Welcome to Before & After!

Do you love (or maybe just need to know) graphic design? You’ve come to a great place! At Before & After, you’ll learn how to design Web pages, brochures, presentations, logos, ads, business cards, magazines, business documents, posters, and more — almost everything that requires putting a look on a product or message! You’ll learn type and layout. And Gestalt theory and color and the principles of design. You’ll see what works and why, what doesn’t work and why, and the cool thing is, we show it to you, from before to after . . .

Design you can do
We focus on everyday design, meaning the kind that you do, and that you CAN do, not out-of-reach, million-dollar-account stuff.

Knowledge you can use
Our designs are transferrable, meaning that you can use what you see in Before & After to get great results for yourself.

Communication, not decoration
We respect design not as decoration but as an essential form of communication. How something looks has a huge effect on how it works. Those who don’t understand design often think of it as perfume you spritz on after the “real” work is done. But nothing could be further from the truth. Design is part and parcel of any message.

  • Learn design with Before & After print issues
    Print issues
  • Learn design with a Before & After subscription
    PDF articles
  • Learn design with Before & After Master Collection DVD
    Master Collection
  • Learn design with Before & After books by John McWade
    Books
  • Learn design with Before & After video tutorials
    Videos

Because we all learn differently — some by reading, some by watching, some by interacting — we offer Before & After in PDF, as a print magazine, in books, and in video. And we also have an interactive forum we call The Grid.

Here’s a look at a little of what we do:

Design on a budget
The brochure above is one of our favorites. We call it the zig-zag, and it’s so simple — it’s just one sheet of paper; you lop off the top edge at an angle, then fold the sheet like an accordion and it yields cool, triangle tabs. Lots of bang for the buck and fun to design! This example is a takeout menu, but you can design almost anything with this format!

(Above) You can make a cover out of nothing by turning a circle into a repeating pattern. There are a million variations. The circles can be translucent; you can change colors, use straight lines, dots, tiny illustrations, whatever! Easy, interesting, and basically free!

Design principles
We teach design principles. These are the basics that apply to all design. For example, equilibrium has to do with our sense of balance, how steady or unsteady we feel. We get this from nature. A splash of water (above) will form droplets that bead up and come to rest in a circle. That circle is the most placid, steadiest state. When we use a circle in logo design, it’s the calm shape that says, “we’re here, we’re settled, we’re steady, you can trust us.”

Design techniques
Before & After illustrates techniques; that is, how to do something that you’ll then do many times — for example, how to crop a series of mug shots (above). Your goal is to have all the mugs the same size and in the same position in their frames. Start with the closest-cropped image (far left) and crop it like you want; extend horizontal guides at eye, chin, and brow level; then enlarge or reduce the other mugs to fit those guides.

Color
Color is so important that we deal with it a lot. Color can be complex, but we make it as simple and practical as we can. For example, every color in a photo (above, left) will automatically coordinate with that photo, so you can make beautiful layouts just by using the colors that are already in the picture! (above, center) If you need more than those — and you sometimes will — we’ll take you on a trip around the color wheel! (above, right)

The grid
We show you how to work on a grid. The pages above are laid out on a grid with what we call a hangline. Float your head above the hangline, then add the copy and images below it, kind of like hanging clothes on a clothesline. It’s easy to get results that are good-looking, versatile, and easy to repeat!

A grid can be simple. The CD cover (above, left) is a handsome, minimalist design. To transfer its look to the label, make just two grid lines, duplicate the logo, then lower a vertical guide from the edge of the logo and place your text.

Sprites!
Before & After does little sprites! Sprites are little tricks, little effects, little ideas that you can use now and then, like how to make one photo look like three. Use the same photo twice. Or brighten your name with a picture!

Type!
Type makes awesome artwork that hits three targets with one arrow: 1) Type is a powerful communicator, 2) it has lots of visual presence, and 3) it’s a way to get great results for basically no money.

For example, the CD cover above. Place guides, then build a visual texture by repeating your name in various sizes and color values! It looks great, and it’s fun to do!

Before & After tackles serious typography, too. We’ll take you WAY beyond your default type settings, and show you how to set perfect, book-quality type — size, spacing, kerning, tracking, line lengths, drop caps, footnotes.

The key to great type is in its details. Old-style numerals, for example, are for use in text; they have ascenders and descenders and a standard x-height like lowercase characters, so they blend perfectly into a line of type.

And here’s a quiz. When you end a sentence with an italicized word, is the punctuation after it also italicized? If you said yes, you’re right! Can you name an exception?

In Before & After you’ll find PowerPoint design . . .

Before & After Powerpoint design

Business-card design . . .

Web-page design . . .

Logo design . . .

Brochure design . . .

The entire gamut, actually, of graphic design!

Before & After is easy to follow, it’s practical, and it’s for everyone from beginner to intermediate to working professional. So, if you love design or know someone who does, Before & After has a lot for you. We’ve just scratched the surface.

Before & After is available in PDF, in print, in books, in video, on our forum where you can talk to our staff and your fellow designers, and in a convenient, searchable DVD we call the Master Collection.

  • Learn design with Before & After print issues
    Print issues
  • Learn design with a Before & After subscription
    PDF articles
  • Learn design with Before & After Master Collection DVD
    Master Collection
  • Learn design with Before & After books by John McWade
    Books
  • Learn design with Before & After video tutorials
    Videos

Which format is right for you? Find out here . . .