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Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign: A beginners guide to choosing the right Adobe graphic software

The Adobe Creative Suite offers an array of industry-leading software products for graphic design, web design, professional photography, video editing, and much more.  For any aspiring designer looking at the Adobe software choices, there is a lot of overlap between the graphic design products (and for good reason!).

If you are confused as to which product is right for you when you decide to tackle that new, creative project, it is helpful to know the key differences between the three major graphic design programs in the Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

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Set, Forget InDesign Styles for Consistency

In my opinion, one of the marks of a professional graphic designer is consistency. It is so important to make sure that fonts, colors, and design elements are consistent throughout a project, but also across an entire company brand. Design consistency gives a feeling of familiarity and provides the consumer something to recognize about your products or services. When Adobe InDesign was introduced in the Creative Suite in 2002, it came with a bundle of new features that helped designers ensure consistency across documents. One of the easiest ways to do this was to use Adobe styles. In most of the graphics programs in the Adobe Creative Suite — including Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator — there are multiple panels referring to style. An Adobe style is simply a package of style information that can easily be applied to your document objects. In Adobe InDesign, there are separate panels for character styles, paragraph styles, table styles, cell styles and more. Each of these is intended to help you create the style and then easily deploy it as needed. By connecting all of your relevant objects to the style, you can easily make one change to the style definition and it can be re-applied to all associated items. For example, a paragraph style may contain the font, spacing and alignment information for different types of paragraphs. This concept alone can save you hours of tedious cleanup work. It also reduces human error and guarantees that all similar elements have the same appearance. However, these concepts can be taken to a much higher level. Adobe InDesign also has a way to create a pattern of styles throughout your project. For example, many print documents follow a familiar flow to organize the content. You may have a header, followed by a sub-heading, a first paragraph with an interesting design for the first line of text, and then subsequent body paragraphs. A feature of a style called Next Style allows you to set up an order for styles to follow. All you would have to do is set the style of header and then tell InDesign to flow the Next Style to ensure the remaining styles follow from there. Each style will remain connected to the source to allow for quick changes and consistency. There are far too many other-style related features and time-saving tricks than I can mention in this short column. I hope you try to use styles in your Creative Suite projects and find new ways to become more efficient with your design work. [Originally posted in the Coloradoan on...

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The Concepts of Strong Visual Design

Strong designs go far beyond looking cool. When you load a website, watch an ad on television or peruse magazine ads, are you looking at them with random purpose, or did someone sprinkle a breadcrumb trail for you to follow? A well-designed document leads viewers from point A to B, highlighting and emphasizing key components without shouting in all caps “HEY! LOOK OVER HERE!” While there are many creative and intricate ways to draw viewers to the important content like moth to flame, there are basic (and highly effective) methods that are commonly used in just about all of today’s media. Eyeflow Eyeflow is one’s natural visual progression through a document. Creating visual flow is like drawing a map through your document using various design elements. To help draw this map and mark your important goodies with a big, fat, subconscious “X,” designers will use anything from color or shade gradients to roadways or even an arrow. Subtler techniques incorporate less obvious materials, and piecing together a design that not only looks compelling, but compels the eye to follow a specific path is a true art form. There are no rules written in stone for eyeflow. As in, you can get creative with where people should begin viewing your document and where eyeflow should lead. Really, eyeflow should be different for almost every project you have, as your materials and goals will differ. Just remember that whether it’s an arrow, an innocuous background object, text or the central component of your design, give everything in your design direction towards your project’s goal. “Reading” Designs This is perhaps one of the most basic and fundamental rules of eyeflow. Ever since we were children, we’ve been trained to read from left to right, top to bottom. This principle of eyeflow holds true for graphic and text-laden content. This isn’t the only way to create designs, but it’s used so often that it’s important to highlight this technique. This comic book cover of Spider-Man is a great example of how top-left to bottom-right rules apply for both images and text. You can see how the illustration uses a strong headline to initially grab the eye at the top. Then, Spider-Man’s pose not only draws the eye to the center of the design, it also leads the eye from the top-left to the bottom-right of the page. All literal messages (dialogue bubbles and text blocks) follow the same path as his pose, giving the content a natural flow. Also, as Spidey’s first appearance ever, there is literally an arrow pointing at his name, saying Hello world!” without stealing the focus from the central image. The Fold While you don’t want to bludgeon people with calls-to-action and information, you shouldn’t hide them either. When creating images for websites, it’s important to remember that monitors, smartphones and tablets typically aren’t large enough to display a website’s full content. The fold is the point where a page goes from visible to off-screen. It’s typically important to place all important information above the fold, as many people will move on without scrolling through the entirety of web pages. These principles can potentially help when designing for other media than the web as well, as it will help create a hierarchy of content. Speaking of which… Hierarchy vs. Anarchy Newspapers may be an endangered species, but they sure know how to prioritize content. Typically, newspapers follow the inverted pyramid rule, where articles lead with the most important information and get to the finer details and extras toward the end. When creating your designs, it’s important to think about...

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