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Four Desktop Publishing Design Elements that Everyone Needs to Know. Presented by Jerry Smith. Where We’re Going. Focus on four basic design elements Contrast Repetition Alignment Proximity Examples of Each Simple changes make a HUGE difference. The Big Four. C ontrast R epetition

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Presentation Transcript
where we re going
Where We’re Going
  • Focus on four basic design elements
    • Contrast
    • Repetition
    • Alignment
    • Proximity
  • Examples of Each
  • Simple changes make a HUGE difference
the big four
The Big Four
  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Proximity

There is no clever acronymn: You’ll have to figure that one out on your own…

before i begin
Before I Begin…
  • Framework by Robin Williams
  • Buy this Book:

Non-Designer’s Design Book

  • ISBN:


  • Yep, most of this is quite subjective
  • These elements provide structured options
    • Even if you don’t get it right the first shot, you’ll know some things you can change to create an entirely different look
  • Eliminates poke-and-hope mentality of design
framework is to english
Framework is to English…
  • True or False: The English language is always consistent?
  • These rules can (and should be) broken sometimes
  • It’s a framework, not a set of laws
something is wrong
Something is wrong…

but you can’t put your finger on it.

  • In many cases, the thing that’s wrong is one of these elements
  • By having a name for the broken elements, you’ll find that it is much easier to fix
  • The four elements overlap quite a bit
    • This is a very good thing. It leads to near infinite possibilities.
contrast the king element
Contrast (the king element)
  • By definition, refers to the degree of noticeable differences in something
  • There are lots of ways to provide contrast
    • Color
    • Alignment
    • Typography (fonts)
    • Size
    • Shape
color contrast
Color Contrast

A simple logo with no contrast

color contrast1
Color Contrast

Same simple logo with color contrast

alignment contrast
Alignment Contrast
  • For years, most of us have been conditioned to believe that centering everything is the way to go:
alignment contrast1
Alignment Contrast
  • But centering everything is overly formal and boring! With a little alignment contrast:
typography contrast
Typography Contrast
  • Choose fonts that differ greatly!
    • Bad: Times New Roman and Garamond
    • Good: Times New Roman and Comic Sans MS
  • Most common typography contrast involves serif vs. sans-serif
size contrast
Size Contrast
  • Just as with fonts, if you’re going to do size contrasts, make it count!!!
  • Two basic reasons to use size contrast:
    • Emphasis
    • Shock Value (Stress)
yawn to yay
Yawn to Yay!



shape contrast
Shape Contrast
  • Angular vs. Rounded
contrast review
Contrast Review
  • Differences stand out
    • Emphasis
    • Stress
  • Color is easy
  • Be really different with
    • Fonts
    • Sizes
  • By definition, to repeat
  • The antithesis of Contrast
    • Humans like patterns
    • Makes things very comfortable
  • The thing you see the most without realizing it
    • The silent design element!
things to repeat
Things to Repeat
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Shapes
  • Sizes
  • Humans are very good at intrinsically associating a repeated element with its function
what s repeated
What’s repeated?
  • The page number formatting
  • The heading font, size, and weight
  • The body text font and size
  • The weight of emphasized text
repetition review
Repetition Review
  • Create patterns where patterns are important
    • Headings
    • Body
    • Other stuff
  • Main Menu and Navigational Elements should be repeated
  • Be careful not to overdo!
  • By definition, the spatial relationship between items
  • Human beings naturally make associations between proximate objects
    • The closer things are to one another, the more they must be related
  • Good designs exploit this intrinsic trait
what about alignment
What about Alignment?
  • What about it! 
  • Think about the other three elements we’ve discussed…
  • Alignment can be
    • Contrasted
    • Repeated
    • Used to create proximation
how do we teach this stuff
How Do We Teach This Stuff
  • As with everything else: Patiently
  • Tackle individually at first
    • Don’t go over all in one day
  • Possibly a week long unit??
    • One element per day with examples and practice
    • Tie them together on Friday
pavlov s children
Pavlov’s Children
  • Give specific praise for using the elements
    • “I really like your use of contrast there, Sally”
    • “Nice proximity with your grouping of information, George!”
  • The framework is great for constructive criticism
    • “Think about what kind of contrast you could use here.”
    • “Is there something you could do to make this information seem more related?”
in review
In Review…
  • Focus on four basic design elements
    • Contrast
    • Repetition
    • Alignment
    • Proximity
  • It’s all subjective
  • Simple changes make a HUGE difference
in review1
In Review…
  • The framework is a tool, not a crutch
  • Teach it slowly and consistently
  • Don’t become a slave to it: HAVE FUN!
thanks for playing along
Thanks for playing along!
  • Any questions or comments?