But the truth is, creating a good graphic design takes talent, skill and sometimes software in order to get it looking the way you want, which is why many people outsource the job to a professional designer.
So, whether you’re looking to up your own design skills, or want to assess someone else's before you pay for their services, here are the eight key elements of a good graphic design…
Line is the starting point of any design, which makes it the most important element of a good one. In graphic design, lines are used for various reasons, including connecting points, directing the eye, dividing space, placing emphasis and creating texture.
The type of lines used in graphic designs can also vary in attributes such as thickness, direction and texture. For example, lines can be thick, fine, rough, smooth, horizontal, vertical or diagonal, curved, straight, continuous, dashed or dotted.
A skillful graphic designer will be able to seamlessly integrate lines into their designs to create a coherent completed graphic.
Shapes are also a pivotal part of a good graphic design. Shape refers to any distinct object, outline, form or figure present in a design.
To the average eye, shapes aren’t given too much thought as they are something we see constantly. But to a graphic designer, use of the right shapes is what ensures they convey the right message.
Shapes can be mechanical, which includes geometric forms that have solid edges. These are often used to create order in graphic designs.
Shapes can also be organic, which refers to aspects with curved edges and irregular angles. These denote a feeling of freedom and are often more expressive. More recently, there has been a trend towards graphic designs that look as though they have been drawn free-hand and these commonly use organic shapes to create a more natural, realistic feel.
And lastly, shapes can be abstract. In graphic design, these are typically symbols that are widely used and understood, and consequently, are able to clearly communicate the right message. An example of an abstract shape might be a letter outline, which we often see symbolising email messages.
The colours used in a graphic design are also important. The colours set the mood of the piece and in the case of business or branding designs, they play a key role in ensuring consistency with the brand.
In order to create cohesion and a professional look, a palette for branding and logo graphic designs should consist of no more than five colours (including shades).
But choice of colour in graphic design isn’t just about creating consistency. In fact, there is a whole science behind a designer’s use of colour.
Colour psychology is all about understanding how different colours evoke certain emotions and create specific reactions amongst their audience. For example, greens are often used to create a calming mood whereas red is used to represent passion or excitement.
However, the interpretation of colour is largely subjective. What may evoke a positive reaction in one individual may have the opposite effect on another.
A good graphic designer will be able to use this knowledge to inform the choice of colour in their designs, ensuring they align with the purpose of the piece and the preferences of the intended audience.
Within colour, aspects such as use of hue, tints, tones, shades and intensities also need to be considered, as well as types of colours, including primary, secondary and tertiary. These will help add detail and professionalism to designs, setting great graphics apart from good ones.
Although another aspect of colour use, value is incredibly important in creating depth and dimension in graphic designs.
Fundamentally, value is the scale of light to dark of any colour. When white is added, shades tend to lighten, whereas when black is added, they darken.
Without value ranges, graphic designs can look incredibly flat and often, unprofessional. But when value is added, shapes are given form and spatial illusions can be created. This will also help chosen aspects of a design to stand out and be given a greater sense of importance.
In graphic design, form refers to the size and dimension of shapes. Usually, this would combine shapes, colour and value in order to create either 2D or 3D forms in the design.
Use of form can elevate the impact of a graphic design by taking something that might be flat and lifeless and transforming it into something more realistic and meaningful.
Creating texture in graphic design is something that takes an incredible amount of skill. But if executed well, there is potential to take designs to new levels of success in terms of evoking a response or communicating the desired message.
Texture refers to the surface of an object in a graphic design. It is used to add depth and visual interest to standard designs.
Texture can be created in designs in two different ways. Firstly, it can be applied graphically through shape, colour, value and line, giving flat, 2D graphics a feel.
Textures can include everything from smooth, rough, fluffy, soft, hard and more. For example, through use of fine line strokes in specific directions and careful use of colour, a skillful graphic designer will be able to create a fabric-like illusion.
White / negative space
Use of space can be applied to graphic designs in a number of ways. Firstly, there is the balance between white or negative and positive space. While traditionally, white space would be minimised, modern designs take an opposite approach. More white space simply means placing greater emphasis on the subject of the piece, separating it from unnecessary clutter and noise.
It also increases readability, enhances user experience and adds elegance and sophistication to a design. If you think of the branding of some of the most successful companies, take Apple or Google for exemple, you can really see the impact of a less is more approach.
But white space doesn’t have to be white. It can also be in the form of another consistent colour, pattern, image or texture.
Next, is using space to order elements of a design. This might mean using space between shapes to create separation, or overlapping elements to create 3D illusions.
Ultimately, the use of space can play a vital role in visual communication for the audience’s comprehension of a graphic design. It enables content to be organised so they can take in different parts of a message in turn or all at once. A professional graphic designer will understand how to manipulate and leverage space in their designs to create the desired effect.
No matter whether a graphic design contains a single letter, word or sentences, typography plays a vital role in ensuring this content is communicated in the most effective way.
Typography involves various considerations. These include font, size and spacing. While fonts help express the style of a piece or characteristics of a brand, the size and spacing ensure a design is fit for purpose through readability and aesthetic appeal.
Designers shouldn’t feel confined by the structure of existing fonts. Instead, a skillful graphic designer should be able to develop and tweak fonts to add uniqueness and create the intended impact.
So, now you know the basics of good graphic designs, you can get a feel for them in action by browsing our portfolio.
Are you looking for a professional graphic design service to take your business or brand to new heights? Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.