“Everything you see contains a palette. Some beautiful. Some ‘ugly’. Some dark. Some light. Some hot. Some cold. But they are all inspiring. They are all engaging. Color can adjust our perception. It can effect the way our food tastes. It can increase the emotional and intuitive level of an experience. It can turn us off, turn us on. It is psychological. It is emotional. Color is a wonderful thing. Retain it.”
That’s a mighty call to arms. Nigel’s microsite, from which the above quote was taken, is a dedication to his love for colour. There’s not much point in reading about it, so don’t stick around here for long. The site — much like colour — needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
“One of the things I like about editorial design, specifically typographic design, is how there is an emphasis on black and white. True colour is a very important part of any typographic exercise, but primarily I begin by looking at tone and form. I think there’s a lot of value in removing colour from the equation entirely and focusing on the tonal aspects of a design before applying the colour.”
This is a great piece of advice, adding colour should never be the goal. Strength of form and concept, that’s a better goal. The form a design takes should be easily understood without colour. It’s only once this part is right that colour should be considered as a method to highlight or add contrast. This is what Mark is getting at when he suggests beginning a design using only tones of grey. The article is well worth reading in it’s entirety.
What’s the difference between art direction and design? I hold my hand up, even after 10 years working as a designer I was not sure I could explain the difference clearly.
After discovering and subsequently poring over a terrific article by Dan Mall on the subject, my understanding is better. Now I get it. Here’s my understanding: art direction establishes the emotion a message needs to convey and design is concerned with how that message is delivered.
In case you need more convincing here’s a list of my favourite quotes from the piece:
Art direction is about evoking the right emotion, it’s about creating that connection to what you’re seeing and experiencing.
By contrast, design is the technical execution of that connection. Do these colors match? Is the line length comfortable for long periods of reading? Is this photo in focus? Does the typographic hierarchy work? Is this composition balanced?
Art direction and design work together to communicate the message on an emotional level and a physical level.
Design is perfection in technique; art direction is about the important, yet sometimes intangible emotion that powers the design.
Many consider “look and feel” to be synonyms instead of complements, treating them interchangeably. > Creating a design is creating the “look”. The “feel,” however, warrants specific attention from a seasoned > art director to ensure that the message isn’t compromised.
The article goes on to quote a number of eminent designers on their understanding Chris Cashdollar’s insight clearly comes from the mind of a seasoned art director:
Art direction is a filter for making judgments; you pass every design choice through it. Start by determining the overall emotion. All the copy, photography, UI elements, buttons, and the kitchen sink should be pinged against this ideal.
So now that I have a better understanding of the concept of art direction will I be bolting it on to my design process? Well the truth is I’ve always been self art directing my work, albeit subconsciously.
On every project I’ll spend a lot of time thinking through each design decision I make and making sure each one is appropriate for the message I’m trying to communicate. I mightn’t always get it right but I’m very conscious every decision and pixel communicates something as after all one cannot not communicate.
The new release from A Book Apart looks very good. It’s a handbook on how to manage the design process. From getting clients, to getting sign off, to getting paid. It’s written from experience and from the heart.
There is an astonishing amount of good advice in just the preview chapter. Here are my favorite quotes from that chapter:
Everything you deliver on a current project and every interaction you have with a current client is business development.
No one is hiring you to be their friend. They’re hiring you to design solutions to problems.
While your portfolio is important as proof that you can do what you say you can, it can’t be your biz dev department. You need to convince your potential clients that you’ll be able to solve their problem as well as you solved your past clients’ problems.
To do this design thing right we’re going to have to redefine what we think of as “our work.” That stuff in your portfolio? That’s just evidence of work. The real work is that plus all the conversations, decisions, and convincing you did along the way.
No one’s going to know what you think about unless you write and publish your opinions.
People need to know who you are so they can write you checks. Write! Design! Put yourself out there.
Unless you’re putting yourself where people can see you and making your opinions known, clients or potential employers won’t be able to find you.
That was all from just one chapter. If you’re a designer working in client services this book is going to be essential reading.