heart set on, considering the following will help you stand out as you pursue your dream job.

Include Your Top Work at the Start and End

Your goal should be to wow the viewer of your portfolio from start to finish. A great way to do this is by starting with one of your strongest designs so it’s the first thing they see. If you’re going with an online portfolio, arrange your page/s so that your strongest example is readily available and catches their attention first. At the same time, you also want to save one of your top designs for the end as well.

This makes it so that the possible employer leaves your portfolio on a very positive note. All your work should impress the viewer, but your final piece should leave them thinking about your designs even after they’ve moved on to the next part of their hiring process. If you get called in for an interview, you’ll have a better chance of referencing one of these start/end pieces and the interviewer knowing which one you’re talking about.

Present a Short Video Reel

While their goal isn’t to see if you’re good at video editing, agents and hiring managers are usually impressed when a graphic design portfolio includes a video clip. Instead of having to click through all your design samples on your portfolio site or flip through physical pages, they can get a glimpse at your best work quickly and effortlessly via video.

Don’t worry; your video doesn’t have to be long at all. Since most hirers only spend a minute or two glancing through a portfolio, a minute or two is enough time to make sure they see your designs. Music is a very powerful tool, so add some music to give the person observing your work a more enjoyable experience.

Have Samples of Different Types of Graphic Design

What kind of work you show off obviously depends on your skills and interests as a graphic designer. But whether your goal is to work on logos and branding or you prefer user interface design, potential employers want to see flexibility.

For this reason, we recommend trying to have pieces that display your ability to orchestrate production elements (typography, geometric vector artwork, photo manipulation, infographics designs, motion graphics, and interactive print media) in service of clear and compelling communication. Doing so, you’ll demonstrate a wide range of abilities and familiarity with programs, making you attractive no matter what graphic design job you apply for.

Ask Others When Choosing Your Best Work

You definitely want to include the designs that best demonstrate your skills, creativity and experience. It can also help to take time to show your work to others and ask them which they think are the best. Creating an effective portfolio can be a tough process, but it’s worth taking the time to carefully vet and curate the pieces you choose to include. After all, your portfolio itself is a work of design, and with some care and artistry it can effectively communicate exactly the kind of designer you are to someone new to your work.

What does your graphic design portfolio say about you as a designer? Let us know in the comments below!

How Graphic Design for Women’s Brands Has Changed — and Why it Needs to KEEP Changing

In its early history, graphic design — and indeed marketing in general — was a male-dominated profession. The ethos for branding a female-centric product generally ended at “use a pink color palette and soft lines, then call it a day.”

Thankfully, we’re long past those days — or are we? There is still plenty of room for improvement…

Good graphic design — particularly within the sphere of branding — should speak to your target demographic. One thing to bear in mind is that “female” isn’t a demographic, much less a character trait: it’s simply one physiological aspect of an individual.

Here are some ideas on how to keep your graphic design work progressive, positive, and pertinent when working on elements for women’s brands.

Gender Isn’t a Personality Trait

Gender may be a driving force behind the sale of certain individual products and services (such as leg razors and moisturizer, but even then not necessarily). However, the graphic design and branding behind such products needs to reflect the actual nature and benefit of said product (i.e.: a super-close shave or a superior skin care routine for instance) and not just that it’s a “girl’s product.”

It’s an age-old tenet of good marketing, but for some reason it frequently gets lost here: focus on why product X will make their life better. Don’t try to assume what their life is.

A superb example of this can be seen in the branding behind the Feminist Times magazine (soon to relauch). As noted in this in-depth dissection, the design choices were carefully made to clearly express what kind of content readers could expect, while at the same time not pigeon-holing who their readers were: “While primarily aimed at women, [art director Lucy Newman] says the site aims to appeal to ‘nonconformists of all ages, genders and backgrounds’ and bring feminism to a wider audience. It’s a sparse design: strong deep colours are coupled with greys and black, sans type and a grid layout. Embellishment is kept to a minimum, presumably to let the controversial editorial do the talking.”

Newman goes on to elaborate that: “The overall concepts that needed to be embodied in the design and imagery were: daring, radical empathy, warmth, inclusive (not aspirational), home made (around the kitchen table), iconoclastic, irreverent fun, punk, political. A movement that you can join and join in. It meant designing a look and feel which is anti-lifestyle and in some way anti-taste, if that is the right word, which is an interesting challenge in itself.”

And, as noted previously, it was a conscious design choice to forego the stereotypical curved lines and pink/purple hues that are often deemed the “feminine” hallmarks of graphic design.

The Rise of Femvertising

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a big push towards “female-empowerment” advertising, and you’re no doubt already thinking of Dove even before this sentence ends.

At the height of parent company Unilever’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” the company was estimated to be earning $30 for every $1 it spent on the drive, which is an unprecedented feat in marketing and one that was hailed as a game-changer when it came to marketing towards women.

Eventually, however, the campaign drew criticism from those who began to suspect that the Dove campaign was becoming both manipulative and patronizing.

