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I was recently watching a Lynda.Com video about color and scale in relation to typography.

At the end of the course, the instructor challenged the viewer to create a travel poster in 20 minutes using the concepts she outlined previously and the provided materials (copy, background, etc.). Simple enough.

I came up with this:

enter image description here

Her solution to the same problem was this:

enter image description here

My question is, hers seems more professional and "complete" than mine. I'm having a hard time understanding why.

I chose the slab serif typeface because it reminded me of the rocks of the canyon. She chose a similar typeface as well as a chunky sans serif to match it. I chose a sans serif as well, but wanted a contrast to the slab so I chose helvetica neue condensed regular in all caps.

I wanted the Grand Canyon text to be well, grand, so I made it extend beyond the edge of the image as if there was more to see than what's given.

The instructor chose to place the text only over the front most piece of rock wall.

I don't understand why her choices in scale and proportion were a better choice than mine. I would think that the context would ask for HUGE lettering.

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4  
personally, I think yours is the better one; I do not think hers look more pro and/or complete. I will come back with my reasoning in a while. –  Benteh Dec 30 '13 at 18:49
    
I also note that your piece is a lot paler than your instructors; and that would in itself have a large impact. –  Benteh Dec 30 '13 at 19:19
    
Hers was a screen cap which made it more saturated. It should look like mine. –  OghmaOsiris Dec 30 '13 at 19:40
2  
I like yours better too. Yours is more billboard or "out-of-home" (bus shelter, etc.) and hers is more double-truck magazine ad, flyer, handout. The only things I might change on yours would be a small drop shadow on your large text to make it a touch clearer, and make the URL a little bigger. Otherwise, yours is much more attractive. –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 30 '13 at 22:03
    
@boblet Did you ever figure out your reasoning? I'm still anxious to get your opinion –  OghmaOsiris Jan 15 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I assume the point of this exercise was to use the principle the instructor outlined in the tutorial. Not knowing what that was, I have to be very general. It was also a 20minute task, so do not take this too seriously either way. As previously mentioned, I think yours is the better poster.

Context:

Posters are often, but not always, meant to be seen at a certain distance, so there are some basics there. It all depends on the mission; what is it that you want to convey to whom. Posters are not only posters: the context where they are to be displayed is essential. I cannot stress this enough. Consider a bus shelter: people will stand relatively close to it, and reading smaller print would not be an issue: in fact, I would say small print could be an advantage. It gives people something to read while waiting for the bus. An url would also give them something to do. If it is a poster for "random" walls, this may not be a good idea. If it is a roadside billboard information must be given extremely quickly. I would then in fact consider displaying the web address prominently (and use one that is easily memorised..). Should the poster be used for multiple contexts, I would consider altering them slightly for each.

URL:

Regarding non-digital information, these days an url - and particularly a fiddly one - is not essential as such. It should be there, but people are phone-online digital enough that they very easily would find the site (providing that the person in charge of SEO has done a decent job). A more memorable url redirect would have been good, though :-D such as visitGC.gov, grandcanyon.gov etc.

Generally...:

..one has to decide what element to highlight, what is the core of the message. In this case it is to get people to visit the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is well known worldwide. In principle I agree with Scott, though I do not find your weaving of thin-lined font in between necessarily such a bad idea. Actually, relying mainly on the image only could in fact work. I know you where given the copy, but as a mental exercise it could be enough with "Grand Canyon". Or maybe "Grand Canyon" in massive size, and the rest smaller. This, however, I would say again depends on the context where the poster is to be used.

The slab fonts used I associate with American college, American football paraphernalia. This might be fine of course, depending on the audience. But being aware of it might be a good idea. To a European, this feels a little overboard on the Americana side of things. It would be interesting to see what the poster could look like with an entirely different font.

