Top 10 (Good) Branding and Graphic Design Cliches

If you do a google search for ‘Top 10 Graphic Design Cliches), pretty much all of the articles will focus on all the things professional designers cringe at when these a non-professional try (and fail) to to use to make their brand ‘stand out from the crowd”.

As right as they are, I can’t help but feel that there are many cliches which professionals designers use, and perhaps not realise are so commonplace in examples of good graphic design. So, I decided to investigate, and see which cliches and trends are used more often than most.

I’ll mostly be focusing on cliches that exist throughout multiple forms of graphic design, and have been popular throughout the majority of the past century.

And like I said, I’m not saying that using any of these cliches is a bad thing, since many of these examples are well-respected brands and designs. I’d rather think of these as the components to a branding agencies ‘safety net’.

No.10 – Integrating Graphics into Real Life

intergrating_graphics_into_real_life
Nobody wants an overly simple design where the text and images are separated, so designers often try to bring life to their designs by combining them into one. From using technology to overlay designs onto video, to actually drawing whatever text needs to be read onto its subject, the more a designer can blend image and type together, the better.

No.9 – Titles at the Top

title_at_the_top
In western society, we naturally read from the top right, to the bottom left. This, plus the fact that most graphic products are stacked in a step-fashion, might explain why so many cover-designs have the title at the top of the page. Magazines, calendars, posters and book covers often have their titles at the top of the page, and who can blame them? It’s the first thing we read, after all.

No.8 – Layers with Reduced Opacities

layers_with_reduced_opacities
Layers are practically inevitable when it comes to graphic design, and it would seem many designers have taken advantage of this by making their layers anything but 2-dimentional. Layers can be used in a variety of ways, but the double-exposure effect seems to be the most popular way of using them. What can I say? Reducing opacity brings depth to designs.

No.7 – A Human Touch

a_human_touch
As human being, it’s inevitable that we relate most of all to our fellow human-kind, which might explain why so many brands use human-figures. By using a model, a mascot (even if it’s in the form of an anthropomorphised creature), or simply a facial feature, a brand can suddenly become more relatable, and help to attract the audience the brand is after.

No.6 – Using Type as Decoration

using_type_as_decoration
Nothing says “I’m a great designer” like using text as if it’s wallpaper. Whether it’s stylising the text to make it stand out against the photographs, or creating other illustrations and logos with letterforms, an extraordinarily common cliche of famous works of graphic design is decorative type. It’s fun to read, and it’s fun to look at, so it’s pretty much a win-win situation.

No.5 – Circles

circles
There are various cliche shapes that are used in logo’s, but circular designs come up trumps. Whether it’s a standard circle, a ring, a dart board, or even a sphere, circles’ seemingly universal appeal make them an extremely popular shape for logo-designs. Not to mention that in our digital age, circular share-icons and apps bring an ‘all-around appeal’ (pardon the pun) into the 21st century.

No.4 – One Key Image

one_key_image
There’s a saying that ‘less is more’ in design, and that applies to graphic design too. Rarely will you ever find a design which uses multiple photographs and/or illustrations, as using a single image helps to sell the brand in one breath. Web design did buck this trend for a short while with scrolling web-banners, but even that seems to be fading away with the rise of hero-images.

No.3 – Red, Black and White

red_black_and_white
It;s amazing to think that with the number of possible colour palettes that can be chosen for a brand, the red, black and white one seems to pop up more often than most. But why exactly is this? Is it the strong contrasts? Is it red’s supposedly universal appeal. Is it something inspired by the Swiss due to their flags design. Whatever the reason, this palette doesn’t look like it’s going to die any time soon.

No.2 – Grid Systems

grid_systems
This is a cliche you’ve probably seen a million times without ever noticing. Another cliche pioneered by the Swiss, designers will often use grids to bring a formality to their layouts. Although they’re mostly hidden, designers can sometimes bring the grid into the foreground and use it as a feature. There are just so many ways one UI designer can use one grid.

Honourable Mentions

Using Lettering for Logos and Slogans – E.g. Cadbury’s, Tesco

Cel-Shading – E.g. Taco Bell’s Logo, traditional animation

Bleeding – Any time an image is deliberately sliced off at the edge of the page

Indexical/Symbolic Logos – E.g. Apple, Museum of London

No.1 – Helvetica

helvetica
Did you know that half of all your favourite brands use exactly the same font-family? That family is Helvetica, designed as far back as 1957! It’s most commonly used for body-type due to its strong legibility despite being sans-serif. And yet, it’s managed to work its way into many of our favourite logos and brand identities. They don’t call it the Designer’s Font for nothing!

What do you think? Are there any cliche’s I missed? Do you think one of these cliche’s shows up more often than another? Fell free to express your opinion in the comment section below.

Life on the Spectrum: A World Autism Awareness Week Special

Whilst I usually keep my posts on this blog themed around creative topics, I’ve decided to do something different this time. World Autism Awareness Week started last Saturday, but I’ve known about it for a good few months. So, I decided it would be time to open up about my High Functioning Autism.

I can guarantee a good half of my friends have no clue that I’m autistic, especially since it’s not something I talk about on a day-to-day basis with those I know. With that said, it’s definitely something that needs to be talked about, so here it goes. Here are the pros and cons of my autism.

Pro – It gives me my creative spark

I honestly think the biggest reason I have as much passion as I do for designing, and in turn have as many skills in being a designer, is because of my autism. Whilst most other boys when I was in school were are into things like sports, games and construction, I was far more engrossed in crafts and technology. I also knew from a very early age that I wanted to do something artistic when I grew up.

