Construct, Compose, Complete: A Basic Guide to Graphic Design

October 27, 2015 0 Comments Shelby Vecchio

To some, graphic design is seen as a singular visual element such as a logo, website, or brochure. In reality, it is an umbrella term for an array of design platforms, so it can be a difficult concept to grasp for anyone who is unfamiliar with the styles, methods, and mediums. Simply put, graphic design is the combination of ideas, typography, and images in a composition that conveys information.

Graphic design is a foreign practice or art form to anyone who doesn’t speak a digital design language. Below is a break down of the graphic design elements and how they can be applied to print and digital media.

graphic design-pinterest[3]

Typography is an essential element of graphic design. How is the font placed within the composition? What typefaces should be used to support the subject? How do the typefaces relate to the message? These are some questions to ask when choosing a typeface for a piece. Typography can be manipulated structurally or spatially to create a graphical composition. Typography varies between different weights; for example, light, regular, or heavy; and the style in which they are displayed; for example, regular, italic, or bold. A graphic design piece can rely on typography alone but graphic elements are usually added to help support the design.

Graphic elements can be, but are not limited to, icons, logos, photos, shapes, or infographics. These elements are incorporated into branding materials such as sales collateral, webpages, forms and documents, videos, animations, or motion graphics.

How do you know what is considered good graphic design? Not all graphic designs qualify as good design. Good graphic design applies the elements and principles of design in an appealing composition that portrays an idea or message.

Paint Chips

The elements of design include:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Direction
  • Size
  • Texture
  • Color

The principles of design include:

  • Balance
  • Proximity (spacing between elements)
  • Alignment
  • Repetition
  • Contrast
  • Space

A strong and creative design should be supported by at least one of these elements and one of these principles. The elements and principles of design are parameters to aid in creating a refined, balanced, and eye-catching design.

Graphic Design Portfolio

A graphic design portfolio is a like a resume for designers. A designer should present work samples to potential clients so they can see his or her past performance. The best way to do this is with a graphic design portfolio.

A graphic design portfolio includes samples of graphic design projects such as logo designs, web designs, brand and style guides, or print campaigns. It shows the designer’s style, the mediums in which the designer has experience, team or individual projects, and so forth.

There are many platforms to use for viewing and researching graphic designers. A graphic design portfolio can be displayed digitally on the web or through print samples.

  • Digital designer work samples should be displayed on a personal webpage or through a portfolio website.
  • Print designers typically have a physical portfolio that contains high quality prints of previous work displayed on art boards.

Graphic design portfolios are equally as important as the work being presented. A well-groomed portfolio demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail. The portfolio website or physical samples need to be clean and straightforward. The portfolio’s main focus is to exhibit the quality of graphic design work. Displaying work is design in itself. A poorly designed portfolio reflects poorly on the graphic designer.

Graphic Design Services

Graphic design defines and presents a visual representation of a business or organization. Corporate branding and design, logo design, web design, and print design are some examples of graphic design services.

When choosing a graphic designer or graphic design service provider there are some important questions one should ask:

What is the purpose of the graphic?

Is this a logo, infographic, motion graphic assets, web design, general graphics for important documents or forms, sales collateral, or marketing material?

It is important to understand the reason for the graphics. By defining the graphic’s intent, clients will have a foundation for the parameters, style, and magnitude of the design.

Which medium will be used for the graphic design? 

Print or digital designs are the two primary design mediums, but there are different platforms within each. Print design involves creating brochures, flyers, banners, business cards, or signs – to name a few. Digital design includes web design, digital marketing materials, infographics, motion graphics, or animations, to name a few.

There are different factors to consider for each of these mediums because of the different platforms from which the design is displayed. Clients have to consider color theory, animation potential, small or large-scale displays, content, and interactivity.

What programs are needed?

This is an important factor because some programs allow the designer to work in a more efficient manner, which allows for a quicker turn around time.

Who is the audience?

 This is the determining factor for decisions in styling the design. How old is the audience? For which industry is this intended? Does the design need to be fun and playful or modern and polished?

Does the organization already have an established brand identity?

If there is an established brand or look for the business or organization, this must be taken into consideration during the design process. The designer would have to incorporate the pre-determined style set, which includes, but is not limited to, font, coloring, and overall quality of style.

Are there pre-determined graphics or ideas in mind?

If there are pre-established visuals or concepts, they must be factored into the graphic designer’s work. It is the designer’s task to polish and arrange the composition in a way that compliments and enhances existing design elements and principals while not losing the original vision.

Factoring in all these parameters will allow you to decide the amount of designing, the style of designs, the platform to design for, and the turn around time.

colored-pencils-179170_1920

Graphics

Graphics are one essential foundation of graphic design because they aid in visually representing information. Without graphics, there would be only typography; by adding graphics the design has a more interesting dynamic.

Although graphic design can be an umbrella term for many styles of design, there are some limitations. Graphics aren’t always categorized strictly as graphic design. Sometimes they are assets within an animation or video. When they are not strictly used to display information or the composition doesn’t completely depend on them, they are not considered graphic design.

Animation may contain some graphic design if the animation relies heavily on typography or graphics to create the composition. If the graphics are depicting a story or are reliant on the animation, then the graphics may not be considered a graphic design.

Graphic design is a part of the art realm, because it relies on visuals to portray information or ideas. The line may seem blurry as to what graphic design is or isn’t, but by following the definition and basic guidelines for establishing a graphic design composition, one can effectively categorize graphic design pieces.

ABOUT CATMEDIA:

CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Stay Connected with CATMEDIA:
For more information, please visit CATMEDIA.com
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Shelby Vecchio

About Shelby Vecchio

Shelby Vecchio is the Graphic Artist and Animator at CATMEDIA. Her background includes digital design, animation, and fine art. At the University of North Carolina, Shelby earned her B.A in New Media focusing in computer animation.

View all posts by Shelby Vecchio

Advertising, Branding, Computer Animation, Creative Services, Graphic Design

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

See All