In the ever-evolving design industry, the distinction between website programmers and graphic designers is slowly becoming increasingly hazy. While classically trained designers such as myself may not be expected to crank out a website design in between developing collateral and guiding brand direction, the need to expand our base of knowledge has become imperative if we want to remain relevant.

Understanding the foundational principles of web design will help you collaborate more seamlessly with programmers and create stunning, user-friendly online spaces. Read on for some advice about working with developers and getting started in the coding world.

Learn the basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript

Getting your hands dirty in the world of programming is the most important tip I can provide. A foundational knowledge of programming can work wonders as well as save significant time when collaborating with a seasoned web developer. You’ll also more thoroughly understand how websites function and can then tailor your design accordingly. There are plenty of free or inexpensive coding tutorials on sites like Lynda.com, Codecademy and even YouTube. The information and applications are readily available; it’s up to you to take the first step.

Learn to communicate with programmers

Programmers and designers speak different “languages” when constructing a website. Programmers typically speak in terms of the coding and rules/guidelines in which a website is governed, while designers on the other hand, usually speak in terms of aesthetics. In order for ideas and direction to be conveyed between the two, there needs to be a clear understanding of the other’s language. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web and offers technical specifications and guidelines. Familiarize yourself with these web standards and you’ll be able to give, and take, direction more effectively.

Monitor and research current website trends

Website design changes quickly and constantly. What may have been trendy a few years ago might look dated and perhaps even ridiculous now. Remember those website backgrounds with flying toasters from the early-to-mid 90s? Or the glittery social media graphics from the early 2000s? A simple Google search of current website design trends will offer information about what is currently popular and perhaps spark some inspiration for the website you’re designing. But make sure you always prioritize functionality; if users can’t find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, even the most beautifully designed website will lose valuable traffic.

Work with programmers directly

Communication is key for most professions and design is one of them. When you’re in the midst of website creation, speaking directly to a programmer can save time and spare you of some of the frustration from the process. A website is never designed and programmed exactly the way it should be on the first go. The bulk of website development involves a lot of back and forth, as designers often need to edit and tweak the design to fit within certain website guidelines. If you’re working with an account manager or client, explain that this direct communication is vital for project efficiency. They’re sure to understand and connect the two of you.

Research thoroughly when choosing a partner

When possible, research potential development companies before launching a project. Development companies vary dramatically in size and pricing, and consequently can alter the timeline of the proposed website launch as well as associated costs. Some companies charge by the project while others charge by the hour. Some are single person shops while others have large teams. You should also be fully aware of the company’s locations and the consequential time zone differences. Having worked with both local and international programmers, I can say that time zones can dramatically affect the entire process of website development. If you work with programmers on the other side of the world, you will run into roadblocks due to work schedules. Before you commit, gather as much information about the company as possible.

Creating a website is a complicated and lengthy process, but one that is highly fulfilling; there’s something special about carving out an entirely new space in the online world. Equip yourself with the correct knowledge and tools, and you’re on the path to becoming a great design partner.  

On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or resources to create a website — let us do it for you! Contact us to get started.

We live in an era dominated by powerful imagery and compelling visual content. From stunning virtual reality capabilities, to seamless animation and graphic design, we’re flooded every day with extraordinary optical creations. It’s no wonder that marketing professionals cater to such a high level of sensory appeal — 90 percent of information sent to our brains is visual and we process images 60,000 times faster than text. The power of data visualization is undisputed and is why infographics have soared in popularity over the past ten years. Infographics allow people to quickly digest information and remember it for longer than they would a normal block of text. If you want to enhance message effectiveness and boost audience engagement, keep reading to learn how to create compelling infographics.

Understand the data

Novice designers sometimes settle for simply understanding the “big picture” concept of the data, while failing to truly grasp the building blocks of information they’re highlighting. You need to have an in-depth knowledge of the narrative in order to design an effective infographic. If there is something in the content that you don’t understand, ask the client what it means. It’s far better to ask too many questions than to display the information incorrectly.

Research, research and research some more

Being in tune with the latest design trends is crucial to crafting a piece that feels timely and relevant. Pie charts and bar graphs simply won’t cut it anymore if you want your design to stand out. Now, even static infographics are taking a back seat to interactive, multimedia pieces that actively engage viewers. Infographic styles evolve rapidly and if you haven’t checked out the latest craze, your design could easily be perceived as out-of-date.

