When it comes to learning, the best place to start is the beginning.
That’s true for learning anything new including graphic design basics.
Graphic design may seem complex and in certain ways it is. But when you boil it down, effective graphic design is really based on a few fundamental elements. Think of these elements as the building blocks of graphic design. Once you master those building blocks, you can use them to build all sorts of incredible designs including flyers.
But what are these building blocks? What are the key elements of effective graphic design?
In today’s 101 Guide To Basic Graphic Design Elements we’re going to go back to the beginning and do a quick overview of the graphic design basics so you have all the foundational elements you need to create visually interesting, and appealing, designs:
Starting off our graphic design basics, color is, arguably, the most important part of your design. Not only is color key for grabbing your audience’s attention and making a visual impact, but color has deep psychological ties that can influence your audience into thinking, feeling, and acting a certain way.
Color psychology is a powerful thing. There are certain associations that people make with colors and certain feelings that specific colors inspire – and if you can use those to your advantage, you can subtly use color to increase the effectiveness of your design.
So, for example, blue is a color that most people consider trustworthy. So if the design you’re creating is for a business where you need to inspire trust with your audience (let’s say, for example, a financial brokerage or a medical practice), incorporating blue into your design can subtly help to build that trust.
Or let’s say you own a retail business and you want to inspire people to buy merchandise at your next sale. Then you’d want to use red, which revs people up and gets them excited – a state you definitely need to be in to spend some major cash.
Moral of the story: choosing the right colors is about more than what looks good. It’s about leveraging color psychology to use color in a way that gets your desired results.
Textures are typically used in design to replace a single color and they’re definitely having a moment.
Textures come in all shapes and sizes, like brick, stone, paper, and patterns. Textures tend to be subtle, but can completely change the look and feel of a design.
So, for example, let’s say you were designing a flyer to invite people to a Great Gatsby party. By switching the background of the flyer from a plain white to a more faded paper background, you would immediately add a vintage feel that would feel in line with the spirit of the party.
Texture isn’t always necessary but if it fits with the overall design, it can be a great way to make an impact.
Most designs (especially flyers) involve text in some way. And the way you use that text is a critical element of the design.
Typography is the style, appearance, and way you lay out your text in your design.
Let’s start with fonts. The fonts you choose for your design can completely influence the final look and feel.
For example, let’s say you were putting together a design to advertise an insurance company. Using a whimsical font like Comic Sans would feel completely off with the message you’re trying to send; you’d be much better off with a more traditional font like Times New Roman or Helvetica. Now, on the flip side, if you were designing an ad for a children’s clothing boutique, the more whimsical font would feel more cohesive and on message.
Another important element of typography is text hierarchy – the way you lay out your text in order to show importance. Using text hierarchy effectively is the best way to ensure the most important parts of your message are highlighted in your design.
As a general rule, you always want to make your most important text the largest; the smaller the text, the less likely your audience is going to read it. So, for example, if you were putting together a flyer for a music festival, you would want to use large text to advertise the date, time, headline act and where to get tickets, then smaller text to list the lesser-known bands or information on what to bring.
Remember – your text is part of your design, and font and text hierarchy are important elements of creating a design that’s effective and visually impactful.
Lines and Shapes
Another core element in graphic design? Lines and shapes.
Lines are an effective way to break up a design. They can bring attention to key elements, section off different areas of the design, or influence the way your audience views the design.
For example, you could use a vertical line down the center of a “before and after” design to differentiate between the before example and the after example. Or you could use a bold line underneath your header text to bring emphasis to your headline.
Shapes can be used in a similar way – particularly to section off certain areas of your design. So, for example, you might put the details of your event inside a box to help it stand out from the rest of the design and grab your audience’s attention.
What you don’t put in your design is just as important as what you do.
We’re talking about space and the way you use space in your design. It is just as important as more tangible elements like shapes, lines, or color.
Negative space (also known as “white space”) helps your design from feeling too overcrowded. It creates an open feeling within your design, making it more easy to visually process from your audience. It also allows the other elements of your design to shine. If every inch of your design is crowded with color, shapes, lines, and text, none of them are going to stand out.
When you’re creating a design, make sure you implement the use of negative space to avoid a cluttered and visually overwhelming design.
Now that you know the elements of graphic design basics, you have the building blocks to start laying the foundation for incredible designs. Be sure to check back in soon as we continue our graphic design basics series with a post on basic graphic design principles to help you take your designs to the next level!