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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’)

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

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!

Top 10 Music Videos that Don’t Star the Singer

Whilst I was writing a list of my favourite music videos of all time, I realised that there was a common trend among my favourites. Most of my favourite videos didn’t star the lead singer! After discovering this, I trawled through the web to find a list of these, but to no success. It seems like there isn’t a top 10 list for music videos where the singer isn’t the star. Therefore, I’ve taken the liberty to compose my own list of these music/movie gems.

Just so we’re on the same page, I’m excluding lyric videos, as well as videos which include either clips, lookalikes, or animated counterparts for the singer. I am, however, including videos which briefly feature the singer, so long as they’re not the stars of the show. It has to be someone or something else we all remember the videos for.

I’m judging these videos based on their creativity, innovation, craftsmanship, storytelling, and of course, how well they fit their songs.

No.10 – Rabbit in Your Headlights (1998) – UNKLE

Jonathan Glazer is probably one of the most underrated directors of our day, as he’s responsible for countless commercials and music videos we all love, despite not knowing his name. In this clip, we follow a man, played by the unmistakable Denis Lavant, as he strides through the tunnel, loses his mind and gets repeatedly run over by driers. After building up the tension, we reach a pseudo-biblical ending that is nothing short of epic.

No.9 – Imitation of Life (2001) – R.E.M.

This uses a rare editing technique called ‘Pan and Scan’ (at least, rare for stylistic purposes), where an imaginary camera zooms into pre-recorded footage and pans the scene from various close-up angles. The clip, if played from start to end without edits, only lasts 20 seconds. However, with the pan and scan, switches between playing forwards and backwards, and smartly choreographed lip-syncing, it makes this party truly unforgettable.

No.8 – B******* of Young (1985) – The Replacements

From one that’s filled with people, to one with barely anyone in it! In this black and white video, we dolly out from a booming speaker, watch someone’s hand hold a lit cigarette, and… that’s about it. Soooo, why is this spectacle of boredom featured on this list? Because this was, in fact, designed to be an anti-video, and be the complete opposite of videos from the likes of Eurythmics, Mick Jagger, and Madonna. Isn’t it ironic that it’s now on a list like this?

No.7 – One Day Like This (2008) – Elbow

To all intensive purposes, this video does everything completely wrong, by being poorly shot, aesthetically humdrum, and completely one-note. Yet, when you look deeper and watch our performer do his bit, we come to realise that the point of this video wasn’t to be entirely beautiful, but to show us how we could spot beauty in the most unexpected of places. It’s further complemented when you realise it’s song is equally beautiful in its simplicity.

No.6 – Born Free (2010) – M.I.A.

Practically a short film in it’s own right, this disturbingly uncompromising clip shows a terrifying portrayal of authorities breaking into peoples homes and taking kids to the middle of nowhere for genocide. It would have been terrifying enough with that theme alone, but when we learn the reason for these teens being victimised, it really pushes us to question our own ideas of conformity and popularity.

NOTE: Before anybody asks, no, I didn’t intend for the top 5 songs to alternate between 1997 and 1999. It just kind of turned out that way.

No.5 – Coffee & TV (1999) – Blur

I was debating whether to include this one, since the band does feature for more prolonged period of time in this video than others on this list. In the end, I decided to include it after all, because it really is little Milky who’s the star of the story. The chirpy animations and innovative plot make you want to watch it all the way to it’s more-than-worthwhile ending, which I recommend all of my watchers to get to. Just to say, this will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘crying over spilt milk’.

No.4 – Smack My B**** Up (1997) – The Prodigy

Often labeled as the most controversial music video ever created, this is a P.O.V. movie of a night in the life of our lead geting high, drunk, and violent. Very, very violent (mostly towards women)! Some hated it for victimising it’s cast; others loved it for exposing how vicious all people of all genders could be. Either way, it’s nauseating look and twist ending are bound to leave this video embedded in your nightmares.

No.3 – Praise You (1999) – Fatboy Slim

Whilst another classic Fatboy Slim video, ‘Weapon of Choice’, was a contender for this list, I decided to instead choose ‘Praise You’, since Spike Jonse practically invented an art-form by making this video. Long before ’T-Mobile’ got their claws on the idea, this is essentially the first ever flash-mob dance put to film, complete with guerrilla-style filmmaking, and even a fictionalised dance company. And to think it only costed $800!

No.2 – Around the World (1997) – Daft Punk

With its devilishly simple idea to use a circular set to resemble a record player, and costumed dancers to resemble the songs different instruments, the video for this techno track made quite a spectacle for the MTV generation. It’s quirky choreography, and even quirkier look, make for an entertaining, memorable, and practically timeless impact. The lyrics play over and over again, and we can’t help but watch this over and over again!

Honourable Mentions

(Southern) California (1991) – Wax
Frightening, yet utterly breathtaking, this video may not mean much metaphorically, but it gave this one-hit wonder the fame/infamy it was after.

Drugs (2010) – Ratatat
Freaky faces, a steamy background, and a warped model of a head match both the conflicting feels of ecstasy, and rocktronica noise that crawls under your skin.

You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (2011) – Ed Sheeran
Gorgeously shot and expertly cut, the video is further complemented by Matthew Morgan’s ‘we won’t back down’ stare as he sing-signs to this rap track.

Mad World (2003) – Michael Andrews ft. Gary Jules
This famously depressing song isn’t easy to be creative with, but Michael Gondrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2005)) and his crew found a way.

The Day I Died (2009) – Just Jack
Accompanying it’s equally underrated song, the foreshadowing that our lead (James Nesbitt) will eventually realise he’s died creates a creepy yet charming reflection of the songs lyrics.

Rockstar (2005) – Nickelback
It might be labelled as one of the worst songs in history, but I’d be damned if simply watching a few hundred people mime this song didn’t make you “wanna be a rockstar” too!

No.1 – Viðrar vel til Loftárása (1999) – Sigur Rós

A controversial video for its time which has become a masterpiece today, this Icelandic band made an impact which only gets better with time. It’s not the first music video to show gay affection, and it’s certainly not last. Nevertheless, with it’s engaging younger subjects, cinematic scope and soul-stirring music, it’s by far the most beautiful. It has a poignant message and heartbreaking finale, which are bound to leave even some of the most manly men teary-eyed.

So, what do you think of my list? Are there any videos you think I’ve missed? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any more great music videos where the singer is only heard!