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The future is a visual one. These days, people often share images that communicate a wealth of nuanced information (rather than relying on words), and visual literacy is becoming a requirement. Given this new reality, how can we communicate with and engage our communities?
Meggan Frost, public services librarian for Paul Smith's College in upstate New York, gave a knockout presentation on graphic design recently for the Nebraska Library Commission. She explained that when something is designed well, it makes us want to get closer to it. It makes us pay attention.
She offered four fundamentals of graphic design to guide us in creating materials that will engage others, as well as three useful shortcuts — plus some bonus information on how to find inspiration.
Here are Meggan's tips on the four fundamentals of graphic design.
When you're setting up your layout, ask yourself the following questions:
Since it can be really paralyzing to stare at a computer screen, you could try making a really rough sketch on paper of where the elements could go. Then go to the computer and put them in. Print your draft and take a step back. Ask yourself the questions again.
Make improvements, and repeat as necessary. The above image shows an example of Meggan reworking a newsletter layout: on the left is her first effort; on the right is the final product.
A color palette can be natural, refined, and calming, or vibrant, vivid, and energizing. Meggan recommends choosing no more than three colors plus black and white: a limited color palette will actually do great things for your design.
Here are some awesome free tools to help you with color.
Meggan's favorite sites for getting free imagery include
Also see TechSoup's blog post on top 10 sources for free images.
Again, less is more! Meggan recommends that you use two, or three maximum, fonts that are demonstrably different from each other. Here are some of the tools she likes to use for fonts:
In addition to teaching these four fabulous fundamentals of graphic design, Meggan provided three great shortcuts (tools you can use to up the caliber of your designs). These include
Where do you get your ideas? Many artists like to keep a collection of some sort that reminds them of concepts or designs they really like, so that they can use them later as a source for inspiration. It's a time-honored tradition to take a sample as a starting point and modify it to create something new, or related but different.
Meggan sets aside some time to save things she thinks have good design. She stores them on Pinterest, another good place to look for color combinations or palettes, even if you don't have an account.
She also recommends the blog Librarian Design Share for ideas on how other people are communicating.
Her favorite places to learn about design include
Like our design and imagery series? What do you want to learn more about? Let us know in the comments!
Images: Meggan Frost
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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