FONT AND COLOR AS THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF DESIGN
Font is an indispensable element of design. For what is a web page without text? What is a greeting card without words? Even sites intended to showcase nothing but pictures would have to have words for description and as such, the proper selection of fonts is essential. And your greeting card, no matter how graphic, needs to have words, like that line which tells who you are sending it to.
Color plays an equally vital role. Even if you don’t have graphics, you will be using color. Even the so-called gray scale, monochrome or black-and-white technically use contrasting colors, namely different shades of gray or black and white. And so when you have a visual message to present, font and color are the two basic components you just can’t do without.
GOING BEYOND BASIC
There is a third design component and this one is so fascinating that most designers quickly jump in and use it without giving much regard on how it should be properly used. This component is texture and it is the one design tool that will take your project beyond the ordinary – either that or it will completely ruin your work. The good designer knows it takes courage to work with textures because it is not easy to find (or create) a good set that harmoniously combines font, color, and texture with the overall concept of the project. This being a fact, when things don’t look good and harmony just doesn’t seem to come in, the element to be dropped is texture. On the other hand, when successfully used, texture can make your message speak in a more meaningful and more appealing manner. That awesome work of art that is perceived by the eye touches the soul in a very gripping way.
SPEAKING TO THE SENSES
When you are working on a web page (or card art), you have to be very careful with using texture. Otherwise, use it sparingly. There are lots of web pages out there that distastefully use texture. For instance, using a marble backdrop monotonously for an entire page is not at all pretty. It makes the reader feel like he’s in a marble-walled house – cold and not pleasing to be in. Having said that, we now come to the interesting observation of how texture affects feelings. Texture has the ability to impart a tactile feel of jaggedness or smoothness (although you don’t actually touch the image); it allows a perception of shade or glare; it is capable of emitting warmth or cold; and most interestingly, texture provokes emotions such as joy, melancholy, excitement, and even love.
Going back to the issue of the monotonous marble backdrop, I would suggest toning down the use of textures to banners, side columns, and other small areas such as thin frames or dividers. Make sure your textures go harmoniously with your page’s overall theme. If you have several textures you want to use together, see first if they complement each other. As a general rule, use textures sparingly. Saturation can kill your design.
The creative use of texture creates a dividing line between the programmer and the designer. A programmer merely “assembles” without giving much concern as to whether or not his bits and pieces go along amicably. He is content that his work has texture and believes that his pages have now been rescued from being plain and boring.
The designer, on the other hand, carefully plans and does a lot of test-running. He has a keen eye for beauty. He is an artist. He carefully chooses his textures and makes sure they are used without compromising elegance and simplicity. Being a good designer, he uses texture to enhance the not only the overall look of his pages, but more importantly to give better emphasis to what his work is all about.
MAKING YOUR OWN TEXTURES
Many sites offer free ready-made textures, often in the form of tiles. Sometimes, we come across sites with protected content, but their graphics are so pretty we may be tempted to steal or “borrow” them. If you have graphic assembly/editing software such as JASC Paintshop, CorelDraw or Adobe Photoshop, you can easily make your own textures. For starters, try creating a 2”x2” square with a solid color. Simply add effects such as those from Photoshop’s “filter” menu. Add one effect after another and viola! You have your very own all-original texture tile. Experiment with your software and you’ll see how fun it is to create your own textures. Try out some simple crayon effects and pretty soon you’ll be making those fancy textures with the shimmering feel, or even those space-age tiles with lights playing and making it sort of look like a nebula.
TO THE ADVOCATORS OF MINIMALISM
Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is more“. The phrase, although originally meant for the architect’s home-building tactics, has become very popular among modern designers. But sometimes it is being made into a lame excuse for not coming up with something new and adventurous. There is no room for extra features such as textures in the strict minimalist concept of design. I personally think it is not practical to adhere to this principle. Why limit yourself to flat and plain geometry when you create something that can better flaunt the great artist in you?
The use of textures is a good way to step out of the ordinary. It provokes the artist in you and gets you into feeling for yourself what you are trying to express. And of course, you become a better designer because you have a good and effective way of staging your ideas.
Experiment with textures and discover boundless potentials. The only limit will be your imagination.
SOMETHING FOR YOUR DAD
To finish off this article, here’s a poem which I made for my Daddy some time ago. I framed it in some textures and added a couple of images which I got from Moon and Back Graphics, which, by the way, was my very first source of fascination and inspiration for creating digital art. Here’s the card, you can print it out and give it to your daddy.
Have fun with textures!