Let’s all agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. They are an intricate and crucial connection between your audience and you. Personalized images that are created by you evoke interest in your audience and encourages them to share as well as engage with your brand.
But more often than not, most people get intimidated when asked to design a basic image. They believe that pro graphic designers can only create an eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing image.
And while that might be the case, there is no reason why you should not attempt to design a basic graphic design for your tweets, blog posts, app, website, etc.. If you have an idea of how you want the image to look and know that your design should have a professional, aesthetic feel to it, then you’ve already started the journey of designing your own graphic design.
Creating a graphic design by yourself ensures that you don’t have to ask a freelance designer or an in-house designer for simple basic designs. Still, wondering where to start?
Well, look no further. In this guide, we have encompassed everything you need to know about creating a basic graphic design.
Let’s kick off from the basics
From all the designing software available in the market, choose one, and master it.
Out of the many software alternatives that are on the market, Adobe software is the most popular and widely used. Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop are the three industry-standard applications that make creating as well as designing easier and quicker.
– Adobe Photoshop
It is the standard and most advanced application used in editing and image manipulation by graphic designers. Adobe Photoshop allows you to create, design, and enhance your images using unlimited layers, tools, and masks.
– Adobe InDesign
It is the most favored page layout and design software in the industry for print and digital mediums. Learning Adobe InDesign gives you a grip over typography, interactivity, and page layout. It makes it easier for you to manage your design elements and export your designs in any format.
– Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator is vector-based graphic design software that has become the industry standard for everyone, including the newcomers. It is majorly used to create logos, icons, and vector graphics for web, video, and print projects.
The software that you wish to learn depends on the types of projects you want to produce. Choosing software that you will most definitely use to create images that you can post on social media platforms is a great place to start.
Stock up on references
This one comes as no surprise. Getting inspired by designs that suit your taste, makes you a better designer. Build yourself a reference library to get your creative juices flowing by analyzing why it caught your eye.
Here are a few places you can head to get started on creating your own reference library:
Behance, also part of the Adobe family, is a social networking platform for creative professionals from various disciplines. It is a community created for like-minded people that are given a platform to showcase their talents and skills.
You can scan through different profiles and artworks that you can get inspired from and refer to while coming up with a graphic design idea for your brand.
Dribble is one of the most popular self-promoting and social networking platforms used by digital designers from across the world. The platform acts as an online portfolio for graphic designers that can easily share their work with the rest of the world from the same/similar field.
To get an understanding of how different designers interpret and perceive things differently, get on to Dribble. Use this understanding of the graphic design and various techniques will help you develop into a better designer and motivate you to come with creative graphic design ideas.
This platform needs no introduction. Pinterest is a global platform for artists and designers that add on to the platform’s vast database of inspirational artworks and designs. With over 175 million active users, you are sure to never run out of inspiration.
A lot of creatives across the globe use Instagram as a cataloged portfolio and a medium to network with other people from similar backgrounds. From 3D animators, motion graphic designers to typographers, painters, and illustrators, you can find a page about almost every creative niche.
Gathering references from various platforms will expose you to different styles, techniques, color palettes, etc. that will encourage you to experiment and play around with your graphic design ideas.
The 6 principles to design by
But just going through the references won’t cut the deal. To come up with a great design, you must follow the basic 6 principles that are applied by designers irrespective of whether they are designing a logo, brochure, a social media post, etc..
Knowing how to combine these principles together will help accentuate your design and help you achieve the desired results:
Let’s agree that shapes influence our everyday life. From the cross that denotes the first aid symbol to the octagonal-shaped STOP signs, the shape of these impact the manner in which we behave and interact with our immediate surroundings.
In graphic design, gentle, curved, and or sloped shapes have a more feminine appeal opposed to angular and sharp shapes have rigid, more forceful appeal. Having a basic understanding of shapes will help you choose your graphic design elements wisely and help you generate the desired impact.
Lines are one of the major principles that a graphic designer needs to master. They are what separates and creates borders. Using hand-drawn lines gives your design a more artistic appeal, whereas straight lines bring out a more corporate flair in your design.
Having lines creates a visual separation and also helps you transition from one thought to another without breaking the thought process. One of the trends that have been doing the rounds lately is segmenting content in large “blocked” areas.
Colors are universal languages. There is so much more to colors than the rainbow mix of shades found in a packet of M&Ms. Colors hold so many different meanings to people across the world, that, using the right color is of utmost importance.
Finding the right color balance is crucial so as to create a positive association between your brand and your consumers. Choose an appropriate color palette for your graphic design that makes the right perception in the viewer’s mind and encourages them to take the appropriate action.
