Layout newbie

edited May 2013 in Story Games
I'm trying to learn more about layout and design.

I think I remember seeing something about using a "style sheet" or "style guide" that defines the fonts, colors, size, etc. of the book's elements. My Google-Fu skills have failed me. Am I thinking of something else, or can somebody here point me in the right direction? Thanks!

Comments

  • The most valuable things I learned were first or second-hand things that Joshua A.C. Newman said.

    Space Consistently
    Size Consistently
    Always use Papyrus
    Leave room for their thumb around the edge of the page
  • For what purpose do you want to learn about design?

    My advice is to go to the local library and borrow some books about the subject.

    Style sheets are used to design homepages. Paragraph styles are used in Adobe Indesign when you're creating books and whatnot, but Indesign has a high threshold of learning so take a class to learn it. It will save you a lot of time, trust me.
  • Get a book designer who lives nearby to show you how to work it. Chances are one lives close by and would be happy to talk over the basics, at least for a given value of "close" and a given value of "happy". Once you've established the connection and gotten their advice on how to begin, you can ask them for help with the details when you get stuck, and they can ask you for help to move their couch, so it's a win-win all around. It should take about 2-3 days (assuming you've got the computer skills down) to get you up to a skill level where you can create a fanzine or something, at which point they should let you out into the wilds with your new-found skills.

    Alternatively, go borrow those books and read them. It's a discipline, I learned it by reading a few books, doing a few low-stakes projects, and then started scaling up to more ambitious ones, starting a little company for it and so on - who knows where that leads, but seems to be working so far.
  • Echoing @Eero_Tuovinen... this is a big subject. Not big enough that you shouldn't bother learning it, but big enough that summing it up right here is all but impossible. So instead of giving you a fish or even teaching you how to fish, I'm gonna introduce you to the resources you'll need to repair your fishing pole when it breaks. (Am I stretching this metaphor too far? I am? Ok. I'll reel it in.)

    Go on www.meetup.com - assuming you live in a relatively populated area, finding a group of people that do this for fun or for a living should be relatively easy. There's almost no substitute for real-time, in-person feedback, especially when you're first starting out, so go and get friendly with those people.

    When that isn't possible - when you're just stuck and you need a little push and it's a week before the group meets up again - http://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/ is your friend.


  • Style sheets are used to design homepages. Paragraph styles are used in Adobe Indesign when you're creating books and whatnot, but Indesign has a high threshold of learning so take a class to learn it. It will save you a lot of time, trust me.
    Paragraph styles! That was it.

    I'm looking at laying out my RPG way down the line. I just want to learn the basics to play around with for now because I like to understand all the aspects of a business.


  • Honestly, starting by reading books such as the "The Non-Designer's Design Book" followed by "Thinking with Type" will give you a solid foundation to build off. I am _far_ from an expert (or even competent), but it has helped me get to the level of "Novice" at least.
  • The most valuable things I learned were first or second-hand things that Joshua A.C. Newman said.

    Space Consistently
    Size Consistently
    Always use Papyrus
    Leave room for their thumb around the edge of the page
    One of these things is not like the others.....
  • I think a great approach is to get your hands on a graphic design program, watch some video tutorials to get you started, and then start mocking up documents. As you create, make a game out of learning to automate stuff. If you have two text-boxes in a document, teach yourself how to automate the appearance of those text-boxes (Object Styles). Automate your text formatting (Paragraph Styles, Character Styles). Automate your default layouts (Master Pages). Google relentlessly whenever you are confused about how to do something (or whether you can do something).

    Once you've started to get a handle on how layout programs work, start doing some casual reading. Jason Pitre recommended two books up-thread, and he's probably right about them being great. I'd add The Elements of Typographic Style to that list.

    The books will give you a "how things out to be done" perspective, and the fooling around with mock documents will unlock lots of secrets about how to use graphic design programs effectively.
  • edited May 2013
    I'm looking at laying out my RPG way down the line. I just want to learn the basics to play around with for now because I like to understand all the aspects of a business.
    Then borrow books about typography. Thinking With Types (the homepage, not the book) contains some of the information (read Grid, then Text and finally Letter). Follow this up with The Vignelli Canon (pdf, 4 Mb). But I would heartly recommend a visit to the library first.

    Design in a broader sense

    Funny enough, this article about level design in video games can be really helpful on your way of learning, as well as Mark Rosewater's articles about design in his Magic the Gathering column.

    The Ten Principles for Good Design, Part 1
    The Ten Principles for Good Design, Part 2
    The ten points are good to keep in mind. Just read about the points that aren't self-explanatory. You don't need to read the whole article.

    Create Aesthetics - I will copy-paste the list of six points to keep in mind when it comes to design. Check out the link if you want them explained.

    #1 - Beauty isn't subjective.
    #2 - People sense what they do not consciously notice.
    #3 - Beauty is in the details.
    #4 - Structure is beauty.
    #5 - Balance is crucial.
    #6 - Things need to connect.
  • Thanks guys...this is all exactly the kind of direction I was looking for!
  • edited May 2013
    I was going to chime in being all proud of myself for having taught college classes on graphic design and layout ... and then I saw that all my advice has already been given. Curses!

    Seriously, though, there are some great tips in here. My brief take, with some redundancy:

    1. Adobe InDesign is probably the best program for what you want, but it is expensive. Adobe hosts a downloadable version of an older version, InDesign CS2, for free (sort of).

    2. Thinking With Type is a great, approachable book on typography. Elements of Typographic Style is also great, but a little brainier and higher-level than what you will probably need (unless you plan on doing some fancy, text-heavy book design). The Non-Designer's Design book is strange in that it offers good advice but has a lot of ugly design. It can basically be summed up with the principles of "CRAP" (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity); googling those four words will lead to you much better readings and examples (e.g., this one).

    3. Stick to one font family/typeface, maybe two. Don't be afraid of white space. And don't give in to the temptation to use lots of fancy tricks you find in design programs, like lens flares or weird texture filters. People got all their experimentation with that junk out of their system in the ’90s. Exercising restraint just looks more professional.

    Good luck!
  • Is it still acceptable to use comic sans?



    I keed I keed!!!
  • Best advice I ever received was to just take the best software you have available, and learn to re-create the content of a well designed magazine, website, book, catalog. Do this over and over until you no longer need to reference the source material.
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