Bright is Beautiful


Color is worth a thousands words! You can communicate your idea, purpose and a feeling through the colors that you choose for a design. Color harmony is essential when creating a successful design.

When designing, you not only have to consider what colors look good together, but also how the colors affect the human brain emotionally and how it impacts the environment it’s going to live in culturally. Color is a BIG (and difficult) decision when designing anything…believe it or not!

Some examples on how colors affect us:

Red= Anger/scary

Blue= Calm

Green= Fresh/new

Yellow= Happy

TIP: Contrast and emphasis is KEY when trying to communicate an idea to the masses. When designing something that is going to be part of an intimate experience, you can consider analogous (similar) colors.

For Example:
Looking at the El Paso Chile Company packaging and L’Arte del Gelato logo (designed by the utterly brilliant Louise Fili) you will notice that the color scheme is the same. However, the El Paso Chile Company is more vibrant then the L’Arte del Gelato, which is more toned down. Look at them in perspective and ask yourself if they have utilized color appropriately for their respective company? The answer is….and why do you think so?ElPasoChileCoSlide2

Logo2A great website with an amazing amount of info about color is:



The Line Starts Here


Lines in art are like arrows! Use actual lines to create movement, point the viewer’s eye to an item of emphasis, underline words that are important, divide or highlight information. Hence, lines can be used as an element of the design or a function for the design. 

Designs and photo by Claudia de Almeida for Wired

In design you can also use lines of type for the same task of creating movement or even static energy.

Designs and photo by Claudia de Almeida for Real Simple

Typography overall is made up of lines and your choice of type is based on the message you want to convey.

Designs and photo by Claudia De Almeida for More


Is Graphic Design an Art?!


Many years ago when I was starting out, I had a heated discussion with a coworker about whether or not graphic design was an art. I said, “It is!” (I was 22 and couldn’t bare to think that I went to RISD for four years to NOT study ART!). He said, “It isn’t!” (The “discussion” went on and on— and I hated him for it!).


All graphic design products utilize any or all of the Elements and Principles of Art just as paintings, sculpture, illustration, and photography do (although some people don’t think photography is art…yet another post).

BIG IDEA: The Elements and Principles of Art are visual characteristics of a work that make up all art: line, shape, color, value, form, texture, space, balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, and unity. 

For you to make an engaging graphic work, you should and will utilize some of the Elements and Principles of Art. Read on for more details!

Livin’ in the Cloud


You won’t REALLY learn how to be a graphic designer until you dive into an computer app!

Some of the things that I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts won’t make sense until you open up a graphic design application and start fiddling around. There are industry standards for creating a variety of graphic design products that you MUST know.

Most, if not all, applications that are used in the graphic design industry are by Adobe and are available now. You can purchase a large suite of applications for $49.99 a month from Adobe Creative Cloud.

Below is a quick guide of what are the best programs for each design need:

InDesign: Print materials, simple interactive materials, apps with DPS (Print designers use Id)

Illustrator: Logos, illustrations, graphics, printed materials (logo designers use Il)

Photoshop: Print materials, logos, illustrations, graphics, photo editing, simple movies, gifs, apps with DPS (print designers, photographers, illustrators, painters, movie makers, and etc use Ps)

Lightroom: Organize, edit, and share photos (Used with Ps)

Dream Weaver: Design and develop websites (Web designers use Dw)

Muse: Design and publish websites without writing code (Web designers and novices use Mu)

SUGGESTION: If you can only purchase one application to get your feet wet, I would suggest getting Adobe Photoshop at $9.99 a month. It’s not the industry standard for print design and web, however if you can only afford one program, it has the best value to learn A LOT of skills. Later, you should get the program that fits your needs.

Great websites to learn about Adobe applications and how to use them:  

Space Matters


BIG IDEA: Graphic Design is an art that is all about the details! It’s about perfection! There is no room for error!

This brings us to the minute detail of the spacing between letters—kerning and/or tracking.

Kerning: The visually appropriate placement of the proximity of letters in relation to their neighboring letters in a word.

Tracking: The equal spacing of letters within a word.

Kerning and tracking a word appropriately could mean the difference of creating a calm, sophisticated and serious feeling OR a very stressed, busy feeling.

