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Simple Graphic Design Tips Every Designer Should Know

October 10, 2013 IADT General 0 Comments

Simple Graphic Design TipsEvery graphic design student needs a few tricks up his or her sleeve to create quality work and finish projects on time. Here are a few graphic design tips to get you started.


Play with "negative space." What's that? You see it all the time in pictures or silhouettes. Look closely and you'll notice how the figure—the main subject in the image—stands out from the background. Voila! That's the figure/ground technique. Make a clear distinction between the figure and the background. It's that simple. Another example would be a black dot on a white background or its opposite—a white dot on a black background. In both cases, the dot is clearly distinguishable from the background. So, if you can train your eye to carve out negative space, you can create some really cool graphics. Other benefits? If you have color restrictions on a project, you can use the figure/ground technique and two contrasting tones like black and white to create some really innovative designs—no color necessary.

The Golden Section

As its name implies, there is a proportion or ratio that is considered "golden" in the design world—the sweet spot of layouts. When this ratio—1.618—is applied to designs, the results are always aesthetically pleasing. Known as the golden section, this ratio has been attributed to many successful designs including the Pantheon in Greece, the Apple logo and even the newest Twitter user profile. It's even found in nature in the form of conch sea shells.

Gestalt Principles

The Gestalt principles are based on a psychology theory developed in the 1920s, which states that the brain perceives the whole image before perceiving any individual parts. Eight design principles have been developed from this principle. We won't describe them all, but here are some of the most important ones.

  • Closure: "Closure" is actually more of a brain process than a principle. When the brain sees an incomplete image—for example, an unclosed circle—the brain automatically processes it as a closed circle even though it's incomplete. As a designer, you can use this process to your advantage. If you orient dots spaced really far apart or place incomplete shapes in the form of an image, the brain will perceive the dots or shapes as a whole unified image—even though there's no outline. Think of a constellation or a connect-the-dots drawing. Even though you can't see the lines connecting the dots, you can still perceive the image. The panda logo developed by Sir Peter Scott for the World Wide Fund for Nature is a good example of closure.
  • Proximity: When you want to make several elements appear to be a unified shape, use the "proximity" principle. It states that separate objects placed closely together form a whole image. Lists are a prime example of proximity because they form a column. Grouping shapes together does this as well. Place 10 small squares together in the shape of a square. Note how it unifies the squares and creates a larger square image.
  • Similarity: Sometimes you have many different elements that just don't go well together—no matter how hard you try. So what do you do? Group like items together. Group them by color, shape or size, and your layout will begin to look much more cohesive.

So, there you have it—a few graphic design tips to use in case you get stuck or have "designer's block." Good luck!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


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