Graphic Design 101

Social media has changed the way we do life. If we want to share a thought or idea on our favorite social media site, boring words no longer are attractive.  Facebook has started letting you create images with text on them to emphasize your point. YouVersion Bible app lets you make images inside the app of verses you love. Instagram now lets you write on top of the picture you just took.  This is essentially graphic design.

Graphic Design /ˈɡrafik dəˈzīn,dēˈzīn/ 
the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.

Working in the church, I have always had to make graphics. It is something I love and enjoy doing. There's something fulfilling when I create a great graphic blending text, font and images to display the theme or thought to it's next level.  In a sense you are being a visual storyteller.  In all honesty, it isn't very hard to make good looking graphics as long as you have a decent eye and you pay attention to a few guidelines. I thought I'd share a few things I've learned over the years working with high productivity apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. NOTE: most of these tips will be geared toward creating graphics for churches or social media promotions. Obviously, if you are creating a folding 3 page brochure, hopefully you have tackled some of these easy ideas already, or maybe they will be a good reminder for you.

In the world we live in today, most people do not need professional apps like Photoshop to make a graphic to share on the web. There's tons of choices of fun apps that give you everything but the text.  Some apps you have to pay for each graphic, some you don't.  Font Candy is a great example.  Another great example is ReType (one of my favorites). Canva is another popular app.  All you have to do is type in your message and it generates backgrounds or pictures and arranges the font in a fun order. If you already have an idea of a graphic you want to make, I suggest you use Keynote on your IOS device or Mac. Keynote is a very powerful app when it comes to graphic design. Design a slide and export it as an image and you are good to go.

Now, on to the main core elements of graphic design:

Step 1: The concept

Everything inside your graphic says something. Whether it's a person, or a color, it's all saying something. The first step to designing a graphic is to think through exactly what you want to say in your graphic. What mood do you want it to have? What is the main idea of the graphic? What are you trying to accomplish? Who is your audience? What is the call to action?

A few tips on the concept:
    1. Focus on what you want the viewer to do (ex. go to my website).  If the image is just for creative enjoyment, what do you want the viewer to feel? (ex. wow, thats a beautiful verse).
    2. Dial in either your style. Everything in your graphic describes your style. Think through every aspect and what it style it is depicting. (crayon fonts are childish, etc). Even if you like them, certain aspects of your graphics will not work with your concept. Always keep your concept in your mind while working through the graphic.
    3. If you are making a graphic for your church, remember your church's branding (digital identity). What are their colors? Will your concept match their logo?

Step 2: The Background

Once you have your concept, I almost always start with the background. Take a photo, select an image, or create a color/texture that will help portray your concept. 

A few tips on backgrounds:
    1. Empty space is a big part of creating a clean looking graphic. Don't select a cluttered image
    2. A small trick to hiding your background is to add a black box over the entire image and lower the opacity until the text stands out (see "What's your story" example above).
    3. If the background doesn't connect to the main concept, it's time for a new background
    4. Simplicity is very popular right now.
    5. Gradients are HUGE in 2017. Look at your phone, so many of your app icons are gradients (Instagram, Vimeo, All of the Apple apps, Nest, Facebook). Here's a cool website that helps you pick out good looking gradients.
    6. Remember the moods of color

Step 3: The Text

  The font you use is almost as important as the text itself. Fonts can date a graphic faster than anything. When you are thinking of which font you want to use, make sure it matches everything else in your concept.

A few tips on Text and font:
   1. If you haven't already, do some research on font classifications. It will help you understand what emotion a font describes.
   2. Only use 2 types of fonts in your graphic (besides your logo). Typically I'll find a thick font and a thin font to accent. Usually you can find a second font in the same family.
   3. Use size to emphasize your point. This will add dynamics to your image.
   4. Look at other images and logos to see what fonts are popular right now. Try and recreate a look of another image to expand your experience and bag of tricks. 
   5. Find a font you love and use it instead of trying to find a new font every time.
   6. Never ever stretch a font. gross. Change the size if you are trying to match it up.

Step 4: Arrangement

This is where your graphic all comes together. Once you have your background and font/text, take time and layout your image.

A few tips on Arrangement:
   1. If you haven't heard of the rule of thirds, this is a must. Use this in both your background and your text. 
   2. The biggest problem with most graphics is space. If you think your graphic is too crowded, figure out what doesn't need to be in the in the graphic. 
   3. Let it set. Create the final product, and then come back to it in 24 hours. You'll see what you don't like. If you don't have the time, ask someone else or compare it next to another graphic.

Obviously, there is much more to graphic design, but these will help you get started on making great graphics. The key is experience. Start with what you know and improve by replicating what you see. Take a picture of a good looking graphic at Starbucks and try and replicate it when you get home with your concept.  Here's a link to some of the other graphics I've made. If you ever have a question of how I created something, feel free to ask!


What are some of your favorite design tips?