5 Must-Know Principles of Graphic Design

Feb 15, 2023Martín Etchegoyen

The principles of graphic design are the rules a designer must follow to create an efficient and attractive piece of work. The fundamental principles of design are the following. Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement, and White Space are some terms that you have to have in mind when doing graphic design.

The way that graphic design differs from art is that it has to have a goal. Visually, this functionality is interpreted by making sure an image has a center of attention, a point of focus. Maybe you are thinking that design is all about creativity, but that is not quite it. If you are an entrepreneur or designer who is just starting, you might be tempted to go wild and combine the first five typefaces and colors that catch your eye, believing you are creating something fresh. You will probably find yourself with a design that is muddled, unfinished, or well, just plain unattractive.

Graphic Design

The thing is that graphic design, like any field, adheres to strict rules that work beneath the surface to make the work stable and balanced. If the design is missing that balance, it will be inefficient and useless. Graphic design plays a critical role in brand-building and at the same time, in showcasing your skill sets.

Although branding and design are inseparable experiences, it is key to comprehend the principles of graphic design before jumping in on any new assignment. When working with clients, you get only one opportunity to make a strong first impression, so why not infuse their experience with your knowledge and application of design elements to a range of projects like social media graphics, web and app UI, videos, banners, advertisements, etc? Of course, as a designer, you do not have to worry about drawing outside the lines and having fun whilst doing it. You must frequently color outside the lines to pull away from a mediocre or repetitive design structure, but, beginners must first know what those prescribed lines are, for sure.

5 Must-Know Principles of Graphic Design

graphic design

In this section, we will describe the most important principles of graphic design, so it is recommendable a profound read to really understand and apply them to your work.

1. Emphasis

Emphasis is the focal point of a design and the order of priority of each element within a design. Suppose that you are creating a poster for a concert. You should ask yourself what is the first piece of information my audience needs to know. Wonder if it is the band or the concert venue, or what about the day and the cost of attending.

You should make a mental outline. Let your brain gather the information and then lay out your design in a way that communicates that order. If the band’s name is the most elemental information, place it in the center or make it the biggest element on the poster. Or you could put it in the strongest, boldest type. Learn about color theory and use strong color combinations to make the band name pop. Like writing without an outline or building without a blueprint, if you start your composition without a clear idea of what you are trying to communicate, your design will not succeed.

2. Balance

Balance provides stability and structure to an overall design. To understand it better, think that there is weight behind each of your design elements. Shapes, text boxes, and images are the elements that form your design, so it is key to be familiar with the visual weight each of those elements possesses. Now, this does not mean that the elements always need to be distributed evenly or that they must be of an equal size. Balance is either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is when the weight of elements is evenly divided on either side of the design, whereas asymmetrical balance uses scale, contrast, and color to achieve the flow in design.

3. Visual Hierarchy

A solid hierarchy is formed when extra visual weight is given to the most important element or message in your design. It can be achieved in various ways, by using larger or bolder fonts to highlight the title, placing the key message higher than the other design elements, or adding focus to larger, more detailed, and more colorful visuals than those less pertinent or smaller photographs.

4. Proportion

Proportion is the visual size and weight of elements in a composition and how they relate to each other. It often helps to approach your design in compartments, instead of as a whole. Grouping related items can give them importance at a smaller size. Think of a box at the bottom of your poster for ticket information or a sidebar on a website for a search bar. Proportion can be achieved only if all elements of your design are well-sized and thoughtfully placed. Once you master alignment, balance, and contrast, proportion should arise naturally.

5. Contrast

Contrast is what people mean when they say a design pops out. It comes away from the page and sticks in your memory. Contrast creates space and differences between features in your design. Your background needs to be significantly different from the color of your elements so they work harmoniously together and are readable. If you plan to work with type, understanding contrast is incredibly vital because it means the weight and size of your type are balanced.

As you seek out instances of really strong, sufficient design, you will notice most designs only feature one or two typefaces. That is because contrast can be effectively achieved with two strong fonts or even one strong typeface in different weights. As you add fonts, you dilute and confuse the purpose of your design.

Bottom Line

If you apply these principles of graphic design to your design work and you get what they are about, then it is most likely that your performance will increase significantly.

Martín Etchegoyen

Martín Etchegoyen

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