Principles of Graphic Design

Posted on
April 12, 2021
"Good design is good business"

The famous phrase said by Thomas J. Watson Jr (then president of IBM) sums up well how important the work of the graphic designer is for a company.

A study shows that many of the largest (and most lucrative) organizations in the world have a design director, and continue to invest heavily in that area. And 48% of users think that a good design is the most important element to judge a business’ credibility. So, first impressions matter. Actually, just a few people will read your content without visual material such as animations, images, photos, etc. In fact, texts with visual elements get 94% more views.

Designers are responsible for creating the visual identity of a brand. Graphic designers are the ones who take care of the logo, the business cards, the appearance and usability of e-commerce, the appearance that your product will have and how they will delight your customers. Graphic design is the face of your business. It is what people see and they will judge your business based on the first impression. So, you better improve its looks.

That’s why graphic design principles, also known as composition principles, will help you create effective designs. They apply to any visual task to guarantee an esthetic result.

There are rarely unique ways to apply graphic design principles, but using your creativity will get you results. These elements will help you create, organize, conceive and project your future designs within graphic editing programs. By making use of design principles, you’ll have the result you're waiting for!

Basic principles of graphic design: concepts you need for good designs

Find the right balance in your designs!

Good designs start with a clear understanding of the basics. The principles of design are just a guide for bringing together elements to create powerful communications via graphic design. What are the principles of graphic design? Let's start with the definition of graphic design.

Graphic design means planning images, letters or fonts to create an eye-catching visual image. It is a coveted skill and there is a regular need for designers to produce attractive banners, logos, ads, websites, videos, etc. However, understanding the principles of graphic design goes beyond technology. Instead, it means understanding how to get your message across visually in a way that draws attention to your message.

So, what are the principles of graphic design? These design principles will help you visually represent your message. Keep them in mind when working with images and graphics.

Balance

Balance in layout means that when a page is split (either horizontally or vertically) both sides of the page have the same weight. When creating your layout, check that no part of your page has too much weight.

Balance is the visual distribution of the weight of objects, colors, and space in your design. Note that a layout doesn't have to be symmetrical to be a balanced design. For example, with symmetric equilibrium, you would have one element on one side and the same element on the other side. Instead, with an asymmetric balance, you could have one large item on one side and several smaller items on the other side.

Proximity

What does proximity mean? This concept explains how closely elements of a design are on the page. It means placing the different elements on a page in a way that makes sense to the observer. When images are together, your users will perceive their connection.

Proximity is the relationship between how objects fit into a composition. The purpose of proximity is to group similar elements to organize your layout. By placing two or more items in close proximity, you're grouping them together as a cohesive group, rather than scattered, unrelated objects. This also helps tremendously in creating focal points for viewers.

Besides, proximity helps create a relationship between elements in designs such as text and images. This occurs not only spatially, but also through a connection of colors, fonts, shapes, sizes, etc.

Proximity as several other principles of graphic design finds its inspiration in the Laws of Gestalt. These laws were established by psychologist Max Wertheimer and his study group, after investigating the human perception of everything that surrounds us. The basic principle formulates that the whole is more than the sum of the parts that make it up, which is applicable not only in psychology but also in design.

Alignment

Alignment examines how text or visuals fit together on a page. The alignment helps create a sense of order or flow, helps with reading and can bring a sense of visual excitement. When the alignment is correct, this will create a sense of connection in your text.

So, alignment is a basic principle of design. It unites elements on a page by creating a visual connection. Even if elements aren't close to each other, our brains create invisible lines to connect them. By making a visual connection to something else on the page, alignment indicates to users that two elements belong to the same group; this creates a more organized design.

Repetition and consistency

Repetition reinforces a design in a conscious effort to unify all parts of a design. Repetition helps tie your design together and create a sense of coherence. If your document looks different such as web pages or multi-page documents, using a consistent color, font, header, or image helps create unity and consistency for your brand.

You should have consistency across all your work. Repeating colors or fonts help bring different elements of your design together. By repeating elements that make up a business package (envelopes, business cards, letterheads, etc), you're building your brand image and consistency because our brain assimilates better when there are patterns. 

That is why the principle of repetition is important: to give strength and consistency to your final products. Basically, the rule is: you can't play randomly with various elements that do not make sense or do not connect with each other. You must create harmony and comfortable patterns for the consumer.

Blank spaces

White space is the absence of text and graphics between elements. Some designers call it "negative space." Although we also know it as "white space", it does not necessarily have to be white, you can use any color (black, red, yellow, etc.), whatever the background color is, white space is crucial because it provides visual breathing space for the eye, making the page feel less cramped.

White space is also a great way to get creative when designing graphics and logos. You can give the illusion that there is an object simply by showing its outline. What is left blank is as important as everything else. A certain amount of text, for example, needs divisions into blocks, so that the reader doesn’t get tired when reading it (or even give up trying).

Contrast

The contrast in design is an accentuation of different elements. Applying contrast allows you to emphasize key elements because contrast guides the reader where to look at.

Contrast is using opposite colors or a juxtaposition of various design elements showing the differences in textures (rough vs. soft), shapes (large vs. small), and lines (thick vs. fine), just to name a few. The difference between elements is what creates visual interest. You can create it through color such as the contrast between dark and light elements on a page. 

Round or smooth edges, squares versus circles, and large and small elements help create contrast. Sufficient contrast helps keep the text legible.

Hierarchy

Hierarchy means that the most important aspects of your design, or your message, carry the most weight. This happens depending on where you put your message. A message placed at the top center of the page, in a large font, will carry more weight than a subheader, for example. Using bright colors to attract attention, or framing your message with shapes, is another way to give weight to important aspects of your page.

So, to establish hierarchy, it’s important to decide what your most important message is. Once you've decided on your most important element, you can blow it up.

Color

Color creates the mood or feel of the design. Bright, summery colors give a different feel than darker colors. Each color carries a message. Gray is an intellectual color, and colors mixed with black give a corporate or professional image. Blue is peaceful, while red is passionate, motivated, warm, or even angry. We associate yellow with happiness, and green non-profit organizations or outdoors. Orange is dynamic and radiant which makes it feel friendly and confident. Purple reflects creativity in its purest form, imagination and wisdom.

Blue is the color companies use more. It evokes depth, seriousness, confidence and solemnity. Brands like Pepsi, HP, and social networks like Skype, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook used blue for their logos and studies show that 33% of top global brands preferred the color blue for designing their logos.

However, color is not only important when it comes to images. Consider making your text stand out by adding a contrasting color gradient behind your writing. In graphic design, its importance resides fundamentally in the way in which users perceive the brand at first sight. The different color combinations and their play with typography can result in a great variety of designs.

Frame

Framing is also an important part of photography, but it is useful for visual designs too. Framing means cropping your image to direct the eye to the most important aspect of your message. In a profile photo, for example, focusing on the person is more important than the buildings behind him. This will help you convey your message well, ensuring a good design.

Go with the flow and unleash your creativity!

When you design with intention, your message is strong. Choose fonts carefully, and have enough drive and repetition to transmit a sense of connection to your design. The message behind the designs is what matters. Allowing your visual concept to express itself is the difference between standing out or being ignored.

If you feel that you’re not ready to take the next step, our team of graphic designers will make your brand shine. Just contact us and we’ll give life to your branding dreams.

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