Six Visual Design Basics for a Strong Design

Source: Flickr – David Salafia

“Design is one of the few disciplines that is a science as well as an art. Effective, meaningful design requires intellectual, rational rigor along with the ability to elicit emotions and beliefs.” – Debbie Millman

At Standard Beagle, we are focused on continuing education. We find it’s an important part of diversifying our skill sets, and consistently growing as a designer and/or a developer. General Assembly is a Global Institute that offers full-and part-time courses, and workshops in areas such as mobile development and UE design. Their motto at General Assembly is, “transforms thinkers into creators through education and opportunity in technology, business, and design.” This is a great place for learning a new skill or expanding your knowledge for your current industry.  These workshops have been a great place for our team to get continuing education in visual design, user experience, personal branding, and content development strategies.

Visual design consists of basic elements that pull the entire design together for a website, graphic design, or digital marketing piece. Think about when you see an advertisement, or website, that looks too noisy, or too clean. Then think about why you are attracted to it, or not. We usually understand when we like or dislike something, but we typically don’t know how to articulate those reasons into words. Usually the way in which the visual design elements are are used are why we like or dislike something. These elements consist of lines, colors, shapes, texture, typography, and form. There are also a variety of different principles for creating visual design that complement these basic design elements.

1. Lines

Lines come into play with defining shapes, making divisions, and creating different textures. Line usage is key these days – especially in web design.

Paint Colors
Source: Pink Sherbert Photography

2. Colors

Colors are a very significant part of design that is often overlooked by individuals who do not understand the meaning behind colors, and the emotions they evoke. Unless someone has a design or art background, they would most likely overlook the emphasis that should be placed on color usage. There is a psychology behind what colors to use with color theory; some colors illicit energy, while others illicit a calmness.

3. Shapes

Shapes and design
Source: Flickr – Kristian Bjornard

Shapes are more than just triangles, squares, and circles; they can be used to define areas of a design. Whether you realize it or not, every object is composed of shapes. Shapes are self contained areas and can control the direction your eye is leading to. Shapes can be used in architecture, product design, digitally, and more. Think about what behavior a design is trying to do for you when looking at shapes.  

4. Textures

Textures are repeated elements that can create patterns in a design. Textures can be applied in various ways to attract attention or avert it.

5. Typography

Typography may seem like an obvious element, but there are numerous ways to play with typography that are under-utilized in design. Typography refers to which ‘typefaces’ are chosen, what size is used, the alignment, color, and even the spacing. Typography is the shape of the font itself. Font is actually the specific file of the font that you choose. A good rule of thumb in design is to never use more than two or three typefaces, or styles within a design. Continuity with design is very important, so it’s important to take careful consideration when selecting your font families and combinations. 

6. Form

Form comes into play with 3D objects, and describes their volume and mass. 3D shapes can be created by combining two (or more) shapes and then augmenting them with different tones, textures, and colors.   If a design seems too noisy, it is often due to poor form usage.

the lourve - architecture
Source: Flickr – Peggy

Design is all around us on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. Design is on our television screens and smartphones, or even outside the digital world, within the building you work in or see around town. The world would not be the place it is visually without designers and artists. Without design, everything would be dull and boring with no originality or sparkle. Knowing  the visual design basics is key for understanding and appreciating the world around us. Whether you are a designer or not, it is still important to know the basics and how these elements can effect your daily life.

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” – Steve Jobs