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Graphic Design Fundamentals: Getting Started

Lesson 9 of 18

Designing an Advertisment

Timothy Samara

Graphic Design Fundamentals: Getting Started

Timothy Samara

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Lesson Info

9. Designing an Advertisment
Witness Timothy’s graphic design skills in full force as he takes you through the journey of a project from his own professional portfolio: an advertisement for an expo. Timothy demonstrates the iterative process, from image selection to concept sketches to color manipulation, and his reasoning behind every decision along the way. He calls to attention an important factor in editorial design - on what scale and in what format will this advertisement live, and how does this affect the design?

Lesson Info

Designing an Advertisment

The last thing that we had talked about in the previous segment, was sort of how designing happens. Where do you start when you're beginning with a project? And what are the kinds of phases or stages that a designer goes through? And, as I said before it's a little bit different really for every designer, but there is more or less a kind of a typical process for working. (clears throat) And so we're gonna track that process through a couple of projects right now. And I thought we'd start off a little bit simply. Simple in terms of the kind of thing it is. A very very focused communication, that is an advertisement, that is essentially image based, and that uses only really a minimum of typography. So we can kind of look not only at the creative process from beginning to end, but also see what that, what kind of decision making is involved for this kind of a communication, with a very very simple image material. Some sort of basic color ideas and integrating a small amount of type. So I...

