I think back to my senior year of college and a particular course that was supposed to prepare us for the dreaded “real world”. (In all fairness, I think they gave us some great information.) One of the things I remember them telling us was not to do design work for free (even for friends and family). The instructors told us it was like saying our skill set wasn’t worth anything. Well, many years later, I’ve done it. I’m sure we’ve all done it. This is one of those projects where I actually feel okay about donating my time.

I think every family has some major issue that they’ve dealt with, and the one that touched mine was a rare cancer nicknamed GIST. After all the time with the doctors, we found ourselves with this great support group in Colorado full of people who have been there and understand. The group wanted to help people diagnosed with GIST before they even knew the support group existed. Putting their heads together, they came up with a list of things a new GIST patient would want to talk about with his or her doctor. They wanted to make it into a brochure for oncologists’ offices. (If you’ve dealt with medical issues, you know that at first it’s all so foreign that you don’t know enough to even ask questions — you don’t know what you don’t know.) I felt like this project might really help someone newly diagnosed get up to speed faster on what they have and how to talk about it.

They let me (mostly) run with the design, which is always fun but challenging because the options are vast.

I did have a couple of limitations, though:

  • No images
  • Lots of text
  • Must fit in a standard brochure rack
  • And a limited budget, of course

  • Working without images, I used the color and type to fill the roles that images usually play, grabbing the eye and establishing the context. I selected a muted blue for the soothing effect, and I used a slight gradation to add interest. I made the color prominent to make the brochure stand out. Also, I used the type to add visual interest. Using type as a key design element gives you to opportunity to really emphasize your message, to enlarge those key items. That’s what I did here. I juxtaposed the serious dominant san serif typeface with a playful layout to bring emphasis to the message and add visual interest.

    In the end, I think we were pleased with how it turned out, content and visuals. Truly, we all hope that it’s helped someone out there.

    My designer takeaway: The challenge of working without images can help elevate your text design.

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