5 Steps to Keep It Fresh: Design ideas that don’t cost a thing

The current economy is not a fun topic, especially if you’re in publishing. Every day, it seems, publications are being shut down and people are being laid off. If you’re lucky enough to still have a job, you’re probably struggling with a slashed budget. But there is a positive in all of this—getting back to your creative roots. Below are some simple things you can do to shake up your designs that won’t take a cent out of your budget

1. Design and Edit. There is nothing as powerful as a layout that has a well-conceived connection between edit and art. Work closely with your editors to connect the story to the design. An evocative headline and descriptive deck should capture the reader and round out the visual elements.

2. Typography. Explore typographic solutions to a design. Look at pushing the limits of your type palette—roman, bold, italic, all caps, all lowercase, large, small, serif and sans serif combined. Play around. And if you’re looking for a unique headline font, there are hundreds of beautiful, well-designed fonts to choose from. Two of our favorite foundries are Font Bureau and Hoefler & Frère-Jones.

3. Design Basics. Scale. Cropping. Negative space. You may not have used these terms since college, but getting back to basics can bring new life to your designs.

4. Imagery. Rules, boxes, dingbats, and graphic forms can illustrate concepts and help create dynamic designs. And while you don’t want to replace professional-quality photography completely, there are some budget-conscious ways to add imagery to your layouts: Consider creating your own images. Combine a selection of photos to make an energetic collage (check out New York magazine’s Party Lines section as an example). If your department has a good digital camera, you can shoot still-life photographs to act as backdrops for your designs. Placing items directly on your scanner can lead to interesting results as well.

5. Color. Last but not least, color can add richness and meaning to a design. Expand the application of your publication’s color palette to keep the pages fresh and inviting. Look at working with colors that have a similar value range so the design doesn’t become like a rainbow. Stay away from introducing new colors, or you will end up expanding your palette too much and watering down your publication’s brand.

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