How to design without graphics

Uploaded by bamagazine on 19.10.2010

Reader Karen Crumb writes lamenting her "image-free" company's insistence on text- only documents.
"We can use no graphics at all," she said. "It's incredibly boring. What can we do?"
[Laughs] Karen, to you and your silently suffering soulmates, that's a tough one. The short answer
is, use more white space. It doesn't sound like much, but here's what's going on.
In image-free design, you basically have two elements to work with. You have white stuff
-- that is, the page or the screen -- and you have black stuff, that goes on that page.
When you fill the page entirely with black, the page disappears. It now really becomes
just a passive carrier for all those words. To get the white involved in the design, you
need to make more of it. In this way, you have now two visible things. You have white
and you have black, clearly. And the white now is going to play an active role in this
design. In this case, you can see already that it creates kind of a "zone of silence"
around your words. And it's simply easier to see these words, and more pleasant, too.
To see this in action, let's fill this brochure page with text -- in this case, a list of
donors. And the white plays no role in this design. By reducing the size of the list,
we activate the white. It now has weight, and presence, and it has shape. The white
doesn't need to be white. It can be any color, including gray. Once we have the space, we
can add a large head in beautiful type. And by turning that head white, we give ourselves
a third level of hierarchy, and that is of depth. Add the subhead, and we're done. The
result is a visible narrative made of beautiful type, clear hierarchy, and silent space. All
this in addition to that original list of names.
And you might be thinking to yourself, "Well, yes, that's nice, but we need our names as
big as we had them in the first place." Now what? Well, there's actually a solution, but
it requires turning the page sideways.
We'll place our head. We'll place our subhead. Now we will take that list of names and run
it all together, paragraph style, separated by bullets. And what we've done is borrowed
that original unused white, and turned it into active space . . . that has shape. It
has texture. And by turning the page gray, we add that third level of hierarchy -- that
depth -- back into it.
And that's your design for today. For more of this, visit us at