chose an add that was developed for New York Bike Expo. And it's for a group Bike New York that advocates for bicycling, for green purposes, for exercise, for community development and the expo runs annually. So, the client presented basically the idea that this ad was to be kind of preliminary promotion. Not a full on campaign, and that they were going to sort of initially use it in a print environment. They had a particular budget set aside already for half page advertisements in magazines which sort of began to dictate even from the outset I was going to think about what would be happening in there. Because the format is somewhat wide and not so deep. Which could pose some problems but it was important for me to understand that it was not going to be a kind of a flexible format. Something that would be changing from vertical to horizontal to square on a regular basis. And beyond that they were really interested in finding a unique language that was going to be very compelling, especially in a busy environment. Because they did have some thought that they might extend the ad by to subway posters. Within the subway cars in New York which are as you might imagine in an incredibly hectic environment where there are a lot of other competing ads and also a lot of motion activity. People moving around, bringing things in, stopping, starting and so on. So, the sort of graphical presence of the imagery and the color really had to establish this kind of powerfully loud but simple kind of space. This kind of, sort of unsympathetic kind of, in an unsympathetic environment. And so, here we go. (chuckling) So as I noted last segment, the first thing that I always start off with is research and most designers do. So I had to find out. I knew what a bicycle is. I have ridden one before. Not for a long time. But really what is it about? An expo. So I searched on the interwebs, for first off information, images, any kind of campaign information or photos of the actual event itself. And of course I found hundreds of thousands of things. So it was interesting to note sort of what a kind of a color and a type idea had been. And there is some image usage. But it is a very very large event that takes place in a number of different venues. There are different kinds of cycling events. There are sort of trade show sort of components to it and so on. I was also just interested in bicycling in general. Mostly to get a sense of kind of shapes. Postures. Certain kinds of dress. What do people wear when they're biking? In different kinds of contexts. And that might give me some information about how I would think about, well what kinds of photographs and subjects in those photographs might I use? But then I was also interested in the kind of the idea of sort of sporting on kind of a more general level. So I looked up sort of extreme sports, X Games, other kinds of biking events, including, or other kinds of sporting events including sailing. This is some research about a sailing event called The Kieler Woche in Germany. And also to kind of see not only sort of what kinds of visual approaches sort of attend those events or what people associate in terms of color in terms of graphical shape and form and typography because of their experience with those things. But also sort of what's the history of that kind of communicating. So I also looked at of course the Tour de France which is another kind of large bicycling event very very sort of close in in relationship to that current one. And then the Olympics which is sort of the grand daddy and mommy of all possible sporting events combined. Which has a very very long and rich design history in terms of it's communications posters and graphic programs and so on. So, that really was just sort of fodder to get started. And so I began to notice certain kinds of things. Some very very strong color feelings typically kind of analogous in a relationship. Combinations of colors that are very close to each other on the color wheel. Red, orange, yellow, blue, green, blue green. Green, blue, violet. As well as very very bold shapes. Singular kinds of graphical forms. Sometimes figures doing the sport kind of in situ, and in other times kind of removed from that context in order to create greater focus. And so I began sketching. And so my sketching in this case bounced back and forth between hand generated images which you'll see shortly and sort of graphical digital things. So I began to kind of find and make and alter images of bicycle parts, because I thought those might be sort of graphically appealing. 'Cause they're made up of lines and dots and that could likely produce a very very kind of bold and simple statement potentially. And the option of course, two of the options were are they gonna be sort of very highly reduced? Sort of iconic kinds of images? Or are they gonna be sort of naturalistic photographs and what would I get from either of those? So these are some more of the kinds of images that I was sort of researching and altering at the same time. So sketching sort of a bunch of dots. For some reason the photography kept kind of jumping into my head. There is something of course really powerfully clear and direct and understandable about an image that represents something that you can see. It leaves little to the imagination, which in a kind of advertising context is kind of useful. Because people don't have to think too long about what it is and it doesn't take them long to understand it. But with a very literal image, you run the risk of kind of losing any sort of specificity in the messaging. Is that all photographs of real objects or figures riding bicycles look essentially the same. No matter who the photographer is unless the photographer is really sort of imposing a very particular kind of stylistic sort of effect. That they're shooting from an extremely low angle or the lighting is sort skewed away from natural. Or they're focusing in in a very edited way on a very tight shot. They're emphasizing certain kind of details or negative shapes and so on. But the photography still was, seemed very very appealing. And especially because people don't want to look at ads usually. You're trying to grab them while they're flipping through things, through a magazine or a newspaper trying to get to the content that they really want to look at. And the ads are in their way. Or, in the case of the possibility of the ad showing up in a public environment, there's so much competing information that it really had to be something that you could understand pretty quickly. So, in looking at the, I'm just gonna go back. So in looking at the riders, I kind of noticed that there was, the shapes produced a lot of really really sort of interesting contouring. A lot of sort of dynamic angles that could be useful in small space to create movement and tension, and contrast. But the vast majority of the kind of the form is essentially a kind of a vertical. And thinking back to that I was really kind of limited already by a horizontal format. I had to sort of think about well what's really visible in a kind of a tight sort of letter box situation? And so I was kind of more or less kind of scanning up and down like