Industry Trends

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

startup-photos

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.
Master the art of graphic design at NYFA’s Graphic Design programs, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

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.

Follow in the footsteps of the the above graphic design giants designer at the Graphic Design program at New York Film Academy. Learn more by clicking here.

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!

Four Of The Hottest Graphic Design Trends For 2015

Graphic design – particularly for the web – changes at a notoriously fast pace. What may have been considered vogue one month, can be deemed as practically prehistoric just a few months down the line.

If you’re a student at graphic design school, you’ll be kept abreast of all the latest in graphic design trends. Still, it always pays to keep your finger on the pulse. In order to help you stay ahead of the game, here are the graphic design trends that are hot right now and likely to become industry-wide practices over the rest of 2015…

Hottest Graphic Design Trends For 2015

Grid Layouts

Almost directly attributable to the rise of Pinterest (and to a lesser extent Instagram), the clean-cut ode to order has become prevalent with many graphic designers opting for grid layouts in 2015. Web designers around the world have exhaled a sigh of relief at this latest graphic design trend given that it’s fairly easy to implement into a working site through basic CSS.

Obviously it doesn’t isn’t suitable for the presentation of all kinds of content, but it does work great for graphic designers working on product-based presentation or content that is highly categorized. This is the ultimate graphic design trend for the OCD sufferers among you.

Flat Designs

Flat, simple, and minimalist is the most recent graphic design trend to have just started emerging this year. As such, there’s never been a better time to adopt it into your own work.

The good news is that it’s a delightfully simple style to execute, given that it purposefully steers away from any kind of graphical frills or embellishments. Keep it nice and simple, put a self-imposed ban on using the gradient tool, and leave those edges gloriously unbeveled. Blocking primary colors help seal the deal (just make sure you export any digital work on the highest DPI settings / lowest compression in order to keep those edges crisp and avoid unwanted noise.)

Optical Illusions

This one seems to be becoming prevalent in logo design this year, with numerous companies adding visual trickery to their branding in order to get people’s attention and keep them engaged.

And it does work… when done well.

The above Sonos logo is a great example of this and has since gone viral, even though the pulsating effect you get when scrolling was a lucky accident on behalf of the graphic design team.

When it’s forced, it can serve to distract the onlooker and can end up being a hot mess, minus the hot.

Ethereal Pastels

If you’re in game design school, or work as a graphic designer specifically for video game media, this is the one graphic design trend of 2015 you really need to know about. In previous years, we’ve seen very loud, busy, and often cartoon-esque visuals in video games (particularly in the mobile sector).

In recent times, however, a handful of superb titles have pushed gaming trends towards the more experimental ‘relax-em-up’ type of game. To suit these, an almost unique brand of ethereal, vivid landscape imagery was created to mirror the gameplay.

Indie success stories like Proteus (pictured above) kicked things off in 2013, and the rise of the casual gaming market (again, particularly on mobile platforms) helped the style gain momentum. More recently, the award-winning Monument Valley and hugely enjoyable Alto’s Adventure both employ this flavor of graphic design.

And although it’s been a mainstay of cult artists and fans for some time, pixel art is increasingly becoming a mainstream style. Of course, there’s a single game that is responsible for bringing retro-style video game art back to the fore; it begins with ‘M’, and ends in ‘Craft’.

Got any other graphic design trends you’re embracing (or loathing) in 2015? Hit us up in the comments below, and let’s get some discussion flowing!

10 Iconic Company Logos That Have Drastically Changed

While most people never think about it, graphic design actually plays an important role in branding and company recognition. Consumers begin to associate certain feelings with brands, and often the more iconic the brand, the stronger the feelings.

Even without seeing the company name, consumers can instantly identify the company based on logo alone. Who doesn’t know what to expect when they see the golden arches of McDonald’s, for example?

These iconic brand logos weren’t always what they are today, however. The original McDonald’s logo was a far cry from the golden arches of today. While Apple generally keeps design very minimalist these days, their original logo was anything but.

We take a look at 10 of the most iconic logo designs today, and the original counterpart for each. You will see that companies in all industries – from game design giants like Nintendo to drink producers like Coca Cola – have gone through some phases of evolution to get where they are today: extremely valuable, recognizable brands…

Looking forward to a future in the field of graphic design? Learn more about the School of Graphic Design at the New York Film Academy.

Top 10 Twitter Accounts for Graphic Designers to Follow

Imagine the Internet without graphic design – rewind twenty years, and that’s pretty much what the Internet was like when it was purely text-based.

Of course, things have come a long way since 1995 and web-specific graphic designers have come to the fore to make the net a more visually interesting place. If you desire a career in graphic design or work as a graphic designer, here are ten Twitter accounts worth following.

Top 10 Twitter Accounts for Graphic Designers

New York Film Academy
@NYFA

Graphic design is a highly technical field, and New York Film Academy offers several courses in the theory and practice of design at its Graphic Design school. Our Twitter account serves to keep track of industry news and the progress of talented designers both within the school and further afield.

GraphicDesign
@AtGraphicDesign

Graphic Design is a portal for graphic design professionals. Whether you’re looking for a job or want to read industry news, GD’s Twitter stream is a good source for current information.

