After an incredibly insightful conversation with David’s Design yesterday, we thought a post from them would be nice😊
This post gives more depth to the elements of design
Every great building starts with a firm, strong foundation on which every block is built upon. With design, the building blocks are the elements. See them as the water, air, fire and wind — your mastery of their use makes you good.
As this isn’t a class manual or lecture note, I’d only scratch the surface. If that’s okay…
Let’s jump right in.
The elements aren’t the software you use but the things that make up your visual composition—shapes, lines, space, mass (size), colour and texture. How you put these elements to use is what is called the principles.
Shapes are categorised into geometric, organic and abstract. Geometric shapes are regular shapes that have an expected structure and symmetry—they have order.
Organic shapes are irregular and pleasing to the eyes, they are freeform and can be spontaneous. Abstract shapes look real but are not real.
Types of shapes
Circles, rectangles/squares and triangles are a few of them—the major ones really. They bring/add meaning or feels to your design.
Circles can indicate free form movement, safety, community, connection, femininity. They can also be used to make emphasis as they are not commonly used.
Rectangles/squares are masculine and mathematical and can signify stability, order, strength. They can be a bit boring though and thus the trend now is to use more of circles, but hey, trends come and go.
Triangles may be stable (when standing on its base) or unstable (when standing on its apex) and can signify progression, be used to give direction or purpose.
Spirals can be used to connote creativity, and also to give a sense of growth and evolution. Spirals in clockwise direction typify projection of intention. When in the opposite direction (anticlockwise) it represents fulfilment of intention.
Crosses represent nature, self, wisdom, spirituality. It can also be used to show the relationship between things. The Microsoft logo is an example of this.
In general, shapes are used to sustain interest, organize objects, portray depth, and also to direct flow.
Lines have length and width, but no depth and can be thin, thick, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, and so on. Each has a different feel.
Thick lines are bold and strong.
Thin lines are elegant and can be fragile.
Horizontal lines don’t depict motion, they are at rest and are associated with earth bound things.
Vertical lines can signify growth, dignity, they appear to be able to fall over, and so carry more potential energy than horizontal lines.
Diagonal lines are unbalanced and have kinetic energy, they convey action or motion.
Curved lines aren’t as predictable as the lines already mentioned but they can be calming and fluid.
Zig zag lines portray high energy, confusion, nervousness, danger.
The way in which the lines are used also matter.
Uniform/solid lines are stable and orderly. Lines with equal thickness can be used to depict thickness and those of unequal thickness can be used to portray randomness.
Lines are used to organise, connect and separate information, and design elements essentially. They can be used to provide emphasis, define shape, convey movement, create texture.
Spaces are needed in design as they give people viewing them room to breathe. They are also used for aesthetics.
This refers to the characteristics of a surface that can be tactile as well as visual. This is commonly used as backgrounds.
This basically deals with actually dimensions of the piece—the physical mass (size). The bigger, the heavier.
This is really relative and culture affects it a lot. Regardless, it’s important to note that good design works in the absence of colour. Colour should enhance your design and not give it life—your design shouldn’t be dead without colour. I won’t go on to giving meanings of colours, that’s a whole study on its own, but note that colour can be used to create contrast, to make an element(s) subtle or loud, to catch attention and it is the most important part of your design. In as much as colours should not bring your design to life, they shouldn’t murder it either. Colours not gotten right can make a design be like eating over salted food—it’s just not palatable. An unappealing design won’t be viewed, won’t reach its target audience, won’t convey any information conveyed and as such, no design was made!
Typography—the application of text in your design—is the last area I’d touch. This is a stand alone topic and I won’t attempt to start on it. This I’d say though: complement your fonts well and never use more than 3 fonts (which is borderline much) on a design. 2 is enough! Care about fonts. Don’t abuse them. They are very dear to my heart. Endeavour to make your fonts uniform—don’t use different fonts for the same project. Build your visual brand.
Graphic design is thinking made visible – Saul Bass
This is where I put my fingers to rest and end this piece gracefully.
Always remember and graphic design is thinking made visible. Feel free to comment and ask questions. So, let’s call it a read. Thank you and keep thinking design.
Thank you, guys!
Images courtesy of Shaw Academy
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