For consumers, the sense that a company is genuine is key, and when it comes to graphic design this extends to how much photoshopping and airbrushing is done. No matter how skilled the designer, manipulations will be scrutinized … and doubly so if you’re working on a campaign called “Real Beauty” and then extensively photoshopping the “real women” featured (the reason that is in quotes is that there is some debate as to whether Dove may have used undeclared actresses).

What does this mean for the rest of us? It highlights that consumers can spot disingenuous pandering from a mile away, and both graphic designers and the wider marketing industry need to be more conscious of this going forward. This is especially true now that the idea of “femvertising” is now approached with slight apprehension on the consumer’s side.

Hope for the Future

As the medium of graphic design continues to evolve, we have no doubt that the diversification issue will improve too, simply by proxy; the number of women getting into graphic design as a career choice is growing. At the prestigious CSM university in London, 70 percent of the graphic design students are now female (compared to 50 percent during the ‘90s), and we’re seeing a similar pattern in our own graphic design program.

And long may it continue.

Because if corporations want graphic designers who can intuitively and genuinely speak to consumers who happen to be women, they’d do well to hire more graphic designers who happen to be women.

Graphic Design Tips for Creating a Killer App Icon

With over 50,000 apps and an additional 20,000 games submitted to the iTunes App Store every month, it’s never been more desirable to have an icon that not only grabs a casual browser’s attention but also communicates everything the app is about. After all, aside from a title, the icon is pretty much the only thing you’ve got to entice people to want to know more.

Whether you’re trying to make your own app stand out from the crowd or are looking to gain icon design work from publishers, there are definitely rights and wrongs to bear in mind when designing an icon.

Today, we’re looking at the right ways to make your icon … well, iconic.

Creating an Icon: The Process from Start to Finish

First up, you’ll want to take a look at two very important design guides: the one for iOS and the one for Android. While the design principles remain the same (and you’ll likely use the same iconography for both stores), there are subtle differences in the required technical specifications for your final images.

Ready to go? Then let’s move on to:

Scoping the Competition

We’re going to assume for a moment that your app has at least a little competition and that there are similar apps already out there. If your app is a one-of-a-kind original serving a niche that nobody else has capitalized on yet, well done!

Otherwise, take an impartial look at your competition and see which icons look most appealing as you scan down the app store. Don’t think about it too much, just note down the ones which particularly leap out at you. When you go back and re-examine the list with a more critical eye, we can guarantee that the ones you ignored went with the safe and obvious design choices, while the others did something a little different (though still clearly communicating the app’s function).

Don’t be afraid to take things in a different direction – as long as the app’s purpose is clearly defined through the icon, you can go as abstract as you like. A few other useful things to bear in mind:

Universal Appeal: Whatever imagery you use, make sure it won’t cause confusion (or worse, offense) in any other culture or country.

Focus on the Main Feature: Another to-do app that stands out from the masses is Swipes. Coupled with the name itself, this is an icon that conveys exactly what you can expect from the app:

So, if in doubt, focus on either a) the app’s selling point, or b) the app’s major function, and you’ll be starting on solid ground.

As for the design itself…

Settling on Color

Firstly, go monochrome. That’s right: design your icon in black and white first. Because if it still works without any color embellishment, you’ve almost definitely got a strong design.

When it comes to implementing some hues, however, it pays to look at the wider industry. With the exception of Snapchat (one of the very few ultra-popular apps to have a yellow icon) and a handful of greens, the overwhelming majority of apps fall into either the red or blue spectrums. Virtually zero inhabit the tertiary colors in between.

There’s nothing to say you can’t buck this trend with your own magenta-meets-bottle-green design, but know that countless millions of marketing dollars have been spent by the companies above in figuring out what consumers respond to best.

And lastly, the golden rule of icon design:

Trim the Fat

Once you’ve got a rough idea of how you want your icon to look and perhaps even a few drafts in the bag, it’s time to pare it down as much as you can before the message starts getting lost.

Got text in your icon? Try one letter only, a la the Vine, Tumblr or Facebook icons (which use the first letter of the app along with strong typography to get the brand across). There are a few apps that break with tradition, but on the whole it adds way too much visual noise and doesn’t lend itself well to scaling.

Going back to color, it’s optimal to stick to two complementary colors. The exception to this rule of thumb is with gaming apps, in which a multitude of colors (usually representing a sprite or scene in the game) is the norm.

In short: keep the design simple and the message clear.

Happy designing!

PS: As a closing tip, always work in vectors for easy, loss-free scaling. You’ll want to export your finished design in a number of different sizes, since a 120x120px logo scaled up rarely looks good!

Back to School: Graphic Design Supplies You Didn’t Know You Needed

Graphic design supplies are not to be overlooked now that school is back in session. With graphic designers more in demand than ever, it’s a great time to get yourself back to school to learn the essential skills of the craft. And if there’s one thing all aspiring graphic designers should know, it’s that having the latest software and tech isn’t enough. Any professional will tell you that to be fully prepared as a graphic designer you’ll need creativity, discipline, and attention to detail — and that those skills are just as important as the technical tools and artistic talents you’ll be using.

