NCET helps you explore business and technology
By Patrick McFarland
Are you a graphic designer? If so, congrats—you are probably awesome! Please carry on.
For everyone else, keep reading. Whether it’s designing your company logo, a website, an advertisement, a sales presentation, or just a banner at your kid’s baseball field—you might have to work with a graphic designer to get the job done. (NOTE: please use a professional graphic designer, not just a friend that says, “Dude, I know Photoshop, I can totally make you a business card!) Let me help you understand some basic principles of graphic design which can help you more effectively work with a designer to best accomplish your needs.
So, what is graphic design? Simply put, the art of combining text, graphics and pictures to visually communicate a message. Now, I’m going to tell you about crap. Or more accurately, C.R.A.P., as outlined by Robin Williams in her book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book. C.R.A.P. stands for four simple principles that can be found in most successful design—Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.
CONTRAST – Contrast is such a key component of creating visual interest in design. It draws the viewer’s eyes into your piece, and helps organize content which leads them through the visual flow of your message. From a big dramatic photo, to a bold headline, to smaller body copy, to a colorful call-out box—you can add visual contrast in your design by using VERY different shapes, sizes, weights, colors, fonts and open space. Remember to be bold with contrast!
REPETITION – Repeat, repeat, repeat (see what I did there) visual elements in your design. You can repeat colors, shapes, textures, spacing, fonts, or anything really. Repeating elements throughout your design creates organization and order, and helps tie together separate elements. And the longer a piece is, the more repetition can help with organization.
ALIGNMENT – Bring order to the chaos! Make sure different elements in your design are aligned with one another to bring a visual balance and organization. A headline aligned with a subhead, or a chart aligned with a photograph. Without consistent alignment, a design can become disconcerting to a viewer. Nothing should be random in effective design!
PROXIMITY – Related elements in your design can be grouped together to create visual structure and hierarchy. This also reduces clutter and confusion and creates a clean, inviting look. By grouping multiple groups of items together, you can also lead a viewer through your design from beginning to end. You can test this out by looking at various designs and seeing how proximity creates order and leads you from element to element.
Even if you aren’t what some might consider, “artistic”, you probably know when something looks good or not. And now with the understanding of these basic graphic design principles, you know why! Test them out today—look for some C.R.A.P. in ads, websites, menus, and maybe even your own business card.
Patrick McFarland is Director of Marketing at ITS Logistics (www.its4logistics.com) and NCET’s VP of Creative Services. NCET is a member-supported non-profit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology.