What separates good graphic design from great graphic design? You will get many different answers to this question, but is there a single definitive response? Yes, there is: Having an eye for what works and what doesn’t. This is what takes graphic design from good to great. It’s looking at a project from many different angles and weighing it against the industry you’re designing for to produce a piece that pulls someone in and causes them to want to take action on it.
Think of it this way, graphic design skills are the tools, but the eye is the “hand” that wields the tools. Below are 8 design principles that make up having a great “eye” and can mean the difference between someone just looking at your design or a great project that draws people into your message and causes them to act on it.
“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for” – Milton Glaser
Elements of a Great Eye
Every element of your project should flow together seamlessly: text, shapes, imagery. Each part should align to each other and not look like it was just “thrown” together. There is a place for everything. Alignment is critical to give the reader/viewer a “path” to follow in the design.
The primary focal point is the message you’re relaying to the reader/viewer, so you want to make your message stand out. What you want people to see first needs to have the most attention in your design. Big, bold, fonts; colors based on the industry, etc. This will go a long way to getting the reader’s attention.
This plays well together with visual hierarchy and can help your message stand out even more. Contrast simply means opposites and doesn’t just apply to colors only, it is the opposing of thick vs thin, modern vs traditional, and many other things. It will assist in navigating the viewer to where you want them to go.
Repetition is the overall layout of your design. It helps your project remain organized & consistent. This entails colors, font choices, layout (for certain projects), etc. At most, you should only have:
- 2 to 3 colors in most instances (use a good color pairing tool).
- 1 to 2 font styles, or “font family” (one family if the font has many different thicknesses, like Montserrat or Bahnschrift).
- Consistent layout design, especially if only a certain part of the design changes like a different image or dates.
You don’t want to have all of your elements competing against each other from project to project (outside of normal planned visual hierarchy & contrast implementations).
This is all about organization and placement and goes hand in hand with alignment and repetition. Where does everything go? How does the text go with the images? Where do I need to place the text? Grouping elements together by color, size, shape, etc., will help to keep the overall design clean and uncluttered.
Keeping your design balanced is vital. When the overall design looks messy and sloppy, it can push readers/viewers away and you’ve lost their interest. A great design is well balanced and not overpowering in visual appeal and impact. Are you portraying a message of action? Do you want people to be informed? How about bringing people joy? Keep people’s attention with a balanced design and they’ll be enticed to want to see and know more about your message.
Ok, we’ve mentioned color a few times so far. There is a lot to color that most people don’t know, yet alone understand. Colorology (yes, that is a term, you can Google it) is a vast area when it comes to great graphic design. Colors can cause people to respond in certain ways. A staggering 85% of buying decisions are made just on color alone. Logos are the “frontline” of marketing. How many times have we stopped at a McDonald’s just seeing the “golden arches”? Was it a planned trip? No, we just saw the bright logo and stopped in and grabbed something to eat. Color goes a long way in portraying your message.
Oh, and by the way, Yellow is optimistic & youthful, it grabs the attention of window shoppers. Think about that the next time you stop and grab a Big Mac or walk into a store because you saw the Yellow ##% off sale sign in the window.
Adding space to your design can help drive the focus to the area that contains your message. Most often this is called “negative space”, areas of the design that doesn’t contain any design elements. It can often be a solid color, or even blurred out parts of an image (such as part of the background image). Using this effectively when needed will make your design stand out and allow for a huge impact.
The Final Draft
In great graphic design, some or all of the above elements are used to convey a message to your readers/viewers. The most important first step is to look at graphic design as a consumer and not as a designer. Start with asking questions to yourself. What makes me interact and engage with a graphic? How do I respond to the overall design of a graphic that I’ve seen? What is it that pulls me in and keeps my attention?
Having the skills along with the eyes for graphic design in one package are hard to come by and here at The AD Leaf ®, our designers have both. They are ready & desire to take your projects to great new heights. Give us a call at 321-255-0900 and let us help you make your graphics pop! (Ok, I had to use it at least once, lol)