That being said, graphic designers also depend on certain supplies to make their ideas come alive. Whether you’re just starting your journey as a student or continuing an ongoing course of study, you can expect to use various tools while you advance your skills and knowledge.

So, what are the most essential graphic design supplies for those of you beginning a new journey in this dynamic and growing field? Below, we’ve summarized a few things every graphic design student should consider picking up as they start another year of school at NYFA — or, for that matter, as they start to pursue their own path beyond school.

Sketchpads + Writing Tools

There’s more to being a great graphic designer than knowing your way around Photoshop and other state-of-the-art editing tools. The best designers are prepared to follow inspiration when it strikes and put down a brilliant idea whenever it comes to mind — whether that be on the bus, in a classroom, or anywhere on campus. You never know what you’ll see or hear that inspires you to come up with something amazing for a school or personal project.

Instead of forgetting your idea by the time you reach your computer, use your handy sketchbook to put it down on paper. This is an essential graphic design supply, as it will enable you to keep developing your concepts and brainstorming new ideas until you’re ready to transition it to computer. Being able to share your design ideas visually while away from your desktop is a valuable habit to have when discussing ideas with other students, possible clients, and even the interviewer for your dream job.

Whatever Helps You Stay Creative And Focused

From painters and musicians to creative writers and actors, all artists depend on their skills and imagination to create. But when there are distractions or you’re not comfortable, it can be nearly impossible to come up with groundbreaking ideas. The best artists, including professional graphic designers, will tell you just how important it is to find a space and atmosphere that gets your creative juices flowing. It might be a little unorthodox to think of your workspace, belongings, or home as a part of your graphic design supplies, but why not? Once you’re designing, everything in your life can be an integral part of stimulating and protecting your creative work.

Do you like listening to music while working? If so, you should invest in good speakers or headphones that allow you to enjoy your music with superior audio quality. Or maybe you could use a new desk chair that will help reduce (or eliminate) the aches and pains you get from sitting in front of your computer for too long. Imagine your optimal working environment and think about what you’re missing or what you can upgrade to make it it even better. Feed your creativity by taking good care of yourself, your workspace, and your needs.

Access to a Great Computer

One of the biggest investments students make when returning to school is picking up a new computer. As a graphic design student who will be using a lot of demanding software, this can be an especially important decision. Unless you already have a fairly new machine, you’ll want to upgrade your desktop so you don’t waste time running programs slowly or having to take repeated trips to your school’s computer lab. If you’re a graphic design student at NYFA, take advantage of lab hours and resources in your program.

And if you’re debating on picking up a laptop or desktop for your personal use, don’t forget there may be advantages to the latter. Many laptops today come with great specs, but it’s usually desktops that offer more storage space, better RAM, faster processors, etc. This can be very useful as many graphic design tools require a lot of juice to run — especially when you have several tasks open.

Bear in mind that many resources you need may be available through your program, like ours. But also don’t forget that your own down-time and personal space are themselves valuable resources and opportunities as you learn the craft of graphic design. Organizing ahead of time and making sure you have access to the best graphic design supplies is a great way to set yourself up for success at school, and beyond.

Have a favorite supply for your own graphic design adventures? Let us know in the comments below!

Graphic Design 101: What Makes for Strong Branding, and Why You Need It

Look at the shade of red below, and think of a beverage.

If you were thinking of Coca-Cola, you’ve just experienced the power of branding.

Today, we’ll be addressing three core questions: what is branding, what goes into good branding, and why is it important in the first place?

Let’s begin with:

What Exactly Is Branding?

To the uninitiated, it’s a buzzword thrown around by men in grey suits in marketing board meetings.

In reality, the concept of “branding” is as old as the hills — and can make or break a business. when done well. (Think of the case of corporate rebrands.)

The German city of Cottbus selected this as their logo from a nationwide design contest, then paid 8,000 Euros for the privilege.

Even a single knitwear seller on Etsy can get a tangible benefit from solid branding.

So what is branding?

Firstly, it’s a topic on which thousands of books have been written and about which hundreds of seminars have been held. Branding is, essentially, the subjective nature of design combined with the hard-line science of business, so it’s a very peculiar concept and one that isn’t easy to sum up in a nutshell.

We’ll start with this definition from Entrepreneur.com: “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

What this means is that all imagery and aesthetics should be translatable across the board. If the company logo is totally different from the look and feel of the website, which is different again from all the avatars and headers used on social media, then that isn’t branding: it’s a mess.

From a graphic design point of view, this is what separates “branding” from simply “making a logo.”

While the logo is nearly always the core asset (and the first place to start), it should be designed with wider use in mind:

  • Does it work in black and white (in case it gets used by a newspaper)?
  • Can a horizontal version of the logo be made for promotional items like pens?
  • Does it sit nicely on a letterhead?
  • Will it work on the various social media platforms the company may operate?
  • Does it work when rendered extra small (such as on business cards)?
  • Is the main font used in the logo (if any) legible enough that it can be applied to other promotional copy?

These are just a few of the things that should be going through a graphic designer’s mind when crafting a logo and thinking about the overarching design.