I’m one for using loose kerning (letters spaced further apart then is normal) for headlines/titles/logos that should be modern or peaceful, like Athleta®. However, for a very active or pressured feeling I will use tight kerning (letters that are spaced very close together then is normal), like FedEx®.

Normal kerning, on the other hand, is your standard spacing where the only thing that you are using to convey the vibe of your company is the typeface you use, like Target®.

One thing to note: When kerning your letters, consider the positive and negative space the letters are creating as they sit next to each other. It is acceptable that the actual spacing might not be equal, the important part is that the spacing should be visually appropriate.

Tracking is good for when you have to cut or even add space in body copy, but a real designer (sorry folks!) doesn’t use tracking within headlines/titles/logos because they are so big that every detail matters.


Not only are these terms important for you to know so that you look really smart when you are amongst other graphic designers, but you WILL need to know these terms when designing with any design program (Adobe Creative Cloud apps recommended!)

More about programs in my next entry.

Make Some Space


Space is a major element of design that will be used everywhere in your design and it’s not limited to typography!

Leading is an important term that refers to the spacing between the horizontal lines of type (for historical background go to:

When it comes to headlines and titles, you may either use a lot of space between lines for a more quiet and calm composition or use less space to give your composition more stress and energy. In either case, legibility is imperative.

As seen below, two posters designed by the brilliant Paula Scher are using leading in a creative way to help not only convey a message, but to engage people to go to the ballet and theater.


Body copy, on the other hand, should be judged by eye. Too much space between lines or too little space can make your message hard to read. If you can read it comfortably, so can your reader. 

TIP: Be honest with yourself as a designer…even if your design looks “cool,” always ask yourself, “Am I effectively communicating my message?” If the answer is, “ehhhh” then it’s time to revisit your design….Again, be honest!

(Font) Size Matters


A headline of a story is large for a reason—to get the readers’ attention and to emphasize the main idea.

Fonts are measured in points. Point size of a font is the measurement of the height of a font that you are going to use within a design (72 pts. per inch). Utilizing the font size appropriately can help communicate your idea appropriately.

For example, your font size can help emphasize a sentiment or hide a photo credit. Hint: When designing any printed material and want people to read it comfortably, don’t go any smaller than 9pt. (Again, rules are made to be broken…) 

Fonts are measured differently for web design. Here is a great site for more info about website type setting:

Serif or Sans Serif?

p4w-hvqtpom-shaun-bell-1Since graphic design hinges on typography, it’s important to know how to discern type and why you should do so. There are two top tier categories that describe the appearance of type: Serif and Sans Serif. The difference is basic, but it can make a huge impact on how you communicate a concept.

SERIF:  Serif typefaces are those that have a line, or foot, at the bottom or top of a stroke.

SANS SERIF:  San Serif typefaces are those that do not have feet.
Why Does This Matter?… BIG IDEA AHEAD!
When you are choosing a typeface for your project, you have to think of it as the most important thing that will create the overall feeling of your project. Sans serif typefaces are usually very clear and easy to read. In addition, they could be perceived as economical or modern. In comparison to serif typefaces, which can be ornate and complex. Serif typefaces are considered to be more old fashioned, however, they are also thought of as sophisticated.

Rules Are Meant to Be Broken:
A typographic rule is that large bodies of sans serif type is harder to read in comparison to serif type. You are the designer, so you do what is appropriate to your design…just thought I would put it out there…


qghgdbbsnm8-elaine-casapIn the world of graphic design, we use the terms font or typeface to reference the visual style of letters that will make up your words (i.e. Times New Roman). To keep this concept really simple because no one really cares about the difference (if you run into someone who does…play along and smile!): Typeface and font are virtually the same thing.

There are a trillion typefaces to express various concepts or feelings and the right one will help make you a star and the wrong one will make you just another face in the crowd!

When I’m looking for an awesome font, I go to:

What is Graphic Design?


When I was in high school, deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I asked my art teacher, “What is graphic design?” He had the most basic answer: “Anything that involves words.” He pointed to a bag of pretzels and said, “This is graphic design.”

My point of view is anything and everything that involves communication of an idea can be considered graphic design. Some very few examples would be as simple as street signs and complex as websites, brochures, apps, logos and etc. Since graphic design is all about communication, that would also include photography, illustration and painting.

GRAPHIC DESIGN IS…the combination of imagery and typography composed in an engaging way to communicate an idea.