A design course, but without the software

I recently attended a ‘How to Design Attention-Grabbing Brochures and Newsletters’ course at the end of April. An earlier rise than usual, I had a brisk walk down to the training venue. I was hoping to pick up some useful tips and ideas of how to improve my design work. Before attending this course, my previous experience of design work had been to use clipart in Word!! But as I was soon to discover this course was about good design principles, but had nothing to do with software.

Our trainer was an American from Wisconsin, (I’ll call him Gerry) who had flown over first class on his frequent flyer miles. At first, I noticed his ‘funny’ American accent, but after about an hour or so, this didn’t matter any more.

The first part of the day covered the planning stage of the design process, most of which was not new to me.  After breaking for lunch and a delicious Panini in a nearby pub, the afternoon got down to the nitty gritty. The trainer, Gerry, covered with us other aspects of the design process, including how to create an image; type and the difference in readability between serif and sans serif font; design space such as white space and sidebars and layout.


Gerry had plenty of examples of leaflets, magazines and adverts to show us, some of which were good examples of design and some bad! When there was a fire alarm test, that temporarily knocked out the power supply and Gerry’s Powerpoint presentation, Gerry ably showed us how a trainer needs to be flexible, and how you need to have something up your sleeve when technology lets you down!


There was one group activity, which involved three different groups thinking up a snappy headline for three different gadgets, based on FAB analysis ( Feature – Advantage – Benefit). I think the snappiest headline that one group devised for ear plugs for an MP3 player was ‘Orchestra in your ears’ and the headline for a digital camera was ‘Powerful petit performer’ (which may be more suitable for a car!)


The course participants came from a very diverse range of organizations, including schools, libraries, GP surgeries, an insurance company, and so I thought it was a shame that there wasn’t more group work – where we could have benefited from each other’s experience.


The last aspect of design work covered was the importance of colour and how colour can enhance a publication. It was also interesting to learn how different colours mean different things in different cultures. For example, in the UK, the colour black is worn at funerals, in Japan it is white and in South Africa it is red! I learnt that the colour blue is the least offensive colour and this made me realize why in the library where I work, we often use blue for our publicity posters, so that it is fitting for a diverse international student group.


A brisk walk back home, it had been a useful training day and I hope that I can take ideas from this course and apply them to my own projects I will work on.


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