Principles of Great Graphic Design
May 18, 2020
Graphic design plays a very important role in website design. It’s essentially the alignment of everything you see when you view a web page. The images, the text, the layout — graphic design will dictate how all of this is presented.
Most people will first internalize the visuals of a website, advertisement, or anything else that tries to communicate a message through the way it looks. Graphic designers have a lot of factors to consider when they are building the presentation of these mediums.
So what are these factors? What separates great graphic design from others that aren’t quite as effective? We’ll outline six principles that should be present in order for graphic design to engage the viewer.
Not all information on a given page is created equal. Hierarchy in graphic design refers to the practice of lending more weight to more important information. This can be achieved in a few different ways, and they generally help direct the viewer’s attention to the information that should be read or interpreted first.
Positioning on the screen or page can tell the reader what is more important. We generally place our headers at the top of the screen, which puts the following text essentially under its umbrella. Graphic design can make use of bold or larger font size, placing focus on a particular message, or more colorful visuals to more important sections.
Different elements need to have an ordered appearance in order to avoid feeling randomly tossed together. This is where alignment comes in. It assists the viewer by essentially telling them where to look. People like to have a seamless flow of information. They don’t want to be confused.
Proper alignment on a page will create a connection between the various elements. Random placement will come across as messy. And even if the viewer doesn’t explicitly recognize this, it will make them feel uneasy. Aligning the elements creates a more pleasant experience for the viewer.
Balance is another way to create structure in graphic design. This can be done through either symmetry or tension. But even though these are opposing ideas, they both work to create stability within the page.
Imagine a collection of various-sized picture frames lined on a wall. The tops and bottoms of the frames don’t match but their centers create an invisible line along the wall. This creates symmetry because even though the items are various sizes, their weight is evenly distributed in a cohesive way.
Tension creates a more dynamic form of balance. Two differently-weighted sections can be played against each other while softened by negative space in between. This allows them to play off each other while also creating a version of balance.
At its core, contrast is the result of differences between two elements of design. This can take the form of a large item and a small one, a dark item and a light one, and so on. Contrast is used to guide the viewer’s attention to the various items, placing importance on each.
Contrast adds emphasis to each item that is played off of the other. It is another method of making your information more easily digested by the viewer while keeping the design interesting and engaging.
It might seem counterintuitive, but empty space is just as important as the elements you choose to include. This space acts as a tool to highlight the important items included in the design. It also keeps the viewer from being overwhelmed and overloaded. It can be tempting to include as much information and images as possible, but that only waters down the design and draws attention away from what is important.
Negative space is one of the most basic elements a graphic design can use. Pieces with ample space have a more clean and refined look. There is a balance between a page that is too empty and too full. Finding the perfect ratio is a sign of great graphic design.
Color is a strong means of eliciting a certain mood from a page. The viewer automatically internalizes color. It’s very effective in dictating how a page will come across and can put the included content into perspective.
Color theory is the application of these ideas. How do certain colors play off each other? What emotion does this create? A great emphasis is placed on these ideas because of the dramatic effect they have on the page. Effective graphic design will have a strong grasp on not only what colors work well together, but how to use them to create a specific effect.