where, where's the action here? What do I get and what can I understand from how little is revealed? In that kind of a crop. So I thought that rather than something vertical that maybe something horizontal would be useful. Whether it was some kind of iconic illustration, some very simplified sort of graphical form, or something photographic that would be cropped along that way. The bicycle turned to it's side, created a natural horizontal. But all by itself not necessarily all that interesting and it is relatively complicated. Most of the fun action is down here. And you lose a kind of the sense of the rider from focusing too low. And if you crop somewhat in the middle where you can get some rider and some wheels you lose kind of the hand. So you it's kind of a, you get kind of a floaty disconnected kind of casual quality and that seemed not quite the right energy for what I was after. So, and then I was also thinking still about this kind of complicated environment. But I was looking at some very very, I went through some very very rapid sketches. At a small format, just thumbnails to see sort of well do I want something that's kind of a side view and is that very relaxed in its feeling? Because of its horizontality which can often happen. That horizontal kinds if images become or are perceived as being more restful, more drawn out, slower in a kind of a sense if you're thinking about how that thing is moving through space. It takes up a lot of room from left to right. Or did I want something that was going to cut that horizontal and create a kind of a moment of a kind of a jarring energy. So I started to kind of gravitate towards the sort of the horizontal but I, or the vertical rather, but I was also thinking about well do I want a couple of riders that way if I have to crop one of the image elements in a really extreme way for kind of scale impact, for boldness, would I also then use a secondary rider as part of that setup? Where I could also then introduce a kind of a sense of deep space or perspective. By organizing the images or imagining that I would select images of riders not head on but at a three quarter angle. And then by changing their sizes, I imagined that I could get or achieve a very very rapid and dynamic kind of movement, sort of an explosive energy forward. But I was still bothered by the fact that there are two things to look at and not one. And that if you're standing, if you're flipping through is that you got to concentrate on still generally much smaller kinds of elements, and recognizability of smaller elements tends to be a little bit more challenging than larger simpler kinds of elements. So I did actually begin to gravitate towards a kind of a head on view. And I wanted it to be a really dynamic crop where there was a lot of potential for interesting spacial breaks in the composition left to right. But where, what was left, what was revealed really contained all of the essential information that would allow a viewer to identify this image as bicycle rider. And so the action really is in that area. It's the sense of the figure balanced or poised over those handlebars and the weight, the tension of bearing down the, sort of the contrapposto or shift, shifted gesture of the legs in peddling which creates a new kind of up and down motion. And then the sense of the frame and at least a hint of the wheel could get in there. So there's, what seems initially like a very spare amount of information turned out to be incredibly rich and comprehensive. And that was useful because now I could think about well what kind of medium do I want to use to portray this subject matter? How do I want to depict it? Do I want it to be photographic? Do I want it to be something illustrative? So I began looking at photographs first, given that photographs are so easily recognizable. Photographs are also often kind of perceived or interpreted as being kind of contemporary as opposed to illustration. It's less personal. It's more kind of objective or neutral. It's more about the subject over all and not so much about the specific kind of act of making that image. So you really kind of concentrate on the content and not how beautiful the art is. Even though the two photographs are quite lovely, especially the one on the right which is lit very dramatically and that kind of lighting against this kind of silhouetted dark background brought a kind of an intensity that seemed to speak to me a little bit about not just the fact of bicycling, but about that energy of the environment and that would be New York city. So it's an urban environment of course. It's very harsh. There's a lot of movement. But there's a lot of strength involved. And so the choice of a high contrast image I thought could be somewhat useful. As opposed to this one which was another kind of contender among others, where there's something that's intrinsically urban, and identifiably sort of New Yorkish about this image. First of course the background I think reads, of course I'm speaking with a New York bias here but it reads because of the scale of building elements and of course the taxi, that is has to be sort of that particular city and not another one. The fact of a person riding to work in a suit, is something that's very common scene to witness in the morning in New York. And I still was getting the same kind of attitude. But the lighting of course was not all that interesting. It's a relatively washed out kind of dead pan neutral. Very kind of generic in its quality. So it didn't have the same kind of compelling draw that the other did. So I started to look at that one first. That was the initial crop. And I stuck it in the middle just to get a kind of sense of what was happening and that was dull. So here's a situation where like symmetry is not your friend. So what happens usually is that when you put something in the middle is that you get spaces and very often shapes that are identical on either side. So the compositional quality of that object in that space and how it relates to it, is relatively static. It's not going anywhere in particular. And since the shapes on either side are also the same, there's not really kind of much comparing for the eye to do. You kind of see those shapes together. You realize that they're the same and you're like (snoring). Okay and move on now. So, and plus at this size it didn't really seem all that dramatic and what I was really after was something like this. Where that information was in your face. So I re-cropped it within the frame to get a little bit more drama where, even though the image of the central axis of the bikes frame is dividing the format equally that is symmetrically left to right, is that now because I've pulled in so close to elements that are in fact different and enlarged them, this particular curve and this particular sort of dot like shape against the horizontal. Again it's dark as well as light areas that are now operating in much more of a kind of a clear sort of up and down rhythm from left to right as you go, became much more emphatic. So I was thinking about it and then I became annoyed because at the end of that whole process what I was really looking at was a professional