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Introduction to Graphic Design

Nepor Ngobeh
14 July 2020
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6 mins read

This introduction will make you aware of what to consider when designing. Please remember that design is subjective, so even though the points listed below are important to think about, they are not unbreakable rules of how you should create designs.

Purpose & audience
The first thing you want to think about when designing is the purpose and target audience. Why are you creating this piece? Who is it for? How can I appeal to my audience? It could just be a personal project, maybe you’re creating a birthday card for someone, or maybe it’s a poster to promote an event. The purpose and audience will help decide which design route you take when creating your artwork.

Everything we look at is a shape. And shapes help to give character to a design. Instead of using a normal square image, you may decide to place the image into a circle. Or if you were designing a webpage, you might decide that the menu buttons should have rounded corners instead of sharp ones – to give a softer look. You might want to be more creative with your shapes by positioning them at different angles, or maybe even distorting them.

Credit: (Left) Hannah Valentine, (Middle) Andrea Dell’Anna, (Right) City of Nevers

You may want to add a line or stroke to an object, which is another aspect of shape. How thick do you want the stroke to be? The stroke could even be a dotted line. This is all up to you, but these extra details help to refine the design.

It’s important to keep certain elements within your design aligned to create a clean look and feel. This especially applies to text-heavy design.

Take a look at the examples below. The example on the left has text that has also been aligned to the left. And the example on the right is using a centre alignment throughout the design, while the example in the middle is using all three alignments (left, right, and centre).

Credit: (Far left) Ivan Chermayeff & Pinterest

When designing, depending on what you are creating, you need to let the elements on the page breathe. This is where whitespace comes in as it helps to break up elements on the page, making it less cluttered. Equal whitespace creates a more professional look when designing. For example, if I placed a circle on a page you may want the spacing above, below and on the opposite sides to all be equal.

This example shows equal whitespace on the left and right hand sides of the graphic.

Credit: Studio MPLS

A hierarchy of elements is key as it helps you to organise your elements depending on their level of importance. Which aspects of the design do you want people to see first? In what order would they experience your artwork? Playing around with the positioning of images, text size, text style etc. can help reinforce the hierarchy between elements also.

Look at the example on the left below: they have placed the title in bold near the top, then your eyes naturally follow down the page. The date is also in bold so it stands out.

Credit: (Left) CMRKT & (Right) Damon Charles

The colours you use within your artwork portray the overall feel of your design. Think about the theme of your artwork. Is it a happy and bright theme or a dark and mysterious theme?  Who is the target audience? If your work is aimed at children, you may want to use bright colours as that will attract their attention  (like the example on the far right below).

Credit: (Left) Matteo Di Iorio, (Middle) Lipault & (Right) ASG Spark! (Designed by me)

And colours are associated with different moods. For example, the colour red can give off an angry, dangerous, or sultry vibe. So this is another thing to consider when you’re thinking about how you want your target audience to perceive your work.

Choosing the correct font is a crucial part of your design. Along with the colour it also helps to set the mood of the design.

See the examples below.

Credit: (Left) Kae @hellothisiskae, (Middle) Handsome Frank & (Right) Joao Oliveira

This may seem obvious, but your work needs to be readable. You may have placed an exciting image behind some text – but is it readable? You may want to place a shape behind the text to make it stand out or simply just change the colour. Have a play around and see what works!

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