The last lesson provided an overview of graphic design and its history. Graphic design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books. As we know, this is a very basic definition of graphic design, meant only to give us a starting point. For a more detailed description of graphic design please read An Introduction To Graphic Design: Part 1. Graphic design has three core components: layout, typography, and color. This lesson will focus on layout and composition. Layout consists of balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast and white space. These concepts work together to create the graphic design projects you see daily. Layout and composition are the foundation of any design project, and understanding the relationship between the vocabulary associated with layout and composition will make learning concepts of typography and color less difficult.
Balance is the visual weighting of the objects on a page. There are three types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial. Symmetrical balance places objects with equal spacing on the page. Asymmetrical balance gives the illusion of equality, but one side of the page has more weight than the other side of the page. In radial balance, objects start small at a center point on the page and gradually get larger. This also gives the illusion of equality throughout the page. The poster below has both asymmetrical and radial balance. The words “summer festival” are placed in the center of the page foregrounding a circle. The circle contains lines and colors that radiate from it’s center point to the edges of the poster. The splashes of color used to compose the background are evenly distributed; giving the illusion that they splashed directly off the circle’s center point. The website at the top of the poster and the information placed at the bottom of the poster are not symmetrically distributed evenly from the center of the primary circle. The text appears to have an even distribution, but if you look closely you’ll notice that there is more empty space between the website text at the top of the poster and the circle. This type of symmetry allows for a visual break. Without this visual break, the poster may become cluttered and difficult to understand.
In addition to the asymmetrical and radial balance the poster above also demonstrates great proximity. Proximity is the grouping of objects on a page and their spacing as it relates to the layout. Different projects will require different object proximity. Most websites have a very large banner at the top of the webpage along with text links to navigate the site. These objects are in close proximity to one another. On the title page of a book, the title may appear at the top of the page while the author’s name appears at the bottom of the page. This is a farther proximity. In conjunction with proximity, alignment also determines the grouping of objects on a page. Alignment is simply keeping grouped objects on a line in the same plane or area of the page. Designers often use a grid system to insure page objects are perfectly aligned and spaced consistently. Most graphics software has a grid system included with the application. If a grid system in an application is not available, grid paper, a ruler and a writing utensil work well for this task. Misaligning objects can be very jarring and disruptive to a viewer. It can give the impression of carelessness or unprofessionalism. Using a grid system is not only highly recommended for consistency, but it also aids in the refinement and duplication of a project.
Repetition in graphic design creates a design rhythm and gives each project a consistent look. Many brands create repetition by placing their logo in a similar spot on all their products. Repetition can also be created by using a similar color scheme, font, or type of graphical style when designing multiple products for a business. A great example of this is the company logo and theme that usually appear on professional letterhead, business cards, and signs sent out for distribution by a company. In the image below, the branding is consistent throughout each type of stationary. The logo is placed in a similar location on each item. the color scheme is the same, and there is an overall feeling of unity throughout the entire image. Contrast works well with repetition because it creates distinction by highlighting differences throughout the layout. Using different font styles and colors is a common way to create contrast to point out an important feature of a page. In the electro music poster, the word “electro” has been given a lot of contrast through the use of a very vibrant background. Because the majority of the poster is white, the extreme pop of colors really stand out. The poster also makes great use of white space. White space can be described as minimalism, or quite simply the art of nothing. White space uses the empty space on a page as a design element. The white space used in the poster balances the extreme colors surrounding the word “electro”.
All projects start with the layout and composition. This gives the project its structure, and determines which concepts work well together to obtain the desired result. In the next lesson, we’ll cover typography and its concepts and role in graphic design.