All about angles: 5 ways to use geometry in your next flyer design!
Geometry is everywhere. From tiny plant-based fractals to theories about the shape of the universe, geometry abounds in the natural world and beyond. According to cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien, five distinct geometric shapes dominate art through the ages: the circle, the triangle, the square, the spiral and intersecting lines. Fun to look at and mathematically consistent, geometry in flyer design adds interest to your concept and can help you organize text in a compelling way.
Geometry is such a versatile design method. You can use one geometric pattern multiple times in your design, scaling it up or down to define different sections of your layout. Blocky square patterns are particularly useful because when enlarged, they work well behind text and when scaled down, they make great borders and background textures. Tessellating triangle patterns channel Buckminster Fuller for a retro vibe, while circles create digital portholes in your design and make nice alternatives to square frames.
For maximum flexibility, make sure you start with a vector pattern, which you can enlarge or compress without compromising image quality. If you don’t have access to a vector pattern or you want to create your own from scratch, you can play with the shape tools in Illustrator and then save your file as an EPS before placing it into your Photoshop file. For best results, make your pattern a Smart Object and don’t rasterize your layers or flatten the document until you’re ready to send your flyer to print.
Hypnotic and curvaceous, spirals add a sense of mystery to your concept. One large spiral spread out over your flyer’s background can help draw readers into the concept. By positioning your text horizontally at various points on the spiral, you can tell viewers a story: for example the name of an event, followed by the date, time and location, and finally the entrance fee. For an especially mesmerizing effect, allow a section of typography to follow the shape of your spiral, decreasing or increasing the font size to match.
Once again, vector files provide great starting points for spiral elements because you can scale shapes infinitely without sacrificing clarity. You can make your own vector swirl quite easily using Illustrator’s spiral tool, adjusting options like radius, segment and decay to create your ideal shape. For a fancier spiral, stroke your path with one of Illustrator’s built-in brushes. To generate a swirl in Photoshop, create a square PS file, make half the initial layer white and the other half black, and apply a spiral effect using the Twirl filter. Then, use the elliptical marquee tool to select the section of spiral you need for your design.
Geometric shapes work beautifully all by themselves, but you can infuse a little extra intrigue with photographs. You might begin with a large background photo and then overlay solid triangles, squares or circles to eliminate certain sections of the picture. Alternatively, make your background a solid color and then use contrasting geometric shapes as clipping masks for photographs. You could also place colored geometric shapes over your background photo and use layer blend modes in Photoshop to create an interesting colored gel overlay effect.
Photographs and geometric shapes play well with each other in both vintage themes and ultra-modern designs. If you want to communicate a retro feeling but only have modern-looking images, you can use Photoshop to age your pictures, modifying the colors slightly to emulate mid-century photography. You can also make your photographs monochrome, increase the contrast and use Photoshop’s Noise filter for an early 20th century ambiance.
Pair Color with Monochrome
Bold black-and-white motifs make designs extra punchy, but for a Swinging Sixties air, consider placing monochromatic geometric patterns over brightly colored elements. Offset your layers slightly to channel Andy Warhol or tessellate colored and monochromatic geometric shapes for a Theo van Doesburg-style abstract art effect. Use clipping masks to cut off sections of pattern for well-defined edges. Sharp angles and vibrant hues can be extremely eye catching in print and make the design process fun.
As an alternative approach, consider making your geometric shapes the only colored parts of your design, choosing instead to make everything else black and white. Place vivid triangles, intersecting lines, circles and squares over duotone photographs or monochromatic drawings, or layer black-and-white type over your colorful geometric concept. Try using a decorative, heavy-set font for the title and a lighter sans-serif typeface for the main body of the flyer text. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment to create a completely unique design.
Create Geometric Type
Visually appealing and versatile, geometric text works beautifully in an array of design scenarios. For a minimalist look with a little flair, consider creating a geometric header and making it the busiest element in a single-color design. For a more vibrant look, use a large-scale version of the geometric pattern in your text as your main background. Give your type a pale outline using the Stroke option in Photoshop’s Layer Style panel to make your header stand out.
For best results in Photoshop, start with a chunky typeface — slab serif or extra bold, for example. Type your header and then adjust its size to fit your design; then rasterize your text. Select a vector pattern to ensure clarity, and place it over your text layer. Then, create a clipping mask to make your text a geometric wonder. Apply an external stroke to highlight your header and voila, you’re done. For an interesting photographic effect, create a tessellating geometric file using images and place that over your text instead of a colored vector pattern.
Logical and intriguing, geometric shapes make flyers more interesting. Better still, you don’t have to be a math whiz to use geometry in flyer design: you can create all five primary geometric structures in minutes using filters and shape tools in Photoshop or Illustrator. Stick to one particular shape, combine two or more shapes, or try tessellating to make your concept pop.