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Graphic Design Fundamentals: Getting Started

Lesson 17 of 18

Designing the Touchpoints


Graphic Design Fundamentals: Getting Started

Lesson 17 of 18

Designing the Touchpoints


Lesson Info

Designing the Touchpoints

And so, you know that system, informs all the parts. The brand lives in the real world. In printed form, in digital form, in materials that she shows to groups and materials that she gives out to others. And those things are referred to often as touchpoints or applications. They are the point at which the brand touches the consumer or the audience. Whether it's a business card or a form or a letterhead, an invoice, the side of a truck delivering things, the packaging that the product is in. All of these things are points of contact where the consumer, the audience, the public begins to kind of have a dialogue, sort of a, family talk with the client in a certain way. They become aware of the client through certain avenues, whether it's advertising on the web, from there, they're directed to some other piece of information that they need, they're brought continually deeper and deeper into a close knit kind of association with the brand itself. It's where we can now talk about brands as p...

eople, but even though they're not, but they are entities. They have kind of a presence. And that's what you want, you want the audience to know why they're going to that brand for what they're offering. You want them to like going there, you want the audience to feel as though they are valued, that the brand or the company is actually talking to them, is helping make their life better in some way, is adding to their experience as humans, and that you're building a relationship, and a narrative that will just continually grow over time. So these are the touchpoints that are in existence. Now, first is the stationery. This is the letterhead. Using one of the engravings as kind of a watermark. This is a folder. The folder was originally intended to be the same coloration with a full bleed of that image on the inside. But for budgetary reasons, we had to find an existing off the rack folder and began to, and customized it with a sticker. And the other side of the stickers here folds around and holds a print of that engraving collage as a kind of an internal fly sheet which was much easier, much cheaper to print. And also could be folded down to become the envelope. So we actually got two pieces of the stationery out of one print run and was able to achieve the same kind of effect which was this full bleed sort of rich, lush background image without having to actually make a real folder out of it. These are the envelope. And so when it's folded down, you open the envelope and that image is on the inside. You see here the application of the tagline one the lower part of the envelope. This is the business card, front and back. It's printed, now again, three colors, so this is much more accurate in terms of that color, that third corporate color, this kind of, sort of pale muted yellow green. The backside is surprinting where you get a little bit more of the kind of the blue violet out of the tones, as those two ink colors come into contact with each other. And then one thing that was really important was to develop a presentation that she would make to interested or concerned groups. And in that presentation we really started to look at messing around with imagery. So we had the, we had the engravings as a kind of a backdrop, this is the backbone of the visual language for the brand. But we also started to look at more symbolic and playful kinds of image use in the presentation. One for emotional value, and two because, her personality is actually kind of a lot like mine, she's very sort of bouncy, kind of very friendly, she speaks with a lot of passion, she goes off on tangents all the time. And she talks to audiences very much like she's talking to a friend. So we wanted to bring some of that personality, but she's also, you know, she's very confrontational. And she's presenting information that a lot of people are going to be taken aback by, in terms of some facts about food. So, this is the presentation, this is the title screen. And so I'll just cycle through these. It begins with this, going directly to black using that accent face to deliver sort of shocking bit of information. And then jumps to this. And then these are statistics about livestock production, about nutritional elements in foods. And as it cycles through, there're about 40 or of these, the background type begins to fade out. This talks about the relationship between tobacco and sugar. And asks the question. And then it launches into a series of sort of shocking facts, or misconceptions in a true false sort of game. And so the first one is milk builds strong bones. Which is false. And so by breaking the image apart and fracturing it, the idea of bone fracture is kind of thrown out there. That is what strong bones or calcium or drinking milk is supposed to aid against. And then there's a fact that follows it. So as soon as she debunks the myth, she gives you the evidence and then moves onto the next one. So we being to get a little bit playful. Because a fish is more like a cow in terms of saturated fat, which many people do not know. And then after about 10 or 15 of those, by which time the audience is totally inflamed, she returns to a kind of a calming session, and that point, you're about halfway through the presentation. And she refers to Hippocrates, the Greek father of modern medicine. And then begins to offer solutions. Where do I start? And then it goes through a series of different kinds of possibilities. There are eight segments to this but I don't have all of them. So here she's talking about getting back in the kitchen and spending less time on the computer and more time actually doing the act of cooking and caring for your nutrition. Facts about chewing. This is a engraving about phrenology which is a pseudo science that developed in the 1800's that tried to map personality traits based on the bumps on your head, which didn't last very long, kind of precursor to psychology or eugenics. I'm jumping there to four. There are other aspects to dealing with nutrition, that there are effects about how you live, stress levels and so on, that affect how your body processes things. And so always this combination of the engravings and this kind of playful image. Interestingly, these are the actual colors of the tags that she found for this slide, which played kind of directly off of their greens and violets and I couldn't have been happier. I couldn't have done that better myself. And sometimes we really played with the treatment. When it made sense to veer away from the strict sort of branding language, we went there because ultimately it's the message that's the most important. It's gonna live in this brand anyway, it's surrounded by it. And then into the kind of final segment. And then into the hard sell at the end, where she outlines what exactly she offers. We're now, completely enveloped in the brand language with the logo as the anchoring point. And then to the website as a kind of a director. The website is still in production but it is designed. But this is what it looks like. So we eventually determined that the silhouetted images were gonna cause a lot of trouble and so we just locked them into a box. This follows the same grid formation as was established for the stationery. Here the little icons being used. This is the primary navigation which is outside of the content area and there's a search function. There is a secondary navigation for brand information, the mission and her bio and the services themselves. And then we developed an advertising system also based on that grid formation. These don't line up here but there you see it happening. And this grid continues all the way across. So depending on what newspaper you're buying in and which part of a page you're buying, is that you use the number of columns that fits that page. And then you determine what the margin is. If the margin doesn't work out, you go to the next column in so you keep the live area, all the material safe from the outer edges if there's gonna be a trim. So basically it was a creation of two zones, one for branding and color and one for image, which could be very flexible, depending on what you wanted. So this would be a kind of an example of, a sort of a purely brand language ad using the brand language only as the image material. And also using the colors of the brand in more or less their primary form. It could also accept photography for a particular campaign or when the mood struck the client. I'd really like to show fresh kale in this image. Okay, we can do that. And then last is an image of her with something that we wrote together that sort of captures her essence as a person and as a personality because the brand is also really kind of wrapped up in her. And that ad was the first one that was produced, just a little website on the bottom, and that's it.