biker. And not something that really related as clearly as I thought it could to the idea of bicycling in New York city. So I went back to the other image. I cropped it the same way, first. And before I began moving it around 'cause I knew I was going to. I had already done that test. I decided that the information is really here. And this, it blurry it softens the whole sort of graphical presence of the field. It confuses the contours of the figure so they don't kind of pop out within the space. And even though the blur introduces a kind of, an interesting sort of spacial depth, the illusion of depth, it seemed kind of confusing so I removed it. Very often I tend to work with images that have been cut out of their surrounding environment. Which is also called silhouetting, simply because it creates a much greater focus on the actual contour of the subject matter. And by liberating the subject from its environment, it means that other things can go behind there and you're really kind of freer to kind of position it or crop it in different ways or alter it because now it's no longer kind of connected to reality. And you're not going to effecting anything that's around it. So I usually crop to something that's very very vivid as a color just so I can really see clearly sort of how simple or complex the contours are. I can really look at where the negative spaces are intruding into particular areas and what's the kind of the shaping of that. There's kind of a strong diagonal of kind of upward motion from lower left to right that I began to see. I re-cropped it sort of following my thoughts from the previous image in order to gain that kind of tension. And in doing that created very very radically different kinds of interval of spacial breaks. That is kind of a pushing and pulling and opening and compressing of these kind of major intervals or these axes of lighter and darker shapes across where every really almost every single measurement that you could take from left to right is different from all the other ones around it. When intervals or proportions become very different you get a sense of movement. Rhythm. Sometimes it's a progression. It's going one way really fast or it's zooming in and then stopping. Or it might be something that kind of alternates or jumps a little bit. But that kind of movement or energy, is something that kind of influences an audiences perception of the subject matter. Even without the benefit of any other graphical material, the viewer is likely to perceive not only because of the kind of close confrontational cropping of the image, but also because of that rhythmic movement. That difference in interval. That there is, that the biker is in motion and that it's a kind of a frenzied motion. There's something frenetic going on. That kind of communication happens under the radar. It's not something that people understand or recognize intellectually. It's something that their brains understand. And then they internalize afterwards. So I further, exaggerated that because still the up and down motion was a little bit too, conflicted a little bit too much with the upper and lower edges of the format. In this compressed space, the, I'll go back again. The, all of this up and down motion in these verticals is kind of slamming into the edges of the format. And by giving a slight rotation as well as by actually distorting the image, by skewing it, with software, I was able to create a little bit more of a kind of a directionality. As well as exaggerate this kind of rhythmic motion across the frame, of the format. And to start to create this kind of emphasis from left to right. So when we read elements as being weaker, in presence on the right, and... No on the left. On the left. And gaining in presence. Becoming larger in scale or bolder in mass, and of actually sort of tilting from left to right, we get a sense of forward motion and rapid forward motion depending on how the intervals are being adjusted. So then I thought well what goes in there? Because it okay. It's a dynamic figure and there's the possibility of all this kind of movement going on. Clearly it's a person in a suit riding a bike. But what's really New Yorky about it? So the first thing I did is I took some stock images of New York buildings and thought about well if I introduce a kind of a texture into the background there's the pattern of windows and building grids and so on that that could be interesting and it would be a contrast visually to the overall kind of massive presence of the figure. And it could also potentially be communicative. You'll notice that I also removed the color from the biker. And I did that because the color was kind of uncontrolled. It was the color that I was kind of left with that didn't really have or express any kind of specific relationship. Between the coloration of the skin and the coloration of the suit, there wasn't really an idea there in terms of color. And color itself is an idea. So I removed the color and that makes the image somewhat more journalistic or objective in nature and it also frees the designer up to mess with the color. Once the true color or the natural color of an image disappears is that you no longer have to be concerned about well the figure is not really the right color compared to these objects in the background and so on. Or the hands are too, there's the question of ethnicity. New York is very diverse as many cities are. And the coloration of the hands is being clearly Caucasian was something that was kind of bothering me. So, by removing the color even though the tonal value of the hands is still relatively light comparatively, there is some leeway for interpretation. But the background seemed a little bit too busy and distracting. Again trying to go for something that was very distilled, very bold and very immediate in kind of cognition in perception. So then I thought well what about some kind of abstraction of architecture? So I built this kind of sort of scape of graphical elements. Lines and plainer forms that operating together could be interpreted as city. Simply because of the geometry involved. And they had a kind of an interesting effect. There was something quite urban about it and which I would then interpret in the context of the suit, the suit wearing rider as being kind of New Yorkish. There is a slightly Art Deco quality to the quality of that drawing even though that wasn't really intentional. Which speaks to the sort of the stylistic period of the 1920s and 30s. Which is often associated with New York because of the hay day of jazz and architecture at that time. The Chrysler Building and so on. That kind of sort of streamlined kind of visual form. But still a little bit complicated. I thought about using something that was actually very very soft. Going back to the sort of blurred idea and pulling from, or drawing from one of those early sketches, the sense of the perspective from background or from far to near by altering a kind of a photograph of street traffic lights. Changing the contrast. Blurring them, warping them to create a little bit more forward motion. This kind of emphasis into the foreground. And then and that seemed kind of interesting. But at