Blank to Beautiful

abimaster | June 3, 2011

Staring upon the blank pages of this sketchbook, I take pen in hand and force lines of ink to make visual sense.

After a few sketches only waste space on the page, I look deeper. Beyond the 60 lb sketchbook paper lies the ten ton beast. It’s CREATIVE BLOCK staring back at me, using this flat sketchbook as his window to laugh at my struggle.

We’re here at ground zero of conceptualization. I’m building a visual brand language from scratch. The client has offered little but a name and a phone number and it’s my job to foster the awesome. The transfer of ideas from my mind to this blank canvas isn’t always so seamless.

What can artists, designers, or writers do when faced with the inevitable CREATIVE BLOCK? How do we find the doors that lead through this blind struggle? When you can’t see the end of the road, the solution to the problem, the climax of the story, the punchline of a joke, it seems impossible to grasp everything in-between. But the journey itself ultimately becomes the meat of your work.

Now, slowly tracing his ugly and obvious features, I begin to determine what I DON’T want this final concept to be and I decide to fight the beast. I’m motivated to make it different, make it better, and beat that ugly creative block. The chip on my shoulder pours onto the page in swift angular strokes, carefully assembled to build something beautiful.

The drawings here, not always immediately relevant to the task, begin to create a path of visual style. Those styles, in their rawest of forms, are the foundations for which a brand might build it’s character. It’s here, at the tip of this pen, that a brand is born.

The confidence and persistence needed to overcome that ugly creative block isn’t always easy to find. It lies somewhere in your love of the process. It’s the techniques that you know inside-out but are simply catering to suit a particular problem or client. I must maintain my passion for the process to drown the creative block beneath a sea of inked ideas. Those ideas now in infancy, eventually become the refined concepts that represent a brand to the world. This is what makes the process worth every minute of potential struggle.

Graphic design remains an integral part of our strategic and collaborative approach at A. Bright Idea. Graphics lingo can often overwhelm those outside of the industry. So, for this month’s Top 10 list, A. Bright Idea demystifies 10 graphic design terms.

1. White Space

White space, or the empty space within a design, allows the viewer to absorb all of the information by moving their eye throughout the layout, without being overwhelmed by content.

White Space Example

2. Typeface

A typeface consists of a series of fonts (light, bold, italic, condensed, extended) and a full range of characters, such as, numbers, letters, marks and punctuations within a design or document.

Typeface Example

3. Concept

The end result of the creative process – the concept. After going through the brainstorming, experimenting and exploration, designers execute and evaluate many concepts as potential solutions to the design problem before narrowing to a handful of solutions for the project.

4. Creative Process

There are four steps to the creative process: Preparation (research, collect data, pull from other sources of inspiration), Incubation (percolation, review material collected and brainstorm connections between thoughts and ideas), Illumination (the a-ha moment when an idea is developed) and Implementation (execution of the idea, and evaluation if it’s fits the problem). Designers use this creative process to develop ideas and solutions to all projects.

5. Vector

Vector graphics allow expansion or reduction of artwork without any loss in quality using curves, points, lines and polygons. Typical vector file formats are EPS, PDF and Ai (Adobe Illustrator).

6. Mockup

A re-creation of the original design at actual size, and sometimes on the actual paper the final piece will be printed on. Mockups show how the printed piece will fold, align and trim, and remains helpful in seeing actual image and text size. Although not color accurate, a mockup proves useful when provided to print vendors so they can ensure the final piece will match designer’s specifications.

7. Grid

The composition of a document and the arrangement of images, text, colors, graphics and illustrations on the page comprise the grid. Designers often use a grid to layout a document, in order to maintain consistent column widths and graphic alignment. This remains especially important when designing a multi-page document.

Grid Example

8. CMYK/RGB

Two different types of color mode – CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the colors used in the four-color print process. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, the colors that make up the light spectrum for viewing on-screen, such as computer monitors.

9. Offset/digital

Digital printing remains best for fast, customized small-medium quantities, and offset printing best for high quality pieces at large quantities. Offset printers can print on individual sheets of paper, with a variety of papers to choose from, while digital printers are generally limited to a smaller sheet, selection and size. The clarity of a piece printed offset uses a different printing plate for each ink color. A digital press uses one high resolution file to electronically print the piece, like a copier.

10. Widow/orphan

Widows and orphans are the words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph, left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph. A widow describes a paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page/column, thus separated from the remainder of the text. An orphan can be one of two things: a paragraph-opening line appearing by itself at the bottom of a page/column; or a word, part of a word, or very short line appearing by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans result in too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page.

Widow/Orphan Example