Graphics Design

Task Description

We have several kinds of graphics design tasks. The most common is designing a new logo. Thematic logo design elements are often incorporated into other design tasks. For all design tasks, be familiar with the instructions in the Task Description, which outline basic requirements. This page provides additional advice on creating a usable graphic design.

Creating a Design

Completing a graphic design task takes patience, a keen eye, and willingness to iterate the design review process. A good design requires background research, will typically require several hours of effort, and iterations may span several days of review. While design appreciation is subjective, there are technical criteria that apply somewhat universally.

Reviewing a Design

The following non-exhaustive list may be consulted by students and mentors working on or reviewing graphic design tasks:

  1. All required files are submitted
    • Usually, we require
      • (a) a preview in PNG format,
      • (b) original artwork in the format of the program used to create the design (e.g., PSD for PhotoShop?, SVG for Inkscape, AI for Adobe Illustrator), and
      • (c) either a vector format image (e.g., SVG) or a high-resolution image suitable for printing (300+ dpi).
    • Students that don't submit at least (a) and (b) may immediately receive a "request more work" without feedback.
  2. Design satisfies basic requirements
    • Does it meet size expectations? For example, if we request a square logo, are the dimensions equal length and width?
    • Does it contain all the required design elements? If we request an image and a write-up, are both provided?
    • Is it legible? Spelling mistakes? Grammar mistakes?
    • Is there intentional design effort? Pasting an existing image and/or writing the project name in an oval or box is not adequate logo, for example.
    • It can be useful to request/receive a write-up explanation of the design, particularly if there are doubts.
  3. Legal original work
    • Ensure design is an original work and legal to use freely! Identify where ALL imagery came from.
    • Plagiarism is a common stumbling point as some students are completely unfamiliar with concepts of attribution and licensing.
    • If design incorporates 3rd-party images/icons/clipart/etc or a distinguished font, verify their source and that license permits unlimited redistribution (e.g., CC-BY).
    • Make sure images/icons/clipart/fonts are freely available to use, don't require a fee, have a license that permits non-discriminating use (i.e., CC-BY-NC is not acceptable).
    • If quality/effort/legality is undemonstrated, request/ensure the design be completely original with no external images including no existing project artwork.
  4. Check design scalability
    • When scaled down (zoomed out), do the primary graphical elements remain visible?
    • When scaled up (zoomed in), do you see any aliasing artifacts (i.e., jagged pixels) such as uneven pixels in lines?
    • Does it scale appropriately? Logos typically need to scale down to icon-size, posters and t-shirts need to scale up to 300dpi.
  5. Check design for C.R.A.P.: contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity.
    • Contrast:
      • Does the design effectively use change in color, font face, shapes, etc. to draw the eye to the primary design element?
      • Does the graphic "pop out" at you in a way that conveys the important elements of the image?
      • Is the background too busy? Is it easy to read all text against the background?
    • Repetition:
      • Are colors, fonts, shapes, lines, angles, etc. used consistently throughout the design to maintain unity and harmony?
      • Too many fonts? More than two variable-width fonts should require justification.
      • Too many words? Is the main message lost with too many points being conveyed?
      • Does any image/shape/line pattern dominate the design?
    • Alignment:
      • Are lines, fonts, and shapes lined up with each other? Exactly?
      • Do the pixels blend together where lines meet at corners, or are there sharp edges or gaps? Zoom in and look at each part of the graphic.
      • Do design elements align with each other or with the main graphic in a good way?
      • Are centered objects truly in the center, or should they be relocated? You may need to use a (pixel) measurement tool to check for centering and alignment.
    • Proximity:
      • Are elements of the design located near/far from each other in a way that maintains relationships and meaning?
      • Things "closer together" imply a relation, whereas if every element of the graphic design is equidistant then they are all equally related (or unrelated).
      • Is it cluttered or otherwise overly busy? Collages of words and/or images are rarely effective.

Design Tips

  • Keep it simple! Less is more. Designs need space to breathe.
  • The simpler the design, the more intentional, careful, and precise it must be!
  • Adding (more) words rarely makes a design better.
  • Using lots of fonts makes a design hard to read.
  • The most visually dominant feature of the design should be the most important.
  • Don't be afraid to start with pen and paper.
Last modified on Nov 9, 2018 at 4:54:18 AM Last modified on Nov 9, 2018, 4:54:18 AM

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