When designing it can be far too easy to forget about everything outside of your Photoshop or Illustrator window. But considering the end viewer and what they will be viewing it on right from the start is a vital part of getting the message across effectively on all media.
Depending on how many platforms it’s going to appear on, the consideration doesn’t have to change your approach vitally, but equally, considering it from the start could save you a whole lot of work adapting the design at the end.
What platforms are you designing for?
It may seem obvious, but start by very clearly delineating what media you’re designing for. Naturally this depends on the nature of the work you’re doing. If for example you’re designing a website, you’re automatically designing for desktop, mobile and tablet.
If you’re designing an advert, is it going to be appearing solely online or also in print? If it’s going to appear in print, will it be on a poster? In the newspaper? In magazines?
All of these different media have their own considerations and delivery requirements.
What are their limitations?
The crux of the issue is what limitations each medium imposes. In print this means the colour representation of the printer and the paper – computer monitors nearly all outperform printers in terms of colour representation.
In digital, this means taking screen size into account and the depth of resolution that will be available – if it’s going to be an online ad, chances are it needs to work at a low resolution to keep file sizes down.
Anything you can do to preview these limitations while you work will help you achieve a better end result.
How much time do you have?
The ideal situation is to adapt a new version of the design for each medium, but this depends on whether the time, or budget allows.
Corners may have to be cut. For example, most desktop websites perform fine on tablets, although designing it to appear the best on a tablet certainly won’t hurt how it appears on a desktop. Mobile specific sites aren’t essential, but given the choice the tablet version can surely suffer.
Similarly, in print, you may just have to throw your hands up and accept the effects of each different paper type. After all, you can’t compensate for every limitation, and the effect of the media can be pleasant in itself (think film buffs preferring 35mm over HD).
Test, test and test again
Of course, the most important thing you can do to make sure your design works across as many different media as possible is to keep testing – it’s the only way to be sure how it’s going to turn out.
Soft proofing can work miracles on transferring digital designs to print, but it can’t replicate the exact printer and paper it’s going to come out on. And similarly, designing on a desktop at the same size as a mobile won’t give you exactly the same impression as looking at it on an iPhone.
Sometimes designing for different media doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra work. But ignore the issue and you could end up with something that looks great on a laptop, but terrible on paper.
Nick Lewis is a technology and design writer, writing on behalf of premedia specialists Rhapsody.