Quite possibly (in my opinion) one of the largest scourges to professional graphic designers was the advent of Microsoft Word and its elementary counterpart – Microsoft Paint. With its launch, brought an entire generation of “clip art – cut and paste” clients! Suddenly everyone was a graphic designer and the need to seek professional designers had diminished. I’m not hating on non-professionals with a creative flair – everyone has a knack for creating, but not everyone is a creative designer.
Properly executed design is more than just fitting information on a page. The ultimate goal of professional graphic designers is to construct visual imagery that communicates today’s complex marketing messages. Prompting an immediate call to action within a relatively short window of opportunity to grab the viewer’s attention is what drives good design. Having a keen eye for colors that evoke emotion, an understanding of effective use of typography and harmonic balance of content is what differentiates professional creatives from the “weekend” designers.
So what is good design? Let’s start by breaking down the elements and principles that compose a good design.
GRAPHIC DESIGN ELEMENTS
Color is one of the most powerful design elements with the ability to alter people’s perceptions and mood.
Any flat, enclosed area with a length and width is considered to be a shape. Designers use both geometric and organic shapes in good design.
Space is a design element used to create an illusion of depth in artwork. It can be 2-D, 3-D, negative or positive.
The look and feel of a surface quality is referred to as texture. Texture can be created organically by nature or implied with rendered art.
Objects that have length, width and height, which can be viewed from various angles, within an existing space.
The degree of lightness or darkness in a work of art is referred to as value.
PRINCIPLES OF GRAPHIC DESIGN
The principles of graphic design explain the ways designers maintain integrity within design elements to create effective works of art.
Balance is the distribution of visual weight on either side of a vertical axis creating symmetry or purposeful asymmetry.
When certain elements stand out to create a focal point or center of attention.
How the eye moves through the composition refers to the rhythm of a design. It is the intent of good graphic designers to guide the viewer’s eye with calculated intent.
Graphic design that creates a pattern using visual elements creates repetition, however, too much repetition can take away from effective design. Remember – less is more.
The relationship between objects in terms of size, including the relation between parts of a whole.
Contrast may refer to the push and pull of different elements of design, such as rough and smooth or dark and light values, in order to highlight their differences and create visual interest.
The arrangement of elements that give the viewer a sense of harmony, uniting all the parts of the design.
So…what does it all mean? Graphic designers are professionally trained to incorporate both graphic elements and design principles in order to create memorable graphics that enhance or breath new life into your brand. By leaving creative work to the professional “creatives” rather than your 13 year old nephew who occasionally dabbles in Microsoft Paint, you are maximizing your ROI on marketing campaigns intended to put your business front and center. Consider hiring the professionals rather than going it alone and cutting corners. You will yield greater dividends in the end.
Michael is a professional graphic designer with over 20 years of design and operations management experience. He is currently the senior graphic designer for Lorraine Gregory Communications. He has held titles of Art Director for creative agencies as well as Director of Operations for multi-million dollar printing companies. He is a graduate of NYIT with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design.