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DIY Design

Posted on October 24, 2002 and read 9,281 times

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Aesthetics is a very powerful word. A word in which connotations are evoked and changed as fast as you can turn a font into an outline. Any project will begin with a preconceived idea of the desired outcome, but how many projects do you get to have as a designer that are in your control from start to finish? Probably, like most of us, these projects are few and far between.

Well, let me tell ya, there is a way to curb this notion and be able to bring it to fruition. I know that this is a tough concept, when life keeps us so busy, but volunteering free design services to organizations and businesses, with limited budgets, is a step in the right direction. Or if possible, seeking very reduced rates for interesting projects is beneficial to both parties.

The opportunities in which I am speaking of are advertising and collateral packages that numerous civic, non-profit, and grass roots organizations develp and maintain to promote their services. You can find out about these institutions through a variety of resources. I usually see flyers hanging up at the local coffee house or by those ever annoying direct marketing campaigns that always seem to litter my mailbox. Some of the material is quite interesting, but the other ninety percent keeps my attention for less than a second and I am on to the next topic.

All of the organizations that I have sequestered have been very interested in hearing about what I can offer them. Not all of the jobs pan out, but sey la vie. The more opportunities that you seek out, the better the possibility of actually landing some great projects.

One of my favorite projects, that I was asked to design for was a small group of independent film makers. These film guru’s to be, were making a short movie that was to be used as a self promotional piece. They wanted to shop it around at film festivals and send it out to perspecitve clients. The film was written about a group of corporate employees, who in their jaded thought believed that being a “company man” was the only way of life. The employees thought that working each day, from dawn until dusk, would give them the riches they desired.

Well lets just say it was pure satire. What I thought was interesting though, was the idea of using posters as back drops on the film set. The posters would be used as a method of propaganda to keep worker morale at a peak level. This notion got my head spinning with ideas on how to produce cheap posters with a strong iconography.

What better well to mine, I thought, that to check out old Russian movie posters from the twenties and thirties. These posters with their strong use of type juxtaposed next to bold imagery would garner attention and keep the viewers interested.

After a few initial sketches, my ideas for the poster started to come together and were ready to be unleashed. First and foremost I had to seek out imagery that would fit my design scheme. I thought that clean and tidy coporate employees in suits would really play up to the stereotype. Looking for stock imagery that was royalty free was an option, but rather than dig around and hoping to find my imagery I opted on taking my own photos. Luck was on my side and I contacted a few of my friends who are photogenic, and they agreed to help me out on the photo shoot. This saved a lot of time, and really helped out with the budget end of things, since there wasn’t one.

My second problem to be solved was to figure out a few taglines to really push the imagery forward on the posters. Well, with this being propaganda a wealth of information could be displayed but I decided to keep it simple stupid. The messages that I wanted to create would invoke laughter yet they would cancerous mantras that were akin to corporate life.

Hmmm…to use color or not to, this was my next obstacle. Figuring on using one or more color was a major concern due to the pennies in the budget’s jar of coins. After explaing my design concept to the film makers, they informed me that one of their siblings worked at a print shop, and that the man in question would take care of the printing for us at a reduced rate. Ahh…relief was clearly in sight. Now I had a bit more leeway as to how to finish the project.

With the printing problem taken care of, I still opted on using just two colors. The aesthetic of simple and plain coroporate life didn’t need much alliteration, to get the desired concept. Also, with limited color I knew that there would be more quality control. Since I was not taking the project to the press I had to rely on another individual’s discretion as to how it would be printed. This worried me, but the film maker’s were confident with the printer so I had to be also.

When the posters were all printed, the film maker’s were able to use them as the props they were seeking, and I was able to use them as self promotion. Needless to say both parites were happy. The most appealing aspect throughout the length of this project though was realizing that opportunities to be had on shoe string budgets, are the most challenging.

Die cuts, fancy embossing, and specialty paper do turn heads, but a great design that is simple and effective will always stand the test of time.


Ralfinoe is the Director of Ralfinoe Creations., an award winning and established studio in San Francisco






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