The seven fundamentals of graphic design

Last checked and updated on November 25, 2020

According to Sally, a creative manager at The Pink Group, creative agency; there are seven fundamental aspects of graphic design: colour, line, shape, proportion, space, texture and value. Without knowledge of their purposes or how they work together, you’ll never make it in this highly competitive industry.

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Colour
Colour can evoke different emotions and is the first element of your design that will be processed by the brain. Choosing a colour that’s has relevance is crucial. For example, red is often associated with danger, so it wouldn’t be wise to use it for a product or service that promotes frugal living. In this instance, something more natural such as green or brown would be more relevant. Always make sure your colour represents what you’re trying to achieve.

Line
The quality of your lines can reflect the mood of the design. A precise straight line can tell a lot about company profile, often reflecting the smart and sophisticated nature of business. On the other hand, lines which interact and overlap with each other could be seen as more chaotic and artistic.

Shape
Just like lines, shapes can convey a mood. While angular shapes represent masculinity, smooth shapes are more feminine. Squares are often used to represent familiarity since we’re used to seeing squares all the time – televisions, monitors, etc.

Proportion
Don’t confuse size and scale with proportion. Size is the dimensions of the image; scale is a specific element of the image in relation to its original size; and proportion is both the size and scale of the elements when they’re on the page. Each element of your design must be in proportion. For example, if you use a specific font, each letter should be the same size (unless it’s intentional).

Space
The purpose of space is to give the eye a rest and highlight certain areas. Too much colour can look chaotic and make a design feel claustrophobic. However, too much space can make a design look incomplete. It’s important to find the find balance between the two.

Texture
Texture will bring realism to your designs, add visual stimuli and give it unique features. Without incorporating texture, your images will simply be blocks of colour. While this is fine if it’s intended, it can result in an image that looks boring and amateur.

Value
Value refers to the lightness and darkness in relation to other parts of the design. Changing tiny elements in the value can make your design pop out of the page. If you play with value when you have multiple layers, you can create interesting optical illusions which will draw more attention. Always take a little time to experiment with value when you’ve finished your design.

Design is about communication. Whenever you design something new, ask yourself, “is this image delivering the right message?” Think about each element of the design and ensure they all serve a specific purpose. Consider your target audience before you put pen to paper so you’ll have a better idea how to move forward in the right direction.

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