Print Production


Final production is just as important as concept development. If you spend hours upon hours of perfecting a project, the last thing you want as a designer is for your piece to be poorly printed for a presentation. While the role of a designer is to create, it is also important for designers to be knowledgeable of how their project will be brought to life. A designer must adequately prepare their files and be diligent about communicating their needs to the party responsible for printing. This means:

-Checking the document content for correct resolution settings of images and making sure they are set at 300dpi for print (72 for web).

-Making sure the color mode of all content has been converted to CMYK

-Ensuring the document has the correct bleed setting

-Checking to make sure all font choices are accurate and any font done in illustrator has been converted to outlines to retain consistency.

-Create a file with all document images

-Create a file with all document fonts

-Include a detailed dummy comp

-Write a detailed note regarding printing instructions you can attach to your document for production.

Another important aspect of a final design is the way in which the audience will experience and interact with the printed material. This means making educated decisions about the kind of paper or material the piece will be printed on, and how the different kinds of inks will interact with that materials surface. Always do several comps of different weighted and finished surfaces to see which will give you the effect you desire.


This article is an interview conducted in 2010, with a professional who specializes in print production for high-end photography and design publications. The interview covers the print and design process before computers and provides some really interesting insight into what print production looked like prior to the technology boom of the late 1990’s/2000’s.

I found this article really intriguing, because while reading the unit on Print Production in, Graphic Design School: The Principles and Practice of Graphic Design by David Dabner, Sandra Stewart and Eric Zempol, I realized how much we as designers, and creators in general, rely on technology instead hand production. I know we now live in an age where time really does mean money, but I feel we have lost key tools and concepts that are better understood by doing production by hand.

Before computers, and all of the high-tech design software and high-speed internet, all design had to be done by hand. Proofs, type, image setting, margin and grid structures, everything was done by cutting, pasting, and photography. Design projects were done by several people, each contributing in an area of design or production in which they were the most skilled, and having a publication printed was much more complex then just compressing a file and emailing it to a print shop. According to the article, this is how a file was formatted to be sent for printing:

“The printer actually got a mechanical, and each mechanical would represent a page in the book and would be to size. So if you were working on a 9.25 inch by 11.75 inch book, that mechanical would be that size and on a cardboard or a stiffer paper. You would actually have these photostats that were pasted down onto the mechanical that would indicate to the separator exactly the size, the placement and the position of each image. And let’s say there was a rule that reproduced on a page, it would be drawn as a hard rule, right on the mechanical around the photostat. And if there was type, it had to be sent out to the type place, and you would get photostatic type art back and that had to be pasted down exactly to size and where it was supposed to reproduce on the page.

For a 500-page book, there’d be 500 mechanicals, and they’d take a picture of each of those mechancials, and then they’d take the transparencies or the flat art and have to scan it. Then they’d get four pieces of film back from the scanner for the magenta, yellow,  black and cyan — each of the four colors, and then they’d have to strip all of that up for different layers to match that mechanical.

So each of those 500 pages had physically four sets of film that would then make plates that you could make proofs from. The color ink proofs would go back to the client, and the client would make corrections and changes and then the designers would have to start all over again: revise that mechanical, maybe make a new photostat if the positioning was wrong, and send it back to the separator. They’d rescan the same image but at a different percentage, redo the film, redo the plates and send another ink proof back. It was incredible the kind of labor and steps that went into that. It was all film and it was very very different.”



This is a photograph of a color proof from before you were able to use software to “spec” colors in a document.


This is an example of a “mechanical”. You can see the image is set, as well as margins indicated by the tape, and there are some kind of instructions written out for the printer to follow.


This is a photostat being used to copy images of the “mechanicals” that have been put together by hand. This is like a modern day xerox machine .


These pen-like tools are called rapidographs. Before the “pen tool,” these pens were used to create grids and margins on publication document.


Design Technology


Technology has had a monumental impact on graphic design. With the development of design-based software programs and the increase in accessibility and usability of computers, now all graphic design work is done digitally. Adobe is the main program used by graphic designers today. The three programs used by designers to develop projects are: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. There are also two other programs that web developers use for motion graphics and those are: Flash and After Effects.

