Sunday, March 2
The Good Word - Discussion #6
Writing is a topic of conversation usually left out when talking about graphic design. We use typography, letterforms, quotation marks, commas and such, but we rarely talk about the words beyond kerning and point size. What do the words really mean?
A great deal actually. Words provide the content which leads to the design, connotation, choice of imagery, choice of color, choice of typeface and size... it leads to everything. The words contained within a design are often times more important than the design. It's the reason why the design exists in the first place—to communicate what the written word has to say. Therefore, and it's a big therefore, we need to read the text we've been given in order to properly understand how to design for it. *gasp* Show of hands... how many of you have read and understand ALL of the text you're using for your current project? Have many of you went forward with your designs without having read everything (and I do mean down the the last sentence)? I thought so.
Reading your copy is important to figuring what the design should even look like. It's the subtle nuance of how something is worded, the bullets points which show how the product works and the intro paragraph with it's flowery boast of how wonderful something is. In this information is clues as to what the design should look like. Do you think a designer working on a Stephen King novel cover or Nike's next ad campaign isn't going to spend the time to read the text given to them? Understanding that link between what something looks like and what something says is key. And this is called? Anyone? Bueller? Beuller?
Visual verbal synergy.
Oh yes, a term you've heard used time and time again. The more support the visual has for the copy and the copy has for the visual the more successful the design will be. A no-brainer you say? Not always. Not all copy a client gives you will be clear as far as imagery/design is concerned. Sometimes you'll need to communicate an abstract concept or communicate for subject matter you're not very familiar with and possibly don't even understand. You have a few choices at that point.
1. Trudge forward with the design and try to come up with something that looks cool. This will only hold water with the client if you are a true master of B.S. and can convince them to use the design.
2. Speak with the client and ask pertinent questions about the material you've been given. Maybe they can shed some light on the subject. This has a 50-50 percent chance of working. Half of the time the client will speak to you in lay mans' terms and be able to simplify the abstract nature of the business. Half of the time they'll tell you what you've already read not clarifying anything.
3. Do your own research on the matter. Do a search for what it is you don't understand and learn about it. Expand your mind. The more you know about your client and the service/product they provide, the better insight you have into what kind of design they need. Please notice I said need, not want. They may want something fluffy and pretty but may need something a little more functional. It's your job to help determine what's best for their needs.
Understanding a client's needs is exactly what you should do to develop a good relationship with them. In turn, a good relationship with a client means more work, more money and more stability for your career.
Aside from the information a client gives you, what else can you do to better understand your client and their needs? How can you get inside their heads and determine what kind of design is appropriate for them? What can you do to build a better relationship with someone you could potentially spend years working with?