What Is a Creative Solution?

The Creative Process
Graphic design brings together two different things: artistic creation and the practical world of commerce. Put simply, it is intelligence made visual. A designer is a creative artist who deals with the realities of planning, from assessing client needs and crafting a solution to selecting appropriate materials (papers, inks, glues, and varnishes), maintaining strict budgets, and understanding visual communication.

Creative Solutions
A designer must make connections in the mind between creativity and process in order to successfully communicate a message to an audience and answer a client’s needs.

What Is a Creative Solution?
At its core, a creative solution solves a client’s problem through the design medium/language. It is…

  • appropriate for the client’s product, spirit, and objectives.
  • communicated clearly.
  • functional. A package has to open. A pictogram has to identify. A map has to direct.
  • impactful.
  • memorable.
  • original.
  • fresh, stimulating, exciting, and stunning.
  • executed appropriately and well.

The Risk of Over Designing

Simplicity is often seen, but it’s a concept that is not easily explained. For some graphic designers, it’s second nature. For others, it involves much forethought. Today’s designers are trending toward more simple, clutter-free designs, as they return to simplicity. Here are some examples of how the traditional theme of less is more is used:

25 flavors

  • Advertising
    Not only can simple ads grab attention, but their short and to the point messages are also easier to comprehend. The concept of “less is more” is especially effective when writing ad copy.
  • Catalogs and Brochures
    Catalogs and brochures are expected to be a vast source of information, yet readers appreciate when they are simplified, organized, and easy to read and comprehend. Simplicity is often its own reward since it encourages increased use.
  • Packaging
    Like a poster, a package needs to attract the eye within seconds of its initial viewing. In recent years, shelves have been jammed with products whose designers have attempted to out-design one another. This gives simple package designs featuring primary colors, bold copy, white space, and clean design the ability to effectively break through the clutter.
    ambassador grill
  • Identity
    Not only do logos convey the personality of a company, but they also offer a memorable impression. Simple designs that incorporate a company’s complex ideas are the root of a logo’s power.

One of the perks of being a designer is the ability to develop a personality or character for a company or product. For designers, simplicity means a return to basics, but not at the expense of creative design.

Designing Successful Newsletters

Newsletters have become a great way for businesses to spread information, “tell their story,” solidify customer loyalty, and increase sales.Here are a few tips to keep in mind while designing your company newsletter:

  1. Content Is Important
    Successful newsletters provide interesting content for their readers, in addition to product information from the newsletter provider.
  2. Color Draws the Eye
    Use multiple colors of ink to draw attention to important articles and information. Two-color newsletters are very effective, and full-color newsletters are gaining popularity.
  3. Pull Quotes Create Interest
    Pull quotes create interest and increase the likelihood that an article will be read. These quotes are taken directly from the article and focus on interesting, key points.
  4. Good Design Provides More Room for Copy
    A well-planned and designed newsletter can contain 20% to 30% more content than a casually designed newsletter. Seeking advice from professional graphic artists is often profitable. They can help design an effective template for your future use.
  5. Good Back Page Design Is Important
    An estimated 15% of readers start reading at the back page of a newsletter and work their way to the front page.

Add a Drop Shadow for Drama

Here are some thoughts about how to use drop shadows more creatively:

  • The drop shadow can be a surprisingly simple means of making an image more interesting.
  • A drop shadow can be realistic, or can be presented as a simple, hard-edged gray tone.
  • Shadows can darken a mood or convey a look of sunshine.
  • Many software programs feature the ability to add a drop shadow to an image.

Use drop shadows to signify:

  • Light sources
  • Realistic images
  • Graphics
  • Flat images
  • Perspectives
  • Darkness
  • Light

drop shadow

Do-It-Yourself Letterhead


Letterhead is one of the key elements to your corporate identity. It is ground zero from a design standpoint. The layout, typestyles, and colors you establish here dictate the design of all the pieces that follow — from your business cards and envelopes to your website brochure.

Why the letterhead? Because it is typically used to present the most important one-on-one personal communications — introductions, proposals, requests, personal messages, and such — the written greetings that require you to look your best.

Creating a striking design will create a favorable impression for your organization.

