By 4 March 2014 

Why is it important to balance image and text on our web pages anyway? Humans are largely visual beings, this is true, however why do people visit websites? They want information. Sometimes this information is best presented in images, cake decorators for instance, but at the end of the day, the customer wants information – price, location, size and service for example. There are many reports that clearly review website analytics and suggest that customers come to a website to find out facts.  The customer is task focused. Customers seem to make decisions based on what they read, not what they see.

Balance website design graphic design, intellect, brisbane

Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, and many other successful websites are not examples of aesthetically attractive website design.  These sites have put the practical needs of their customers before convoluted and unnecessary imagery. Having said that, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true for most of us. Images are an important means of communicating with your customer and should be sensitively and sensibly included in your web design. If your image is not directly related to the informative text, don’t include it. It only serves to confuse otherwise.

Your web page only has a few seconds to capture your customers attention or drive them onto your competitors. The balance between image and text is most critical on your landing page, however, this attention to balance is important throughout your web design. Consistency and flow is essential to a well designed web site, not least of all in your use of text and image.

website design, balance, intellect, brisbane

A simple example of Asymmetrical balance

The overall design of web pages must be interesting enough to appeal to customers, but should avoid excessive visual content that distracts or disturbs. Large, slow loading images should be avoided at all costs. This is important for search engine optimisation as pages that load slowly is less likely to obtain top rankings in Google and other major search engines.

Using illustrations, photos or other images to appealing to customers quickly is important, but it is more important to find a balance between text and images in a web design.

Bye for now




By 10 February 2014 

As a creative person, I like to draw and create beautiful things.  When I became a graphic designer I realized there was more to design than beauty, there needs to be a message shown through form and function.

When a designer is creating a logo or branding for a client, it is not a simple case of drawing a picture or using a nice looking font.  Research needs to be done on the client and their business to find out crucial information about what the message needs to be

Colour, style of font and size, just to name a few elements, can change the meaning that the design is meant to convey.  If, for example, the Graphic designer uses a non-organic colour for an organic style business, the viewer may perceive the wrong message and this may impact on the growth or sustainability of the business.

Graphic design can be viewed in the same way that an engineer may design for a building construction.  The engineer knows that for a building to stand strong he must first know the purpose and requirements of the structure.  From here he/she will look at height, shape and form to decide the base structure and support system needed. Then they will look at the materials that can be used and if they will be appropriate for the building.

Graphic design can be seen in the same way.  The wrong use of elements within a design will not support the message and the finished product will fall and destroy or impair the business.

Mondrian was able to show this through one of his most recognised pieces, Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. The use of the three primary colours and black lines of different weights and directions were able to show not only form and function but give the message of construction, plus a feel of space both within and outside the building. The viewer may think that they are looking at the side of a high-rise building and are able to see into individual apartments that have coloured lights on.  One might think that the heavier weighted lines may be the supports for the structure.  It is the interpretation of the viewer that gives meaning to the artwork. But Mondrian did not just throw this artwork together. He would have thought about the message colour would give and the impact that the use of lines would have on the piece. In his decision-making there would be a structure for the art in the same way there is a structure in designing a building.  It may be said that he took some of his ideas from the world of architecture as inspiration.

composition, colour, art, graphic design

Pier Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1927

With graphic design the artwork needs to have a distinct message without interpretation.  Making the discipline of design essential to the design industry in the same way that engineering is essential to the construction of a building.

Logo, branding, graphic design

Official Nike logo

As an example consider the Nike Logo. The simplicity of a single swoosh gave the message of fast and fluid, a good marketing strategy to entice competitive sports men and women to achieve better performance.  The first black and red design was used to create a connection to the Chicago Bulls, but later incorporated the use of white, now making these three colours the official colours of Nike. Colour rather than words was used to convey meaning successfully without clouding the message and making the design easy to notice and recognise.

So when next you look at a logo or branded item, think about the message and decide if the right message has been conveyed through the design.  Take time to think of the business it is designed for and ask yourself what you would need to know to create the right design for that business. Try not to just see a beautiful image.

For now I hope that I have been able to inspire thinking and create a dialogue between designer and viewer.



By 31 January 2014 
Graphic Design Readability - Book of Kells

Graphic Design circa 800 AD. From the Book of Kells

Ask any website design or graphic design professional what makes a good design and you’ll drown in opinions. One of the few things we can all agree on though, is that the message we are attempting to convey mustn’t get lost and a critical factor in the success of website design and graphic design is readability. You’ll note that the words ‘website design’ and ‘graphic design’ were bold just now and I’m also using those words a lot. I did this to illustrate a point I’m going to make later.

I was teaching a colleague some coding fundamentals last week and I discussed the importance of making the code readable. My use of the word ‘readability’ prompted another colleague to announce that I should have said ‘legibility’, not ‘readability’. At the time I chose not to dispute his assertion and continued on with the education session, however this week the subject of readability came up again during a discussion with our SEO Manager.

So what is legibility and what is readability? Boiled down, legibility is about individual letters while readability refers to documents as a whole. For example, the ‘illuminations’ found in ancient religious manuscripts were often highly ornate works of art, yet understanding the first letter often only came from its context with the rest of the word; the manuscript as a whole being quite readable. A document can be both illegible and unreadable and anyone who has ever tried to read a doctor’s prescription will understand what I mean.

