Graphic Design: Developing ‘A Look’

by Jonathan Galbreath

24 June, 2013

Some of the adjectives we’ve heard about our work are: clean, bold, simple.

The more we develop “A Look” for each of our clients, the more we can define The Arland Group’s look.

Essentially, creating a diverse portfolio with points of uniformity allows prospective clients and partners to understand what we are capable of—while we maintain brilliant communication and relevance in a given marketplace. Conversely, it enables our creative team to weed through all the emerging technologies, graphic trends and the latest addition or updates to social media and get to the heart of what differentiates The Arland Group from our competitors.

In my opinion, shopping “A Look” starts with an agency’s branding. You can’t blow that.

Design is something that shouldn’t have parameters. A lot of what we do is instinctual: It must remain that way. Otherwise, we lose what folks respect us for … an original, unique and fully-custom creative solution to your advertising and marketing needs.

However, after 15 years as a designer, I’ve come to settle on some rules. I say rules in italic because all the rules can be broken. Herein lies the turmoil of a definitive designer, a mainstream audience and a real-world deadline.

Below are a handful of rules that we use on a daily basis to help us create approachable, award-winning design while saving our creative souls.

1. WTF (What’s the Font)
In the beginning, we had a font library with an obnoxious amount of families. Now, we have a catalog of about 200 font families that we can choose from. Probably two dozen of which are used over and over. One tried and true font family (especially those with optional condensed glyphs) will give you enough variety to organize even the most overly-bulleted client copy :)

2. Read Between the Lines
If music is the space between the notes, then design is the space between the pieces of content. Once you’ve found your sweet spot(s), creating your own set of rules for font size variations and  leading, kerning, spacing images, headers, subheads, spaces in between paragraphs, margins, padding … will save you precious time and frustration.

3. Justifiably So (What?)
Why are you using anything, but left justified copy? Instinctual? OK, do whatever feels right … just ask yourself if it’s necessary. Does right justification really help?

4. A Refined Palette
Color can affect you in ways that are completely subconscious. It does dictate emotion. Where does your color inspiration come from? What are the environments that make you feel peaceful, excited, anxious or powerful  Cataloging color from emotional observation allows you to extend you personal concept and create cohesion across a portfolio.

5. Am I Done?
When a design starts to take shape, we designers can overdo it. Being able to edit yourself can be challenging. Get your design to a point where you can just stare at it. Be able to just admire what you’ve done. Now, shut off a few layers and ask yourself if it starts to feel better.