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What Are the Ingredients of Good Graphic Design?

Graphic designer working on a design
Graphic design differs from other types of design in that its main goal is to create an image or scene that effectively conveys a specific message to its target audience. There are many key ingredients that graphic designers consider when creating an effective design, such as colour and shape; but what makes a design truly effective is not which ingredients are used, but how they are used, and why they are used.

Below is a complete list of the key ingredients found in good graphic design, along with what each can achieve:

  • Colour: one of the first things to draw our eye to a design are the colours and how they are used. Some colours are known to evoke certain emotional responses. They can also define importance, help create visual interest, and unify a brand. The right combination of colours can transform and breathe life into a design.
  • Lines: lines can be used in several different ways: to define or separate images or themes, to draw the eye to certain aspects of the design, to connect content, or to create patterns. Of course, lines don’t have to be straight; they can also sweep, cross, or zig zag, depending on which usage best achieves their defined goal or purpose.
  • Size: the size of any element in a design can be used to emphasize importance, to draw attention to something specific, or to create effective contrasts.
  • Texture: it’s easy to think of texture as only being used in 3-dimensional designs, but there are certain graphic elements that can achieve texture on the screen too. Giving the audience the illusion of texture can help make a design look more complex, professional, and alluring.
  • Typography: a lot of thought and careful consideration go into type selection. Typography, when done right, can make all the difference from a graphic design perspective. More than just the words being used, typography is about combining font styles that work well together, using the right sized fonts, and placing them within the design strategically so that the written messages are effectively conveyed. Typography can even be used to create images, shapes, and scenes!
  • Shape: geometric (squares and circles), abstract (stylizations, graphic representations) and natural (flowers, animals and people), are the three rudimentary shape types used in graphic design. When used in the correct way, they can add dimension, direction, and visual appeal to a design.  
  • Imagery: often the use of the right image can make or break an advertising campaign. The message that the campaign is trying to convey should be effectively reinforced by the imagery being used. Images can also help draw the attention of the target audience and set the mood. The human brain processes images 60,000 times more efficiently than written information, meaning that using the right image in a design can have a far more profound impact than using the right wording.
  • Space: when used in the right way, space can help to emphasize certain areas of a design, or to separate information. The areas surrounding each element of a design should be made use of wisely, either to give the eye a break or to draw it to where you want it to go. Utilizing space properly can be just as important as placement of content.
  • Value: this often over looked ingredient of graphic design is all about how dark or bright certain areas appear to the naked eye. Blacks can be muted and almost grey, or they can be strong and dark. Even whites can vary in how they appear. When the values of colours are used effectively, they can produce depth, contrast and emphasis in a design.

About Digital Lion

Digital Lion is a design and marketing agency specializing in graphic design, website development, online marketing, branding/logo design, video animation, and print marketing design. Headquartered in Calgary, and with a second location in Edmonton, they work with clients across Canada, as well as worldwide, and are focused on being environmentally friendly and giving back to charities that they are passionate about. The company mission is to “Design a Better World®.”

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