The key here is that even if the layout or image specs change, the look and feel of the branding should be consistent across all of the company’s output (both internally and publicly).

But this raises an even bigger question:

What Makes for Good Branding?

Alongside consistency, there are a number of factors that are seen as hallmarks of good branding.

Memorable. Not only should it be easy to draw the company logo from memory (see the above Cottbus logo for an example of how it isn’t done), but it should stick in the mind of the public in such a way that they instantly recognize it the next time.

Key Colors. A corporate color palette should be adopted across all branding to help boost cohesion. This is generally only one or two complementary colors, but it isn’t unheard of to have more.

Strong Typeface. While the logo itself may not contain text, a feature of strong brand identity is a typeface (or perhaps two) that is used across all promotional copy. This should be clear, legible, and compatible across both PC, Mac and mobile.

Consistent Image Style. Outside of the logo vectors, you might be using other images throughout the website and on social media (especially if the company is product-centric). Whether you use line art, illustration, or modeled photography, it should possess the same look and feel across the board.

Uniqueness. All of the above is well and good, but if someone beat you to the punch with something very similar you’re always going to be stuck in their shadow. It’s important to do your research and create something original.

There are infinite ways to achieve the above, and we see exceptionally innovative examples of this in the marketing world frequently (as well as some terrible examples of branding that are so bad they gain their own publicity).

But all of this boils down to our final, and possibly most crucial, question:

Why is Good Branding Important?

Simply put, good branding increases sales. If it didn’t, companies wouldn’t pay design agencies thousands (if not millions) of dollars to overhaul their branding every decade or so.

For a small company just starting out, good branding can help them get noticed. For a giant multinational corporation, it can help build brand trust and retain dominance in an increasingly competitive market.

In short: branding is for everyone, and you can’t afford to forego it.

Mastering the Art of Minimalist Graphic Design

Minimalist design can be done with even the simplest of tools and software. And yet, no other art or design trend compares when it comes to the number of fields minimalism has impacted. From the internet and user interfaces to video games and film, the influence of minimalism can be seen in most places you look today.

So why isn’t minimalist design a well-known and popular style? The short answer is simply that minimalism is less a visual style and more a principle. A minimalist design is a design that only uses the most essential elements, including basic shapes and limited color palettes, to create something that’s very simple yet memorable.

As an aspiring graphic and visual designer, understanding and utilizing minimalist design is a valuable skill that can make you stand out. Here are some of the most basic yet essential tips for mastering minimalist design:

Go For Less But Meaningful

The best minimalist websites only utilize elements that are essential for the web design. This includes doing away with needless graphical elements that may distract the viewer and affect both usability and readability. By keeping things simple, you are better able to direct the visitor’s attention to the main element or idea that the site is meant to convey.

The less elements there are to bombard the viewer, the more likely they are to focus on the product or idea being showcased. This means using limited layouts and color palettes while still making available only the most useful tools, such as intuitive and easy-to-find navigational elements.

Keep Things Balanced

One of the challenges of creating a minimalist design, especially a web page, is making sure everything harmonizes visually. Since you’re using fewer elements to begin with, it becomes much more obvious when a particular element causes an imbalance. This is especially true when your design uses a lot of white space to draw more attention to certain elements.

For this reason, a lot of graphic designers use a grid system. Organizing your website design into a grid layout can help keep things visually balanced and evenly distributed. Using a grid alignment allows you to be creative with your design while making sure all the vital elements line up in a pattern that’s satisfying to the human eyes.

Choose Your Color Wisely

We already mentioned the importance of allowing large areas of white to draw more attention to other elements. But when deciding which colors to use, go for shades that offer the feeling you want to convey to visitors. A minimalist design uses only a few colors that work well together and help create the emotion you want for the site.

Since minimalism restrains the use of colors, a very powerful tool in the hands of a minimalist graphic designer is contrast. Extreme contrast can be the key to creating an eye-catching element that impacts the visitor and fills them with a desire to learn more. This strategy isn’t effective on a site with many colors already in use, which is why it’s a popular trick used on minimalist designs to make their site easier to read and user-friendly.

Use Simple Yet Impacting Typography

The heart of every minimalist graphic design is a font that’s clean, simple, and easy for people to read. Instead of using bizarre fonts and colors, stick with a direct typography that’s minimal but aesthetically pleasing. Of course, there’s still room for creativity in how you present your text.

Many great minimalist designs use big typography instead of images to capture the viewer’s attention. In websites, you’ll often find larger typography for the header in order to make important information both obvious and memorable. Using a mix of different font sizes is a great way to keep a page with little content from becoming boring. The different sizes help take up some space and add visual interest without creating the same clutter that using images might.

How to Make Your Own Animated GIFs

No matter where you go online, you’re sure to come across an animated GIF. Animated GIFs are short, looping videos made up of several still shots that for a while were forgotten due to the advent of streaming video and Youtube. But recently they’ve made a comeback — thanks to social media and entertainment pages/apps.

Whether you want to give people a laugh or show off your work on a portfolio page, knowing how to make your own animated GIF is a particularly useful skill nowadays. Here you’ll read our roundup of several programs that make creating your own GIFs a breeze — plus tips on how you can get the most out of these digital creations.