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


  1. Introduction to Graphic Design

    What exactly do graphic designers do? What is the overall goal of design? We see many products that designers create - from logos, to t-shirts, to newsletters and invitations - yet what do graphic artists actually do to produce these products? What design skills do they use and what factors influence their decisions? What roles do graphic designers play in business, the economy, and within communities?

  2. Graphic Design: Areas of Specialization

    With the advent of technology, not only have tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator transformed the graphic designer’s process of creation, but the possibilities of design have expanded into far reaching areas. Timothy gives a quick overview of areas of specialization as a graphic designer; from editorial design to wayfinding, and advertising to motion graphics and branding, learn about the possibilities the field offers.

  3. The History of Graphic Design

    History repeats itself. Learn about the evolution of graphic design and the origins of many of today’s design trends. Timothy takes you on a fascinating journey through the 36,000 year old history of graphic design, from cave paintings to the Industrial Revolution in New York, to the arts and crafts movement in England to the birth of Modernism, Bauhaus, and the development of corporate identity. How has visual language evolved from past to present?

  4. The Designer's Toolkit

    Every designer carries a basic toolkit of the fundamental graphic elements in a design - these are the elements a designer plays with and manipulates to create a final product, be it a web page or a series of comic books. Starting with form and image: how do graphic designers choose the images they use? How do geometric and organic forms influence a design? How do designers use form and image to create a narrative, or meaning?

  5. The Graphic Designer's Tools: Color

    Color is a dynamic tool. What elements of color can be adjusted, and how does this impact overall design and the effect on your audience? What relationships do colors have with each other and how do you choose a palette? What biological changes do our bodies go through when we perceive color - and how do you harness the power of color as a designer?

  6. The Graphic Designers Tools: Typography

    Sometimes overlooked, typography is essential to user experience; the right combination of factors can create a comfortable and engaging experience that piques your audience’s interest. How can you use typography to guide your audience’s attention and best communicate your message?

  7. The Graphic Designer's Tools: Layout & Space

    Graphic design is made up of different, and at times competing elements: typography and imagery. How do you merge these to create harmonious and compelling visual compositions? You will learn how to manipulate space in your design and organize elements to influence how your audience reads your message.

  8. Typical Work Processes

    You have a project - now where do you start? Creative processes differ from person to person, however the typical design process goes through the same stages: research, ideation, refinement, and execution. Timothy describes the factors to consider at each stage.

  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?

  10. Designing a Poster

    What unique opportunities does poster design offer? How does the size of media affect a reader’s experience? Timothy walks you through his process of designing a poster for a theatrical performance and the more complex concept and image development this design work requires. We see surprises and new ideas surface through the process of refinement, as well as the value of broad research.

  11. Designing a Book Layout: Basic Concepts

    Timothy designs the layout of a book, a retrospective of an artist’s work. He raises and answers compelling questions throughout the process: How do you work with multiple stakeholders on a single project? How do you turn limitations into positive challenges? How do you problem-solve when a client is not satisfied? How does using a layout grid actually create, rather than hinder flexibility? Timothy shows you how to explore compositional ideas within the format of a book with extensive images and text.

  12. Designing a Book Layout: The Details

    Typeface, alignment, transitions, even the color of the cloth of a hardbound book: these are all factors in cover to cover book design. Timothy demonstrates the process of creating a book cover in line with his client’s artistic vision, finalizing the process, and bringing the project to execution.

  13. Designing a Website

    Web design presents a playground of opportunity: how does interactivity influence design? How do page layout, flow, and navigation affect the user experience? How does hierarchy, or the order in which the audience perceives information, translate into the interactive context? Timothy takes us through a web design project; we see his research process, concept sketching, use of grids, and problem-solving in the context of a web page.

  14. How to Design a Brand Identity: Preperation

    Graphic design at full volume is the creation of brand identity. Timothy models beginning the process of designing a brand identity for a client with the core component: the logo. What are the best research practices for logo design? How do you create a powerful logo? Does it need to communicate a message? How do you problem-solve for its applications in various forms of media?

  15. How to Design Brand Identity: Showing the Client

    Timothy shares his best tips for working with a client in logo design. How many options should you present and in what context? How do you involve your client in the problem-solving and refinement process?

  16. Building Brand Language

    Brand identity may start with a logo, but a logo is just one part of a brand - it needs to exist within a world with context. Timothy models how to flesh out the rest of a brand’s visual language, from website content to color palettes, icons, and taglines.

  17. Designing the Touchpoints

    If you want to take your client’s brand to its audience and not only increase exposure, but build and strengthen the relationship between brand and customer, you need to design brand touchpoints. Packaging, letterheads, and business cards all add to the narrative. How can you develop a simple and effective advertising system?

  18. Fundamentals are Forever

    Timothy closes where he begins - with the fundamentals. What is the mission of the designer? What can you learn from the history of the discipline? How will trusting the process of discovery push your practice to the next level?


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.