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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Top 10 Iconic Adobe Creative Cloud Apps

It shouldn’t be surprising to any of my friends that the highest standard in creative software packages is Adobe Creative Cloud. However, one thing I did find surprising was that when I searched for a list of the top 10 most iconic Creative Cloud Apps, I got no results.

So I thought, “what the hey”, and decided to write one myself.

I’m basing my list more on how well known they are outside of the design community than I am on how useful they actually are for the wide variety of creative products out there. With that said, their functionality will also play a big role in my decision-making, both individually and as part of the overall usage as part of the Adobe CC package.

No.10 – Muse

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Personally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of WYSIWYG website builders, mainly because I think they’re not everything they crack themselves up to be. With that said, the key reason I think this way is because most people are either frightened of code, or simply don’t know how to do it!

That’s why Muse is such a good software for anyone who wants to build a website without any knowledge of HTML or CSS. Unlike a software I’ll mention later in this list, this is the go-to app for anyone looking to get started on designing websites, putting their look before their practicality.

No.9 – Lightroom

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I’ve personally tried using Lightroom a handful of times, and I have to be honest, I can’t work it out for love or money. However, this is a software designed for photographers, as opposed to graphic designers, and most of the friends I have in the photography business wouldn’t know how to cope without this app.

From what I’ve seen, it’s a great tool for cropping and colourising multiple photos, as well as organising groups of similar photos into catalogues.

It might not be the most well-known of softwares, but if you’ve ever looked at a photo collection, don’t be surprised if Lightroom was a key tool used in choosing and refining those pictures you love.

No.8 – Audition

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This is the only one of Adobe CC’s softwares to be designed exclusively for sound-design, making this the primary software for musicians and sound-effects artists.

I’d love to brag about what wonderful things Audition can do, but seeing as the most I’ve ever done on it is an attempt to remove the background music from one song, I’m certainly not the person to ask.

Just be rest-assured that if you’re into the art of sound, Audition is a good software too pick.

No.7 – After Effects

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After Effects is the best place to go for special-effects when using the Adobe CC package, especially those which involve using 2 pieces of footage in one shot. Therefore, just about any hologram, motion-graphic, or chroma-key (i.e. blue/green screen) effect you see in a movie or TV show today would have been achieved using After Effects.

Some advanced examples of how After Effects can be used include the ‘helmet’ shots in the Iron Man films, and the fan-made opening titles to The Walking Dead. But some more subtle uses of After Effects include the Idents and used by news-corporations, such as the BBC and Sky News.

Really, all you need to do to see what great work can come from After Effects is turn the TV on.

No.6 – InDesign

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a design company these days that doesn’t use InDesign. Much like Microsoft Word, this software is designed for text-editing and publishing. Despite the fact that Word is cheeper and more functional for the everyman, InDesign is easily the industry standard in publishing design.

Not only does InDesign it easier to control the leading, tracking, indents, paragraph spaces, etc. which make typography work, but it’s also easier to create drop-caps, create page spreads, and seamlessly combine multiple documents into a whole book.

It can also be good for website design, but if you ask me, there’s still one software more iconic and capable for designing websites to wait for…

No.5 – Illustrator

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Contrary to what you might think from the software’s name, Illustrator is in fact a highly adaptable software for any creative working in the digital arts. In many respects, Illustrator is a superior software to the number one on this list, since it allows someone to design using vectors (solid shapes) as opposed to bitmaps (pixels). This allows for shapes to be more adaptable, curvatures to be smoother, and outlines to look crisper.

From t-shirts to typefaces, from leaflets to logos, and from maps to mascots, there’s an awful lot one can design simply using Illustrator.

It might take some time for someone to get used to bezier arms and the pen tool. Yet personally, this is my favourite of the Adobe CC Package, and I won’t stop using it anytime soon.

No.4 – Premiere Pro

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One of the problems with After Effects is that it takes a long time to load each one of its frames as you test your footage, making it painful for basic video editing. This is why Premiere pro is there better software to use for editing.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never used this software myself, but from what I can tell, it’s more stripped down than After Effects is, and capable of loading its clips faster. This allows editors to slice away all they like, often creating masterpieces of film.

And if you think this is a software just for the general public, think again. The Sundance Film Festival saw a 130% rise in entries that were cut using Premiere Pro in 2015. Gone Girl, the first ever movie to be edited entirely with Premiere Pro, would not be the same if it weren’t for the Creative Cloud!

No.3 – Dreamweaver

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This software is designed with one thing in mind… development. Whether that be a website, a software, or an app, this is the go-to software for coders.

One part WYSIWYG, one part text-editor, it makes it easier than ever for developers to create sites using this software. Not only can the developer see a near-perfect replica of what they’re creating as they build it, but pre-built templates and segments help the professionals get the divs they want in their sites, and then use their knowledge of code to tweak their sites to be just the way they want them!

For every website created with WordPress, just about every other website would have been created with Dreamweaver. And once you get the hang of it, you can certainly tell why.

No.2 Flash (soon to be re-named ‘Animate’)

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Web-designers typically hate this software, because it’s tendency for slow loading times-and overly complicated UI’s meant hundreds of websites created in the early naughties were butchered.

On the other hand, this is the ideal software for animators and game-designers, especially those who like to keep their work 2D. Not only are the transitions crisp and smooth due to easing, but by adding some ActionScript, it can become entertainingly interactive.

Even if Flash games have fallen out of popularity with the rise of Apple devices, it’s popularity in cartoons like The Tom and Jerry Show show that Flash still has a bright, animated future.

Now, I would usually write a list of honourable mentions for this segment. However, since the majority of apps left in the Adobe CC package are used in the background, it seems rather pointless to make a huge fuss about them. So, let’s just skip to my number one pick…

No.1 – Photoshop

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Sure, InDesign and Illustrator might be the better softwares for graphic designers like myself. But seriously, how can anybody deny the sheer influence that Photoshop has had on both the creative and technological industries?!

Designed especially for photo-manipulation, such as the artwork by Erik Johansson, photoshop isn’t just the software most of us digital-creatives are introduced to. It’s a trademark which has become a verb in its own right, which if you ask me, stapes this as the most iconic the Adobe Creative Suite softwares!

(Sorry, I couldn’t help but include this video too!)

But, perhaps you have a different idea of which one of the Adobe CC Apps is the most iconic. If you think this list needs a different order, feel free to comment below and let me know!