Graphic Design 101 for PR Professionals

Print Design and Application. This was the course I was most excited for in Mohawk College's Public Relations Graduate Certificate program, simply because I had zero practical knowledge on the subject. Although I am no print design genius, I can proudly claim that since September, I've designed two posters, a resume infographic, a postcard, my own logo, and a brochure. Programs I am now competent in, include InDesign and Photoshop. For those of you who are more confident in your PR writing capabilities than your design skills, as myself, I think you'll appreciate my Graphic Design 101 for PR professionals! I'll begin by enlightening you of common ways PR professionals tend to drive graphic designers crazy, and then I'll close with a summary of the principles and elements of graphic design. The former will help you better collaborate with graphic designers in your professional life, while the latter provides you with a framework for successful design.

How to Drive Designers Crazy versus How to Make Them Happy

Before my professor got us students to create our own designs, she highlighted the fact that, we, as PR-professionals-in-training, will most likely not be doing a lot of graphic designing in the workplace. Instead, we'll be providing graphic designers with instructions for our client's or organization's posters, newsletters, branding, etc. Ultimately, there are certain ground rules when interacting with designers:

The Do Not's: 
1. Don't expect graphic designers to have a one-day turn around with your projects. Just like any other successful PR tactic, effective graphic design takes time. Plan accordingly.

2. "Too much white space" - what not to say to a graphic designer. You may think that you're getting your message across by adding as much detail as possible, but in reality, you're scaring your audience away.

3. If you need your graphic designer to make a change to a project, don't give vague feedback. For example, instead of saying, "I don't like the colours," it would be much more helpful to say, "Please change the colour scheme to incorporate the colours in our company's logo."

The Do's:  
1. Do have a concept.

2. Do have a deadline (refer to Point #1 on "The Do Not's" list).

3. Understand that a good graphic designer will advise against your logo taking up a lot of space.

Elements of Design versus Principles of Design

The elements and principles of design are like The Canadian Press Stylebook to your graphic design work - They provide a framework.

Elements of Design
1. Line - Most often, lines are functional rather than decorative; they should serve a purpose. Invisible lines can also be created by the way things are laid out, such as margins at the edges of an ad.
2. Space - Space determines how readable your graphic design is, by creating balance and unity (refer to Point #2 of "The Do Not's" List).

3. Value (or Tone) - Colours must be dark or light enough to reflect the proper mood of your design.

4. Form - The dimensional structure of your design, similar to shape.

5. Texture - The use of textures should have a purpose and support the message you're communicating. It is best used as a background and as a supporting role, instead of the focal point.

6. Colour - All colours look best when they can be converted to black and white. So, choose design and layout first, and then add colour.

7. Shape - Fun fact: People are usually drawn to images of people, animals, inanimate objects, headings, and then type.

Principles of Design
1. Balance - A feeling of balance results when the elements of design are arranged symmetrically, asymmetrically or radially to create the impression of equality in weight or importance.

2. Emphasis (or dominance) - The part of the design that catches the viewer's attention. Emphasis can be achieved through placement, contrast, colour, size, and repetition.

3. Movement - The path the viewer's eye takes through the design, usually leading the focal area.

4. Pattern - A regular arrangement of alternated or repeated elements (e.h. shapes, lines, colours)

5. Repetition - Associated with pattern. Repetition creates unity within the work.

6. Proportion - The feeling of unity created when all parts relate well to each other.

7. Rhythm - When one or more design elements are used repeatedly to create an organized environment.

8. Variety - The use of several elements to create a sense of rhythm.

9. Unity - Unity helps the design to be seen as one design instead of randomness.

Congratulations, you've completed my Graphic Design 101 for PR Professionals! Now, it's time to get out there, and overcome the proverbial mountain of Adobe Creative Cloud. Hint: the learning curve takes time. Lots and lots of time.

Signing Off,

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