There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.


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Journey author Robert Davis is the owner and creative director of Atlanta agency, Davis Advertising, Inc.


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Journey from Concept to Creation

There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.


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The fourth graphic design principle I will write about is the principle of balance. Like all principles of design, balance applies equally to the elements within the layout as well as the overall layout. There are two basic types of balance: formal (symmetrical) and informal (asymmetrical).

     The concept of formal balance is pretty easy to understand. With formal balance, every item on one side of the page is repeated symmetrically on the other side. Prevalent in ancient Roman and Greek architecture, formal balance is typically used in institutional ads and ads requiring a look of dignity. Formal balance can also be somewhat boring and mundane, especially to recent creative school grads eager to demonstrate their creativity. Nevertheless, the most effective ads are often the simple ones. Remember, the purpose of design is itself quite simple; to communicate your message to the target audience
in the most effective manner possible. Sometimes the most effective manner is to "keep it simple stupid."

  One of the most effective ad types is often referred to as the David Ogilvy layout. This layout contains a dominant visual, a headline under the visual, and a two or three column copy block under the headline...black letters on a white (or light colored) background --  along with the logo and contact info which is usually placed at the bottom right hand side. While this may seem simplistic, especially to young graphic designers who are eager to demonstrate their prowess, it has been proven time and again to be highly effective. William Bernbach's Volkswagen ad, discussed in my previous blog, is a classic example. While this "Picture Window" ad layout itself is quite simple, the elements of this 1960 ad design (art director, Helmut Krone) – concept, headline, visual, copy, etc. -- are of exceptional quality. This ad is also a great example of informal balance, especially in terms of the size and composition of the photo. The weight of the typography balances against the light gray color of the photo background… and the small black VW. Bernbach, by the way, has "violated" one of my pet peeve rules by allowing widows and orphans in the body copy. But, upon closer examination his reasoning becomes clear. He used his "creative license" to balance the weight of the third copy block against the car in the photo... balancing the VW logo with the car in the process.
    Informal balance still requires balanced optical weight but
the weight is distributed differently. Informal balance is more dynamic and exciting and it usually results in a more interesting design... and interesting and unusual shapes tend to attract attention. With informal balance, all of the elements are still balanced, but the balance can be distributed in terms of color, value, shape, position, texture and direction.
    The use of informal balance requires a higher level of artistic ability than does formal balance. The study of classical art is invaluable in helping to develop a better understanding of informal balance. In the Volkswagen ad, the photo composition of the car uses informal balance (directional balance) beautifully. This technique is used to sell through the "unique selling proposition" of the ad as presented in the “Think Small” headline and copy -- the copywriting by Julian Koenig was truly masterful.

   I would argue, by the way, that the ad uses a combination of both formal and informal balance to achieve its objective. [There is good reason why this ad is considered the greatest ad of all time.] Regardless of the type of balance, the optical center (a point just above center and slightly to the left) should always act as the ads pivot.
   There is also a third type of balance – radial balance. This is when all the elements of the design “radiate” from a center point in a circular fashion. Radial balance is a great way to lead the eye into the focal point in the center of the ad.

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"Divine Proportion." - Journey from Concept to Creation said:

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December 6, 2008 4:24 PM

Sequence (eye travel). - Journey from Concept to Creation said:

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December 6, 2008 4:46 PM

"Divine Proportion." - Journey from Concept to Creation said:

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January 5, 2009 5:05 PM

The Ad of the Century, continued... | Long Island Mac Tech said:

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July 28, 2014 10:42 PM

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About Adman

After developing his artistic abilities from an early age, Robert Davis (Adman) started his advertising career as a graphic artist for a commercial printing company while in 10th grade. He later acquired degrees in Commercial Art and (later) Business Administration (Marketing with focus on computer science) while working in various advertising agency capacities. Robert started his own agency in 1989. He added an in-house Pro Tools® recording studio in 1999 and an Avid Xpress® DV video editing suite in 2002. He now also has two Avid Media Composer suites and an Xpress Studio HD suite in a fully equipped studio which also features SoftImage|XSI and Pro Tools. He believes that his company, Davis Advertising, Inc., represents a new model for the 21st century advertising agency…”a small, agile and responsive agency wit1h comprehensive, in-house capabilities.” He says, “Avid® software provides the creative freedom and flexibility I covet.” His focus is on developing effective creative ideas via his own strategic planning process. He loves being surrounded by cameras, lights, props and other creative professionals who share his vision. He also, of course, loves working with Avid® software to bring his ideas to life. Currently residing in metro-Atlanta, Robert is an accomplished writer, producer and creative director. His advertising agency has served Fortune 500 accounts and has received several international awards. His work has been exhibited at the prestigious Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. When not riding his vintage Italian racing bike, or working out with free weights, Robert can often be found in the late evening singing or playing drums, guitars and keyboards in the studio.

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