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The Fundamentals of Compelling Design (Part 3)

November 14, 2014
This month, I’m going to continue my discussion of design and how it can benefit your community. I’d like to turn our attention, though, to sustaining brand over a multi-page document and letting function inform design.

City of Milton Newcomer’s Guide
First, let's take a look at thg City of Milton’s Newcomer’s Guide. Since Milton does not have a convention and visitors’ bureau, I build this document in-house each year. It is given to schools and real estate agents for people who are new in town. Thus, it serves as both a functional document for those interested in the city and as a first impression of our brand. 

What I want you to pay close attention to is how the City of Milton’s rural yet high-class brand is expressed throughout. Look at the faded images on each page. They are of horses, schools, fire trucks – good, old-fashioned American living.

Next, check out how the black and white photos seem to fade in from the edges. This means they both match the bottom of the page fade, but stand out (because we contrast black and white with color).

Look at the fonts – dominant text is bold and serif, which in design language usually means important and old-fashioned. Subtexts are sans-serif and standard, meaning modern information that’s presented for your leisurely consumption. If you see a text that’s italicized (leaning), it will be contrasted with a standard font. We move forward yet take things easy.

There are five dominant colors throughout the entire document – burgundy, sage, black, white and electric blue. Most of those colors evoke thoughts of nature, and they work well together. The electric blue indicates to the reader an important Web link. Again, we contrast the concept of agrarian structure and color schemes with the cutting edge of technology.

Milton is a community of contrasts – high-class country living. The document subtly reinforces that idea on every page.

Again, I could talk all day about the thought that went into this document. But I want to look to another that serves a different purpose. You’ll notice the myriad ways its design espouses its functionality.

Annual Report
The 2013 City of Milton Annual Report, on the other hand, is a run-down of our accomplishments from the previous year. It is filled with dry information, so the intent is to be as inviting and visually exciting as possible.

However, I want to continue my work of making Milton’s brand relevant to our residents. Notice how this book is built like a photo album. It’s a cherished family treasure that just happens to include budget and road paving statistics.

With this document I was very interested with contrasting its electronic nature with texture – which is why there’s so much tape and paper. Basically, I wanted it to look hand-made – like a family scrapbook. You’ll also notice the use of layering to suggest both weight and hours of hard work.

Take a look through the Annual Report and see if you can spot the concepts of contrast and balance. I think you’ll see the care that went into making each page not look “perfect” – itself a difficult task in computer-assisted design.

That’s it for this month. I’ll see you next month.
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.