the end of the day I was not really so thrilled with that so I took that out. So I'm looking at these things. I tried a couple of other things and this is where this kind of iteration in the process comes back is that I, I'm trying to go forward but I really have to kind of take stock of what I've looked at previously. And see well what is it that really was kind of drawing me to those kinds of possibilities. And some of it was the texture and some of it was the bold graphic form, and some of it was the perspective movement. And I'm thinking that the sort of the thread that I see showing up between all of those things is the diagonal. There's a diagonal axis and the diagonal is highly pronounced in the image. Not only 'cause I've rotated it and because the sort of focal points of brightness or contrast are kind of zig zagging along. But there's also this kind of upward movement from a weight at the lower edge of the format to something that shoots up so the eye is kind of directed along this axis to this crook in the knee to the other knee to this point where there's a lot of visual activity and then off to another point where the form leaves the format. So there's a kind of a direct diagonal line and there all kinds of interesting diagonals in there. So I decided to isolate some and define some. So in a really kind of spontaneous way, I just threw some graphic shapes down to play off of those diagonals. I chose these kind of plainer forms because they were quite simple. They broke the space in a dynamic way and they could essentially potentially overlap the figure depending on what might eventually happen with color. And then, I overlaid another set. And I started to look also at what was happening in terms of these overlays. I didn't really pick the colors for any reason in particular other than that they were, they contrasted with each other. And when I was changing the layers and moving them around, I could just see clearly where these kinds of interesting joint would show up. Like where the edge of one plain appeared to overlap a portion of the photo or where that colored area of that plain continued and then got sort of disturbed again, just to sort of see what that was. And I, then I started to mess with that composition a little bit and I started to refine. It seemed useful. So why beat around the bush. So I, after moving around the various layers a little bit I defined what I thought were, or what I felt were very very decisive, very specific kinds of overlap situations, between the two layers of plains, all of these angles intersecting, and the kind of the angles and forms within the figure. So I began to look at color. I was kind of drawn to these kind of vivid colors initially just because I had been working with them and there's something kind of edgy and sort of jarring about it. And in, whether it's in a newspaper or a magazine which is essentially gray type expanse or other photos, it would be likely to pop out. The graphic forms even though they're all very very dynamic and relatively complex are also essentially bold simple expanses of nothing. Really with color information. And by adjusting the value relationships between what appears to be foreground and background, I could minimize the actual sense of layered break and actually pull those layers together to create actually a kind of a simpler sort of plainer experience. So I started messing around with these colors. I went to the green blue because that spoke of to a certain degree the heritage of the event from previous years as you saw in some of the research that I looked at. I began to go into the opposite direction. Pulling from some Olympic posters and also Tour de France advertising, which focused mostly on kind of the red, orange, yellow situation and that also seemed fine. I'm really kind of the worst person to ask about color. I shouldn't really say that. (audience laughing) Because for me color is so subjective. And what I'm really interested in is like, once I find an optical relationship that gets a certain intended energy across, whether it happens to be blue or green based or yellow based or orange based, is really kind of, like I could like these all and be okay. So I just kept playing. I began to notice that depending on how I was moving the layers, I would get different kinds of contrasting situations where in this case, for example the background breaks become a little bit less sort of pronounced and the figure actually sort of jumped out a little bit more. Especially, and the exaggeration of light dark value within the figure relative to those backgrounds became even more pronounced which I thought was kind of a good thing. Just for fun and just to test it out I flipped the whole color relationship into more of a kind of a primary situation. As you can see here not all tests work out and that's why you test things is to find out well what is effective and what is not effective? 'Cause you can't really envision everything that could be in your head. Our brains don't work that way. Everything looks good in your head until you put it on paper or you see it. So, yes? And would you test these with colleagues or something ever? Like mock it up and just be like- Yes. In this case I was working independently. And so the ultimate test would be in front on the client. The client would test it for me. But, I... I'm typically, the kind of designer that likes to become very very comfortable and convinced by the decisions that I'm making. So, it's through all of this comparison. 50, 20, 50, 20, 50, 100 variations of color interactivity that I can begin to make comparisons and there by see well what yields certain kinds of effects? And how are those effects different than these other kinds of effects that are yielded by other variations in the color? Which ones give me greater emphasis on the figure? Which ones confuse the figure? Which ones become, are not appealing in kind of a color sense? Or seem too complex? And this was one of those that did all three. The spacial breaks became so complicated. The color became so kind of all over the place. Essentially primary and variants that there was no real true color idea, and the figure began to get obscured. But, there was something kind of interesting about that. Is that in obscuring the figure, in some places, still other elements of the figure began to kind of pop out and I thought well, does the figure actually have to be behind all of the elements? And so I began to selectively move, remove some of the upper layers of color by selecting just certain components of the black and white gray scale image. And allowing them to kind of pop through the color where as in other cases they would be overlaid, and I could also change the density of the color, or the opacity of it in certain areas. So I could, so the color in this case begins a little bit bolder and is really kind of obstructing the figure here but then fades out. Here the hand leaps in front of this kind of graphical boundary. As this one does. Cuts in front of that division rather than being kind of overlaid or sort of stuck behind it. So the figure became much more dimensional. It's tonality again became much more pronounced. And I