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Simple rules for solid design

Graphics | January 1, 2008 | By:

Solid graphic design can get you noticed.

Have you ever wondered why one advertisement is better than another? Why does one design grab your attention first?

Good graphic design makes the difference. It enhances, simplifies, and clarifies a message while supporting an idea or product. Good design is so seamless you don’t even know it’s there. It can inspire and change your way of thinking and help you see something old in a new way.

How do you get that kind of good design? Here are some elements designers use to create good design.

Hierarchy. What is the most important idea? The answer to that question will tell you which element should be the largest, have the most emphasis, or get primary attention. All elements should not be equal. You will want to identify the most important element before you begin a design. Other elements should support the main element. You might want to identify the hierarchy of all elements that will be in the design before you begin. HIERARCHY: The order of importance can draw your eye to the most important element first.

Contrast. Contrast can also show what is most important in a design. It occurs when two elements are different. Contrast can be shown using different sizes, values, colors, and type treatments. Contrast directs the eye and makes a design more visually interesting. The key to working with contrast is making sure the differences are obvious. CONTRAST: Different colors or sizes can direct the eye and bring interest to a design.

White space. White space can provide contrast. Empty space is as important as space filled with type and graphics. Positive or negative space can draw the eye. One small word in the center of a large white space can be more noticeable than a page of big, bold type. WHITE SPACE: This uses negative and positive areas to draw the eye to the central area.

Position and scale. Position and scale of elements create interest. Putting an object in a new space or making it larger or smaller than expected can create interest. Who would expect the word big to be in very small type? POSITION AND SCALE: Position and scale of elements create interest and surprise the reader.

Balance. Elements can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, formal or informal. Dividing your design area in thirds can help. Making one element one-third or two-thirds of a space is more interesting than a half-and-half split of a page layout. BALANCE: Dividing a design area in thirds can create balance to the eye.

Repetition. Don’t do anything once; repeat it. If you use a rule once,support it by using a similar rule in another place. If you put art in acircle, use that circle theme again in the design. Repetition can makethe idea stronger. REPETITION: Use an element more than once to strengthen an idea and show continuity.

Alignment. Type can be centered, justified right or left, or force justified.It can run horizontal or vertical, across the page or along the page side.Just remember mixing too many different alignments in one design can get messy and should be avoided. ALIGNMENT: Be consistent in alignment and avoid using too many varieties in one design.

Use only what you absolutely need in a design. When you are finished, take a final look and remove anything you don’t absolutely need. Subtracting elements will make a design clearer, stronger, and more concise.

And last and most important, make sure your design is true to your product. It should support the product, not detract, represent it truthfully, and enhance your message.

Sara Klomp is creative director at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.

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