Welcome to the final instalment of our introduction to the basics of graphic design.
In this last part, we’ll complete our demystification of the workings of design by taking you back to the building blocks of the whole thing: the elements of design. These will be things you recognise, things you may think obvious, but understanding the how is essential for this crazy thing to work.
Yep, line. How complicated can a line be? As straightforward as making a mark and dragging it from point A to point B, right?
Well, yes. But how thick is your line? What direction is it going? How straight is it? All of these questions will need answers when you go to put a line in an empty space.
Line weight is an essential choice to make early on. Too thick risks distracting from the point you’re trying to draw attention to, too thin risks getting lost and looking weak (Fig. A).
Direction has a great effect on the purpose of the line. Lines running horizontally or vertically can denote stability or aspiration, while placing lines at oblique angles adds a dynamic element to your design (Fig. B).
Similar to direction, the curve (or lack of) can have affects that impact your line. Straight lines show consistent, stable approaches; curve lines can be used in a more fluid, organic context. This enhances their basic purpose, which is a means to connect two related points, or direct attention (see principle 3: movement, in part 1 of the series) (Fig. C).
The rules for line are largely applicable here too; geometric shapes with straight edges are useful when you want to present a stable, organised concept. This is common in presentations demonstrating certainty and decisiveness. Organic shapes (those made up of flowing lines and irregular sizing) can be used to show flow, flexibility and personality that purely geometric shapes might lack (Fig.D).
The final element we’re going to cover here is color. Color is arguably the most significant aspect of design there is, and the psychological theory behind it is far too broad a subject to cover here. The top level view is this – our brain is hardwired to use color as the trigger for an emotional response. In design, we use this connection to steer the audience toward the emotional state we wish to create and the environment we work in. Want to be seen as trustworthy? Use blue tones. Edgy and new? Steer towards the red. (Fig. E)
Beyond that, you can start experimenting with colour intensity and vibrancy. Once you know your color, playing around with the saturation or value (lightness / darkness) can help add or remove emphasis and spatial focus (Fig. F).
Hopefully this series has given you some insight into how the basic tools of design can be used to help get your message across to your audience. Not such a mysterious beast when you get to see behind the curtain! All of these points can be used by themselves to add a bit of a lift and intension to your presentation.