Illustrator is used for vector-based work and designers use this program to create logos or develop their own imagery. Photoshop is for raster-graphics editing and designers use this program for editing photographs. Photoshop replaces the need for a dark room, allowing the designer to manipulate and alter photographs digitally while still saving the original image. InDesign is a layout program used to create systems for multiple page documents. This program can create identical multi-page spreads for a more efficient production.

These programs have been extremely useful in developing the world of visual communication. However, they have also made authenticity more obsolete. With these kinds of programs, most design work, since the 1980’s, has a very digitally rendered feel to it and designs are easily copied. It is only recently that the design world has begun to return to a more personal aesthetic.


This article is an interview on the subject of changing technologies in design. Designers Chris Spooner, Eric Karjaluoto, T.R. Eisenberg and David Airey were asked a series of questions about the constantly changing world of technology and their take on what that means for the future of graphic design.

What I liked about this article was that the responses from the graphic designers were not what I expected. That being said, it was so encouraging to hear that designers working in the industry today still use fundamental design tools in their work. They are not caught up in being able to produce work based on the ever-developing technologies, but stick to the idea that creativity and knowledge of form building are the most important elements of a good graphic designer.

The designers really stressed that it is important to be knowledgeable of the new and developing technological advancements, just as it is important to be up to date on trends in the design industry, but that being able to use the programs and produce with them is not going to make or break a career. To these designers interviewed, they noted how although we are moving into a digital world, print will NEVER go out of style. They are discussed that being able to use a computer, or code, does not make you a designer. I found that extremely interesting and quite helpful. I feel like there is just an emphasis on being able to produce work digitally and keep up with all the new trends and technologies, but the truth is that being able to create a design or design concept and be original is the most valuable asset a designer can have.




Here are two examples of what is called “photomontage”. This was done with Photoshop. The designer has taken various photographs and fused them together to create a surreal composition.


This is an example of hand made type that has then been photographed and taken into the computer to be digitally edited. This is the direction graphic design seems to be moving into.high-resolution-low

Here is an example of what good and bad resolution looks like. For print based media images need to have a high resolution and be set to 300dpi. For web based work, images need to be set at 72dpi.



Color is an important element in design because it is one of the first visual elements any viewer will notice and internalize. The choice of color combinations influences the perceived size, weight, depth, and connotation of a composition, and can be used to direct the movement of the piece. Color can also create illusions and emphasize certain elements of a composition.

Because of this, it is very important for a designer to be conscientious of color choice and placement. This is especially true when choosing a color for type. Certain color combinations will decrease the contrast between type and image and this will eliminate the illusion of a foreground and background. Also, certain colors that are equal in value and intensity, but opposite in hue, will create a vibrating sensation to the eye. This can make copy difficult to read.

Color can also be used to create visual hierarchy and enhance visual elements of a composition. Layered colors can create an interesting texture and complementary colors can be used to direct attention toward certain blocks of text placed throughout a composition to create a “packet” of information.

This idea of creating “packets” of information has been carried over into informational design. Designers are now using color, like icons, to delineate information in a systematic way. If you notice, you can see that large buildings are now using color to direct you to certain areas, or color will be used to denote different quantities of data.

Color has become a powerful tool in design and its use has greatly increased with technological innovations. However, colors do not have universal associations. Therefore, it is important for designers to be aware of the cultural background of their intended audience. Also, a designer must be conscientious of the mode in which their work will be viewed—screen or print-based media. This will determine whether a designer works in RBG color mode, or CMYK.


This article discusses how color plays a role in sensation and perception. The author of this article talks of how chromotherapy has been used for centuries and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. (Chromotherapy is often referred to as light therapy or colourology).

According to this article:

  • Red was used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange was used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Blue was believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
  • Indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.

Modern research suggests that the mood-altering effects are only temporary, but studies have shown that color does impact the outcome of certain events and provoke distinct emotional responses. Below are some of the studies that have been conducted regarding color use:

  • One study found that warm-colored placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored placebo pills.
  • Anecdotal evidence has suggested that installing blue-colored streetlights can lead to a reduction of crime in those areas.
  • The temperature of the environment might play a role in color preference. People who are warm tend to list cool colors as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colors.
  • Studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. Exposing students to the color red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.
  • More recently, researchers discovered that the color red causes people to react with greater speed and force, something that might prove useful during athletic activities.
  • One study that looked at historical data found that sports teams dressed in mostly black uniforms are more likely to receive penalties and that students were more likely to associate negative qualities with a player wearing a black uniform.

