Sunday, 11 January 2015

Old Web Designers Never Die, They Just Volunteer

Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter, final printed version
Web design never paid very well for me so I quit it and took a normal admin job. The thing is, I can't quit it. Not web design, not social media, not the great and groovy graphic design. I'm hooked, I tell you, and I don't want to give it up. Needless to say, when the opportunity to design the promotional literature for our church's women's discussion event came up, I simply couldn't resist the opportunity to stretch  my creative muscles in a professional capacity.

The right tools for the project

I know the industry standard is the Adobe Creative Suite but to be perfectly honest I've always found it overly complex, non-intuitive, far too expensive and way overrated. There, I said it. Now stop your laughing and check out my Behance gallery. Here's Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter. I used GIMP for all of it, people (I use Kompozer for web design and Inkscape for logos). Honestly, the prejudice against OS programs can be utterly ridiculous at times.

The right font for the project

Time was I would stick like grim death to one idea. I wonder what my tutors at Matthew Boulton College in Birmingham would think of me now? They said I was better academically. Well I've learned to be more flexible (having to please clients tends to pretty much force you to) and to come up with a few ideas, not for form's sake, but because I'm actually thinking this through. Here are the ones that didn't make it:

Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter, Parchment title
Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter, The Dreamer title

Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter, Georgia Italics title
Like Clay in the Hand of the Potter, Abbeyline title

The first font I went for was a variation on Papyrus called Parchment. I knew the one we'd eventually go for would be cursive, I just didn't know which one so I test-drove a few. I personally liked The Dreamer and thought they were more likely to go for Baskerville BT Italic but they actually went for Abbeyline in the end. I was pleased because I wanted a home-made feel to the literature and it suited the image better.

I used Adobe Arabic (which shipped with my PC) for the body text as Trajan (the church logo) doesn't have lower case glyphs. It's generally not a good idea to use more than two fonts on your project as it can make it look busy. I got away with it here because Adobe Arabic looks similar enough to Trajan to let me get away with it.

The right pic for the project

Well at first Mumba wanted to use a woman's hands. I'd suggested doing a font search herself and picking out what she wanted but in the end she decided to leave it to me. Finding imaged licenced for commercial use with modifications or Creative Commons can be pretty hard but there are resources that provide such images.

With that in mind it's only fair to credit the photographer who provided me with the image I ended up using: RWLinder, Potter on rgbstock free stock photos. I actually preferred the second image because it's portrait and you can see more of the potter's hands, the pot, and the wheel, but women's ministry leader Maggie really liked this one. The trouble is, it's landscape.

Still, the client is king (well, queen in this case) and whether I'm being paid for it or doing it for free I'll do the best I can with what I've got to work with. I had to have at least half of the card clear for the text. I toyed with the idea of overwriting it with white or coloured text and quickly rejected it — the results would have been awful.

You can see how much I had to cut away to get the image to fit as portrait on a landscape A6 flyer. They didn't like the idea of doing the whole thing as portrait, which would have preserved the whole image.

Well I'd have had to shrink the text all right but that was apparently the problem. It really is a shame the photographer never took a portrait version of this, but never mind.

The right size for the project

The difference between an amateur and a professional can be very slim. Suffice it to say if you can do the job as well as a pro you deserve the same level of respect as one. This is not a universally held view, of course. However, using amateur tools doesn't necessarily produce an amateur result: any fool can buy brushes and paints but that doesn't make him (or her) a great artist.

With that in mind let us consider what's involved in designing like a pro. As the great Jeffrey Zeldman once said, "Design without purpose is empty, it's just decoration."

Whatever the size of the canvas you're working with, you've got to make every aspect of your design count towards the overall message. Fonts, pictures, and colours are all integral parts of this and all of them need to be relevant to the message. The size of the canvas itself is important; if you're designing for print you need to follow the rules set by the printers for uploaded artwork and provide the requisite bleeding edge space, which varies from printer to printer.

I'm using A4, A5, A6 and business card sizes for my projects, all at 300 DPI. If you don't know what any of that means you have no business calling yourself a designer. I'm working with Dot for Dot off so I can scale the images without losing quality. I'm not usually this strict, particularly when making illustrations for this blog, but for a professional level project I've got to be serious.

A6 is sufficient for a double sided flyer. A5 is perfect for programs because you can fold them in half horizontally (the front page artwork goes on the right hand side), then print them double-sided. A4 is fine for small posters to put up in shop windows, etc. Anything bigger would be used to decorate the room. I've designed an A1 poster to put on an easel at the side of the stage in case it's wanted, it can easily be scaled up from A4, which is one of the reasons I chose the A sizes.

The right printer for the project

I used ScissorsPaperStone for the flyers because I wanted a quality service and more control over the number of flyers printed (150).

I used Vistaprint for the (100) tickets, which we will manually number, because cheap will do for those. The trouble with Vistaprint is there's nothing between 100 and 250 but I got the lot done for less than a tenner.

Big Art and Banners can do my A1 poster for £7.20 (before delivery — they won't charge much more for that, I'm sure), though I'm not sure whether or not we'll be getting that done.

We can print the one A4 poster and the programs ourselves because we don't need them to be glossy, we just need them.

It makes sense to shop around, is what I'm saying, and if you can get away with doing it yourself, go for it, but for anything you're showing the public, it's got to look good and be properly presented.

The right project

I'm open to doing more design work on a voluntary basis with a view to using it to promote myself online and adding it to my CV. They know about my graphic and web design background at work and it may well lead to more than just e-cards to send to friends and colleagues or tutorials to show people how to carry out complex tasks. I know it seems mercenary but there's more to life than merely working to pay the rent. I'm proud and privileged to be a part of this great event and I'm looking forward to going, and can't help feeling that glow of pride that I'm the one who did the design work for it.

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