This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

Designing for structure, not content

As a Graphic Designer, my main interest is structure, not content. That is, whatever the subject is is of no real concern to me - it could be penguins, or tennis, or aliens. Other than staying away from obscene stuff, I'll design for anything. And that means I've done design for banks, health care companies, auto parts, schools, motivational speaking, and on and on. And of course the design is meant to promote banks, health care companies, auto parts, school, motivational speakers, and so on, but it's all the same to me.

If you have difficulty seeing structure instead of content, relax, it's perfectly normal. When I do a design for auto parts, that's what I want everyone to see, not the fonts I selected, or the colors, or the number of photos, or the drawings. That's why people pay me to do design. I'm not designing so that other designers can be impressed by my design, I'm designing so that everyone will want to look at, and possibly buy, for example, auto parts. I want to do a pleasing and attractive design.

If you're interested in seeing structure like a designer, let's start with movies. When I talk to someone about a movie, they're usually interested in the content. That is, if it's an action movie, who the actors are, that sort of thing. Designers tend to look at other things, like the mood set by the how it's filmed (some films have a cool blue tint to them that gives an eerie feeling), or what the backgrounds look like, or the sets, or the costumes. Designers are fascinated by the combination of long shots, medium shots, close-ups. Designers tend to know who the director is, more than just the actors.

OK, let's take a look at web page design. Whether you're designing for a company that is selling aerospace technology, or for someone who is promoting their band, the structure remains mostly the same. There's the color, the selection of fonts, how the images are arranged on the page. When I taught Dreamweaver for web design, I always allowed my students to choose any subject they liked (within reason!) because it was all about using HTML, and CSS, and selecting fonts, that sort of thing. Structure.

So I live in a world where I see structure first. I'm a Graphic Designer. When I'm at the mall, I look at posters, I look at signage. I look at how the spaces are designed. Sometimes it gets so distracting for me it's difficult to focus on shopping. I used to tell my students that if they wanted to see state-of-the-art design, including the latest fonts and colors, to go the mall, or look at movie posters. And the people who got bogged down with content couldn't see the structure.

I do a lot of cartoon illustration, and I see structure there, too. I can draw anything that I can see, and I use Adobe Illustrator for the line work and color. I create the artwork using vectors, which allows me to output to any pixel dimensions. But really, when I'm done I just want people to see the content, which is a girl at a computer.