Know your boundaries

If you’re designing an infographic for a specific company or client, ask them if it needs to fall within their brand standards. While sticking to certain colors, fonts and graphics can feel limiting, remember that your infographic is just one piece of a matrix that makes up their entire marketing strategy. A consistent look-and-feel is paramount, especially with larger corporations. Use this opportunity to stretch your creative wings and play with other aspects like size, hierarchy and texture to make the piece unique.

Segment information

Breaking a large infographic up into smaller segments not only helps the reader to better understand the information, but it is also easier to design multiple smaller infographics rather than one big one. The size of the pieces will also depend on how the infographic will be used. Is it going to be printed or digital? Is it the first in a series of graphics?

Put numbers first

Infographics usually display at least a few numbers and percentages. Since these tend to be the focal points of the piece with the most impact, they should take precedence in hierarchy.

Don’t over-design

Cramming in superfluous design elements was a classic mistake many designers made when infographics initially gained popularity. Never forget that negative space is your ally. It gives the audience time to scan the graphic without drawing their attention to too many different elements at once and overwhelming them. A busy infographic can also detract from the message. Crisp, clean content is king in the infographic world — if the design is stunning but the audience doesn’t grasp the message, then your efforts have failed. Conveying the correct information takes precedence over “pretty design.”

 

Infographics are no longer a novelty; they’re a necessity. Master the art of creating these pieces (or hire a team who can!) to advance your objectives and have a lasting impact on your audiences.

The job of a designer is to be creative. We collaborate with writers to bring their words to life and use colors, shapes, patterns, shadows, textures and a myriad of other visual elements to illuminate a brand. We’re connoisseurs of translating ambiguous feedback (“Just make it pop a little more” is a favorite of mine) and wizards at reinvigorating a stale, tired piece of material. Imagination and inspiration are woven into the fabrics of our work, so when we’re feeling stuck creatively — it shows. Trying to dig out of a creative rut can be discouraging. We all face these roadblocks from time-to-time and, while every person’s process is different, here are some techniques that help me navigate back into an innovative mentality.

Get moving

Step away from your assignment and take a walk outside. A recent Stanford University study found that walking enhances the flow of ideas and invigorates the mind, an effect that is realized even after returning to your desk. Exercise is also a natural stress-reliever and provides mental and physical benefits that can boost creativity. A brisk walk quells the levels of stress hormones and releases endorphins, a hormone the body naturally produces to combat pain and elevate your mood. The thought of leaving a project for a stroll might make you wince, but the benefits of physical activity will make the short reprieve worth it.

Find inspiration

Though it might sound contradictory, originality can stem from appreciating another designer’s creation. Search online for a creator’s work that moves you and evaluate what draws you to the piece — is it the placement, the lines, the utilization of space? This assessment might spark a new idea or allow you to more effectively assess your own material. Celebrate your unique style, but don’t shy away from learning from others’ work.

Brainstorm

Collaboration and creativity go hand-in-hand. Ask your co-workers if you can talk through your idea with them and get their feedback. Grab a white board and outline the fundamental elements of the project. This will help you to think critically about the problem, evaluate the project in a new space and garner insight from people with a fresh perspective.

Carry a sketchbook

Some of the best ideas and concepts come when you least expect them. If you have a sketchbook or even just pen and paper with you at all times, you can quickly write or draw them out before you forget. Even if you don’t end up using the idea for your current project, referring back to your notes can stimulate creativity and benefit you in the future.

Get in touch with your subconscious

This method might be a little unusual, but dream journaling can be a fascinating and powerful tool for enhancing creativity. Dreams are our ideas, but uninhibited by the restraints consciousness innately imposes upon us. Recalling the subliminal mind’s activity liberates us from traditional norms and helps train us to view situations from a different perspective. Creativity has free reign in our subconscious and writing these down helps us capture the truest form of our imaginations. The bizarre, wondrous world of dreams is a boundless source of inspiration.

 

Ultimately, great design stems from hard work. The perfect piece will never appear out of thin air, and the creative process is, well, a process. It’s collaboration, coupled with a deep understanding of the project objectives, audience and use. If you know your craft well and can identify techniques that kick-start your creativity, you’ll be equipped to produce something spectacular.