Graphic Design on the Fly: What Do You Use?

Graphic Design on the Fly: What Do You Use?Effective communication goes beyond texting, blogging, and YouTube videos. Effective communication often requires images and graphics. Images you can get from a camera and massage them with Photoshop, or the equivalent, until they meet your needs, but the graphics must be made. Construction of effective graphics requires a combination of artistic thrust and the mechanical ability to use software tools without thinking about where to find the icon that allows you to [fill in the blank].

Good graphics can communicate your selling point far more effectively than a page of text, but bad or cutesy graphics are an immediate turnoff for most people. And no matter how naturally gifted you are, unless you invest the time to become proficient with your chosen software, the production will be painful and the quality will suffer. I have no hints on how to improve your artistic ability, but I have some familiarity with several graphics packages.

The accompanying announcement of a Fourth of July party was made in a hurry as a last-minute request. All told, I spent about 10 minutes total on it. This is not a work of art for the ages, but when it was printed on 11 X 17 inch paper and laminated, it could be hung on the exit gate of our HOA to catch residents’ attention as the gate opened. We have no way of determining the actual effectiveness of this announcement, but the attendance was a record breaker. No one would claim they had not seen it. Would a simple text announcement have been as effective? I doubt it. Could anyone create this announcement? Yes. I chose this example because it contains no advanced effects or effort at all. Anyone with a hour or two of experience with any reputable software could do it.

Years ago I started making graphic illustrations using CorelDraw. Since then, I have used several commercial and freeware packages including MS Publisher, LibreOffice Draw, and Inkscape. The previous example was done with Inkscape, an open source application — the price is right (free) and it comes with great tutorials. It is my favorite at this time for this type of project. But this by no means is a complete list of the available 2D packages. And for those enthusiasts who want to progress beyond 2D graphics to the wonderful world of 3D, you can try Blender, another open source application, but please be warned that by my standards, learning Blender is not for the faint of heart. It takes much more investment of time to master it, but check out this example of its power, which contains both static and video segments:

Graphic Design on the Fly: What Do You Use?Since I am not a professional graphic artist, the graphics projects I do tend to be in response to some immediate need. My wife belongs to a volunteer group that arranges monthly tours. She wanted to publicize a tour she has arranged for December, but needed to have the group learn about it in September to collect fees so the buses, lunches, etc. could be ordered in time. This second example shows how I responded, again with Inkscape. This project took more time. I spent maybe 20 minutes on it. Note the appearance of the font at the top. That was done by applying a simple filter. The Christmas stars are one-off creations made on the spot. I could write a whole article about the star-making feature of Inkscape. The images have a subtle drop shadow. Those are the only elements in what is really a simple graphic design, but it was extremely well received by the group.

What type of graphics do you make (examples?) and what software do you use? What have you tried and found wanting?