So what does any of this have to do with the design process? Quite a lot, actually. Try this: look up a phone number you don’t know and transcribe it to a piece of paper. I bet you wrote the information down in chunks and not all at once. Separating information into pieces enhances readability. Look at this blog; the ideas are separated into paragraphs and paragraphs are broken into sentences. The same applies in graphic design. Logos that have good typography, colour balance and spacing are much easier to read than overly elaborate logos. Poor readability in graphic design will be our social media topic this week, so keep an eye out. We’re going to post some poor graphic design examples to illustrate the importance of readability.

graphic design logo for metal band

I couldn’t read this. Can you?

Context is also a big part of readability, bringing us back to my discussion with our SEO Manager. Patrick advised that our content needed to be better optimised for search engine ‘robots’ and while I agreed with him in principle, I put my foot down at obviously aiming the content at the robots. If you’ve been to websites where there is bold text in the middle of a sentence (like at the beginning of this article), you probably wondered why the text was emphasised. This was done for the robots in an attempt to get a better ranking on keywords. Overuse of keywords is a less-than-ethical SEO practise known as ‘keyword stuffing’. When the keyword is emphasised in bold, the code in the background basically shouts, “Look at me, I’m very important!” To the human eye however, it is distracting, out of context and interrupts the natural look of your website design.

Recalling my first paragraph at the beginning of this article, did you wonder why the words ‘website design’ and ‘graphic design’ were bold? Was your eye drawn to those words, distracting you from the rest of the content? Did the repetition of those keywords interrupt your natural reading flow and feel forced? Google and other search engines are wise to the myriad of unscrupulous ‘black hat’ SEO techniques and their search engine algorithms (the aforementioned ‘robots’) are incredibly clever at detecting keyword stuffing and other such tricks. In fact, this very page will probably be penalised for the keyword stuffing I did at the beginning. A sacrifice for the greater good, I suppose.

Readability in the web design context is about balance. You have to engage your visitors but you also have to engage the search engine algorithms. The Google algorithms in particular are very good at detecting natural language, so while readability is just one of the many facets of good design, I think that it is a very important one. Engagement with your target audience is the only way you are going to be able to generate sales, so the success of your website will depend on how you engage your visitors. The success of your graphic design will mostly depend on the emotional connection a customer has with your brand, a connection that will be difficult to cultivate if they can’t read your logo.

The best website design in creation is all well and good, but it means nothing if the search engines don’t rank your site well, leaving it so far back in page results that you have to import daylight. Conversely, content that is obviously written for search engines makes reading your website unpleasant and will probably increase your bounce rate. It can be a difficult balance to strike and while I’m certainly not the best or most engaging writer in the world, I’d personally prefer to write for people every time. After all, it’s people that are paying the bills.

Bye for now,

By 23 January 2014 

Leonardo da Vinci at Intellect

I’m a geek.  There’s no hiding from it and there’s certainly no getting away from it.  Being a geek is intrinsically a part of who I am and what makes me tick.  I love Rubik’s cubes (not great at solving them), information technology, any TV show or movie that begins with “Star …”, the periodic table, pulling things apart to find out how/why they work and of course, I’m fascinated by anyone who can actually do any of the above.

My best mate, Tony, is not a geek.  Don’t get me wrong; he’s highly intelligent and extraordinarily creative and has a unique world-view that I confess baffles me at times.  He’s fascinated by science, but would rather paint it than do it.  He has taken some of the most interesting photographs I’ve ever seen, drawn amazing sketches and when he puts mouse to mouse pad, creates some of the most unique graphic designs you’re likely to see.  I’m flat out drawing breath, let alone a picture.

I’m constantly amazed at how two wildly different people can be friends, almost brothers, for more than twenty years.  Happily, this is one thing I don’t want to pull apart to find out what makes it work; I just accept that it does.  One thing that we do have in common is a great respect for art and science and the people who work in these fields for the enjoyment and betterment of others in this world.  It goes without saying then, that if we are going to have a hero and a source of inspiration, it would have to be Leonardo da Vinci.  Not only could da Vinci render amazingly detailed sketches, create beautiful sculptures, paint enduring works of art and write extensive manuscripts, he was also a musician, philosopher, scientist, engineer and inventor.

An unquenchable thirst for knowledge and boundless imagination is what truly set da Vinci apart from his peers and indeed, any other person in human history.  He was the archetypal Renaissance man, and the benchmark to which all who have followed him aspire.  Of course, if you are going to have a thirst for knowledge and boundless imagination, you’re going to need a towering intellect to back it up and da Vinci had this by the bucket load.  The man was a genius after all.

Inspired by da Vinci’s ability to combine the disciplines of art and science, we combined Tony’s artistic ability with my powers of all things geek and launched a website development and graphic design company.  Even with the two of us and a team of dedicated and talented people working with us, we’ll never reach the level of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius.  It’s a great dream to strive for though and our admiration of da Vinci keeps us focused on being the best artists / designers / developers / coders / entrepreneurs / coffee fetchers we can possibly be.  All you need is a little imagination and  …  Intellect.

Bye for now,