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Creating Effective Large-Format Graphics

(September 2008) posted on Wed Sep 24, 2008

It takes more than artistic talent to create effective large-format graphics. You also need to have a firm handle on the way big promotional images are perceived and how to use various design elements to make them grab the attention of viewers. Presented here are a few basic rules that, when followed, will result in graphics that print correctly and deliver their promotional message effectively.

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By Benjamin Lawless

Just as with text, which needs to be short and straightforward, imagery used in a large-format graphic needs to be simple. Too much imagery or designs with too much detail can drown out the message quite easily. Using a single graphic element is generally the best approach, especially if it has plenty of negative space. Negative space is any portion of the image that surrounds the main subject. Sometimes, it’s referred to as the background. Many may be tempted to use the negative space as graphic real-estate for adding text or making graphic elements as large as humanly possible. However, as Figure 3 shows, this gets you nowhere. Giving your advertisement room to breathe gives your product an air of class, refinement and luxury; it makes whatever you’re selling desirable. In Figure 4, you can see how I eliminated the unnecessary starburst background and only made the text “watch your brains” large enough to be legible.

Notice that in Figure 4 there’s an awful lot of negative space. That’s on purpose. For every successful design, negative space has to be considered and arranged almost as carefully as your subject or text. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your negative space, and make sure to use it to direct your audience’s eyes around the graphic.

On a side note: Whatever the application, I seriously advise against the use of collages. Since they tend to disregard negative space, they’re a pain on the eyes. One large spacious picture often will say much more than 10 small ones. So leave your ancillary product pictures on a brochure. Just keep your large-format graphic large and pristine. If you absolutely must have multiple products or other photos on the design, limit them to a maximum of three, and include bullet points outlining what it is you’re showing. And make sure to keep those bullets short and easily viewable.


Visualize the final product


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