Photoshop

It’s no surprise that the world’s best graphics editing program can also be used to make animated GIFs. Don’t worry, though: if you do not have Photoshop or access to Photoshop, there are a number of free software programs that will do similar. Yet Photoshop is an especially powerful choice. (Note that only some of the most recent versions of Photoshop include the animation features you need.)

After arranging your layers in the order you want them to be animated, it’s time to sequence them. Instructions for doing so differ, depending on your version of Photoshop. If you have CS5 and older, click Windows + Animation. If you have CS6 or Photoshop CC, open Windows + Timeline. For CC, you’ll have to also select Create Frame Animation from the drop-down menu.

From here, simply find the Make Frames From Layers option to set things like the duration of each frame, how many times the animated GIF should loop, etc. Now hit File and Save for Web to start sharing your GIF with others.

Other Animated GIF Creation Programs

Don’t worry if Photoshop isn’t an option! There are plenty of excellent programs out there that can help you create your own animated GIF. Many of them are even free to use and come with plenty of online tutorials. (Insider secret: online tutorials are tools that even the most experienced graphic deigners use to keep their skills up to date. Don’t be afraid to use this resource!)

If you already have a video file on your computer that’s ready to be turned into an animated GIF, Zamzar is a great choice. This web application takes your video and converts it into GIF format without the need of any other software. Giphy is another option for easily creating an animated GIF out of a small video on your disk.

To make GIFs out of individual images, we recommend GIMP. This free, open source image editor lets you take a collection of still images and turn them into a GIF. Other options include Giffing Tool for windows users and GIF Brewery for Mac owners. Both of these have some extra features you can pay for that give you more control over your animated GIF.

Other programs worth mentioning include Gifster, Giphy Capture, LiceCap, Gifcam, and Gifox.

Incorporating Animated GIFs Into Your Work

Here are some common practices for easily integrating your GIFs, for maximum effect:

Online Portfolio

As an aspiring graphic designer, your goal is to use those talents to make a living right out of college. Of course, there are also countless other graduates who will be applying to the same jobs as you. You’ll need something to help you stand out when recruiters begin checking out your online portfolio.

With animated GIFs, you can demonstrate your skills and show off work you’re proud of in a fresh and exciting way. We don’t recommend bombarding viewers with a bunch of GIFs on each page. However, a few of them combined with still images can help your page convey a modern, interactive feel.

Marketing

When you think of animated GIFs, perhaps several online memes come to mind that spread across your social media pages like wildfire. The fact is that GIFs are great for grabbing people’s attention as they scroll down Facebook or Tumblr — which means they’re perfect for marketing.

What better way to announce a new product than with a catchy animated GIF on your website or in an e-mail? Marketing companies like Bluefly have even done research on the impact of regular images vs. animated GIFs, and have found that GIFs pull in more revenue for advertised products.

Visual Instruction

It’s one thing to read instructions on how to bake a cake and another to actually watch someone do it. This is why Youtube is flooded with tutorial videos that show us how to do everything from boil an egg to dance like Michael Jackson. Even so, sometimes sticking a video in your work isn’t the best approach.

Instead, create a GIF animation showing a product illustration in motion. Whether you’re building a how-to section on your site or you want to show people how a product works, one or more animated GIFs can do the trick. You can also add small text descriptions below each individual GIF so readers have no trouble following your steps or understanding what you’re trying to convey

First time making a GIF, or are you a seasoned pro? Let us know how you use your GIFs in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about graphic design? NYFA’s graphic design program may be for you.

Why Typography Matters

As social animals, we humans have been using writing as one of the most fundamental forms of communication since our ancient ancestors. From those cave walls to the infinite pages of the Interwebs, typography has sure come a long way. Dating back to the 15th century when Johannes Gutenberg first developed moveable type and the printing press, making way for more decorative and practical typefaces and ordered page layouts, it was evident the world of words would forever be changed. By the Industrial Revolution, typography became all about the masses; typefaces became larger, catchier, and bolder to be used in signs, newspapers, and advertisements.

But in the current day where typography is used in almost every form of advertising and design, where it’s become so developed that it’s a full-time job for many designers and a stand-alone course at several universities, it’s virtually impossible for contemporary designers to keep up with each and every typeface that exists. And there are still new and original typefaces being created every day. But even with the prevalence of the discourse in our vastly digital landscape, designers who are well-versed on the matter are still quizzed on what typography actually entails by potential employers and more often than not, there are those who want to learn graphic design but neglect the importance of the topic in their work. So here are a few things every designer should know to ensure they’re prepared when discussing fonts with their clients (or critical naysayers) during the creative process

It’s All In The Eyes

The science behind the powerful connection between our visuals and our brain isn’t something that’s been newly discovered with modern technology but the possibilities of visual affect in advertising has grown ten-fold in the last few decades with digital technology. Just as psychological studies confirm the correlation between colors and emotional responses, thus it being a huge determinant in how a brand is viewed, the style in which words and letters are formed works in the same way. Just ask Gary Hustwit—the filmmaker behind Helvetica (2007), a documentary about typography, design and global visual culture. “Helvetica. It’s everywhere: this typeface spells out tax forms, labels, street signs and company logos,” he says.