had also then isolated essentially this analogous relationship. This intense, vivid yellow green. A green that was created kind of naturally between its interaction with that green and a cooler blue. Still, or rather a warmer blue that is a blue that's not quite so purpley but one that's a little bit towards the green. A little bit more analogous. And then I, decided to interact with some type. So I really just chose a face 'cause I thought I would like that one. Usually I look at a few faces and you'll see me do that again in a bit. But because of all this diagonality which has a kind of linear quality and the line elements, and because everything is essentially plains I thought how do I cut into that, that environment sharply enough? If I get something that's very kind of round or extended in a type face, the energy is a little bit diminished, and it may interact with more things. And I might have less control over where to put it, because of how far the strokes are separated by each other within the characters. So the very very condensed Sans Serif was very very clean. It was very sharp. And it spoke to some of the graphic language in the image itself. I didn't really think about it. So I just sort of plopped it in there and I started to mess with things. So I was thinking about this perspective space, and does all the type have to be the same size in order to be read as a continuous phrase? And no of course it doesn't. And by maintaining a strong relationship of alignment, to the cap lines of the text I can enforce their kind of relationship to each other, and also enhance the directional movement or the speed of reading from one end to the other by emphasizing elements of the text that are important in terms of meaning and then stepping backwards into scale and space. So interestingly the perspective of the text goes in the opposite direction of the perspective that's suggested by the image. So you get this kind of cross tension. Still a very kind of bold and simple but now much more detailed kind of an element. I looked at making it small. Sometimes type being smaller than you expect in an environment where it's not really yelling at you, but it allows the image to get out there and do its work, and once it's drawn the reader in, to sort of quietly speak the information. So it can be very very effective. So when I did that I separated Bike Expo NYC and the year, I noticed there was a lot of space. The two things seemed kind of disconnected from each other. So type is made up of other things than letters and numbers and words. It's also made up of punctuation and one of those is a slash. So the slash was an interesting way of creating some visual connectivity between the two groupings of the text. And at the same time picking up on the diagonal in the image. I tested that theory out. Again the perspective type idea moving in the opposite direction. Just to see. 'Cause sometimes you think you know something and you don't. Until you see it. But I ultimately went back to this sort of small to large relationship so that the scale of the type supported directly the same kind of relationship of scale or distance in the perspective. I used a kind of a midline to still create that sort of horizontal connectivity between the text elements. But then I thought well do the type elements actually have to stay on the same baseline? Or hang from the same cap line in order to be a unit. And what happens if they jog up and down? The connective tissue there which is the horizontal was also the slashes again which creates this connective sort of small rhythm on top of the large massive elements in the foreground. And so then it came time for execution which was really simply sort of testing the color breaks in terms of the ink mix formula, as they would appear in print. And then introducing just two pieces of information. Both the client and I were of the mind that as little information as possible that would be useful would be more effective. So that the kind of the flavor, the energy, the engaging quality of the image would be the most pronounced. Would be the driving force in drawing attention and in communicating. But there are some things that are kind of important for people to know. That would be the dates and where to go to find out information abut it. And that's what it looked like in context. So it's interesting that even here in the context of another image which had some bold color is that it really sort of stood out against the grayness of the page. And most of the media about it again was in editorial. Yes? I have a question. On the first sketches you have kind of like two shapes. The shape of the ad and like a square on the side. What was that square for? So that extra square, I can even zoom back. Can I? It's like a lot (laughs). It's fine 'cause we can jump back and forth. The reason that that square is there in the sketch, is because I was aware... These in particular. Yes. I was aware of the proportion of the half page magazine format that they had already bought. I imagined and based on our conversations that they might be buying other formats. In particular, whether in other magazines, or a tighter format, that is a third of the page as a possibility, in some particular magazine depending on what the price of that magazines ads were. And also thinking about the potential for this to extend into the subway poster format which is very narrow, or very shallow rather and very wide. I was thinking about that space in advance so that I could consider or accommodate that space. And by being able to bring graphical material into it. So even though I did most of the refining within that specific format that we saw later, I had to be sort of thinking about, well if there is all this extra space, how far do I have to go out with stuff? And how do I track that energy out in order to get it so that that space doesn't feel like kind of an empty nothing? That it's active. That it actually feels integrated and part of that composition. Part of that experience overall. So theoretically, had this gone to, or rather when this went to subway, and the format is really out here, yes I could adjust the whole grouping a little bit. But it also gave me the opportunity to add very rapidly, just by extending some of these plains and then taking a chunk and dropping it, all the way over on the right hand side, a way of completely involving that space, without having to do very much. So it did sort of become its own little system. It solved a problem in advance. And really this typographic kind of configuration is also flexible because the intervals can be exaggerated. Even the scale can be changed a tiny bit to pull that information out. So there's always a lot of problem solving that goes on and sometimes, you're not aware of what's going to happen to something down the road. But whenever it's possible and whenever that happens that you know okay there's gonna be this other kind of version of it, or it's gonna be used in a different place, that's always helpful to know because you can start thinking about that in advance and does that impose any restrictions on the way that you're considering what's gonna happen in that environment?

