Five Basic Principles of Graphic Design You Should Know

Great content is made up of more than just great copy—it needs strong visual elements as well.

It’s always been important for marketers to make their content stand out, but it’s becoming even more so these days, as we get constantly bombarded with it. One way to do it is to enhance content with strong visual elements, whether by adding images to blog posts or going all out and creating infographics.

The trouble with hiring an expert for your graphic design needs lies in the cost—it can be quite an expensive service, especially for a start-up marketing agency on a tight budget. But even if you don’t have anyone on your team who’s capable of using the full arsenal of the Adobe Suite, there are still tools out there for graphic design newbies—Canva, for example, whose drag-and-drop interface makes for an easy-to-use design platform.

However, even with an easy-to-use tool at your disposal, going blindly into graphic design with no prior knowledge may not produce the optimal results you’re looking for. With that in mind, we came up with a list of five basic principles of graphic design you should familiarize yourself with before you dive in:

1. Typography

Remember the golden rule of typography: Do not combine two fonts from the same category.

The two classifications of typefaces are Serif, distinguished by a short line on the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol, and Sans Serif, distinguished by a lack of these short lines.

If you’re going to use two different fonts in your design, combine a Serif with a Sans Serif. Generally, a Serif is better used for headlines, while a Sans Serif is better used for copy.

2. Color Scheme

When choosing a color scheme, consider complementary colors. On a color wheel, the colors opposing each other complement each other.

Red complements green.

Blue complements orange.

Yellow complements purple.

3. Hierarchy of Scale

Greater size indicates greater importance. Decide what the most important elements of your design are, and consider increasing their scale for emphasis.

4. Contrast

Contrast is the juxtaposition of two different elements, which directs a viewer’s attention and makes an impact. The greater the difference between the elements, the higher the contrast.

5. Repetition

Repetition of the same element might seem monotonous. But when done correctly, it can also add a level of dynamism to your graphic design piece. With the exact same element repeated, the entire series can be taken in with a single glance.

When an element is repeated with a degree of variation each time, however, things get more interesting—the viewer is forced to pause to take in each element, resulting in more time spent taking in your content.

Olga Khvan

About the Author: Olga Khvan

Olga Khvan recently graduated from Boston University with a dual degree in journalism and art history. She's an editorial intern at Chimaera Labs, where she contributes to the agency's blog and oversees its social media. She also writes and photographs for Boston Magazine, covering mostly local arts and entertainment news.

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