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Graphic Design


What is design?


Design is the arrangement of details such as color, negative and positive space, text, line and form to communicate ideas and concepts. Graphic design is visual information management, using the tools of page layout, typography, and illustration to lead the reader's eye through the design. Readers first see a design as large masses of shape and color, with foreground elements contrasting against the background field. They begin to digest specific information, first from graphics if they are present, and finally start to absorb individual words and phrases: Design rules are tools, used to help create balance and emphasis in any graphic art. They are just guides, with no hard and fast rules as far as design is concerned.



Communication with client.

1)  After receiving the basic information, arrange the elements in three or four layouts to show the client. Use different typestyles, color harmonies and layouts. Since one design will not please everyone, giving the client a choice will provide you with information to create a final design.
2)  Always have someone else proof the layout before the client sees it.
3)  Always try to have the client proof and sign off on the final layout.
4)  After the finished product is created, have someone proof the work before it goes out the door.


Have a Goal.

1)  The design process begins by putting together general information, by using basic design elements and then adding specific details.
2)  What does the artwork have to convey? What element should be most emphasized? What should be second-most, etc.
3)  Save your original ideas so that in case the design needs to be recreated, you will have a place to start from.
4)  Keep your focus on what you need to convey. It’s easy to get caught up in color and form and forget to include basic information.


Using Color Harmonies.


Harmonies are tools to help you decide which colors should be used in a design.


Primary Colors - Cyan, Magenta and Yellow mixed together create Black. All other Colors, Tints and Shades are made from mixing Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, & Black. The use of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow in combination is also a Triad Harmony.

  Primary Colors

Secondary Colors - are created by mixing two Primary Colors.  Mixing 100% of two Primary Colors creates each Secondary Color. Magenta and Yellow mixed create Red, Yellow and Cyan create Green, and Cyan and Magenta create Indigo. The use of Red, Indigo and Green in combination is also a Triad

  Secondary Colors

Warm Tones - Magenta to YellowGreen are generally considered Warm - Warm Colors are thought of as contributing movement and energy to a design.

Cool Tones - Green to Violet are thought of as Cool - Cool Colors are soothing and calming.

  Cool Tones \ Warm Tones

Complimentary Colors - are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Complimentary Colors used next to each other provide high contrast.

  Complimentary Colors

Analagous Harmony  - three colors next to each other on the Color Wheel. The three arrows indicate Analagous Harmony between Yellow Green/Yellow/ Orange. By rotating the three arrows together 30 degees in either direction, another Analagous Harmony will be indicated. The three colors, their tints and shades will all go well together.

  Analagous Harmony

Tetrad Complement Harmony  - is indicated by the four arrows. Rotating the arrows by 30 degrees in either direction will provide another Tetrad. Here the Tetrad is Magenta/Orange/Green/ Blue. The four colors of a Tetrad Complement Harmony go well together in full color, tints or shades.

  Tetrad Complement Harmony

Triad Harmony - is indicated by the three arrows. Rotating arrows by 30 degrees will provide another triad. The Violet / Turquoise / Orange is shown on this color wheel. The three colors of a Triad Harmony go well together in full color, tints or shades.

  Triad Harmony

Split Complement Harmony - is indicated by the three arrows.  The two colors on either side of a color, and the color directly opposite the color on the Color Wheel create a Split Complement Harmony. In this case the Split Complement Harmony is Magenta /  Red / Turquoise. Rotating the three arrows by 30 degrees in either direction will provide another Analagous Harmony. The three colors, their tints and shades will all go well together. Usually the third color is used as an accent.

  Split Complement Harmony




Visual balance can be affected not only by the size of objects, but also their lightness or darkness and position. When a design is balanced, the elements of the design are no longer individual. They become one piece where objects flow from one to another.


Symmetrical Balance  - each element of the design is evenly distributed to both sides of the vertical centerline of the design.


Asymmetrical Balance  - each element is placed to one side or the other of the vertical centerline of the design.


Radial Balance  - Elements flow out from the center of the design.


Balance can be created with color  - try not to place only cool colors on one side of the design and only warm colors on the other half. Use colors to emphasize the main element. For example, if the main element is made up of mainly warm colors, emphasize it by surrounding it with cool colors.


Balance can be created with texture  - Use textures in the design to draw attention to the main element and not away from it. Notice how you eye is drawn to the text by the palm fronds.


Balance can be created with mass  - think of objects in your design as having visual weight. Does one side of the design look heavier than the other? Does one group of elements stand out more strongly than another?


Balance can be created with color weight  - color has visual weight. The darker the color, the more it weighs. A small area of dark color will balance a large area of light color.


Balance can be created with space - the viewer's eye will naturally focus on any large, white empty space in a design. A large white space should be filled without cluttering, drawing the viewer's eye to the main element of the design.





Contrast provides emphasis to important elements.

Placing a black element against a white background is using the concept of contrast in graphic design.
Contrast Little Contrast

Visual contrast can be added to your design by utilizing white space, typography, and size. Using different typefaces and type sizes will stimulate the viewer’s eyes to travel around the whole design. Graphic elements of different sizes are more appealing than graphic elements of all the same size. Size differences also convey which element is more important.

Different Sizes Are More Appealing   /   Different Size Denotes Importance




It's important to understand each element of design and how it can support your work. When you use the elements to set up your design, the idea is to have a plan. The emphasis (the main subject in a design) is often supported by a second or third element used as an accent.

If everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.


Direction in Design


Direction is how the viewer's eye follows the elements from one to another around the design.


"Rule of Thirds" - Uses a grid to divide your design into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. The points of focus are at the junction of these grid lines. Using one of the four focal points will provide emphasis for your design.


The placement of objects in the top right quadrant of a design will generally demand the greatest attention because most people’s line of sight will begin in the upper left side and naturally stop in the upper right side of the design,


A design can be more visually pleasing if the main element is placed slightly to the left and towards the top, than in the exact center of the design.


Lines can be used as a powerful tool to direct the eye.



Economy of Design

1)  Your goal is to focus on conveying information with the least amount of elements.
2)  Consider why have you used each element in the design? Can you justify its use? How much can you take out of the design and still have impact?


Fonts in Design

1)  A well-designed page contains no more than two to three different typefaces or four different type variations such as type size and bold or italic style
2)  Typefaces should reflect the subject matter without sacrificing readability.
3)  Type weight is important in projecting your message.
4)  Headlines for main elements should be heavy and subheads for secondary elements bold. Filler and main body text should be medium (perhaps even light) and italics will provide emphasis on any element.
5)  Serif typefaces are best used for main body text. They are more comfortable to read.
6)  Sans-serif type is usually ideal for display type like headlines - "type that stands apart". Sans-serif type can be used to add impact to a layout.
7)  Display or decorative fonts like Las Vegas, Goldmine, Hobo and others should be used with great discretion. These fonts are intended to be more ornamental than informative, so they should be reserved for headlines and display only. Script and Black fonts (Cursive, Old English, etc.) fall into this category as well, and script style fonts should never be used in all-caps.


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