Often, when it comes to their logos or advertising materials, a company is said to have “good design”. But what exactly does that mean? We’ll take a look at the principles of good design, as well as outline some general rules you should follow when it comes to design, whether for yourself or your company.
What makes good design?
There are seven general elements of design that every graphic designer needs to be mindful of when they set out to create a project. This is because “good design” isn’t just the result of a good idea or an active imagination. Rather, what makes good designs is instead a set of design elements that need to be carefully plotted and used correctly so that the designer can create an accurate visual representation of his or her idea.
So what elements do you need to be mindful of when it comes to making good designs?
Line is the most basic element of many a good design. In the field of design, a line is used to connect any two points – thus, lines are used to separate or create a space between other elements or to provide a central focus for the viewer to latch on to.
The different characteristics of a line (its direction, weight and character) can be used to convey different emotional states and even evoke specific reactions from the viewer.
Color is used to set the mood of the design. Use of color in specific ways can represent different emotions and even subconsciously evoke those emotions in the viewer. For example, red is usually used to represent anger, passion and urgency, while blue is used to create a feeling of peace and security.
Color is most often used for emphasis – that is, it is used to emphasize the information that has been conveyed to the viewer by the other visual elements.
Unlike many of the other elements on this list, color can stand alone at any time. However, it is most often used as a supporting or background element to other elements in the design. In this way, color can be used to heighten the visual impact of lines, fonts and shapes as part of the overall design.
A shape is just a line that encloses an area. Because of this, it is defined by its boundaries and usually used to stress a particular portion of a page.
Shapes can be created by the combination of all of the other elements of the design, or they can simply be used to create icons or symbols as part of the overall project. There are three basic types of shapes used in any good design:
- Geometric (squares, circles, triangles, rectangles)
- Natural (trees, animals people)
- Abstracted (icons, graphical representations)
Shapes are best used as a way to create interest in the design. Angular shapes like triangles indicate masculinity, while more curvy shapes indicate femininity. Square elements are designed to communicate security and stability, while circles are more like eye candy: they’re organic elements that are complete and indestructible in and of themselves.
The texture of a design is its perceived surface quality. Use of texture in 2D and 3D designs can be used to create and convey a variety of messages and emotions. “But wait,” I hear you say, “how can a 2D object have texture?” It can’t, not really, but it can have the illusion of texture, and that’s what’s important.
As an example, take a look at the fonts in the “Destroy” category on dafont.com. Many of them look like they’re worn and faded – that’s texture at work. It’s conveying the message that what you’re looking at is worn down, even though you can’t reach out and touch it yourself.
Size, Scale and Proportion
These three elements go hand in hand, and they’re responsible for bringing balance and contrast to your design.
Size is used to refer to the actual dimensions of a particular element, and is usually measured in pixels, inches or millimeters. Scale is the relation of an object’s size to its original value: if an object is now 1/10th its original size, it has been scaled down. Proportion is the relationship between the size and scale of all of the elements in the design.
In particular, scale and proportion are used to indicate the size of an object in relation to something else, or to show the difference in size between two objects in a certain design.
The direction of a design is what establishes the mood and the atmosphere. It creates the illusion that there’s movement in the design, even if nothing’s actually moving. This is usually referred to as “visual direction” – it’s when the content uses vertical and horizontal lines to direct the viewer to look a certain way.
Vertical lines are most often used to show balance and formality, while horizontal lines communicate peace and stability.
Oblique or slanting lines are used to suggest movement or action, directing the viewer to look a certain way.
It’s not just about the basic elements, though – there are several principles of good design that every graphic artist is aware of, and we’ll cover those in next week’s post.