As a designer we don’t often consider the psychological implications of color choice in our compositions. We chose colors that are “trendy” or “modern”, instead of using them to enhance and address the message we are trying to convey in our work.



This infographic is an example of using color as an informational tool. Each line on the map corresponds to information labeled on the right side of the page.


These colors are vibrating. This is because the pink and purple have similar value and intensity. Neither color is able to advance or recede and thus they create the optical illusion of vibration.


Here the artist used color to create depth and create pockets of information. The limited use of color creates a system and ties information together. Also, the cool dark blue background creates depth and recedes, while the lighter colors advance and create a foreground.


Color dictates the message of this design. Had the substance flowing into the body/chalice been blue, the audience would have interpreted the piece entirely different–perhaps associating the flowing liquid with water instead of blood or wine.

Fundamentals of Typography


Typographic elements are just as crucial, (if not more), to a design composition as the image content within the design. Typography holds a semantic value and will affect the mood and meaning of a work depending on how the designer chooses to use letterforms, or by the typeface the designer selects for the piece. Dada and Futurists are design movements that focused heavily on this interplay of meaning and type in their work.

When choosing a typeface, it is important to know that type choice affects a works message. There are several ways to choose a typeface, and many designers look at the message of their piece and then examine the anatomy of different typefaces to see which are compatible, or are a good juxtaposition, to their message. For example, a font with a more circular “o” is going to convey a more open and inviting emotion compared to that of a more oval or narrow “o”.

Type is also chosen based off it’s purpose. Usually serif typefaces are used for large quantities of type as they are easier to read. The serif creates a natural flow between letterforms. San-serif fonts are typically seen in displays or titles.

Just as type can convey emotion through it’s physical construction and by the designer’s choice of placement of the letterforms on a page, type can also be used as imagery. There are different ways that type can be used as an image. The letterforms can be created out of objects, called found object design, or the type can be manipulated or placed to create an actual image.


This article discusses what the author considers to be the top 8 rules for creating effective typography. He poses the following rules:

1) Learn the Basics: a designer must know the anatomy of type before beginning to utilize it in a design.

2) Watch Your Kerning: kerning is one of the most overlooked elements of typography. However, when done wrong, it can be extremely distracting. The author stresses that it is important to look at the negative space between the letterforms and to make sure the space is visually consistence throughout the phrase or word.

3) Be Aware of Font Communication: knowing the psychology associated with different fonts.

4) Alignment: center alignment is the most difficult to read, and mixing alignments can create a visually confusing composition.

5) Choose a Good Secondary Font: a secondary font should contrast with the primary font, but should not be so different that it competes for visual dominance with the primary font.

6) Size Matters: using size to emphasize or de-emphasize certain words in a message or phrase. This creates visual hierarchy and directs the readers attention.

7) Use Typography as Art: start thinking of typography as a design element.

8) Find Good Inspiration: spend time looking at good typography and be aware of bad typography when you see it. Take note of how the type makes you feel and the way in which the designer has chosen to use the type.



This poster shows an example of primary and secondary fonts. The red font is primary, and it’s goal is to be read first so the designer chose to use all caps and a larger font size. The secondary font is the tan lettering which is more ornamental and smaller in size.


The designer of this poster did a good job of mirroring the emotion of the poster in their choice of type. The thin strokes and san-serif font gives the feeling of elegance and clarity. This allows the focus to be placed the imagery-play the designer is drawing the audience into.

mesmerize lights poser

Although centering type is usually considered “bad design”, this artist was able to center their typographic elements in a way that compliments the overall composition. Because of the centered type, the asymmetrical imagery is given special attention and acts as as background to the typography–this creates a sense of depth and purpose.


This is an example of poor typography. The designer has not only chosen too many typefaces, but also aligned them differently, and did not adjust the kerning on any of the words and phrases.

Fundamentals of Composition


A successful publication, either print or electronic, will derive from having an in-depth understanding of basic compositional skills and techniques, knowing how to effectively use the grid system to dictate pace, and knowing how to create a cohesive design system.

