Design tips

Designing everyday tasks …

… Otherwise entitled, “How to fill a blank page”

I think about how things look all the time. We are very slowly renovating (sounds way more glamorous than it is) our Victorian house, and because I work from home, am home with the children a lot, and rate myself quite highly on the introvert scale … I spend a lot of time in our house. So I spend many hours imagining how our house should look: what shape the furniture needs to be, what colours will lighten everything up, and how can we make modest rooms feel big. This is something I genuinely love to do – daydreaming how I’m going to turn a fairly ordinary woodchip-covered cottage-house, into a smart, minimal, dreamy, LivingEtc-worthy super-cool period house. (This will become my life’s work, I suspect …)

The way I approach my design work is the same. What is the text going to tell people? How am I going to make this copy turn into the most beautiful, cool and engaging book that I can? Do I need other people to help me, or can I do this all myself?

These questions can be related to anything, when designing or creating a document is involved – be it a marketing poster, a website, an invitation, a book, a business card, even a set of instructions. So below I have listed a few key things to think about the next time you have a document to design:

Who is this piece for?

Who is my end-user? Is it a customer or client? Is it a child or a parent? The answer to this question should determine how you choose a suitable font. It should also help you decide what images are appropriate, and the format of the content you are creating. It may influence what colours you use – do you want to attract men or women, or both?


Logos or branding

If your document is a piece of marketing, you will want to show your brand logo or name – this helps to build your brand story. It also helps people engage with you and your brand, and will help them understand who is behind the content. The more they can see your branding, the more they will remember you.


Fonts

Fonts indicate a lot without many of us even noticing. They are a bit like clever cats, having the ability to make us see and do things we didn’t even realise! A well-chosen font will mean the difference between people reading your content, and giving up after the second line. If the font is for full paragraphs of text, you probably shouldn’t choose something too decorative and twiddly. If it’s a font for a picture book, have a look at the illustrations, and try to find a font that reflects the shape of the drawings – if the characters have very round faces, a font with very rounded letters will match really well.


Images

When I am organising any poster or page in a book, it is always a good idea to see what images you have that you can use. Get them on the page and see how big they can potentially go – this can help you build a shape to your layout. It can also be a good way of shaping the direction of your text.
Likewise, images can be used as graphic holding devices for your text. If you don’t have any photos or illustrations to use, creating graphic holding devices (eg. a cloud shape with your text inside) can be a great way to create a shape and narrative to your page.


Hierarchy of information

This is a big one for marketing content. Understanding what information is most important will guide the font weights and sizes you use. Titles and sub-headers or introductions should be clear and pull the reader/customer in. Underneath that, your main copy, or body copy should be clear but can be smaller as there will be more of it. The hierarchy of information will tell your customer the key information they need to know – make sure key facts are clear, maybe bulleted and not hidden.


Colour

This subject seems a little extravagant after all the other headings. I love to use colour, but often work in black and white, with maybe one colour – when I am first building my layouts. This helps me to get the order of content and the shapes on the page correct. Once I am happy with a layout, and the text is reading well, then I start to introduce colour.

I hope you find these suggestions useful. Over time I will expand on all of these. Taking the time to implement these ideas will really lift the way your content is presented, and therefore enhance your brand, book or business. … As well as making you look like a cool hipster-design dude … Win-win I reckon! x

 

Projects

Believing in your own story

Sometimes I wonder if it is pride mixed with a little (or maybe even a lot of) vanity that makes me so determined to publish my own book.

I am passionate about my book, and I believe that it is good.

I have been turned down by several traditional publishers with a picture book, and now my best option is to publish myself.  But if I’ve been rejected by traditional publishers so many times, perhaps I should accept that maybe my book is just not that good? Perhaps it isn’t, and maybe I should listen?

However, I am determined. I am passionate about my book, and I believe that it is good. I believe that children and their grown-ups will enjoy reading it, looking at the pictures, and mimicking the funny words that are housed within it. I understand that it is a little niche, and unusual, but at the heart is a rhyming story and some very colourful pictures.

What’s got me thinking is why I am so determined to publish this book? This is a book that I began at art college, and have revisited many times – 12 years altogether! If I just started working on a new book, I could easily address some of the points that hold this one back. I have ideas for three more picture books that I want to do. Maybe I should just apply myself to those?

But I’m not. And here’s the for why. It is nearly ready. It will take me a very long time to get a whole new book designed, written and illustrated, even if I know what it will be. Also … And here’s the big one. My husband and I both work as hard as we can. We regularly have to dip into my tax pot to make it to the end of the month or pay the childcare fees, or make the next purchase to continue doing our house up. So essentially an extra revenue stream, however meagre would be handy!

I am determined to make this book work for me.

And I would of course be lying if I pretended that I’m not hoping it magically becomes a bestseller – we’re all allowed our dreams, right?!

I suppose the point is, that I am determined to make this book work for me. I don’t need to publish it for my own vanity, I want to publish it because I want to earn some money from it. I could here compare myself to the Brontë sisters, or Jane Austen, or Beatrix Potter, or J.K Rowling, or indeed any ambitious entrepreneur. Indeed, what do all these people have in common (besides all having written some of my favourite prose)? They were all determined to make their creativity work for them.

Sometimes I think it is crass for a Creative to say that they wish to earn money from being creative. Surely all us Creatives just do it for the love? Well – Spoiler alert! – No, actually. We creative bods also need to pay the food shop, or the childcare fees, or need to knock down the dining room wall.

So, I am choosing to believe that my book is good enough to pay it’s way. I am choosing to believe in my story, so that we can maybe get the Industrial-Rustic kitchen-diner of our dreams a little quicker! And that is definitely a story worth believing in.