Typography is the vehicle through which things like tone of voice, gender, age, or emotion can be communicated, thus certain typefaces have their own personalities and are used to relay particular ideas. Additionally, according to a study on typography by Dr. Kevin Larson and Dr. Rosalind W. Picard at MIT, even very subtle changes in typography, like small caps, ligatures, kerning or old style figures are shown to measurably affect the way people react to a document.

Most Effective Typography

In a study conducted by Michael Bernard at Usability News, the most preferred typefaces for people were Verdana, Comic Sans, and Arial whilst the most legible font at size 12 was Courier and Arial at size 14. Another noteworthy experiment conducted by Errol Morris presented the same passage to 40,000 readers in six different typefaces. Readers who were exposed to Baskerville were more likely to agree with the passage, particularly when compared with Helvetica and Comic Sans.

Know The Basics

  • Serif – This is the slight projection at the tip of a letter stroke that’s commonly at the bottom of the letter—sort of like “little feet.” This gives the eyes an easy transition or flowing motion through sentences.
  • Sans Serif – The opposite of Serif, this font has no “feet” and is often seen as trendy, modern and streamlined but tends to be harder to read in smaller font sizes.
  • Typefaces – Probably the most straightforward part of typography, it simply refers to the name of the style of text used. So basically like Arial, Georgia, or Chalkduster.
  • Fonts – Although it’s frequently synonymous with the word “typeface” in the digital age, this technically refers to both a particular style of typeface and the decided width and height of that typeface. For instance, Cambria is a typeface, but the font would be Cambria, size 14, Italic.
  • Tracking – This refers to the spacing between characters within a text, otherwise known as “letter spacing,” and is pretty standard. However, you can adjust it to affect text density.
  • Kerning – Similar to tracking, but instead of the general spacing between characters, this refers to the white space between specific, individual letters and characters that may clash depending on the font design.
  • Leading – This measures the space between where the letters sit i.e. the distance between a line of text and the line directly above and below it.
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5 Top Graphic Designers In NYC

In comparison to other design fields, graphic design is a fairly new profession that only acquired serious professional status during the 1950s and 60s. Since then, however, there have been a myriad of designers who have created their way into the industry’s Hall of Fame (or at least onto this remarkable and bona fide list, which is basically the same thing).

Similarly, with the countless number of agencies among a gargantuan commercial industry—not to mention an extraordinarily colossal arts and culture scene, New York City is arguably one of the best cities in the world to nurture these creative professions. Consequently so many graphic designers from around the world are relocating to The Big Apple as a constructive career move.

Paving the way for modern design since the profession was first recognised, these graphic designers of New York have changed the way we view the discipline in the contemporary world. And as a graphic design student, it’s imperative you get acquainted with these names.

Paul Rand

Long after his death in 1996, this Brooklyn-born art director and graphic designer remains one of the best in the world. During a time when the world was barely aware of his craft, Rand defined visual culture in America and pioneered a fresh, modern approach to selling goods; he was credited as one of the originators of the Swiss Style of design. He went on to teach at Yale in 1956 and was inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1972. The ad man with the uncanny skill for marrying commerce and art, who was said to have brought intelligence and ideas to advertising where there was no semblance of thought before him, is most well-known for his corporate logo work. Having convinced some of the nation’s largest corporations that great design meant great business, he went on to craft indelible logos for giants like the ABC, UPS, Westinghouse, and IBM—all of which we instantly recognize today.

Saul Bass

Among the most notable of graphic designers responsible for the Modern Movement achieving serious popular acceptance in the visual arts during the 50s and 60s is the prolific Saul Bass. Born in the Bronx, NY, in 1920, this graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker followed his love for film along with a job offer at a major advertising company and relocated to Los Angeles in 1946. His career rapidly skyrocketed and soon he was doing classic LP sleeves like the Tone Poems of Color for Sinatra and posters for Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux. Bass was credited for inventing the titling of movies at the beginning or end as well as creating print-graphic identification for the films. Becoming a go-to for prominent filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Otto Preminger, and Martin Scorsese, Bass did the titles for Exodus, Ocean’s 11, Spartacus and Psycho in 1960 alone. He is also responsible for the iconic animation of the heroin addict’s arm for Preminger’s The Man With the Golden Arm, in 1955. His graphic design work didn’t stop at films however, and much of his corporate roles produced many iconic logos for the likes of Continental Airlines, United Airlines, AT&T, Warner Communications, and Quaker Oats, just to name a few.

Milton Glaser

The man behind the prolific I *heart* NY logo (refer to the head image at the top of the article if you’re still scratching your head), Glaser is to many the embodiment of American graphic design during the last five decades. Born in New York in 1929, this modern Renaissance man initially trained in classical fine art before co-founding the New York-based Pushpin Studio in 1954. After international acclaim and many immediately recognizable works from the studio, including the iconic 1966 Bob Dylan poster (above), Glaser eventually left in 1976 and created his own company, Milton Glaser Inc.. With a major interest in publishing design (he also co-founded New York Magazine in 1968), he went on to establish a magazine and design studio called WBMG, with the former art director of Time, Walter Bernard. Among his publication credits are Esquire, Fortune, L’Express, and The Washington Post. His other eminent works include Mad Men’s swirling, technicoloured promotional ad for its final season, the Brooklyn Brewery logo, and the DC Comics logo.

