Design Composition: Top 10 Elements of Graphic Design

graphic design layout

Planning and arranging can be quite a task if you move into a new home. Nobody likes to live among boxes. We start thinking about placing the things in the right place to lit up our mood. How is this illustration related to designing? In your home, the way you style your space dramatically influences your mood and emotion. Similarly, the right elements help in creating a captivating design. So, what exactly is composition?

graphic design composition
Credit: El and El Wood Products

Well, the composition is well arranged, distributed, aligned, and compiled design that is visually appealing but is also highly professional. In this post, you’ll run over a few tips that will help you master composition.

  • Know what you are focusing on: Have you seen a photographer adjusting the focus of the lens? Why is it needed? You get what you focus on. In designing, good composition enhances and sharpens the subject; leading viewers’ eyes naturally to keep staring at it. When choosing the subject as your focal point, make it clear what you want to convey. Your design tells a unique story that is backed with emotions. You may have a good story idea, but without focus, you’ll fall apart. So be sure of what you consider as a subject.
good layout design
  • Use leading lines for directing: Once attracted to a certain part of the design, where do you see it next? You see where your eyes navigate. Similarly, after grabbing the attention of your viewers, use specific shapes and symbols to control the viewpoint of the subject. Bold lines guide the eyes to focus on the subject better. Leading lines are not prominent. You can subtly use them using your design elements.
  • Create a visual hierarchy: Where you want to lead your viewers depends on your visual hierarchy. The way you arrange the elements explains your order of importance. You might take one aspect more significant than the other. To understand this better, have you seen how newspapers have bold fonts for the headline? Strong typography, draws attention and indicates the nature of the content.
  • Strike a balance: Balance in design is much like life. In composition, you would adjust the placement of elements to create balance in the design. Lack of balance can impact your visual weight. You create this visual compatibility in 4 ways: 
    Symmetric balance: As the name suggests, the design is well balanced – top to bottom and left to right. To some extent, it gives a sense of perfect composition, but it cannot create a lasting impression.
    Asymmetric balance: The name itself is self-explanatory. Well, here, a bit of tension and movement is involved. You can see with your own eyes how one element of the design overweigh the other. This type of design opens space for interpretation. They don’t have to perceive the design as it is unlike the latter.
    Off-balance: Nothing special about this design but you make the viewer uncomfortable and think. The off-balance design suggests motion and action. This is also called discordant.
    Radial balance: Imagine it as pieces of pizza or pie. You can see the work of design in it – splitting from one central point and radiating outward. While designing, you carefully arrange your elements around a central point. The repetition of the same element within the design creates unity.
layout design rules
  • Complement each other: Individual elements of your design have a unique role but together they complete each other. For example, some colors can only go well with a specific color. In the context of design, see if your elements look compelling and cohesive when clubbed together.
  • Create Contrast: What fun it would be without contrast? Acknowledge it as you won’t regret it later. You can use it when there are two or more different elements in your design. The more the difference, the higher they are easy to compare. You can increase/decrease the contrast to highlight the focal point.
  • Be Consistent: Will you like to read a product catalog with different font types each time? Does it confuse you? Being consistent means to create uniformity and build clarity. It makes a successful composition. If the viewer finds your work in a new way every time, he/she will get frustrated or even confused. By setting uniformity, you give the viewers the room to experience more of it. This keeps the brand alive in their mind too.
graphic composition
  • White space matters: Don’t get fooled by its literal meaning. Contrary to the name, this area is within a design free from the text, images, or embellishments. You can use this space to create a grouping, add emphasis, and improve legibility. While you are scaling up your elements, you don’t fill up every space with content. Do it only when there’s a need.
  • Alignment: Why is it easy to read a newspaper? If the block of texts and images are cluttered, will it be easy to read? In composition, alignment helps in arranging elements. When you are creating a heavy graphic design, it’s not about dumping it on the page and wrapping up. You have to drag the components and snap them into the place. An irregular shape text-wrap makes it hard for the viewers. There are four ways of aligning – left, right, center, and justified.
graphic design guidelines
  • The rule of thirds: It’s the fundamental technique of composition where you divide the design into 3 rows and 2 columns. At the point of intersection is where your focal point. Abiding by this rule, you can crop out unwanted areas during the post-processing. A tighter the crop gives a better view of the composition. Can you break this rule? Yes, when you are fully aware of it, you can do it mentally without grids. Use it as a roadmap to place your design elements systematically.

That being said, the visual composition is not rocket science. It is based on what you see and how you represent it. A well-composed design evokes emotions that are subjective to your viewers.

graphic design layout ideas

Next time you start designing, you won’t be eyeballing the placements. Unlike the new tenant who doesn’t know where to place what, you have successfully unboxed composition. Make your viewer see exactly what you want them to see. Use all the elements of composition – emphasis, balance, contrast, direction, and proximity to enhance your sale.

August 24, 2020
10 min read
5 reads

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