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The Fundamentals of Compelling Design (Part 2)

October 13, 2014
Last month in discussing design I used examples from television, industry, advertising and newspapers. This month I want to provide some examples of design from the City of Milton and explain why I chose each image and concept. 

As you read, please know I’m far from the best designer on Earth – heck, I’m not even the best designer in this building (our special events coordinator has a side business designing stunning wedding and birth announcements). And of course everything is subjective, so what I show you might not be your cup of tea.

But what’s important is that you realize I follow the concepts enumerated last month in everything I design for the city – and because I create compelling pieces we don’t have to pay designers hundreds or thousands of dollars for similar work.

Bulky Trash Amnesty Day
This is a poster for a bi-annual event that’s quite popular. Previously, we used an inherited flyer that was frankly confusing. There are just too many visual elements and far too many words for an effective advertisement.

I was asked to freshen up the design. The first thing I did was find a suitable dominant image. This gave me something I could contrast against the text (I was specifically asked to keep a lot of text on the flyer – and hey, you’ve got to work with “clients” to keep them happy).

Milton "Bulky Trash Amnesty Day" poster.
The previously used flyer had too many visual elements and words.

I then contrasted the sans-serif font of the major header with a serif font for the subsidiary information. I also used black against red. Again, more contrast to set off each piece of information.

Notice that I also used the concepts of “green means go” and “red means stop” to delineate what was allowed. I decided on this because the colors in the dominant image also happen to the black, red and green. 

Lastly, look at how I was able to play all the elements against each other, even in their little “blocks,” to achieve balance. If the top text is flush right, make the words underneath it flush left. If the top text is white on a colored background, make the text underneath black on a white background.

Milton 2012 Memorial Day poster.
Memorial Day Poster
I don’t have much space left this month, but here’s our Memorial Day poster. Again, what’s important here is giving the viewer what they expect (that is, fulfilling the “brand” of a somber American ceremony), but arranging everything in way that’s both easy to understand and visually compelling. 

This time, I’m not going to break everything down for you – you can do that on your own. But pay attention to how the centered elements and off-set elements complement each other and give the piece a sense of movement. 

This is not a mistake. Instead, you can engineer and recreate, simply with placement, the movement of a flag or the thrust of the soldiers at Iwo Jima. 

That’s it for this month. Let me know what you think.
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.