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7 Habits of Highly Effective
Designers
IAP 2014
January 15, 2014
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
WORKSHOP GOALS

•
•
•
•

Present a simple set of principles to follow for novice designers
Outline a set problems and gotchas in poster design
Provide common guidelines for poster designers to fall back on
Establish a workflow for creating simple and effective event posters
WORKSHOP GOALS

• Designing posters is a huge part of organizing and promoting an event
• Effective design can be lasting and powerful
• You have to know the rules before you can break them
A bit about me…

Mike Foster
GIS/Data Viz/Graphics Specialist
DUSP MIT

• Eight Years experience in the GIS and Design field
• Specialization in Geodesign, Cartography, and Data Analysis
• B.S. Geography, University of Wisconsin – Madison (2006)
• M.S. Geographic Information Science, University of Minnesota (2010)
• Graduate Minor: Computer Science
• Thesis topics:
• GIS and Graphic Interoperability
• Accuracy Assessment Methods for Volunteered Geographic
Information
• Spatial Database Design and Implementation
• Certified GIS Professional (2013)
“It is not about how much information there is, but rather how effectively it is
arranged.”
-Edward Tufte
What is Graphic Design?
The art of communication, stylizing, and problem solving
through type and image.
Functional and utility-driven. Composition is of high importance.
Basic Elements
Typography and Font
Textual Content
Color and Hue
Page Layout and Balance
Manipulation of Image
Urban Planning Graphics
Urban Planning Graphics
Urban Planning Graphics
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
• MBTA Map Competition
• Graphs and charts
• Websites
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Less is always more
• When in doubt, keep it simple
• The effective use of negative space is a hallmark of good design – design the negative
space just as you would the positive space. Ask yourself: “What elements can I remove or
simplify and still retain my message?” Pare it down to the essentials.
• For repetitive information, remember the “rule of small multiples.”
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Be hierarchical.
• Communicate the relative importance of data through variations in size, weight, and
intensity.You should be able to squint and clearly understand a hierarchy of your
composition.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Good design has CRAP.
• It’s okay if you have a lot to fit.
• Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity: use these principles to allow your
audience to easily follow the connections between your ideas and the message of the
poster.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Just two fonts.
• Good design can be achieved with just one or two fonts. As a general rule, sans serif fonts
work well for titles, headers, and electronic media. Serif fonts work well for body text in
print media.The most useful fonts have many weights to choose from.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Magic number twelve.
• The human mind looks for natural proportions of 2, 3, and 4. As the least common
denominator, 12 is an extremely useful number for column layout, and it’s also a good
point size multiple for fonts (12 pt, 24 pt, 36 pt, etc). A good rule of thumb is that a
column of text should be about 60 characters wide for your eyes to easily follow.
• Use no smaller than 12 pt font on your poster, and make your titles and headings very
large, 60+pt.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Imitate. (But don’t copy.)
• Beg, borrow – but don’t steal – ideas for beautiful posters and graphics from experienced
designers.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Be color conscious.
• Like a well-written paragraph, each graphic should have a singular message. Use color to
unify your message and highlight differences.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014
Tips for Design
Lets put the pencil to the paper (or the mouse to the screen!)
Specifically tailored to DUSP Event Posters
Components of a Poster
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Event Name
Time/Date
Location
Image/Graphic
Abstract
Contact Information
Remove noise
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Event Name
Time/Date
Location/Address
Flashy Image
Abstract
Contact Information
Get these components on your poster, skip items that don’t have
meaning. They are what is known in the design world as “noise”.
Size Matters…
Most common DUSP Poster Sizes
8.5 inch X 11 inch (Letter)
11 inch X 17 inch (Tabloid)
These sizes will work best for posting around DUSP
Smaller will get lost, larger take up too much room
Orientation Matters…
Portrait

Landscape
Layout Matters…
Alignment is important
(and professional)
Recommendation
Organize your poster with a grid
Photography “The rule of thirds”
Layout Matters…
Create a template.
You can reuse an
effective poster over
and over, changing the
elements.
The Grid
The Margin
Make your margins consistent.
Approximately ½ inch around the top
and sides.
Visual Center of the Page
The visual center of your page is
NOT the same as the geometric
center.
Visual center is slightly above the
geometric center
Bold and Contrasting Colors
Use BOLD and CONTRASTING
colors.
Dark text on a light backgrounds.
Light text on dark backgrounds.
Should hold up to non-color
printing.
Pick a Palette
Find known and established color
ramps and palettes.
http://kuler.adobe.com
http://macwright.org/d3-curvy
http://tristen.ca/hcl-picker
See handout
Design at Size
Design your Poster at the size of
your final product.