Here are a few helpful hints for designing a great letterhead:

  1. Choose a smooth paper for your letterhead. It will print more evenly in your office’s laser printers.
  2. A strong logo, placed in a prominent position, creates a focal point for your letterhead.
  3. Using a bleed in your letterhead design looks wonderful, but will add to the cost of the completed project, because it must be printed on oversize paper, and then trimmed to 8‑1/2 x 11.
  4. When choosing a paper for your letterhead, it is often a good idea to check with us to see if matching envelopes are available. You might also want to check the folding characteristics of the paper, since most letterhead are folded and inserted into a #10 envelope.

Getting Creative in Black and White

With the extreme popularity of high resolution computer screens on the desktops of designers everywhere, it is easy to forget that simple black ink on white paper still provides an economical and extremely creative approach to design.

If you’re on a limited budget, need something printed fast, or need an alternative idea, why not design your next project in black and white?

Consider the following ideas from Give Five, an outreach organization that unites adults with children in need:

black and white

    • Consider creating an ad with screens (gray shades) — these are easy and inexpensive to reproduce in a variety of media.


    • Strive to create a layout that draws attention to the ad and also helps it stand apart from the (inevitable) crowd.


    • Cheap art: The hands featured in these ads were photographed using a desktop scanner and then manipulated in Adobe Photoshop. Keep ideas like this in mind when looking for budget solutions for a project.


  • This spread: Ads that call for attention through a variety of easily produced black-against-white illustrations and graphic styles.

There are endless ways to display an ad’s content, even when restricted to a single color of ink.

Explore and Consider:

  • Hand-drawn elements
  • Cartoons
  • Unusual border treatments
  • Linework around and/or inside the ad
  • Interesting, bold typography
  • Sideways elements
  • Reversed text/graphics

Poster Design Tips

At its best, poster design is the territory of the truly creative, and it has been used in the past as a public display of individual talent. When you are designing in this graphic form, the poster’s purpose and application should be your first considerations. The poster will normally be on display in a public area, where it will have to compete both with its surroundings and with other posters. Poster Design Checklist:

    • Establish the information to be conveyed.


    • Decide on the size, proportion, and shape.


    • Research the locations for your poster.


    • Simplify the information to be communicated.


    • Produce scaled-down versions of the design.


    • Consider the space and its effects very carefully.


    • Select the typefaces that work for your design.


    • Make sure the message is conveyed clearly and dynamically.


  • Present a number of alternative designs.

When you are designing a poster, the first decision to make is the size and shape of the design area. This may be governed by the display site. For this example, three shapes have been explored: two differently proportioned portrait shapes and one landscape.

    • Portrait and Landscape: Most common sizes are 81/2×11, 11×17, and 22×34.


    • Large Format Posters: Most common sizes are 24″ wide and 36″ wide.


  • Both are available in unlimited lengths, but 96″ or less is most practical.

unlimited lengths

Design That’s Easy as A-B-C

When most people think of design elements, individual letters aren’t the first things that come to mind. Sure, selecting an appropriate typeface to complement the overall look or feel of a design is essential. But letters themselves (and the words they create) tend to be more the domain of literary artists.


If you stop to think about it, though, letters truly are visual elements. By themselves, each represents a particular sound or group of sounds. Grouped together, they represent various thoughts and ideas. Even more to the point, though, each letter has its own unique set of shapes. The S, for instance, has its sweeping curves, and the A has its crisp lines and angled peak.

With that in mind, can an entire design focus around a single letter form? Can an individual letter represent an entire idea on its own? Could the letter V, for instance, become a visual metaphor for anxiety? Or the letter X somehow display order? Take a look at the designs pictured here, and see for yourself. As you’ll see, each is based around a single letter form, which has been used to convey the desired emotion or idea.

So, the next time you find yourself facing a blank screen, with no idea how to proceed, remember these words… and, more importantly, the letters used to make them.

Add Some Motion to Your Designs!

