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Effective Advertising in 2D

Learn how to make the most out of your advertising dollars.

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You’ll excuse yourself from dinner early tonight, sit down at your computer, and start brainstorming. Oh, the wife’s none too pleased; she’d like to watch a movie with you tonight. You’re convinced, though, that to please a tough customer, you’ve got to put in long hours of design and layout. Logos, layout, and conceptual artwork can be difficult and time-consuming. However, the truth is that we are all guilty (at one point or another) of occasionally ignoring the basics. It’s all too easy to dive directly into layout from the conceptual stages of our creations, disregarding some fundamental elements that form the foundation of our designs. The most basic of these fundamental elements is, of course, starting with a focal point. In the print world, speed is king and "cluttered" the executioner. A newspaper reader’s eyes may linger on a printed ad for as long as 1.5 seconds, and often, much less. That’s why creating logos, ad layouts, and other work in the two-dimensional printed or online world is a unique art; you must attract the reader’s eye to your work, that attraction being the end goal behind the design. The best, easiest, and most effective way to accomplish this is by creating a simple, quickly recognizable focal point. Take a look at Figure 1, a standard newspaper ad. Cluttered and overbearing, it repels the eye. There’s an overload of information here, screaming to the reader: "I’m boring! You’ll spend a long time reading me!" That’s the last impression you want your clients’ customers to have. Even if the customer bothers to read the ad beyond the headline (not very likely), the information is displayed in a manner that discourages the eye from moving in a natural direction. Don’t confuse the reader! Figure 2, however, is an example of much better design work. Whenever you have the opportunity to use a human face looking into the camera, use it! There is nothing more compelling to the reader than another set of eyes gazing back in return. This ad says, "Stop and look. I have something important to say." Note that, despite this ad’s larger size, it uses a more economical approach towards giving the reader lots of information. There’s still plenty of space, letting disparate bits of information float in their own realms. This gives the ad a breezy, casual, and interesting look. Let the reader learn in waves. Draw them in, compel them, and give the option to read the nitty-gritty if they’d like to. Don’t force them! Some ads can be eye-catching, but the reader is intuitive about what constitutes junk and what doesn’t. Give them good information and catchy design. A focal point can be a graphic, or a single word that stands out from the rest of the text. Use color sparingly; the more you use, the less impact it has on the reader. Save it for your logo and focal point. Let the reader learn about your clients’ products in a naturally engaging manner. Let their curiosity take over. They should be able to easily discover the information that’s available. The old acronym of KISS – Keep it Short and Simple – applies to the design world much as the Bible applies to the God-fearing. Obey! Ryan Ferguson is a column writer living in Orlando, Florida.

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