Knowledge of compositional principles are fundamental to each and every design process and a good designer will understand how to form build in a way that successfully translates abstract thought into a concrete visual language that is enticing to the viewer. A good designer will have a working knowledge of the relationships between visual elements and how that relationship will influence and be perceived by their audience. To create visual interest, a designer will use positive and negative space to create harmony, repetition, movement, depth, and hierarchy throughout their project. Utilizing the Gestalt Principles of Design, a designer can manipulate these elements within a composition to tell a specific story to their audience.

The grid system can be used as a way to structure a multi media composition. If a designer is working on a project that includes both text and image, the grid system is the best way to organize this information and provide an underlying structure that can be carried throughout the entire publication. There are different kinds of grid systems with different functionalities. For instance, a three column grid works well for layouts with a good amount of text, and for achieving an asymmetrical composition, well a four column grid, or more, allows for more flexibility.

Lastly, successful publications will have a cohesive design system that is consistent throughout the piece. This means creating a set of rules for the grid system, typographic elements, and color restrictions.


This article goes over the basic elements of creating a good print design. Although it is minimal in content, I did like how the author talked about creating Eyelines. Eyelines are made by lining up the horizontal axis of an image or text segment which then leads a viewers eye across a spread. This creates a natural movement between pages as well as a sense of unity.

This is an article from Smashing Magazine that showcases 40 different creative ways designers have approached layout design.  In the first layout, the designer chose to place each element on the underlying grid but did not have any gutters. Designing a layout like this created visual tension. Another layout series I as drawn to was done by Jason Santa Maria. His series of website pages each had a different layout structure, but maintained strong adherence to typographic systems and color rules.

The article goes on to discuss various other ways to design a print or web layout, but what I found most interesting was the emphasis by the author on object size and placement. This article does a good job of explaining why each layout is successful and I like that the author is clear about exactly what compositional elements made these layouts visually interesting.



This layout effectively uses negative space to create visual clarity. The designer also made the width of the images equals the width of the content blocks.


The designer of this poster was very successful in incorporating text and image. I like how line was used to create texture in the form and that the choice of type is well married with the size and strokes of the image.


This layout is successful in using proportion to create visual interest. The relationship between the large V and the A drop cap, makes the overall spread feel balanced.


I like how the designer of this spread used a photograph to create depth. I am drawn into the article because of the use of negative space as well as the successful visual hierarchy and the designers choice of typography.

Research and Concepts


The primary goal of design students is to develop awareness of visual relationships. Through learning the language of design and understanding design principles, students will develop the ability to draw from current design trends to communicate information visually to a specific audience.

Becoming a good Graphic Designer requires an intense intrigue for understanding the impact of visual language. To understand this language best, it is important for designers to spend time expanding their visual libraries. A designer must not limit themselves to one genre of anything—they must be able to see design in all aspect of life and to constantly be compiling visual information. This will broaden the depth of a designers audience and increase their visual vocabulary.

When a designer is given a project, the first thing they must do is research their audience. They need to understand who they are communicating to, where they are communicating, and what is the best mode to communicate in said environment to this specific audience?

Research should include both primary and secondary sources of information. Primary information is that which does not already exist, but is created by the designer based off individual ideas. This information can be done through photographing, drawing, or interviewing people. Secondary information is that information or material that already exists. An example being design work, color swatches, written texts or illustrations.

Using this research, a designer can now being to compile their data. There are two ways to approach a design brief: linear reasoning and lateral thinking. Linear reasoning is more formulated and usually derives from a clear vision of the final product. It is more of a step by step process using logic. Lateral thinking is more indirect and free-flowing. It is a process of exploring possibilities and thinking “outside the box.”

Exploratory drawing is a tool used by designers during this initial stage of development. This is an extremely important part of the concept development because it allows the designer to give form to abstract thought. It is the beginning stages of making a visual language for an idea. These drawings can be done by hand or on the computer, but during this process the designer should explore different kinds of media they have access too. This is integral to developing a concept because it allows you to work through any problems and quickly revise and edit a concept.

As a designer works through this process, time is of the essence. While someone may be an incredible graphic designer, and produce amazing work, if it is not delivered on time, none of that matters. To be a great designer you must also schedule, organize and plan your time wisely. Breaking down tasks and managing your workload will help the project flow and not force you to quickly produce results at the last minute.

