Best Practices

From working out great concepts for a marketing campaign to deciding on graphic style, color strategy, layout, positioning, and hierarchy, there are several factors that will influence your design.

An understanding of key design principles and best practices can help you create graphics that look great while being in line with the institution’s brand.

General guidelines:
  • Remember the fundamentals: Color choices, fonts, and layout.
  • Keep your client/audience at the forefront of your design strategy. Just because the design appeals to you, it may not resonate with your audience.
  • Make sure the design is appropriate for the client and target audience.
  • Never underestimate the power of clean, straightforward design.
  • Avoid including too much information, which is especially true in print marketing. The goals are to pique interest, persuade people to visit your website, and/or pick up the phone.
  • Good design can add credibility to the institutional brand.
Design Tools
  • InDesign: Page design and layout for print and digital publishing
  • Photoshop: Image editing and compositing
    • Create and enhance photographs, illustrations, and 3D artwork. Simulate real-life paintings, adjust, crop, remove objects, retouch, and repair old photos. Play with color, effects, and more to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.
Web vs. Print: Colors and Images
  • Print:

    • Colors: Print production requires the four-color process, CMYK, which is based on properties of ink, cyan-magenta-yellow-black. When working on a design using the CMYK color space, it’s important to keep in mind that the colors on the screen don’t accurately represent how the colors will look when printed. Going through a proofing process is necessary to ensure the color translates correctly from screen to paper.

      CMYK colors are subtractive, starting with all colors and when colors are subtracted the outcome is white. This is because the colors absorb the light.
  • Images: Resolution for raster images (photos) must be a minimum of 250 dpi but 300 dpi is preferred. DPI (dots per inch) refers to the density of the dots of ink printed on an inch of printing surface. A screen quality image, which looks fine on your monitor, will often look ragged or pixelated when you print it. Photos should also be converted from RGB to CMYK.
  • Web:

    • Colors: Graphics and images require use of RGB, which is based on properties of light, and most suitable when viewed on screen. Achieving consistent color for the web can get tricky, since display capabilities vary from monitor to monitor and colors will look different depending on settings for brightness, contrast, etc.

      RGB colors are also known as “additive color,” because there are no colors and the colors are being added together to achieve further colors or until the outcome is white. This is because our eyes receive no reflected light and they perceive the color to be black.
  • Images: For web work, the general standard for acceptable quality images is 72 ppi and should be RGB. Pixelation (blurriness, distortion, loss of quality) occurs when a digital image is displayed online at a size larger than its original pixel dimensions. PPI (pixels per inch) involves the number of pixels (the square building blocks of a digital image) displayed in an inch of screen space.
Basic Principles of Graphic Design
  • Balance: Visual balance comes from arranging elements on the page so that no one section is heavier than the other, providing stability and structure to a design.
  • Proximity/Unity: Proximity maintains a relationship between items that go together. The elements don't have to be positioned closely together but they should be connected visually. (i.e., Are title elements together? Is contact information all in one place?)
  • Alignment: Aligning elements allow them to create a visual connection with each other. How you align type and graphics on a page and in relation to each other can make your layout easier or more difficult to read. The text alignment should aid readability.
  • Repetition/Consistency: Repeating design elements and consistent use of type and graphics styles guide your viewer’s eyes and helps them navigate your designs and layouts. Repetition is also crucial when it comes to branding design, both in terms of keeping the university branding consistent and in terms of tying items together.
  • Contrast: Contrast helps different design elements stand out. Using contrast can highlight important elements of the design. Contrast is easily achieved with color, but it can also occur with texture, type, and graphic elements.
  • Space: Designs that try to cram too much text and graphics onto the page are hard and sometimes impossible to read. White space gives your design breathing room, allowing for the viewers eyes to take a break. However, you can have too much white space if items float on the page without any anchor. Both positive and negative space should be considered in the design.