Set settings in your design software to
the desired size of your final output.
Design at Size
Design your Poster at the size of
your final product.

Prevents pixilation of images, allows for
proper sizing of text to maximize
legibility
Image Selection
Sometimes you don’t have a
choice…
Book Cover
Pre-chosen Event Logo
Bold and Beautiful
But often you do…
Choose images that are:
Bold
Relevant
Colorful
Indicative
Let the Image Guide You
Use the image, beautiful pictures
have a built in layout for you.
Place text in areas with least
amount of noise and largest blocks
of bold colors
TRANSIT IN BOSTON
A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
THURS JAN 18, 9PM, ROOM 9-450
Resources
http://www.flickr.com
http://commons.wikimedia.org
See handout
Copyrighted Images:
When in doubt, cite your source.
Image Guidelines
Use the largest image possible that
you can find.
Know your pixel size.

Letter size =
1275 pixels by 1650 pixels
Try to choose no smaller than
this.
Font Selection
Sans Serif Favorites
• Can be used anywhere, good for headers and titles

Arial
Calibri
Eurostile
Franklin Gothic
Gill Sans
Helvetica

Lucida Sans
Myriad Pro Bold
Swiss 721 Condensed
Swiss 721 Black Condensed
Verdana
Serif Favorites
Cambria

• Good for bodies, abstracts, and content

Baskerville
Garamond
Times New Roman
Non-Favorites
• Use sparingly, by that, I mean probably never.

Brush Script
Comic Sans
Font Size
• Title/Main content: 48-60pt+
• Supplemental text: 24-36pt
• Abstract/Body: 18-24pt
• Stay big. Use no smaller than 12!
Poster Digestion
• Should be able to get main gist of poster
in seconds
• < 15 seconds
• Most viewers will see it in passing
• More in waiting area
• Less in hallway
Lots of Software Available
• Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator
• GIMP/Inkscape
• Microsoft Powerpoint/Paint
The tool does not make your graphic, you do.
Use the tools you have!
End.
• We just covered a lot
• Questions/Comments/Complaints

Special thanks to Chris Rhie and Annemarie Gray

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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Designers - IAP 2014