Texture communicates a great deal of information even before the audience reads a word. It helps in creating an array of possibilities and to date remains a trendy fashion, especially on various websites.
They are the ideal choice to go with if you’re looking to create a lasting impression on your viewers. From background graphic designs like chalkboard and or paper to natural patterns like leaves and wood, there are a variety of textures available for you to choose from.
Space is an important principle that every designer should live by and follow. And one of the most important aspects of space is the usage of white space or negative space. White space or negative space is the area of a design that has no color or graphic elements.
Wondering why white space is important? It is because it provides a “breathing room” to your graphic design. It makes your design look clean, neat, and tidy. Learning to balance the negative space is important because having too much of it can make your elements seem disconnected and floating all over the place.
– Color Values
Color values being the last design principle is undoubtedly essential. What does a color’s value mean? Simply put, a color’s value implies the intensity of its darkness and lightness. For instance, a simple, plain orange color is seen as a color of confidence, warmth, and friendliness. But a lighter shade of it, let’s say peach, gives out a comforting, feminine vibe.
Whereas, a darkening a color can make it seem corporate or professional and further darkening it can make your brand feel unapproachable as well as apprehensive. For example, dark blue and grey though seem “safe”, can make your brand look uncaring and cold.
Though these 6 principles are a lot to keep in mind, having a general understanding of how these principles affect your design and knowing how you want your design to be visually perceived can help you decide which graphic design idea suits best for your brand.
5 Rules of design composition and layout
Now that you have a clear idea of what the 6 major principles of graphic design are let’s take a look at the 5 rules of design composition and layout that every graphic designer should follow.
Design composition and layout are a part of the final step of designing. Once you’ve got your graphic elements and principles together to make the graphic design, use design composition and layout to provide a definitive structure to your design.
Here are 5 rules to follow when providing a structure to your design:
– Scale and emphasis
Use scale and emphasis to communicate your message effectively to your audience. Scale and emphasis help you to highlight important aspects of your message that will catch the attention of your audience.
To help you with scale and emphasis, make sure that you know the focal point of your design so that you can structure it in a way that it guides the eyes of your audience in that direction. Scale and emphasis help in building an organic hierarchy in your graphic design that makes it easier for the audience to follow.
Grids are no brainers. Why are they important? Because they aid in making your design look more adaptable, cleaner, and easy to understand. It has become the industry-norm for designers across spectrums.
And one of the major reasons for using grids is that it not only brings organization to your design but also they bring organization in your creative process as well. Building a strong grid around the images, colors, texts, etc. will make your design feel interconnected and relatable. And having a basic grid idea will give newcomers a roadmap to work on.
– Rule of thirds
The Rule of thirds is the most simple and effective rule to follow. Its a cheat code that is a fundamental guideline for any graphic designer. It simply means to divide your page into three columns and three rows.
This is a must-follow for those struggling with finding the right balance while placing their elements and subject on the page. The most straightforward rule to follow is to place your main subject matter and supporting elements where horizontal and vertical lines intersect. These intersections form a basic guideline that helps in organizing your graphic design better.
– Rule of odds
Rule of Odds is the thumb of rule that all newcomers, as well as experienced graphic designers, should follow. It means that any aesthetically pleasing compositions have an odd number of elements placed in the foreground.
Usually, there are three elements, where two of them are placed in such a way that they balance the focal object, creating a natural balance between all three of them. Following this rule will make sure that there are not too many elements on the page and that all of the elements are focused towards the main subject point.
Just like everything in life needs to be balanced, graphic design is no different. Play around with the various graphic elements of your design to find perfect harmony. For instance, try using a combination of large type elements along with smaller sized type to give a general direction to the readers.
And with regards to composition, finding the right balance between positive and negative space is of utmost importance. As a creator, you need to make sure that every element you have included in your design, has breathing space. Also, keep in mind not to tip the balance of the design by cloistering all the elements towards one side of the grid.
The above rules are merely an outline of the various ways a pro graphic designer shapes his/her composition to have the desired impact on the audience. Once you’ve got the hang of it, don’t be afraid to break and bend the rules to fit your ideal design. But before you do that, get an understanding of these rules by executing them in your designs to improve them and further strengthen it.
3 areas to focus while creating a graphic design
Learning the key principles and the rules only cover up two-third of the basic knowledge that a newbie needs to grasp. The remaining one-third of knowledge is knowing about the 3 major areas to focus on while designing a graphic design.
These 3 areas can either transform your design into a piece of art or can ruin it completely. It is vital to learn about them since they play a crucial role in conveying the message effectively and efficiently.
