Assignment One: Understanding Graphic File Formats

For almost a hundred years, since the term ‘Graphic Design‘ was coined by the American Typographer William Addison Dwiggins, and even long before then, artists and artisans have jockeyed for dominant position in the argument over ‘Form vs Funtion‘ in applications throughout the creative media sector. For those such as Dwiggins who said, ”In the matter of layout, forget art at the start and use horse-sense. The printing designers whole duty is to make a clear presentation of the message.’, function was the overriding factor- so for example, in terms of a newspaper, the content of the stories would be more important than the pages layout, just so long its purpose was being met. Whereas historic artistic figures including British poet and Printer Francis Meynell saw the design, and the way in which a piece of work was presented, took precedent. On one side of the spectrum you have paintings, sculptures and graphic design resting within the ‘form’ category and the anthesis of those are engineering, architecture and industrial design.

This debate now burns brighter as design consistently evolves in this digital age in which we live in; blurring the lines between aesthetic and practical, with web design resting precisely in the middle between the two areas. So with ‘Form vs Function‘, a new question has emerged; ‘Print vs Interactive Design.’

In the 15th Century, Johannes Gutenberg would revolutionise the printing industry by inventing the printing press and creating the first ever printed book from moveable type. This method of printing would remain the standard until new technology was founded in the 20th Century, yet still based on Gutenberg’s design. As we reach the present day, computer software has advanced what can be achieved and produced for media consumption.

Print design is used within many applications including newspapers, magazines and posters and all have varying reasons to be produced; The Times newspaper is consumed by audiences to read the latest news stories and to inform. The newspaper has recently been reduced to tabloid size to make the paper more accessible to read with the layout being usually made up of an image to word ratio of 50:50 yet is easy to read and navigate, whereas a poster in a store is used for advertising and commerce and is predominately taken up by a bold, striking image to grab the audience’s attention. Again, the balance between form and function rests on the reasons it was intended for and equally true is the notion that form follows function, with the emphasis on the designer choosing the best way to format the product based on its purpose.

The style of a newspaper or a infographic has positive correlation with the content it is trying to showcase. In the following examples of print design, the way it is arranged will be analysed with the composition of the information held within it.


Taken from The Sunday Times Magazine in 2012, this double page feature is continuous across both pages with the images and the body of text spread across it. Because of this, it does not disrupt the flow of the layout and makes it aesthetically pleasing for the audience to look at and easy to read. It is bold and clean, with the text formated in four columns that deceptively holds a lot of information due to the proportion of the striking image at the top which makes the text seem light. There is also the matching of the colour scheme within the number margins- though subtle, it is a way to bring the content together. Demonstrating basic page layout devices such as heading, sub-heading and then the main body of text the layout has an intricate, yet easy to navigate system of numbering the images to the excerpts from actors appearing in The Hobbit. Its purpose is to inform and entertain and through this layout achieves its aim.

Kirsten Dunst Presents Mon Jasmin Noir by Bvlgar

This poster advertising perfume is very simplistic in design, with minimum words displayed. As it is a poster, the designers priority is to grab the audience’s attention and give an instinctive essence of what is being shown that will leave an impression on them. The typography used for the branding matches the elegance and sophistication of the model, Kirsten Dunst, as she is set against a traditional Tuscan backdrop. Unlike the magazine article, its content is almost entirely made up of the image, one reason for this is that people who are on the move would not have time to read huge amounts of texts, so wording is kept to a limit. Posters are an example of where the artist wins the battle over the artisan.


Finally, infographics, as the one seen above, are used to support data in an illustrative and stylistic manner. What makes a good infographic is a clear design that is able to convey the message of the piece at a glance. In the example, the graphics match the data; the section titled ‘Key Info’, has the percentage image shown in the style of a key. The data is well divided between each other and what also helps is the limited colour scheme making it easy on the eye, with the splash of colour coming from differentiating between the data’s figures. Infographics are able to combine text and image to illustrate a large amount of statistics relating to a given subject. It could be argued that Infographics sit in between written copy and posters in the way their content is stylized and combined; maximizing the use of image and text.

In the long run, there are no practical reasons for newspapers to survive.” Those were the words of Jacek Utko, art director and newspaper designer in the 2009 TED video ‘Can design save the newspaper?

2013’s year on year sales fell for The Independent, for example, by 14.37%. As newspaper sales continue to fall due to content being instantly accessed and downloaded over the internet, is print a dying format?

Utko, who wanted to rejuvenate newspapers through type, illustrations and photos, set out to redesign ‘boring’ newspapers. Not only wanting to change the look of the product, Jacek looked to improve them overall and this was reflected in awards and sales figures which followed; In Poland, ‘Puls Biznesu‘ was named cover of the year 3 times in a row, and over the same period of time, sales figures increased by 35%

The advantages to print are that it is long-established and part of our culture; since the 17th Century broadsheet newspapers meant news could be consumed by the masses. Designer Chip Kidd raised another sterling argument about the look, feel and smell of a book; they are not only pieces of art in their own right but collectible and full of character. Digital copies of the same product in comparison feel somewhat cold.

However, interactive media allows news or content to be updated instantaneously and accessed on numerous devices. The internet allows audiences to receive breaking news now, rather than waiting for tomorrow’s newspaper or watching the evening news.

Another benefit, is that websites can be embedded with links such as videos, sound clips and avenues to other relevant sites at the click of a button, whereas books can not be interacted with; the content is set.

Recently, the evolution of the digital magazine has increased what can be achieved through interaction. Williams F1 magazine ‘Ignition‘ is a prime example of videos and interaction being intertwined with image and text and, in a world more caring for the environment, also cuts down on the amount of paper the planet consumes.



These digital copies have varying file formats that again increase the accessibility of them and allows content from numerous software packages to be read or sent to others.

PDF (Portable Document Format) is regarded as the standard electronic document exchange format by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Looking as if they would if they were printed, converted documents, forms, graphics and web pages contain links, video and audio- with Ignition being a prime example of what a PDF format is like.

A Photoshop Document (PSD) is a layered image file used in Photoshop and can be opened in other similar software including Photoshop Elements and Corel’s Paintshop Pro. PSD files enable the user to manipulate or add seperate layers to the image even after the file has been saved. A PSD can also be converted into other file formats including .JPG, .GIF and .TIF.

Images across the internet and photos taken on a digital camera use the JPEG file type (Joint Photographic Experts Group). The higher the file size of the JPEG, the better the quality will be of the image. The file can also be reduced in size without compromising too much on image quality.

‘Tagged Image Files’ are used for high quality graphics which have a high colour depth. By using LZW, the file can be compressed. TIF’s are exclusively used for bitmap data and because of this, do not contain text or vector data. Additionally, the format is platform-independent which can be utilised on a number of applications.

Finally, Portable Network Graphics (PNG), were designed to replace the GIF file format, yet as it is patent-free, makes it a good alternative to TIF. Not popular among the digital community for its lack of support of CMYK, it does allow images to be filtered and compressed to improve file size. Applications such as Photoshop and InDesign support this file, that is used for bitmap data.

Personally, my stance on Print vs Interactive Design is similar to the theory of form vs function; that the application should match the function it was intended for. Growing up prior to the explosion of the internet, formats such as books and magazines seem more natural to consume in a physical format, rather than their digital counterparts. Although, for today’s generation, they would typically air towards interactive media to access the same products. It is undeniable though that digital media and the way information is presented has changed the industry forever, but both can exist and complement each other still in our society.

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