5 Minutes To: Laying out Killer Graphics

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“Design brings content into focus; design makes function visible”

Jennifer Morla, Graphic Designer

In essence, graphic design is all about how you communicate your message to your target audience/buyer persona at the right time, using an appropriate layout of visual content! In this week’s 5 Minutes To, we’ll take a look at the top 5 principles for laying out killer graphics and captivating your audience in style! 

Balance

The main branches of balance in graphic design are symmetry, radial and asymmetry. These are used to create a sense of order and structure through evenly weighted lines, shapes and overall asset distribution. In the restaurant poster below, you can see the three coloured stripes in the middle create a symmetric guide (green) for the arrangement of the food images below. 

When it comes to text elements, use whitespace to draw attention to the parts of your design that really matter! In the same example below, the pink lines show where the eye is drawn to when looking for information. The room outside of those text areas provides breathing space, which can help your design to feel better composed, and easy to take in and understand.

Alignment

Alignment refers to how text and images are lined up on your canvas. Getting this right is important, as it can mean that your design comes across a cluttered mess. Start by deciding where you want to display your written information, and choose whether to align or creatively misalign it.

You can also refer to the rule of thirds. Simply put, this is a grid overlay you can throw on top of your design to help identify whether the information or images you want to be the focus are in the correct space to catch your audience’s eyes. For example, in the magazine cover below, the text is displayed on either side of the model. Even though text might be differently sized, the alignment of each side improves readability for your viewer, while helping the model in the middle to stand out, as she is centrally positioned.

Visual Hierarchy

A visual hierarchy is where you distinguish the focus of your creative piece, and from there guide the viewer around your canvas. This gives you creative control over how you convey your message, and displays the chronological order of your visual story. In some cases, this may be done by basing your graphic around a large image, then wrapping text around it.

Many adverts use the power of visual hierarchy to make sure you don’t miss the most important message they want to send, or to draw attention to the image that says the message for them. Consider this advert for a sound bath class. The logo at the top is clearly the main focus, and then your eyes are drawn in a  mostly anti-clockwise direction around the page. Using visual hierarchy mean that, even though there’s lots to take in, your brand ethos will still be communicated.

Repetition

Repetition is used to bring a sense of unity to your creative composition. You can either do this by using a repeated pattern across your designs or, more commonly, through implementing a consistent theme. Looking at this product packaging example below: it is clear the splashes of paint have been used to keep a consistent theme across their items.

As you can see, repetition doesn’t mean you have to repeat the exact same design, rather it is a method of carrying a brands essence across different mediums to ensure a sense of connection between your designs. It is also helpful to note that repetition can occur in your written information too, for example in a sale, you would want to repeat a timed offer message to reinforce its importance. 

Contrasting elements

Contrast in design is used to bring your audience visual delight while enhancing the focus of your canvas. Contrasting elements such as colour, typography, shape and text can bring depth and organisation to your work – when used properly. It is also important not to overuse contrast, as with salt, too much can be overwhelming and too little causes a loss in taste! Also remember that the bigger the difference between your visual assets, the easier it becomes to compare and understand the designed piece as a whole.

Imagery can also gain a massive visual boost from different levels of contrast, as shown in the example below. This Nike advert created by Allan Jabbar uses an amazing dark to neon light level of contrast to really bring out the shoe from the background; enhanced by some neon light strobes to further create depth! 

Now that you’re armed with a set of powerful tools to sharpen up your graphic design game, go out into the world of design and shake it up! Remember these are useful tools and not hardened rules, to help you make sure you get the most out of your creative assets. There’s always a benefit in thinking outside the box!