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10 Unspoken Graphic Design Rules You Shouldn’t Break

March 20, 2020, by


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Graphic design is everywhere. Not many people realize it, but even the most mundane things, like your coffee mug, has been through a graphic designer. The main purpose of graphic design is to communicate.

While many people think that being a graphic designer is a fun job (you get to play with colors and stuff), it’s no small feat. Your primary role is to send your clients’ messages across. If you’re not doing that, it’s a lost cause. Penji has highly-trained graphic designers to help you create all the design requirements you’ll need with our unlimited graphic design services.

Here are the golden rules of graphic design that aspiring designers and entrepreneurs alike should know about:

Contrast

apple ad

Contrast is a crucial principle in art and design. It means having two elements of the design shown in opposite ways. Long and short, dark and light, rough and smooth. Contrast is what creates a focal point as it helps draw the eyes to what’s essential.

This example from Apple’s MacBook shows us the excellent use of contrast in its design. It only uses black and white, but the overall design is so robust, the addition of color may have made it less impactful.

Hierarchy

australia zoo ad

Hierarchy is arranging your images, texts, and other design components in order of importance. Establishing a purposeful hierarchy in your projects allows you to emphasize what matters the most in your design. It draws the viewer’s eyes to what you want them to notice first.

Australia Zoo released this ad and is a perfect example of showing hierarchy in the design. The first thing you’ll notice upon looking at is are the words As Wild As Life Gets, then your attention will focus on the animals, then down to the logo at the bottom right corner.

Typography

mcdonalds ad

Rarely will you see an ad or a design that only has images or photographs in them. To convey your message clearly, you need texts to do it. And it isn’t as simple as choosing a font that looks good. It has to be legible to get your message across. Use different font types for a heading, subheading, and others. A golden rule is to not use more than three at a time to avoid confusion.

This ad for McDonald’s McFlurry is beautifully done using images and only a handful of font types. It makes your mouth water with its readability and clarity. Seeing this makes you want to go out and grab one!

Color

nike ad

Some ads look good in black and white, but that alone wouldn’t work. Color is around us, and we need it to make things look amazing. Use color sparingly in your designs. Avoid light and light, or color combinations that can sting the eyes.

Get inspired by these Facebook ads from Nike. The colors they used looks appealing and eye-catching. Remember, you don’t have to use too many colors to grab attention. As always, less is more.

Space

zara ad

Another good rule to keep in mind is the use of white space in your designs. Any unnecessary elements have no place in your design. They just clutter and make it look crowded. These spaces, whether white or negative space, bring the reader’s focus on what’s essential in your message.

Zara perfectly captures the attention to the model in this ad with white space all around it. And with the word SALE emblazoned on the top part, the effect is impressive.

Balance

logos

An organized design makes for coherence. A design that has balance creates harmony and stability as opposed to one that’s confusing and chaotic. Even distribution and spacing allows for a professional and polished look on your designs.

To show you an example of the right balance in design, take a look at these logos from Chanel, Starbucks, Airbnb, and Target. They’re some of the most famous logos all over the world, and their designs are inspiring.

Proximity

black & blaze ad

This graphic design rule is an excellent way to create a connection between related or similar elements. It adds value to your design by using these simple design tips. Remember, things that look similar should be grouped while those unrelated should be kept apart from each other.

This Black&Blaze is a superb example of creating proximity in design. The coffee cup is grouped with the on and off words similar to a switch. Meanwhile, the logo and details are arranged far down the layout.

Consistency

heineken ad

Heineken is consistent in all their ads. They use their color in every one of them that once you see it, you’ll instantly know it’s from them. Being consistent in your design means having the same design elements such as color or fonts. This is for your target audience to recognize you, whether they’re on your website or looking at your billboard.

Alignment

avianca ad

One of the golden rules of graphic design is using alignment. Organization and order are of high importance, especially when, but not limited to, placing texts. Randomly doing so will result in disorder and clutter, which can make your viewers turn their attention elsewhere.

In this example from Avianca, the coffee cups are aligned in a straight line to send the message of travel. From a man pulling his luggage to an airborne plane to the same guy in a meeting. Traveling with the comfort of having his favorite beverage.

Repetition

coke aiga and world health day ads

Repetition or using a pattern is one of the most fundamental graphic design rules. This is an element used multiple times throughout the design to add consistency and unity. It can be regular or irregular, anything to create a pattern that brings interest to the design.

These examples from Coca-Cola, Aiga, and World Earth Day show exactly how repetition equals excellent graphic design. The repetitive elements bring consistency and harmony in the design.

Final Thoughts

As a designer, these golden rules of graphic design should be evident in all your work to create effective artworks. For business owners, knowing these design tips can help you get more from the graphic design you pay for. They are general rules but can always be open for breaking them depending on what message you want to relay to your audiences.

About the author

Cel is a traditional animator for over than 15 years. She is also a Fine Arts Graduate who majored in Advertising and is now a Content Writer.

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