Typographica.org
@typographica

Typography is an important part of graphic design, and Typographica provides professionals with reviews and articles about fonts and design.

Adobe Creative Cloud
@creativecloud

Adobe’s suite of design programs is the industry-standard in graphic design. Adobe Creative Cloud helps designers use and get the most out of Adobe products.

Design Museum
@DesignMuseum

Museums aren’t just for paintings. The Design Museum showcases the best design in everything from buildings to matchbox labels.

The Creative Group
@CreativeGroup

Looking for a design-related job? The Creative Group is a staffing agency that pairs creative professionals with companies seeking creative talent.

Graphic Design NYC
@GraphicDesignNY

Graphic Design NYC is a social network – both virtual and physical – made up of designers and content creators. It aims to help professionals make connections and to share information with new professionals.

Gordon Kaye
@GDUSAmagazine

Graphic Design USA is a magazine for graphic designers and creators. Published since 1963, it runs articles on career advice, successful designers, and industry news.

TAXI
@designtaxi

TAXI is a “global creative network” – a web site for creative professionals that publishes news from the design world, as well as provides a network for professionals. Their official Twitter account pushes out a nice summary of the best content on the site, making it one of the most essential Twitter accounts for graphic designers.

Designers & Books
@designersbooks

Want to keep up with books on design? Designers & Books focuses on new and upcoming books related to design and identifies books likely to be of wide interest to design professionals.

Russian Graphic Design: Drawing on Constructivism

There are few areas of design that are as riddled with visual cliches as the West’s approach to Russia. When offered a brief that has a Russian or Communist connection, many designers stick to the same script: a tight palette of red, black and white, and a general Constructivist look, with a triangle or at least a healthy bias towards the diagonal, and, above all, a couple of Cyrillic letters thrown in.

Whether you’re honing your craft at graphic design school or are already a seasoned professional, we’re here to break down the pitfalls that just about everyone falls into when it comes to Russian-themed design (and how to get out of the rut).

From Russia With… Threadbare Clichés

It is easy to see why Constructivism is such a popular choice for graphic designers. The images created in the early years of the Soviet Union are bold, instantly recognizable and still strikes a chord, even though the style has been around for almost a hundred years.

First appearing in Russia in 1919, Constructivism developed as a form of art devoted to social purposes, rejecting the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ that was so popular at the turn of the century.

The new movement developed a style that focused on a stripped-down palette of primary colors, the frequent use of photo-montage, and a preference for sharp angles and straight lines rather than curves. As you might expect for an art form that emphasized art’s social responsibilities, Constructivist artists such as Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Lyubov Popova used their skills to produce fantastic posters with a social message, such as this one, which promotes books: Constructivism is a seductive style to adopt, and many designers have fallen for it when covering briefs about twentieth century Russia, or even for anywhere beyond the old Iron Curtain.

But the Constructivist style has appeared on book jackets, film posters, album covers and posters for decades now, and it’s beginning to look a little tired. On one hand, by tapping into this imagery a designer will immediately alert their audience to the subject of their work, but these days the designer will also be revealing their own inability to think outside of the box – or rather, outside of the famous red triangle.

However, while the Constructivist style is something that should be played with or used with caution by modern designers, the terrible habit of throwing in the odd Cyrillic letter into a sentence in Roman script should be avoided at all costs.

While it might signal ‘Russia’ to some, it is like nails on a blackboard to those who can read Russian, as it very often makes no sense. Lazy designers often flip the letter R in Russia, color the word in a good Communist red and think their job is done…

… Except ‘Яussia’ spells the non-existent word Yaoossia if the Я is pronounced properly. There’s nothing guaranteed to set a Russian speaker’s teeth on edge faster than these misplaced bits of Cyrillic. Using strong Russian-themed fonts will have the same recognisability without the potential for irritation – usually, a simple art deco font will give you all the flavoring you need without looking completely hammy:

Luckily, there is a way for designers to expand their Russian visual arsenal without having to learn the language fluently.

While the vocabulary of Constructivism itself has become overused, the style of the fantastically over-the-top Socialist Realism posters has not yet been fully explored. Colorful, broadly painted, muscular workers staring off into the blissful Communist Future, solid women in headscarves, factories glowing in the sunrise: there is plenty more mileage to be found in these images from an artistic point of view (if you ignore the political idolatry behind it!)

Designers can also turn to other artists for inspiration. Russian twentieth century art is every bit as good and as moving as that of the rest of the world, but the Cold War has rather stifled its reputation in the West. Aristarkh Lentulov‘s Russian Cubism, with its brightly-colored onion domes, are beautiful and memorable images, or the flamboyant imagery of Leon Bakst, the designer who worked with the Ballet Russe.

Looking closely at traditional Russian folk art can also produce fantastic results. The beautiful miniature paintings found on the tiny black boxes from Palekh look ancient, but these paintings only developed in the twentieth century and are ripe for adaptation:

Graphic design is at its best when constantly moving forward – precisely the reason why people study graphic design in order to better themselves – and the current obsession with Constructivism and backwards-looking letters is keeping designers stuck on a loop.

Sticking to these tropes for Russian or Communist-themed design is like illustrating everything remotely American with pictures of Cowboys and Indians. Russia has a rich and complex visual history that is waiting to be explored by more intrepid and adventurous designers.