You may hear the words “graphic design” and simply shudder with horror. “Not me,” you say. “I have no background or experience!” “I’m not an artist!” “I can barely work my iPhone!” With these five steps, you can whip out a fantastic design, impress your friends, and learn something new, too.
A great place to start is with black text on a white background. “How boring!” you exclaim. Feel free to spice things up, but keep this in mind: if you have to squint to read the material, dial the contrast back a bit.
Go almost black, and never go back
When choosing the color black, avoid using pure black. This is actually much harder on the eye, and most likely the last thing you intend is for your client or consumer to end up with a headache. Why is pure black harder on the eyes? Think about nature for a moment–can you picture anything that is 100% black? It’s rare, because it is so overpowering a color. Most things that we think are black, actually aren’t, they are simply dark, which means there is some light bouncing off of them. The best colors to use are colored-dark grays. These grays have some black, but also incorporate other tints, creating a more muted color that is much easier to read and less overpowering. Here’s a helpful hint: start with black and white, and go from there. You can always add more color later. This make sure that you are truly designing with the content in mind, rather than designing something distracting. Need some help with color? Check out a color palette generator like Coolors or ColorClaim.
Fix the alignment
We’ve all seen it before–that one column that is slightly off, or that picture that looks like it was dropped onto the page. Making sure that the alignment is right is one of the easiest and fastest ways to clean up a design. The fancy term you may hear used in graphic design is a “grid.” Why use one? Well, it helps to keep your design organized, for starters. You can easily align items, which in turns makes your design process go faster. Rather than guessing at where something may fit, a grid guides placement and positioning. Grids also help to make sure that your type is consistently aligned, and that one side of your design is not overpowering the other. You can also collaborate with others easier when you have a grid in place–what if you get sick and someone else has to finish your project? All they have to do is look at the grid that is already in place, and continue. And best of all? You can easily transfer a grid from one page to another, making a multi-page layout much easier and simpler.
Remember what we talked about earlier? If your client/consumer has to squint to read your information, you have a problem. Make sure that the font used is on the larger side, and there is proper spacing.
First things first…
Think about your layout
If you are looking for an important piece of information, do you want to have to navigate through a myriad of links, and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page? Of course not! Prioritize what is important, and make sure that it is easily accessible and immediately recognizable. Also think about comfort and flow in your design. We live in an era of touch-screen devices, and tend to hold our devices in similar ways. This means that there are some movements that are very natural, and others that are uncomfortable, or strain the fingers. Imagine you are holding your smart phone with your right hand (my apologies to all of the lefties out there). The thumb moves naturally and easily across the bottom two-thirds of the phone. Any content in this area is going to be easy to click or swipe. As you reach the top third of the device, it becomes harder to use just one hand, and the thumb has to stretch much further.
Looking for someplace to start? Google and Apple have spent many long hours getting everything that you need together in one spot so you don’t have to. Apple has something called the HIG–Human Interface Guidelines–which gives you all the information you need to design an iOS app. The Google Material spec also includes resources and components to help through the process. Go get designing!
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