Stefan Sagmeister

Born in Austria in 1962, this intriguing designer and typographer moved to New York at the age of 15, after having received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Pratt Institute. Known for his provocative and unorthodox designs, Sagmeister has created brand identities for household names and iconic album artworks for his favorite musical acts like Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, David Byrne, Talking Heads, and Jay-Z; he also received two Grammy Awards for his work. Always one to push the envelope of indecency, he famously had the text for an AIGA lecture poster in 1999 carved into his nude body by his assistant and photographed himself; as well as gaining twenty-five pounds in 2003 by eating a hundred different junk foods and taking before and after photos for his Sagmeister On A Binge exhibition poster. His company Sagmeister Inc. which he founded in 1993 is now renamed to Sagmeister & Walsh, after making his twenty-five year-old designer employee, Jessica Walsh a partner in 2012.

Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli (1931-2014) had always strived to achieve design that was “visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.” Born in Milan, Italy, the architecture student first visited America in 1957 on a fellowship and returned to New York in 1966 with the hopes of promulgating a design aesthetic motivated by their ideal of functional beauty. Credited for introducing a European Modernist point of view to graphic design in America, he, along with six other designers, founded Unimark International, which became one of largest and most recognizable design firms in the world. It was also among the first to create corporate identities through design. Vignelli then went on to open his own firm, Vignelli Associates, with wife Lella in 1971. It then became Vignelli Designs in 1978. Among many corporate identities he was responsible for creating, including that of American Airlines, Ford, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Xerox, his most memorable work was his dramatic redesign of the New York City subway map in 1972.

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10 Must-Watch Illustration And Graphic Design Documentaries

Documentaries about design, typography, and illustration don’t usually rise to the forefront of public conscience, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some superb viewing out there for those who are interested in – or practicing – in those fields.

In fact, we’ve found ten such titles that serve to inspire, educate, and entertain… and sometimes all three simultaneously.

Essential Documentaries for Graphic Designers

Let’s start off with our top five picks in the field of graphic design. From individual portraits of highly celebrated luminaries in the industry, to documentaries that provoke deep thought on the conventions behind graphic design, all of the titles here will be of great worth to those who love great design.

Helvetica

An indie-produced graphic design documentary which stands at an impressive 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, a film examining typography – and one font in particular – has no right to be this engaging, but Helvetica is just that.

Examining the ubiquitous font itself, as well as wider themes underpinning the principles of typography, it’s an essential watch for anyone working with text or simply curious about the craft. As director Gary Hustwit, himself, puts it: “Fonts don’t just appear out of Microsoft Word – there are human beings and huge stories behind them.”

Also see Objectified and Urbanized, the two followup documentaries which make up Hustwit’s design ‘trilogy’.

Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century

Operating between 1919 and 1993, in only a short spate of time the Bauhaus art school (spread between three different cities) deeply influenced the world of design in a profoundly fundamental way, and those changes still echo on through the teaching of top modern graphic design schools today.

Design is One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli

“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.”

Charming and eccentric, Design is One charts the giddying successes of Lella and Massimo Vignelli, possibly most famous for designing the New York City subway map. The married couple worked together and brought their unique Modernist style to a number of high-profile projects over the decades, before Massimo’s passing last year. This documentary stands as a poignant tribute to two great design characters.

The Artist Series

Curated by seasoned designer Hillman Curtis, the Artist Series is a highly engaging set of 5-10 minute videos covering the lives and works of some of the brightest stars in the design world (as well as what makes them tick.) All parts of the Artist Series are available to watch on Curtis’ website.

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight

Milton Glaser is a name that most graphic designers will recognize and revere, and was also covered recently in our post on the most famous designers in the world.

To Inform on Delight – available on Netflix – is a terrific portrait of the man who created the world famous I Heart New York logo, and a documentary that every graphic designer should treat themselves to.

Essential Documentaries for Illustrators

Moving on to those who work in more traditional media, the following five documentaries make for must-watch viewing for not just illustrators, but for anyone who appreciates great art (and the minds from which it springs forth). We’ll start off with a title that has generated a huge amount of discussion since its release:

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy has long been a divisive artist, and Exit Through the Gift Shop is his magnum opus.

The documentary in itself is a very meta work of art, and could quite possibly be one of the most elaborately crafted hoaxes ever conceived… but that’s a debate that continues to rage on, five years later.

While not strictly related to illustration, it’s one which every artist of any discipline (and even non-artists) should put high up on their to-watch list. And if you saw it when it first came out in 2010, it’s definitely time to dust it off and give it another watch.

Making It

Made by three highly talented illustrators, Making It covers the all-too-real topic of how to balance a love of illustration and the ongoing necessity to pay the rent at the end of the month… ideally, from the proceeds of one’s art.