Article I:

This website shows partial notebooks of some of the worlds most renowned designers. Taking a look into these notebooks you can see the design process at work. These designers, scientists, and architects have collected visual information, are using exploratory drawings, and engaging in different ways of research. While some use linear reasoning, others take a more lateral thinking approach. Nevertheless, all of the notebooks contain sketches, notes, revisions and collections of secondary research material.

These professionals use this space to flush out their ideas and put whatever comes to mind on paper. Although a lot of the material will probably never be used in publication, going through the process of brainstorming and the practice of putting images to thought is what has made these designers so great. They are constantly at work and practicing their craft through absorbing information and cataloging their thoughts through text and image in these notebooks.

 Article II:

This website outlines and very formal process of design development. According to the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, the design process should progress as follows:

Analyze the situation

Write a brief

Research the problem

Write a specification

Work out possible solutions

Select a preferred solution

Prepare working drawings and plan ahead

Construct a prototype

Test and evaluate the design

Write a report



This notebook shows the different kinds of research techniques a designer uses when compiling information for a project. Some of the information is primary, the sketches and hand written notes, while other information is secondary, the pasted images pulled from other sources.


This notebook is an example of a designer who has used linear reasoning to develop a product/visual concept. They have gathered information and systematically compiled their data to outline a development process they can follow to reach an end result.


This architect is using exploratory drawing to flush out their ideas and work through any structural problems they may encounter while building their piece. You can see how the designer has used multiple sketches and several viewpoints, as well as written information, to work through their design concept.


The most common way to begin building a design concept is lateral thinking. Lateral thinking denotes the initial stages of an idea and is the process of a designer putting into visual language several abstract thoughts. The images formed from the designers thoughts may not seem related to one another, but they help a designer create a more well-rounded design by being able to draw on any of them later on in the concept building process.

Relations Part II


In this section of Leborg’s book, Visual Grammar, Leborg discusses the different ways in which a designer can choose for objects to interact, or relate, to one another within a composition. The varying ways in which a designer can chose to place or manipulate objects can alters the perception or meaning of a composition.

When developing a composition it is important to take into consideration the point of view and distance in which the audience will be perceiving ones work. Coordinating objects will achieve a perceived similar perspective, while not coordinating similar objects will cause one to be perceived closer or father away from the viewer. It is also important to be purposeful in the angle at which you draw lines or place objects. Parallel lines, if not drawn true, will eventually intersect one another, and from a distance, may look as if the artist is insinuating depth.

There are several different ways a designer can chose to have the objects within a composition interact as well. Overlapping of objects can create a sense of depth in two dimensional renderings. Compound shapes can create a new form out of two objects, thus adding visual interest. And modification or variation can create a sense of change over time, or movement.


In this section of the book, Visual Grammar, Leborg is talking about the interrelationships of form. One art movement which was strongly based on principles of interrelationships of form was the De-Stijl movement. In the article, De Stijl Movement: Theo van Doesburg & Gerrit Rietveld, the author talks of how “during the De Stijl movement (founded 1917), a new aesthetic proposal called for ultimate abstraction, simplicity, clarity, harmony, and equilibrium…De Stijl art forced the viewer to ponder about their relationship to the world, relating to the form, color, and space surrounding them.”

I found this interesting as it relates to Leborg’s discussion of object relations, in that during the De-Stijl movement everything rested on the basis of formal interrelationships. De-Stijl focused on simplicity and a different way of seeing through abstraction. As Leborg talks of the use of penetration, extrusion, and coincidence, these were all concepts the De-Stijl artists would use to create visual interest in a unique way while not relying on embellishments or complex forms.

This artist has used overlapping of shapes to create a sense of depth in this two dimensional piece. They have thus created a foreground and background by placing the musical instruments over the leaves.

Here transparency is used in the red circular objects above the black line drawings. Using transparency allows the objects in the background to still appear and hold visual weight, while adding a touch of color.

Coordination is used in this example to make certain squares appear to have the same value, focus and perspective. While other squares, which are not coordinated, appear to be closer and farther away from the viewer.

I love how the artist has used a tangent here to create visual interest. While all of the other objects, which are similar in size and position, are flat, by tilting the orange square and having it tangent to the corner of the dark blue square, movement and anomaly has been achieved.