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Design: Old school versus new


Graphic Design stylesWhen it comes to graphic design, some companies still believe in the past, preferring an image based on traditional designs and layouts. Many designers on the other hand, want to move forward embracing modernity, asymmetry, a clean look and white space. It seems designers are always trying to push the boundaries and many talk about “educating” their clients into a more contemporary appreciation of design. Some clients, seen as traditional and too safe, can react by being unbending. But who’s right?

There’s a quick way to get a sense of where design is at by visiting your local newsagent. In one fell swoop you can view over 100 magazine masthead and front cover designs. At the high design end is the clean, uncluttered, minimalism of the architecture magazines. At the other, we see that time has not moved on for Doll and Bear magazine and Down Under Quilts (which is actually the title of the magazine; not an instruction on how to use them).

Magazine covers are the ultimate design test. When you boil it down, the only tangible difference from one to another is the surface graphics. This highlights how important design is in creating a brand entity, and magazines are a good gauge of taste and preferences. No one would hold them up as the pinnacle of design but consider the women’s weeklies. They had settled into a large circulation with graphics designed for comfort but then along came Who Weekly. With a bold fresh look involving simpler layouts, sans serif fonts and black and white photos, Who immediately broke into the women’s magazine territory. And interestingly, it not only began to steal circulation in the women’s market; it also made sizeable inroads with male audiences. It seemed men also felt comfortable looking at Who – true it was still a frivolous gossip mag, but it didn’t present as old fashioned and “mumsie”. Clearly the modern design was acceptable and even preferred. It gave men “permission to buy” as we say in marketing.

Over the years, market research programs have unequivocally shown that consumers would always rather look forward than back. Time and again they gravitate towards sans serif over serif typefaces, clean layouts and white space, and restrained style with a degree of aspiration. They disdain if a presented design scheme is in an old style, or worse, just plain boring. The challenge with contemporary design, however, is in creating brands, and their accompanying visual language. They need sufficient character to be truly distinctive.

The answer is not to leave design to chance. At Kwik Kopy we have expanded our design and advisory services to help clients with such issues. If possible, be sure that the raw materials you are working with – logo, colour palette and typography – present a distinctive combination. Then aim to keep tightly to that brand image from one communication to the next. This consistency will help to build that distinctiveness that every brand seeks.

For more handy design and printing tips, head to your nearest Kwik Kopy Centre.

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