Pantone announces colour of the year

Pantone is a large and influential commercial printing company. They invented the colour matching system. This is a standardised system that gives each precise colour a specific number and means that printers across the world will achieve exactly the same results in their printed materials, regardless of where their press is located. Pantone colours are patented and include metallic colours as well as hues from the traditional colour spectrum.

Every January, Pantone announces their ‘Colour of the Year’ and this has an enormous influence on fashion designers, web designers, florists and pretty much anyone in the design business. The decision about the colour of the year is made behind closed doors and is announced with a flurry of announcements and fanfare.

It will come as no surprise to you that the Pantone colour for 2012 was tangerine. Did you think that all those orange websites, dresses and handbags were just a coincidence? No, it was definitely the trendy colour for last year, but now it’s out of date and we must move on.

This year the colour is emerald.

Not just any old emerald, but Pantone Emerald 17 – 5641. It’s a beautiful colour. Look out for an explosion of greeny/blue in the coming year. You will see it popping up everywhere.

I am really happy that this year’s colour is emerald as it’s one of my favourite colours (hence my new peacock feather header theme). I’m going to use it as often as I can.

What does this mean for you?

You will be able to amaze your friends by telling them why emerald is the ‘in’ colour for 2013.

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Basic Principles USING IMAGES

Many people like to include images in their presentations but struggle with choosing appropriate pictures. You need to think carefully about the message you are trying to convey to your audience and choose images that are interesting but not too clichéd.  I once made a presentation about productivity and included a picture of some rabbits. This went down well with most of the audience, but a couple of people looked slightly confused.

There are a few basic principles about using images I’d like to share with you:

  1. Always use high quality images – this means no cheesy clip art.
  2. Use relevant visuals and try to avoid decorating your slides. This isn’t a definite no-no, as sometimes a few pictures can provide a bit of interest and break up the text, but it’s better if you can use images that reinforce your content.
  3. Don’t squeeze or stretch your images. If you need to re-size your images, always hold down the SHIFT key and adjust the size from the corners. This will ensure that the height and width ratios are maintained.
  4. Don’t steal images from the web. You should use licensed or free high quality images. There are lots of places to get these at a reasonable cost. Just search for ‘free photos’ or check out some photo libraries such as Shutterstock Alternatively, you can shoot your own images on a good digital camera. I’ll  talk more about this in future posts.

Do you have any other tips for using images in presentations?

I’d love to hear from you.

Basic Principles BALANCE

Balance is a delicate and natural thing. It can be symmetrical (even on both sides like a butterfly’s wings) or asymmetrical (uneven on each side, but still feeling balanced). There are many examples of balance in nature and I think balance is quite personal. When the balance is right, it just feels right. When it’s wrong, it feels uncomfortable. Off kilter is the way I would describe it.

Balance can be achieved using colour, weight – that is, areas of lightness and darkness – and different textures. The best way for me to explain balance is to ask you to think about serving up a beautiful meal. What are the proportions of the components of your meal? Are there a variety of foods and do they complement one another? Are there a range of textures and tastes, sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth? Is the total effect pleasing and soothing? Is there just the right amount of everything on the plate?

If you are trying to achieve balance, be it in your life or on the page, you need to pay attention to what feels right and trust your instincts.

Basic Principles PROXIMITY

Proximity is about how near or far objects are from one another.

Our brains make a lot of assumptions for us based on where things are located in relation to one another. People assume that there is a relationship between things that are together, even if there isn’t.  We just assume that things that are close together, belong together. Think of salt and pepper shakers, or two friends meeting in the park. When we see a couple with their heads close together, deep in conversation, we know that they are  ‘a couple’ and not just friends. When you are designing documents or slides, always put related information together so that people can easily see that it’s related. It’s equally important to use lots of white space to separate information that’s not related.

This seems really obvious, but its a design principle that is often neglected.

Let’s get started…

So here we are at the first post. As I said in the introduction, learning about design involves thinking, observing and just having a play around with ideas.

The first idea to ponder is what is ‘good’ design and why is it important? I strongly believe that everyone has a little bit of a design mind and that’s why we like gardening, cooking, art and maybe even having a tidy desk. In my book, good design is a combination of functionality and beauty. In other words, well designed things are both useful and attractive. I’ll have a lot more to say later about why it matters that things are attractive and why it doesn’t have much to do with decoration, but that’s a conversation for another session. If you are interested in the connection between functionality and beauty you should read Donald Norman’s book on why we like things to look nice.

What do you need to do?

Start by carefully observing the world around you. Do you have favourite objects, tools or websites? What makes them useful? Name three things that are well designed and say what’s good about them. You can post examples here if you would like to.

Then find three things that are badly designed – post some examples as well. Alternatively, get yourself a work book and write down your thoughts, ideas and examples.

Is this an example of good design?

Welcome to my blog

This blog has been designed to introduce you to some basic ideas about design. You can use these ideas if you are developing presentations, documents or any other kind of work where you need to make your ideas clear.

Improving your skills involves thinking and practicing. Your skills will not improve by just reading through the material, you need to apply the ideas.

Feel free to comment on any of the information, or ask any questions.

Happy learning!