While I am not a professional graphic artist by any means, I have learned a bit about it over the years. Mostly I was forced to learn through my work. Usually it went something like this—we need an ad to run in the newspaper, but have no money to hire someone, so make it happen.
I really did not mind as I love to learn about new things, and so jumping into concepts of good layout, dpi, printing processes, and such was really interesting. Plus, I have learned a nerdy trick or two along the way, too.
One thing I learned is that it is really easy to overdo a layout. When you find new tricks about what your graphic software will do, it is tempting to start adding effects to the layout. Oh, you think, this is cool. I didn’t know I could do that. And so on. Soon, your design looks overly complicated, hard to read, and fails to do its job of capturing interest and conveying information quickly.
But you do need some interesting effects in the layout to attract the eye and compete with other visual “noise” that surrounds us every day. So, one trick I have used to good effect is to take digital pictures of interesting rocks. Yes, rocks.
The colors, diversity of minerals, the range of textures evident in many rock outcrops provides really interesting organic images. Granite, sandstones, marble, even travertine floor tile can be an interesting source of images. And having a digital library of many different rocks on hand can come in really handing when you need to add just a bit to a graphic layout.
Most frequently I have screened the images into the background of the layouts. For example, if it is a black and white print job screening a rock image down to about 10% can provide just the right amount of interest without being overbearing and competing with the information you are trying to convey. Plus, these images can work great as nature wallpaper for your desktop too.
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