While never pulling its punches as to the reality of life as an illustrator, Making It will also reaffirm, like never before, why you went to illustration school in the first place.

A128

From Toronto comes this indie documentary which examines the lives and work of those who are trying to find their feet as the next generation of talented young illustrators.

A128 is a great watch, because it successfully conveys the dreams of these bright individuals, as well as the challenges that stand in the way. In addition, it’s inspirational to see how the art of illustration shapes and fulfils the lives of both the creator and the audience who gets to enjoy the work.

Sign Painters

A long-standing American tradition turned underground and niche trade, Sign Painters is essential viewing for those who find themselves awkwardly sandwiched between art and business.

Directed by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon – both artists in their own right – the documentary is as much an examination of the craft of sign painting as it is a celebration of the community which strives to keep the art form alive.

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Drew Struzan is the name to know when it comes to movie poster history, and this documentary is his amazing story.

Having illustrated the iconic posters used to promote Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and the original Star Wars trilogy as well as numerous books and album covers, The Man Behind the Poster features interviews from both Struzan’s family and those he worked with (including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro, with whom he had a particularly fond working relationship).

A truly impressive career and a documentary worth watching in its own right, but particularly if you’re a filmmaker who’s ever been interested in creating your own movie posters.


So there we have it, 10 excellent documentaries covering the fields of graphic design and illustration, all of which come highly recommended to anyone working in related fields or even those who simply have an interest in what goes on in the minds of some of the world’s most gifted artists.

Seen any other documentaries which should be listed here, or learned anything great from the titles above? We want to hear from you – leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

Five Famous Graphic Designers Who Changed The Industry Forever

Much of the process of finding your own style in graphic design involves surveying what has come before you and building upon it, as well as getting to grips with the fundamentals of the craft as taught at graphic design school and figuring out which rules you can bend.

In the spirit of standing on the shoulders of giants, here are five famous graphic designers who are just that: giants in the industry who have changed the playing field forever with their iconic works.

Milton Glaser

As far as graphic designers go, Milton Glaser is up there with the most iconic names in America. Don’t know his name? You’ll recognize his work , and it demonstrates what we mean when we say that Glaser is the living embodiment of New Your City: he designed the “I <3 NY” campaign. But it doesn’t stop there. Glaser also created the main DC Comics logo used between 1977 and 2005, as well as the cursive B logo for the Brooklyn Brewery (which is still used today and for which Glaser received shares in the company on its creation in 1984.) Oh, and he also cofounded New York Magazine, a publication that is still enjoying a four-decade long run where similar lifestyle magazines have fallen.

Paula Scher

Another NYC luminary, and arguably the most famous female graphic designer on the planet, the award-winning Paula Scher is as much celebrated for her individual design work as she is for her revolutionary overhauling of theatre promotion standards behind the scenes.

Almost single-handedly, Scher gave a fresh identity to such institutions as the New York City Ballet, Metropolitan Opera, The Public Theater, and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Her work on the Museum of Modern Art’s unified logotype – seen above – is perhaps the most famous across the entire global museum industry.

On top of all this, she is also renowned for her poster and album artwork, which finds itself rooted in the aesthetics of Russian Conservatism (something we’ve covered previously on this blog.)

Saul Bass

With a 40-year career that created some of the most recognizable company logos of his era, as well as movie work which permeated into many corners of pop culture, the late Saul Bass is one of the most revered graphic designers of the 20th century (and quite rightly so.)

Bass became very well known for creating film title sequences with Alfred Hitchcock and others, and practically invented the art form of having title sequences to illustrate the credits before the movie began. Viewable above was Bass’ innovative sequence for 1955’s The Man with the Golden Arm, which elevated the young designer to the public eye and matched the film’s controversial subject matter.

Stefan Sagmeister

“Design that needed guts from the creator and still carries the ghost of these guts in the final execution.”

Austrian-born Sagmeister has long been known for his memorable work in the music industry, having rose to prominence in the early 90s, creating conceptual artwork for the likes of Lou Reed (below) and The Rolling Stones.

More recently, Sagmeister has decided to branch out. Alongside continuing his musical work, he is now devoting his talents to science, social causes, and the wider art world.

Paul Rand

It’s entirely arguable that the above four names owe their careers (or at least a large portion of it) to Paul Rand.

It is impossible to summarize Rand’s century-spanning career in the space we have here, but suffice it to say that it was he alone that brought the idea that good graphic design is essential in the world of business and branding. As fellow designer Louis Danziger puts it: “He, more than anyone else, made the profession reputable. We went from being commercial artists to being graphic designers largely on his merits.”

Rand was not only an unparalleled graphic designer, but also a professor, contributing a wealth of theoretical advancements to the craft that are still taught as fundamentals at graphic design school today. Working long into his nineties, one of his last projects was in collaboration with the notoriously difficult-to-please Steve Jobs, who referred to Rand as “the greatest living designer.”

Over to you. Know of any other famous graphic designers that should feature here? Let’s get some discussion going down in the comments below!