Artists have long sought ways to convey motion and the passage of time within a static, two dimensional space. Implied motion can transform an otherwise uninteresting design into a far more dynamic expression that catches the consumer’s eye. Here are just a few examples of how you can incorporate implied motion into a two-dimensional design:

  • Eruption of Form: A grouping of shapes, expanding from or retreating to a focal point, gives the suggestion of movement and can convey an outward rush of ideas or emotion. The repeating elements in the design below give the impression of objects moving outwardly toward the observer.


eruption of form


    • Directional Cues: Objects with a pointed or triangular shape help to lead the eye through a design. A simple arrow, like the one below, will lead the viewer through your message and impart the feeling of momentum.


arrow design


  • Dimensional Lines: Strong perspectives will draw the eye of the viewer across the page, while outlining a curved path or adding a dashed line will create a visual path that provides movement within a design. For example, the dimensionality of this curving line of text gives it movement and depth.




  • Breaking a Static Plane: A centered object, with lines parallel to the edges, appears to be static and unmoving. Skewing the object to create a strong diagonal presence will lead the eye through the design and add the illusion of motion. Cropping the object will give it the appearance of entering or exiting the plane of motion.


static plane


  • Sequential Time: Drawings, or photographs, placed in a row, work to tell a story over time. These images, placed side by side together, tell a dynamic story and instill a strong sense of motion within a static, two-dimensional medium.


sequential time

By arranging composition elements with time and motion in mind, as we’ve shown you in the examples above, you can more effectively control the movement of the viewer’s eye and convey your message in a more memorable and visually interesting way.

Reproducing Apple’s “Aqua” Lettering Effect

Type effects are a good way to turn a headline into a visual element. One popular type trend, known as liquid or “aqua” lettering, is easy to reproduce in Photoshop using the steps below:

    1. Create a 300dpi image in Photoshop, with dimensions that are large enough to fit your entire headline text.
    2. Set the foreground color to R=0 G=51 B=222. This will provide the color for your text.
    3. Select the type tool and choose a serif font, such as Garamond or Times New Roman.
    4. Set the font size at 72px, and type the text you want to use in the headline.
    5. Control-click (Mac: Command-click) inside the type layer to select the shape of the letters.
    6. Reduce the selection by seven pixels, by choosing Modify > Contract from the Select menu at the top of the screen.
    7. Create a new layer (with your selection still in place), and change the foreground color to R=31 G=82 B=255.
    8. Using the fill tool, color your selected area with this new color.


  1. Once that’s set, deselect the selected area, and duplicate the layer you just created, so you now have two copies of it.
  2. Name the first of these layers “Color1” and the second “Color2.”

With all your layers in place, you’ll now need to make the following adjustments:

Color1 — Set the Blend Mode to Multiply

  • Double-click the “Color1” layer on the layers palette to bring up the Layer Style dialog box.
  • Set the Blend Mode to Multiply, and hit OK.

aquaColor2 — Add a Gaussian Blur

  • Highlight “Color2” on the layers palette, and choose Blur > Gaussian Blur from the Filter menu at the top of the screen.
  • A dialog box will appear. Set the radius to 5px and hit OK.

Color2 — Add an Emboss Effect

    • Double-click the “Color2” layer on the layers palette to bring up the Layer Style dialog box.
    • Highlight and select the Bevel and Emboss style.
    • For the Style setting, choose Emboss.
    • Change the Depth to 441% and the Size to 10px.


  • Set the Highlight Mode to Normal, with an Opacity of 100%, and the Shadow Mode to Color Dodge, with an opacity of 40%.
  • Press OK to continue.

Color2 — Adjust the Curves

    • With the “Color2” layer still highlighted on the layers palette, choose Adjustments > Curves from the Image menu at the top of the screen.


  • Another dialog box will appear.
  • Insert stop points at the following coordinates (input/output): 50/160, 200/90, and 233/180.
  • Once you have these coordinates in place, click OK.

Text Layer — Add a Drop Shadow

    • Right-click (Mac: Option-click) on the text layer in the layers palette.
    • Select Blending Options from the dropdown menu that appears.
    • Highlight and select Drop Shadow in the Layer Style dialog box.


  • Set the color (the swatch next to Blend Mode) to R=0 G=32 B=186 and the Opacity to 75%.
  • Choose a Distance of 5px, a Spread of 0%, and a Size of 9px.

The effect is now complete.