The First 4 Essentials of Graphic Design

graphic design

After reading the first four chapters of Allison Goodman’s “The 7 Essentials of Graphic Design”, all I can say is, when will my graphic design ever look like that? The book’s design in itself is superb and reflects well on the messages Goodman is sending to her readers. I think a lot of us think about the work that goes behind graphics in design, and we probably all have a few staple designs engraved into our minds. I can even remember a few from my childhood and into my young adult years. Good designs stick, and Goodman’s sole focus is to send that message, along with many others, to you.

If you think you need a little bit of help understanding this concept of graphic design, here’s a quick video to get a grasp on the idea:

In the first chapter, Goodman focuses on the essential that is research, one ingredient I never envisioned would be necessary in graphic design. However, now I understand exactly why it is, and that is due to the idea that each client has a story to tell. It is a designer’s job to portray that story well in the designs of that company.

To properly research, you must…

  1. You first must immerse yourself in the culture of the project you’re about to embark on. This way, the designer and client can agree on the goals of the project.
  2. Use existing examples from other designs that can give you ideas.
  3. Find out who likely customers for your client will be, so you can research ways to cater to them.

Researching before starting is crucial to the graphic design process, yet not many people are aware of it. I know I wasn’t before reading this chapter. Using the steps above, you will be able to start designing your client’s brand in no time!

The next two chapters discuss typography and contrast, two elements that control the appearance of the design, which is a huge part of the overall product you as a designer are in charge of. It is these tools that determine whether or not you have done your job correctly, so it’s quite important. Let’s start with typography, the artful representation of words. The way each word on whatever surface you are designing is presented is crucial to your design template. In the words of Allison Goodman, it is all about visual compatibility. Your words need to appear to have personality, and that is accomplished through its typeface and the way it is positioned. For example, there are a few areas that you wouldn’t necessarily deem important, but they are…

  1. Leading. The space between lines is important because lines that are too close together could potentially cause visual chaos.
  2. Word Tracking. The space between letters can potentially compromise readability and seem unwelcoming.
  3. Line Length. The typical line length that a person will read before getting bored is 39 to 45 characters, so there is not much space before your writing seems unappealing!

If you think this is specific, wait until you learn more about contrast. Now that we have typography settled, we have to understand why contrast is so important. You see, we need to have some kind of order to contain the words in typeface. Contrast serves as a tool to create order and make a design visually engaging. There are a few ways to use contrast in your designs:

  1. Order. We have already gone over achieving contrast through order; it does so by creating an information hierarchy, which allows viewers to receive and understand all of the information presented to them.
  2. Value. Elements with the strongest value contrast will have more dominant traits on the page.
  3. Color. You can use hues, values, and chroma, to establish contrast with colors in your design.

Lastly, the fourth chapter indulges in the layout of your design. This serves as a “map” for the viewer, one that can give the viewer all of the information he or she needs to know. The layout brings every essential of graphic design that we have read thus far together. First, we learned about research, which goes into the creation of the design. Next, we read about typography and contrast, which also contributes to the layout. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 all lead up to the general layout of the design, which is crucial to the end product of your work. A few key points to remember when designing your layout are symmetrical and asymmetrical balance, visual rhythm, and implied space. In other words, simplicity is good! I know a lot of us tend to think that being simple is boring and will not get sufficient results, but that is wrong. Putting just the right amount of graphics in a design will make or break your design, so choose wisely. You are telling a story for a client, after all.


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