Graphic design is an excellent tool for attracting attention, delighting your viewers aesthetically, and showing off the creative aspects of your department. It is easy and fun to play around with designing your own logo, website banner, a letterhead, or an event announcement. With today’s available programs, it is very possible to produce a professional design that does not hint at being homemade.
There are six fundamental principles of design: alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition, and space.
Alignment goes hand in hand with proximity. It has less to do with making sure that everything is (for example) centered or left-aligned and more to do with keeping the individual elements consistent. If you have words arranged at a slant, make sure they are evenly spaced and at the same angle. It is all about keeping organization and order within the separate elements. If you have elements scattered about the page, carefully ordering them within themselves keeps the whole picture from appearing chaotic.
Balance ties everything together and provides structure. The placement of elements will distribute the weight across the page. For example, if you have a large piece in the center of your design, adding a small piece on the edge keeps the visual from feeling lopsided.
Contrast means balancing colors and using them to highlight or emphasis central elements. The use of color can suggest certain emotions or reactions, make your design pop, and direct the eye to important parts of your message.
Proximity involves arranging elements as to guide the viewer’s eyes from piece to piece of the message in a controlled and thought-out path. Related elements should be positioned together for unity and continuity. This means breaking out of linear arrangements and arranging elements of the message in a more stacked or waterfall flow, with visual connection. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing, but it gives the eyes a clear path to follow.
Repetition creates emphasis and draws attention to certain elements. In the case of bulleted lists, the repetition of bullets creates rhythm and familiarity. Repeating a border around sections of text encourages association.
Space is a very powerful element of design. Graphic design, at face value, might seem to focus on the concrete elements, while the element of white space is merely a background accident. But careful use of space provides the eye with breathing room, creates a powerful message, and clears out the clutter. Simplicity is a very potent tool.
Keeping these principles in mind is an excellent beginning as you work on your next design project.