And why do I think my autism is the reason for this? Well, all of the autistic friend I have, both high and low functioning, are equally passionate about creative topics. Some are more into music, some are more into fashion, and some are more into storytelling. But all of them are creative, and I wouldn’t give up my creative spark for the world, especially if it also meant giving up these friends.

Con – It cripples my socialising skills

Easily the biggest problem my autism causes me is that it makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to socialise with people. For one thing, I am easily overcome with shyness when talking to someone, especially for the first time, and especially if they’re talking to someone else. Often, just saying “hello” to someone takes a lot of self-encouragement.

For another, I have an awful lot of difficulty making eye-contact with people. I have to really force myself to look someone in the eye, and even then, it only lasts for a split second. The only way I can describe the feeling of looking into people’s eyes is like looking into a pair of black holes, since the darkness of the pupils just never seems to end.

Pro – It makes me truly dedicated to things

Whilst I may not be into the same things as most other men, when I get passionate about something, I really get passionate about it. This includes my love for design, which can be evident in the 43 books I read for my Modernism/Postmodernism dissertation (excluding journals, websites, and the documentary film I watched).

Furthermore, if I’m given some kind of job to do, I try my hardest to not only do the job, but to do it either better, or do a lot more of it. I will spend every spare second examining every detail to see if there’s some way I can make an improvement, rarely ever telling myself that “It’ll do”. This, again, is a common trait for autistic folk, that when they have a goal they want to achieve, especially if it’s linked to something they feel strongly for, they go to the ends of the earth to achieve it.

Con – My parents had the hardest time raising me

Nowadays, I’m a quiet but friendly, calm and approachable person, which is a million miles away from the kind of child I was. Because I would easily be traumatised by change (more details regarding that to come), if anything I didn’t expect to happen happened, I would often begin screaming and try anything in my power to stop it happening, even if that meant me becoming physical.

Also, because I didn’t clearly understand the world around me, I would often do things which I never realised weren’t right, such as break something or take something from someone without their permission.

I’m none of these things today, but the only reason is because my parents, especially my mother, loved me regardless. Through their love, they raised me to be a better man, and I am forever thankful for that.

Pro – It makes me understand things others struggle with

Autistic people are neither smarter, not dimmer, than the average man. The difference is that our intelligence is focused on particular areas of our minds.

For example, being autistic, I’m especially good at systems and organisation. Not only do I plan my schedule and projects more effectively than many others do, but it means I only took half the time others did to comprehend both web-coding, and algebra.

It also allows me to have a more advanced mind for visualising things, since autistic folk like me tend to think in pictures. We can both visualise things which haven’t been created yet, and we can remember the look of something with more advanced details regular people. I can actually remember how everything looked from my earliest memory, when I was young enough to sleep in a cot.

Con – It made things you might consider ‘simple’ difficult

Whilst my autism does make me understand things others struggle to comprehend, it also has the adverse effect of making me struggle with things other people are used to, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a system involved. For example, regardless of my blog, I often struggle with reading and writing, particularly fictional material. Not only does fictional work vary more in tenses, sentence lengths and topics, but it’s also a lot less ‘matter of fact’ and uses more indirect, emotional methods of describing things (I.e. Metaphors).

Also, if there’s a change to the routine an autistic person is used to, this can often become increasingly stressful for the autistic person, since they end up becoming lost with no clear sign of where to go or what to do next. It’s like being diverted away from a road you’re used to driving on onto one you’ve never seen before. The destination might be the same, but it’s still confusing and stressful.

Let’s Talk About MMR

Yes, over 2 decades ago when the whole controversy about MMR vaccines and autism were a hot topic in the news, I was one of those children supposedly made autistic because of the vaccine (we even have before and after photographs).

Before anyone mentions them, I know the stats supposedly show no direct correlation between the two. With that said, think of it this way: some people have peanut-allergies, but we don’t go telling them that peanuts can’t cause allergic reactions since the rest of us can eat them without any side effects.

Furthermore, many of the things linked to MMR have been discovered to be potential causes of autism. Many scientists believe that autism can be a form of mercury poisoning (multiple-dose vaccines are preserved in Thiomersal, an organomercury compound), a long-term effect of contracting Rubella (what the ‘R’ in ‘MMR’ stands for), or even caused by early childhood trauma (I think having 3 diseases at once as a baby is a pretty traumatic experience).

I’m not claiming anything regarding the MMR-autism controversy. After all, I’m no scientist. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t be so conclusive that MMR doesn’t cause autism, especially since we’re still so unsure as to what does. We’re still in very early days regarding this research, so let’s keep our minds open and let the future tell us whether or not the scientists of today were right.

My Summary

I’ve met autistic people who see it as a gift, giving them skills the average human being could only dream of having. I’ve also met autistic people who see it as a hindrance, making it hard for them to fit in with society and be mocked because of it. What do I think of my autism…? Meh…

Truth be told, I don’t really think of it as a blessing, and I don’t think of it as a curse; I just think of it as the way I am. If you asked me to describe myself with a single word, I’d probably choose ‘autistic’, since I think it says just about everything you’d want to know about me in one breath.

I do think, however, that it’s something people should at least be aware of. Autism, for better or worse, is a condition that will stick with me until the day I die, and the more that people understand it, the easier life can be for all of us. You might not think that you need to know about it, but knowing how many of my own friends never knew I was autistic, it wouldn’t surprise me if you knew many more people on the spectrum without realising it. It’s not impossible for someone with High Functioning Autism, or Aspergers Syndrome, to be undiagnosed, so keep your wits about you if you spot the signs.

So, what do you all think of autism? Do you think it’s a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between? I’m interested in your opinions of it, so comment below with your thoughts regarding autism.