So, let’s dive right into these 3 areas of focus that separates a good designer from an amazing one:
Priority is one of the most important areas to focus on as it has a lot to do with user experience, and the lack of it can mislead and confuse the viewers. To begin with, there are three main levels of priority to look at:
- Primary level: which includes the headline and or the call to action in every graphic design.
- Secondary level: which includes graphic elements, images, type, etc. that are needed to highlight the message and or help the viewers navigate through the design.
- Tertiary level: which includes elements that design can exist without. They do not necessarily need to be added. For instance, if your design is looking clustered, the elements you choose to drop off belong in the tertiary level.
Prioritizing the different elements of your graphic design will make your design look neat and organized but will also help you get a clear understanding of what all elements are utmost important and what can be easily disregarded. Having this understanding is essential since it allows you to focus on the message rather than drifting away from it.
This one comes as a no brainer. Contrast is something that every designer, as well as a non-designer, knows about. But though it is something that everyone knows about, more often than not, it gets overlooked and is taken for granted. It can be added in design through various principles such as typography, color, and texture.
Using enough contrast between your elements makes sure that some of them stand out more prominently than others. For instance, if you want to show a distinct difference between your elements, then you should keep the contrast high amongst them, but if you want to blend your elements together, then you can go ahead and keep minimum contrast between them.
This one might come as a surprise as it is often not spoken about but unconsciously done in every good graphic design. Rhythm is nothing but the part that makes the human eye transit from one element to the other, without losing context.
There are two different types of rhythm:
To help you understand what a fluid rhythm is, think of it as the movement of water but with a lot of variation in it. Similarly, fluid design is a smooth movement of the eye with a lot of variations added to it, to make it appealing and interesting for the audience to follow.
The progressive rhythm is much more sequenced compared to fluid rhythm. In this, the graphic designer places the elements such as type, in such a way that the design itself dictates how the eyes of the viewers should move between elements.
Now it might seem pretty challenging to follow, but once you start designing and get control of the various elements, a rhythm on its own will develop without you having to focus too heavily on it.
Mastering these 3 areas will help you become a better designer, and after a lot of practice, you might not even have to think about them as they will come naturally to you.
Copying and replicating are part of the process
After mastering the software, building a reference library, understanding the 6 principles, and implementing the 5 rules, it’s time to copy and replicate great pieces of work that have inspired you.
Now you must be thinking, how does copying help creativity? Well, it definitely does not help improve your creativity, but what it does do is help you be a better designer. How you ask, well, the answer is simple. Instead of just taking a single design idea will get you nowhere, but taking ideas from various pieces and then tweaking them will help you practice as well as encourage a gradual development of your own unique style.
These first few pieces should definitely not be presented as your own, but once you get the hang of it and have developed your own unique style, you can come up with fresh, new graphic design ideas to create for your brand.
To put it simply, when you get a proper understanding of the creative process behind the graphic design, you can go ahead and recreate anything using your own style. And if you like what you see, then you can take it up a notch by using more filters and layers to give it a professional look.
Once you’ve reached a stagnant point in designing, its time to start asking what others have to say regarding your graphic designing skills, so go ahead and ask for feedback.
It can be quite a challenge to ask for feedback, especially when you’re starting out. And designing as we know, it is a subjective concept. But one of the best ways to improve is to know what works for the viewers and what doesn’t. Go ahead and ask people questions like “What do you think about this?” , “How can I improve this?” or “Does this resonate with you?”. Getting answers to these questions may help you get a new perspective on what you’re designing and whether you’re creating relatable content.
Being open to negative criticism will help you improve your designing skills. Don’t try to be too defensive or try hard to justify your work.
As a graphic designer, you have the opportunity to dismiss or disregard any feedback that is given to you. But before you do that, take a moment and think as to why such a comment was made and if there might be a little truth in what they’re saying. Take the feedback into consideration and learn from it.
Remember, that looking back at your designs with a fresh perspective can help you come up with even better graphic design ideas that are more effective and efficient. Let your work do the talking, and you will see yourself improve as a graphic designer.
Keep in mind that every graphic designer was a beginner once upon a time. Even though some of them had an inborn artistic ability, others have had to develop it over time with practice and trial and error.
Having learnt so much can be quite overwhelming. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, since most of it are things you already know about and this guide is just a means to further emphasize on your existing knowledge.
Having a basic understanding of the different areas, principles, rules, etc. playing together on the blank canvas is just the beginning. With the availability of resources online and offline, the task of creating an interactive graphic design has become more comfortable and quicker.
So what are you waiting for? Turn on your device and get your creative juices flowing!