designing ebooks and other fun things


Ask a designer: combining styles


This post is part of the Ask a Designer series. You ask me questions, I answer them to the best of my ability. The questions can be about design process, branding, software, technical things – or even completely unrelated. Want to play? Leave me a comment here, or use the contact form.



What if your client is unable to decide between 2 styles. Say a clean, colorful modern style and one of the monochrome kraft paper and black ink looks. Can you make disparate styles work together??

by Nancy Stuckwisch


As is often the case with specific design solutions, it really depends on what exactly it is that draws the client to those two styles.

In a non-hypothetical situation, I would ask for some examples of both of these styles, and try to talk through several possibilities before moving on to the actual design concepts. Chances are, there are certain things and little touches about both styles that the client likes. Things that, when combined, create a completely different style.

The resulting style would probably be their personal style, unique enough not to be defined as the typical modern or kraft-papery. Unique enough to be recognizable.

And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

I really don’t think it’s a question of making two disparate styles work together, but rather, blending them in a way that creates this new style. What that new style looks like will depend on many factors, and will most likely be discovered through a few rounds of trial and error.

And even if I don’t have the advantage of having explored together with the client what exactly about those styles appeals, even a hypothetical answer is much easier to show than tell.

So let’s pretend that by the kraft paper and black ink look you mean something like the image below. (Oh, let’s also pretend we’re making a brochure about dogs. Just because I need a starting place.)

And that by modern you mean something like this one:

For good measure, let’s also pretend that we have talked about the styles and specifics, looked at some examples, and concluded that we do want color, though maybe not quite as bright as many super-modern pieces, and that we don’t want a stark white background (again, as often used in modern style) but rather some subtle textures that emulate the kraft paper look. Both the neutral and the more bright textures appeal, and so do photos as opposed to illustration more typical of the black-inked look.

At this point, I would start exploring some possibilities. The combinations, of course are endless.

I might start with something fairly simple, like this:

And, after a chat to discuss what appeals and what doesn’t, we might decide to make it slightly more whimsical and colorful, but also try a white background for the main copy. Like this:

As you can see, I am only changing a few elements in this example, yet the results are quite different. In a real project, the elements and the changes are likely to be more involved, and the result more unique.

In any case, every step would take us closer to the perfect style. It’s impossible to find without the client’s involvement and feedback at every step, so I will stop here with the example.

I do hope it answers your question, even if the answer isn’t quite complete, and would be happy to continue this conversation in a follow up post. Just leave me a comment with anything that needs to be clarified or explored further!