  • 1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Designers IAP 2014 January 15, 2014 Department of Urban Studies and Planning
  • 2. WORKSHOP GOALS • • • • Present a simple set of principles to follow for novice designers Outline a set problems and gotchas in poster design Provide common guidelines for poster designers to fall back on Establish a workflow for creating simple and effective event posters
  • 3. WORKSHOP GOALS • Designing posters is a huge part of organizing and promoting an event • Effective design can be lasting and powerful • You have to know the rules before you can break them
  • 4. A bit about me… Mike Foster GIS/Data Viz/Graphics Specialist DUSP MIT • Eight Years experience in the GIS and Design field • Specialization in Geodesign, Cartography, and Data Analysis • B.S. Geography, University of Wisconsin – Madison (2006) • M.S. Geographic Information Science, University of Minnesota (2010) • Graduate Minor: Computer Science • Thesis topics: • GIS and Graphic Interoperability • Accuracy Assessment Methods for Volunteered Geographic Information • Spatial Database Design and Implementation • Certified GIS Professional (2013)
  • 5. “It is not about how much information there is, but rather how effectively it is arranged.” -Edward Tufte
  • 6. What is Graphic Design? The art of communication, stylizing, and problem solving through type and image. Functional and utility-driven. Composition is of high importance.
  • 7. Basic Elements Typography and Font Textual Content Color and Hue Page Layout and Balance Manipulation of Image
  • 11. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly • MBTA Map Competition • Graphs and charts • Websites
  • 12. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 13. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 14. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 15. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 16. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 17. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 18. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 19. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 20. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • 21. Less is always more • When in doubt, keep it simple • The effective use of negative space is a hallmark of good design – design the negative space just as you would the positive space. Ask yourself: “What elements can I remove or simplify and still retain my message?” Pare it down to the essentials. • For repetitive information, remember the “rule of small multiples.”
  • 25. Be hierarchical. • Communicate the relative importance of data through variations in size, weight, and intensity.You should be able to squint and clearly understand a hierarchy of your composition.
  • 28. Good design has CRAP. • It’s okay if you have a lot to fit. • Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity: use these principles to allow your audience to easily follow the connections between your ideas and the message of the poster.
  • 32. Just two fonts. • Good design can be achieved with just one or two fonts. As a general rule, sans serif fonts work well for titles, headers, and electronic media. Serif fonts work well for body text in print media.The most useful fonts have many weights to choose from.
  • 35. Magic number twelve. • The human mind looks for natural proportions of 2, 3, and 4. As the least common denominator, 12 is an extremely useful number for column layout, and it’s also a good point size multiple for fonts (12 pt, 24 pt, 36 pt, etc). A good rule of thumb is that a column of text should be about 60 characters wide for your eyes to easily follow. • Use no smaller than 12 pt font on your poster, and make your titles and headings very large, 60+pt.
  • 37. Imitate. (But don’t copy.) • Beg, borrow – but don’t steal – ideas for beautiful posters and graphics from experienced designers.
  • 40. Be color conscious. • Like a well-written paragraph, each graphic should have a singular message. Use color to unify your message and highlight differences.
  • 42. Tips for Design Lets put the pencil to the paper (or the mouse to the screen!) Specifically tailored to DUSP Event Posters
  • 43. Components of a Poster 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Event Name Time/Date Location Image/Graphic Abstract Contact Information
  • 44. Remove noise 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Event Name Time/Date Location/Address Flashy Image Abstract Contact Information Get these components on your poster, skip items that don’t have meaning. They are what is known in the design world as “noise”.
  • 45. Size Matters… Most common DUSP Poster Sizes 8.5 inch X 11 inch (Letter) 11 inch X 17 inch (Tabloid) These sizes will work best for posting around DUSP Smaller will get lost, larger take up too much room
  • 47. Layout Matters… Alignment is important (and professional) Recommendation Organize your poster with a grid Photography “The rule of thirds”
  • 48. Layout Matters… Create a template. You can reuse an effective poster over and over, changing the elements.
  • 50. The Margin Make your margins consistent. Approximately ½ inch around the top and sides.
  • 51. Visual Center of the Page The visual center of your page is NOT the same as the geometric center. Visual center is slightly above the geometric center
  • 52. Bold and Contrasting Colors Use BOLD and CONTRASTING colors. Dark text on a light backgrounds. Light text on dark backgrounds. Should hold up to non-color printing.
  • 53. Pick a Palette Find known and established color ramps and palettes. http://kuler.adobe.com http://macwright.org/d3-curvy http://tristen.ca/hcl-picker See handout
  • 54. Design at Size Design your Poster at the size of your final product. Set settings in your design software to the desired size of your final output.
  • 55. Design at Size Design your Poster at the size of your final product. Prevents pixilation of images, allows for proper sizing of text to maximize legibility
  • 56. Image Selection Sometimes you don’t have a choice… Book Cover Pre-chosen Event Logo
  • 57. Bold and Beautiful But often you do… Choose images that are: Bold Relevant Colorful Indicative
  • 58. Let the Image Guide You Use the image, beautiful pictures have a built in layout for you. Place text in areas with least amount of noise and largest blocks of bold colors TRANSIT IN BOSTON A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION THURS JAN 18, 9PM, ROOM 9-450
  • 60. Image Guidelines Use the largest image possible that you can find. Know your pixel size. Letter size = 1275 pixels by 1650 pixels Try to choose no smaller than this.
  • 62. Sans Serif Favorites • Can be used anywhere, good for headers and titles Arial Calibri Eurostile Franklin Gothic Gill Sans Helvetica Lucida Sans Myriad Pro Bold Swiss 721 Condensed Swiss 721 Black Condensed Verdana
  • 63. Serif Favorites Cambria • Good for bodies, abstracts, and content Baskerville Garamond Times New Roman
  • 64. Non-Favorites • Use sparingly, by that, I mean probably never. Brush Script Comic Sans
  • 65. Font Size • Title/Main content: 48-60pt+ • Supplemental text: 24-36pt • Abstract/Body: 18-24pt • Stay big. Use no smaller than 12!
  • 66. Poster Digestion • Should be able to get main gist of poster in seconds • < 15 seconds • Most viewers will see it in passing • More in waiting area • Less in hallway
  • 67. Lots of Software Available • Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator • GIMP/Inkscape • Microsoft Powerpoint/Paint The tool does not make your graphic, you do. Use the tools you have!
  • 68. End. • We just covered a lot • Questions/Comments/Complaints Special thanks to Chris Rhie and Annemarie Gray