A lot of Jewelboxing users have design in their blood. These are the kinds of people who, even with both arms tied behind their back, a blindfold firmly in place, and equipped solely with a dull black crayon, could come up with something that’d make you fall over and weep from jealousy. And when they stick their work into one of our cases, it’s like a perfectly fitted glove. Just take a look at everything we’ve highlighted in our Examples + Inspirations page. Now there’s good design.
But what about for the writers out there, or the singers and bands, or that Joe Average who loves great design, but couldn’t draw a stick figure to save their life. We got to thinking about that when we found this posting on the Kermit the Blog about a new father trying to put together a nice looking compilation of moments from his daughter’s birth:
“I go nuts with these little projects and they get away from me like a tornado on a dog leash. Now I’m designing the packaging via Jewelboxing. This kind of thing is always the hardest part for me, as the visual arts kick my ass. I am the graphic world’s bitch. I looked at the examples and inspirations page at Jewelboxing I’m having a hard time even duplicating the designs I’m blatantly ripping off (hey, at least I admit it). I know I can just pop a pretty photo up with some text, but my nature won’t accept such simplicity. So, who wants to point me in the right direction? Know of any “design for the unapologetically untalented” websites I can crib from? I could ask you to advise me on choosing a color palate and such, but I’ll keep it pretty simple: How do I make it not look like ass?”
We feel for the guy, we really do. And we’ve gotten word of these types of frustrations more than once, from people who really want to use the System, but are a little intimidated. So here, for the benefit of those-less-confident, are some quick pointers.
- Simple design can often say a lot more than a huge batch of stuff all crammed together, though it can also have the opposite effect and look like you just didn’t spend much time on your project. Think through the message you’re trying to convey and see what works.
- People who are first getting used to their design software, be it Photoshop or otherwise, often want to try using every single effect filter. This just announces to the world, faster than anything else, “I just got Photoshop and I don’t know how to use it yet!” Try getting that out of your system. Learn what some of those other buttons, tools and options do, instead of just text and the eraser.
- If you’ve got a photo you want to use in your project, instead of just plopping it on the template as-is, tinker with it and see what happens. Blow it up, crop a section, run it off the page so just a sliver remains when printed. Maybe you’ll see something that works great.
- Don’t use black and white. Use some light color anywhere you’d like to use white and some darker color anywhere you’d like to use black. A lot of early designers think black and white will immediately equal “artistic,” but instead wind up with “bland.” Color is what we’re instinctively drawn toward. Use it!
- Vary your color pallet. Sure, you want your Christmas Memories 2002 DVD to be red and green, but instead of using those exact colors, try the varieties therein, such as tomato red and forest green.
- Chose your typeface carefully. If you’re hinging everything on some fancy font, then your design probably isn’t going to be all that successful. Simple typefaces, laid out creatively, with some attention put toward details like letter and line spacing, can mean the difference between minimalism and boringism. Not to mention an escape from the gaudiness of a comic sans binge.
- Maintain a hierarchy in your design. The biggest thing should be the most important, the item that says the most about your project. The next largest thing, slightly less important. The smallest item, the least.
- Try to work with balance, not equality. If you’re using three photos, use one large and two small. Or use them all the same size, but with something larger to help balance them out. Lots of things the exact same size makes for confusion. Same thing with color: if you have a lot of dark stuff in one area, balance it out with an equal amount of lighter stuff in another.
- Steal, steal, steal. Every designer gets their ideas from somewhere else. The only trick is that the good designers lift ideas from the less-familiar. Take a look at the world around you, to nature or industrial design, and find something you like. Figure out what makes you like it. The color? The typography? Not only are you going to teach yourself some design ideas, and your abilities to incorporate them, but you’ll be learning what your “style” is too. That’s worth plenty.
- Copywriting is sometimes overlooked by aspiring designers, but can be essential for a project. Often, it can even help to salvage a bland design as something written that’s clever and well-thought out can help excuse a poor layout, or even lighten the mood by poking fun at it. “I’m No Graphic Designer, But Get a Load of This DVD!”
- If all else fails, always use the top secret design tools: kittens, rainbows, and unicorns.
Sure, that’s a lot of information to digest, but hopefully there’s some information there to put you on the right path to brilliant design. The best advice we always give to an aspiring designer to do is just learn limitations. Force yourself to use just one type size, one color, and one image until you’ve found something that works really well. It’s impossible to tell you how to get there, but even with a limited palette like that, you’ll eventually hit upon a moment of “a ha!” when everything clicks. Then you’ll have that concept in mind for future designs and away you go. We’ll be watching our backs.
Some of the finest designs we’ve ever laid our collective eyes on are coming out of Durham, Arlington, Midland, Rockford, Venice, New York, South Sioux City, Cambridge, Spokane, Frankfurt, Alexandria, Eindhoven, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Flagstaff, Salt Lake City, Manitowoc, and St. Morris.