You can (sometimes) judge a book by its cover (Pt III)

In this post, I will be referring to some examples of good graphic design in this link, and reviewing them based on what I’ve learnt from Gareth David Studio’s Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Design. As far as possible, I will not refer to the descriptions used in the webpage when I write my reflections on each piece. Rather, I will make references to the concepts I summarised in Parts I and II of this series.

I. BFI Movie Festival Promotions by Kory Schulz

Much of the success of these pieces lie in the designer’s ability to meld modern techniques and style with classic horror film iconography. This brings a fresh energy to horror movie icons while still retaining much of the films’ identity and tone.

I think design principle of contrast is used as the anchor for these pieces. A simple, monochromatic colour scheme helps retain the dark, sombre tone of the movies, but the choice of contrasting colours helps to add sufficient zest to the posters. Clean lines and carefully streamlined visual information help retain the posters’ identity while giving viewers the relevant information for the event. This is contrasted with the texture of deliberately crumpled print to reflect the age of the films. Lastly, while the alignment of the posters is neat and structured to give a polished feel, the central “Dracula” poster has its character upside-down. It serves not just as a callback to the iconic vampire, but also to capture the attention of the viewer, thereby helping to fulfill the posters’ function as an advertisement for the film viewing events.

II. Lighthouse Coffee Co. Packaging by Brandon Lee (Ernie Holiday)

The design concept aims for sleekness using clean shapes floating in a plain background. It used colours on a complementary palette as well as a structured application of the proximity principle to help create space and isolate the various elements. This results in a display of information that is easy to locate and digest, as well as a modern and relevant look and feel. Repetition of elements in terms of shapes, lines, colours, alignment and type also help to give a consistent design language.

However, I feel that the choice of visual elements, while polished and modern, do not help the brand stand out in its own market. While simplicity helps keep the look clean, it also makes the brand indistinct among a sea of modern brands. Other brands, such as Apple, have simple designs, but also have iconic logos or shapes that allow them to be easily recalled. Lighthouse Coffee, on the other hand, lacks visual aids to help it be memorable. One might remember its typeface or its slick design, but may not link it back to its roots as a coffee brand, or give any impression of the signature of its coffee’s flavours.

III. Lite Loaves Packaging by Jessica Bakker

I’m not sure this product really exists as I can’t find it anywhere online. But I found the design language used here intriguing and appropriate for the product being sold.

This is basically marketed as a healthy and natural home-baked loaf for children. The use of soft and familiar shapes, type and patterns (e.g. fluffy clouds and squiggly lines), as well as light contrast in colour schemes, help establish its identity as a children’s product, and set an appropriately gentle tone. The opening flap is an application of hierarchy and space principles. The flap creates a hierarchy in dimensions, isolating the visual of the branding and the product. Similar to many food products, the window entices the consumer and creates curiosity for the product within.

Closing thoughts

Graphic design plays a crucial role in rounding out the presentation of the tangible and intangible. Be it the presentation of ideas or a product, good graphic design helps present them at their best, and can even provide enhancements by setting the right tone, triggering emotions, provoking thoughts and giving rise to further, relevant discussions.

Good graphic design is only possible through lots of practice. However, it helps to have a good theoretical foundation before embarking on an intentional journey of improving this aspect. As you might have heard, “perfect practice makes perfect”. Imperfect practice might just derail one’s progress and lead to bad habits that are hard to unlearn.

One area that graphic design can’t fully salvage, however, is if your ideas or products lack substance or coherence to begin with. Content plays a crucial role. If one’s message is unclear, it will come through in the graphic design. As seen in the Lighthouse Coffee Co. example above, if you do not have a clear idea of your brand identity, your brand will slip away into the trends, but never stand out and make their mark in the consciousness of people. Similarly, without coherence to begin with, ideas will not come through clearly even with great graphic design.

As such, my next reflection under the umbrella of visual presentation of data will move on to content. I will try to identify some handles and tips for crafting good content.

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