Tutors:

The tutors poster seems to me, as @Laurem Ipsum points out, more of a flyer kind-of-thing. In addition, to me it seems dated. The visual language she uses reminds me of the time when everyone could start using dropshadows, and did go overboard with it. In addition, I would have placed all the text a tad higher: It is not necessary to show the entire sky, we get the idea. It would break up the "monotony" of the text only contained within the cliff background. A little tension in an image, contrast would not go amiss. Following the structure of a background image is to me, often some kind of laziness in composition. It restricts, removes interesting tension. To me it speaks of "not really working with the elements at hand."

Yours:

I like the fact that your text goes all the way to the edge, that it is gigantic, and that is simple (= grand canyon is something "pure", it is nature straight up). It give a sense of something massive, something that is outside the image, something "not seen" ("there are a lot more out here!"). The white font also makes sense: it is a good contrast to the earthy, red, blue of the background. A drop shadow or outline is a possibility, but I would be very, very careful (thick outlines on these slab fonts will stress even more the American-football thing). If so, maybe try a colour other than black. I would have moved the url, though.

So, on the whole, I think yours is the better solution. Of course, all this is rather subjective. Just my two pennies.

Again, the design of a poster is entirely dependant on the context.

Here is a very crude experiment: enter image description here

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Readability.

You've split the thoughts and weaved them through each other. This makes each, single, thought difficult to read. Is it "grand 227 miles long canyon up to 18 miles wide national over a mile deep park"? That is the immediate flow of your piece. The message in the instructor's text is immediately conveyed without the need to solve a puzzle first. The three separate thoughts are clearly defined visually before they are read. A viewer instantly knows it's about the Grand Canyon, then they easily can tell the second thought is detail, and the last note is where to learn more. It's a fluid dispersion of the information in a way that can be scanned and immediately understood.

Contrast

Reverse type is difficult to read by nature. Thin reverse type with little contrast is even more difficult to read. The difficulty reading "227 Miles long" and "Up to 18 Miles Wide" in your piece is prevalent. If something is difficult to read, viewers tend to not read it or focus on "solving the puzzle" of the words rather than the overall message trying to be delivered. While I'm not a fan of canned drop shadows like those she used, it does improve the contrast to a point where the reverse type is easily read. In addition, note she stuck with a bold or black face for the type, further ensuring there was adequate contrast. The instructor also deepened the contrast of the background photo which makes the photo overall more dynamic - black shadows are black rather than a weak grey tone.

Position

Packing type to edges rarely comes across as "spacious" or "large/grand". By packing text into a shape you actually convey the opposite - small, cramped, dense, etc. If you want to portray a feeling of openness and grandeur you actually want to use more white space, not less.

Goal

What's the primary goal of the piece? Get viewers loading the web site, right? This should be the #1 thing the piece focuses on. The URL in your piece may as well be nonexistent. It's nearly impossible to read and if it is read, it surely won't be remembered - again failing into the "solve the puzzle" rather than "get the message" range. Form vs function. If the function is to convey the web site, that should be clear and easily read regardless of any other aspect of the piece. To be fair, I don't think the instructor did an excellent job with this aspect either, merely tacking on the URL at the bottom as an afterthought.


I would not make the same design choices either you or the instructor made. But the above aspects should all be considered to a degree for any design. If a piece is being created with the point of selling something, it needs to sell first then look pretty second. I think overall you went a bit too far to the "art" side and she went a bit too far to the "sales" side. I don't find her piece very stimulating in terms of design. But conversely, if I were paying for the piece, I'd not pay for yours because it does not convey the sales aspect very well.

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When you talk about drop shadows I think she used a 1px stroke as well. Not sure if that makes it better or worse –  Ryan Dec 30 '13 at 20:12
    
She added a .75 pt border, a solid black drow shadow and then a blured drop shadow under that. –  OghmaOsiris Dec 30 '13 at 21:32
    
@Scott I do agree with your readability statement, I see that mine probably couldn't be read very well from further than a computer screen (which is why I thought it was good when I was making in lol) –  OghmaOsiris Jan 15 at 23:22

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