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House on the Hill Design & Web tips

Design and communication can mean personal preference, or it can mean adhering to strict branding guidelines. Regardless of the type of design or web work you do, there is fundamental knowledge you should be aware of and a variety of tips and tricks for motivation and ideas. Check out some of ours below.

Written by: House on the Hill

Thinking about a career in Graphic Design?

Written by: Rob Scotcher, Designer, Photographer & Videographer

Whether you are a student thinking about a course in design or a professional looking for a career change, we here at House on the Hill hope to highlight a few speed bumps you might encounter along the way and prepare you for the world of design and print.

Many people’s idea of a designer is someone that effortlessly creates adverts, posters, magazines and other printed goods, creating logos and illustrations to a certain degree too. The truth is designers are a diverse bunch. Gone are the days of a designer solely tinkering with fonts and sizes to fit the perfect magazine layout. Today, designers are expected to do everything from print design, web design, photography, video and animation. There are even some places that would require you to code in Python or similar and others that require you to know Cinema 4D or similar.

For your average student thinking of entering the world of design, or a graduate fresh out of University, the job market must be a scary prospect to tackle. First off, all is not lost if you aren’t up to date in the latest design practices. To combat your lack of experience in certain areas of design, make sure you are perfecting the fundamentals. If you work off of a solid base of knowledge in any area of design, you’ll usually get by. Communicating a clear message to your audience while making it engaging is the core of everything you will be doing.

You may also find that the job you land ends up requiring you to learn a program you were previously unfamiliar with. There are a lot of tools that a designer will use daily, basic programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are all important first steps. But as employers’ expectations increase, so must your knowledge of design programs. Today, for any designer going into a new role, we would recommend an expert knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, then a decent working knowledge of Premier Pro, Dreamweaver, After Effects, Lightroom and Audition, with a basic knowledge of Cinema 4D. Most of these are easy to pick up with many good quality tutorials on YouTube that can help you diversify your portfolio.

When it comes to web development, if you are going in with no prior knowledge an easy place to start is by learning the basics of HTML and CSS in a Bootstrap environment. This core knowledge will enable you to create good looking, if basic, websites for your clients. From there you can move into a variety of coding languages depending on what you are interested in creating, or what is asked of you. Check out FreeCodeCamp for free lessons on a variety of coding languages.

A few things to look out for:

Education shortfalls
University will not teach you everything you need to know about a career in design. A lot of Universities even fail to teach students the very basics of the job. If you don’t know the difference between RGB and CMYK at the end of the first semester I would reconsider the course. However, there are designers on £30,000+ in some professional London agencies right now that constantly fail basic print checks (low res. imagery, RGB format, no bleed etc.) – All style, no substance. Don’t be like them, learn your craft!

Cost
When learning to design or if you are a freelancer, buying a computer plus all the software is extremely expensive! Adobe CC costs from £15 to £45 a month alone, so maybe look into getting Adobe CS6 Creative Suite instead. It’s an older, cheaper version of the current Adobe offering, but you can still do the job with these tools just fine! When it comes to a computer, you do not need an Apple Mac to be a designer but you will find that a lot of agencies use them and so you may be required to. Macs are often chosen due to their native anti-aliasing and support for retina displays, but aside from that a PC will do everything you need it to, are much easier to upgrade without needing to buy a whole new machine, and will cost less to get you up and running.

Conclusion

Everyone will have their own experiences. The above advice has worked for us and makes the most sense to us, but the world of design is constantly changing. Regardless, what it really boils down to is knowing the basics, standing by your methods and learning as many tools as possible to make what’s in your head a reality.

Pick up the next issue of B4 Magazine for more tips and tricks from House on the Hill!

SEO 5 quick tips

Written by: Keith Simpson, Senior Designer & Web builder

This issue I thought I would look at a few tips when it comes to optimising your SEO content on your website. Don’t be afraid of SEO, it isn’t a black art and you can do a lot of the work yourself.

1. Duplicate content: You should try to avoid this where possible. Google can look at your website and interpret this as spamming, but in general you won’t be penalised for doing this, but having clearly defined content on each page without replication will help it to be ranked and indexed correctly and ensure the searcher finds the correct content they are looking for. It also avoids a less desirable page on your site being ranked which could cause a searcher to leave your site.

2. Image optimisation: Search engines can’t read images, so to make them easily indexable you can do a few simple things to help. Each image has an ‘Alt Tag’, ‘File Name’ and a ‘Description’. Making these relevant to the image and the page content will help to rank the page, and also be more relevant to the person searching. A file name of ‘DCMIMAGE10.jpg’ isn’t going to help if your webpage is about Roses, but calling it ‘red-roses.jpg’ which is descriptive, would give it relevance. Be sure to use the same idea when it comes to your alt tags, as they describe the image and its relationship to the page content. Alt tags are used by screen reader software for visually impaired people, so you should give a clear description of the image.

3. Focus on content: You should ensure your titles relate to the page content or keywords clearly. Titles need to be concise, relevant and engaging! Make your content simple and specific to a topic area. Trying to squeeze in extra, irrelevant information won’t help your rankings. Search engines have really evolved in the last few years to use intelligent algorithms to understand context and conversational language.

4. Use Heading Tags correctly, they are there to help: Using tags correctly, like H1 through H6, structures the content on a webpage and results in increased website usability for searchers. H1 is your main topic or focus of a page, and H2 to H6 tags support the main topic in an ascending hierarchical order. These tags should be on topic and relevant to the page topic for which your wish to rank. You should also only have H1 once on a page, multiple H1 tags will make it difficult for search engines to know what the main focus of the page is.

5. Are you mobile friendly?: Mobile friendliness is definitely a major factor for Google, its algorithms focus on elevating content that is mobile friendly. It’s important to note that desktop search results are not impacted by this update. Many of us use our mobiles for pretty much everything. If you’re building a new site, make sure it is responsive from the start.

Well I hope those small tips have got you thinking about how you could get more involved with your website, and help your rankings!

Colour me impressed

Written by: Emma Davis, Designer & Social Media

Colour is one of the most powerful tools that a designer can draw upon and understanding how colour affects us is key in communicating messages effectively.

So how do you make the best colour choice for your next promotional leaflet, company logo or website? It is important to remember that each colour has both positive and negative connotations. An example is the colour green, which can have positive attributes in the sense of nature and the environment, but it can also be seen as the colour of envy and greed.

When you are putting a piece of design together, you should use the powerful role of colour to communicate the meaning of the words and pictures you use. To reflect on this in everyday life you could look at; police cells which are painted in pastel shades, theme parks which use bright reds and oranges and solicitors which favour blue.

Meet the Designers

Keith Simpson
Keith is our Senior Designer and has been with us for over 14 years. Having shaped how the company has moved forward, he continues to innovate in print and Web design.

Ouside of work, when not dabbling with design, he dotes on his lovely cat Ivy and is an avid collector of vinyl.

Rob Scotcher
Rob has been with us for close to 8 years and throughout that time has evolved from a fresh from uni junior designer into a multi-skilled designer, developer, photographer and videographer.

Outside of the office he likes to work on his skills, spend time with friends in run down pubs, pet attractive dogs and snowboard.

Emma Davis
Emma joined The In Oxford Group in 2015 as a Production Assistant and had previously studied a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design and looks to develop her skills in the area of design whilst working with our team.

In her spare time Emma likes to produce portrait illustrations and is in love with her new Mini.