Anatomy of print advertising

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Very excited about a mentoring opportunity with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee this afternoon. Last October I volunteered and really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience of graphic design with the students.

Here are my notes on the five basic elements of a print advertisement.

  1. Headline
  2. Subhead
  3. Body copy
  4. Visuals
  5. Layout

A print ad includes other components (like, color, shape, logo, etc.), but these five elements are foundational to print advertising.

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A page from the history of graphic design

There was a time — somewhere around the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods of graphic design — when all pre-press art files were saved to a 250 MB Zip disk, packed into a Fed-Ex overnight envelope and delivered to a Fed-Ex pick location.

Working for a weekly newsmagazine, I was the last person to see that package and its digital content before it travelled 384 miles to the press that printed the periodical.

On one occasion I had to deliver the package to the airport due to a late breaking election story. That was before Adobe Photoshop CS arrived. And sometime between versions of QuarkXPress 4 and QuarkXPress 5.

The magazine introduced a virtual private network (VPN) in 2003. This linked the headquarters with various national offices as well as the press that printed the publication.

Soon Zip disks became novel items that were relegated to the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet. Like the extinction of the Neanderthals, the Zip disk has completely disappeared from all graphic design and print production today.

To make a cube bookshelf

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Because she asked for a bookshelf, I built one. A simple cube bookshelf was the plan. Nothing fancy. Something simple and useful. Something to fit under the window.

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To begin with, I visited the local lumber shop for 1″x12″s and 1″x2″ pine boards. Also, I picked up some screws and finishing nails. Already had wood glue, left over wood stain and finish in the garage.

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If I was a master craftsman, I would have made the shelf without screws and nails. Due to lack of equipment (like a proper workshop with a bunch of clamps, a router, and maybe a tenon jig) and time (the ever elusive weekend commodity), dado joint shelves were replaced with two-inch screws and Gorilla® Wood Glue. The only power tools used were a cordless drill/driver, a sander and a jig saw.

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After everything was glued, screwed and sanded, wood stain was selected. The Minwax can of espresso stain was half full, and was sufficient to cover the bookshelf. The stain dried quickly, but I let it dry overnight to let it set.

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Two coats of wood finish completed the project. The bookshelf was installed in our living space with a vase of roses atop it.

Request for a companion cube bookshelf arrived. More wood was purchased and cut. Request for bookshelf with a honey-colored stain finish followed. A quart of Minwax wood stain was purchased. And so on.