Class Description


  • Identify and apply fundamental graphic design elements
  • Add essential design skills to your toolkit
  • Approach and manage the creative process through varied projects


You don’t need to have a background in fine arts or be an Adobe InDesign whiz to create compelling designs. In this class, Timothy Samara takes you back to the fundamentals of graphic design - the same principles he has consistently returned to in his 25-year career.

Through real-world projects, you’ll learn the basics of:

  • Form and image
  • Color theory
  • Typography
  • Layout and composition

Most unique about Timothy’s class is his demonstration of how design theory manifests in actual projects; he cracks open his professional portfolio and takes you into the world of how real designers work. With an extensive career behind him, Timothy’s design services have spanned from web design to print media, to interface design, and to building brand identity. By walking through Timothy’s creative process, you not only see how design elements interact and impact an overall product, but you get a rare view of the problem-solving graphic designers do and the decisions they make. What rules exist and when are they broken? How do you juggle meticulous research vs. spontaneity?

Whether you want to design a poster, flyer, or logo - this class will give you the insights you need to design with confidence. Welcome to the art and science of graphic design.


This class is designed for beginner and intermediate graphic designers as well as more experienced designers looking for a brush-up on design principles, career-changers, marketing team members, and anyone interested in graphic design fundamentals.


Timothy Samara is a New York-based graphic designer and educator whose twenty-five career has so far focused on visual identity and branding, communication design, and typography. Since 2000, he has split his time between professional practice and academia, defining a highly respected reputation as an instructor at the School of Visual Arts, Parsons/The New School for Design, Purchase College SUNY, New York University, The University of the Arts, and Fashion Institute of Technology. Mr. Samara is a frequent university lecturer and contributor to design publications both in the U.S. and abroad. He has written eight books on design to date (all from Rockport Publishers), which have been translated into ten languages and are used by students and practitioners around the world.

Connect with Timothy online: LinkedIn

Ratings and Reviews

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a Creativelive Student

Wonderful class! I loved getting the info as to the creative process. Great!

sixtina maculan

Thank you for sharing your experiences in this class. It's been a pleasure to listen, learn and understand, as well as a wonderful motivation.

Øyvind Hermans

I love this class, clear and precise information with very interesting examples. I have worked as a graphic designer for 6 years but have no design eduction, so at times I feel like there is these gaps of design-knowlegde in my decisions, this was the perfect filler of these gaps.