5 Graphic Design Tips You Can Learn From Painting: Tip #4 – Observe Everything

Blog Entry 4.2 [ print | web | video | illustration ]


Fine artists are taught to observe everything. Graphic designers should too.

Painters become students of their craft and subjects. They draw from life. They look at it carefully. They study pictures in books. They draw and paint those pictures. Then they draw some more from life. They go to museums and look at other peopleʼs art. They draw and study it. You get the picture:) …

Being a successful and innovative designer means you are committed to being a lifelong student. You must observe everything. Yes, award-winning design is good to look at. But donʼt stop there. Look at great photography. Look at art. Watch movies and listen to music. Take hikes and look at nature. Even within the areas of print and web, for example, look at work that is completely different than what you might be currently working on. All of this observation will inspire your work in truly original ways. It keeps you fresh and excited as a designer, open to new possibilities, and striving toward improvement.

5 Graphic Design Tips You Can Learn from Painting: Tip #3 – Use Good Materials

Blog Entry 4.1 [ print | web | video | illustration ]

Anyone who has ever painted, be it in first grade or professionally, has, at one time or another, used crappy supplies. They are so tempting, so cheap, and schools are full of them. Hereʼs the thing—you can sometimes make some pretty good work out of poor-quality paints and paper. It sure makes it harder though.

When you graduate into using slightly better materials you realize why that piece of Arches paper or professional set of watercolors cost a little more. They produce beautiful results, and you the artist, have a lot less strain to make it so.

Design, once again, is the same. Good typefaces are worth their weight in gold. Use them. Thereʼs a reason typeface designers spend years perfecting each individual weight and kerned letter—so in the heat of battle, you wonʼt have to. Yes, you can make cheesy true type fonts work for you, but try hand-kerning body copy—itʼs not for the faint of heart. The same can be applied to using good photography, solid color palettes, beautiful high-resolution textures, and so on. Hereʼs the good news: using good materials is not always an issue of cost. A lot of times, itʼs simply knowing where to find them, and sharing on the internet has cast aside many limitations.

5 Graphic Design Tips You Can Learn from Painting: Tip #2 – Value First, Then Color

Blog Entry 4.0 [ print | web | video | illustration ]


We all love color. I mean, who doesnʼt? It often carries with it the mood of a piece and that punch that can really make it sing. But what many painters know is that color is secondary to value—the balance of lights and darks in a painting. Itʼs this careful distribution of highlights, midtones, and shadow areas that often makes a painting successful—regardless of the final colors chosen to finish it off. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was known for first painting in sepia tones and then slowly building up glazes of color over time–and he was a pretty good painter.

Graphic Design is the same. Often, itʼs the areas with the most contrast that our eye goes to first when looking at anything, be it the Mona Lisa or a magazine ad. This is why, like painters, some designers choose to solve problems first with black and white solutions. If an image is clear, striking, and distinctive in black and white, the color result is only going to plus it. However, if the composition of a spread, layout, ad, or poster is muddled, and itʼs unclear where we should look first, then second, keeping the eye forever traveling around the piece, there is no color that will truly save it.

5 Graphic Design Tips You Can Learn from Painting (a series)

Blog Entry 3.9 [ print | web | video | illustration ]

Tip #1: Big Brushes to Small Brushes
Most painters will tell you that it’s wise to start with your biggest brushes when painting. The logic being that itʼs those first bold strokes, where you are trying to capture the essence of the piece, that matter most. You can detail something to death, but if the feeling and structure are wrong, the piece is never going to look right.

The same is true in design. Start with the overall impression, or layout, not the choice in typefaces or individual photos. This is why, like painters, many graphic designers do small thumbnails drawings or concepts at a small size. You can usually feel within a few strokes if the piece has the guts to successfully communicate the message. And in those early stages, when youʼre still using “big brushes,” youʼre free to explore solutions, step back, and see if the overall impact is where it needs to be before spending hours justifying text, nudging around pictures, and fine-tuning the layout.

Creating an Integrated Campaign

Blog Entry 3.6 [ print | web | video | illustration ]

We had the privilege of working on a very important educational campaign this year for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) to bring awareness about human trafficking. We started by developing a logo and brand identity for the campaign.

LIRS has done a terrific job of incorporating the campaign into a variety of mediums and materials throughout the year to build awareness about the growing travesty of human trafficking. From the logo design, web banners, educational materials, moving video testimonial, and an interactive e-learning tool, Freedom House was able to effectively incorporate the campaign into a variety of mediums.

Check out the sampling of our work – especially the moving testimonial from a young woman that escaped the horrors of trafficking and the interactive e-learning presentation. We were shocked to learn that human trafficking is a $32 billion/year criminal industry – it is more far reaching than most realize.

Updating a Brand: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

Blog Entry 3.3 [ print | web | video | illustration ]

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the leading organizations in helping provide services for immigrants and refugees resettling in the United States. LIRS has a long history of outreach and advocacy to help newcomers find safety and hope in our communities. This past year the organization was looking to “freshen up” their brand. They wanted to stay true to established brand colors, fonts, and guidelines, but wanted to bring a new warmth and life to their materials.

Working on the LIRS account has been fun for our team! We love hearing the stories of lives being restored, and have enjoyed stretching our creative wings to find compassionate, engaging and new ways to tell the compelling stories of immigrants and refugees and the work of LIRS.

One of the biggest successes of 2012 has been the annual report! Feedback has been remarkable, and many commented on how it read like a storybook, more than an annual report. One supporter even told the staff how she took the piece home and read it to her family around the dinner table! Read the full annual report online.

Here are some samples of LIRS’s materials before:


LIRS Old Materials


And here are some of the updated materials:

LIRS New Materials

And here is the new LIRS website:

LIRS New Website



Logo Development

Blog Entry 1.5 [ print | web | video | illustration ]

A company’s logo is the anchor of their branding effort. All corporate identification packages and branding efforts begin and end with the development of a well-designed and impactful logo. Well thought out logos will help define a business and establish its personality. It is definitely not something a company should leave to chance.

Professional design firms have the ability to take a firm’s vision and translate it into a graphical representation of the company. High-quality logo design captures the spirit of the business by using color, shape and other design techniques to tell a company’s story.

Our latest logo design is for Paige Gradishar Photography. The client wanted her name included in the logo, and she wanted a clean design that was simple and sophisticated. We believe our use of font and color accomplishes that goal. http://www.earlyconnections.org