Dictionary.com defines graphic design as:
The art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect.
In our particular world, the audience is the architectural specifier, contractor, developer or end-user; the special effect we wish to achieve is to engage, inspire and instil confidence in that audience, so that they choose your product over your competitor’s.
We produce a variety of marketing communication tools and assets for our clients in both digital and print formats. Some of the building products we deal with, for example roof tiles and facade systems are inherently visually aesthetic; we can use good photography and well-drawn details to communicate some of the key messages. But how can you take less inspiring building materials, such as insulation or concrete blocks, and make them appealing?
Below we set out a few basic tips that we have assimilated through our own work.
What is the objective?
It’s important to understand the purpose to any piece of design. Don’t overlook the value of research – what do your competitors do? Do you have all the relevant information at your disposal? How can your design stand out from the crowd? Is there a corporate identity to adhere to? All assets need to be gathered and assessed for their usefulness.
Who is the target audience?
Specifiers want solutions that show how products and systems fit together and interface with other elements. Contractors want similar information but often with more focus installation – all clearly set-out and comprehensive information that is easy to find, interpret, digest and re-communicate. End-users want clear explanations and examples of completed projects like theirs to give them confidence in your company. Speak to your audience in a language they understand. Be useful and remember that nobody likes being patronised.
Define the brief
A clear brief provides clarity and defines the end goal. Think about what your audience need and steer clear from the temptation of trying to show everything. Too much information will dilute your objective.
White space is important. When used properly, it gives other elements on the page (such as photos, text or illustrations) room to breathe. Avoid the urge to fill every scrap of space with content as the end design will be busy and unapproachable. For the construction industry, this will help the user identify what they need.
A strong focal point is key to any design as it draws the eye and adds interest. This could be eye-catching typography, a photograph, an illustration or block(s) or colour.
Avoid the temptation to throw everything on to the page without any thought. Aligning elements in a strong and logical way helps create order and structure – vital for communicating complex systems or ideas.
Break it up. Use headings and bullet points, or colour. Don’t abandon the reader to plough through miles of it. Navigation, identification and rapid access to the relevant information is critical, on the page and on-line. This doesn’t just apply to text, it applies to everything.
Calls to action
Strong calls to action will help guide users to a website or request more information.
Photography and illustration
For flat roofing build-ups and drainage systems (as with many construction industry products), they are not particularly photogenic. Consider photographing them in a unique way to make them look more interesting. Alternatively they could be illustrated in an interesting way, such as using 3d software to construct, light and render them.
Putting it all together – graphic design for the construction industry
By all means combine images, words and ideas. But more importantly, design with the viewer in mind and present the information in a way that is appealing yet clear and easily accessible.
Flat roofing doesn’t have to be featureless!