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The 8 graphic design basics you need to know

Space

You know that peaceful feeling you get when you’re in a gorgeous, wide open space? Well, graphic design works the same way.

Spacious menu design
The white space on this menu is just as important as the other design elements (and the food items!). Menu design by Marcy_McGuire.

The best designs aren’t the ones that try to fit every design element on the block into a single composition. They utilize open space to bring attention to the elements that actually matter.

Balance and alignment

Rumspringa poster design
All of the elements in this poster are properly balanced—which adds to the overall effect of the design. Poster design by Shwin.

When it comes to design, you can definitely be creative, but you also have to be balanced. Think of it like this: if you were decorating your living room, you wouldn’t try to squeeze the sofa, the recliner chair, the coffee table, and the end tables all into a tiny corner, right? No, you’d spread the pieces throughout the room to create balance and alignment. With graphic design, it’s exactly the same.

Hierarchy

You’ve figured out how to use space and balance. But how do you draw attention to your key elements and make sure your messaging doesn’t get lost in the shuffle?

Apple Music visual hierarchy
Apple Music’s knows how to use visual hierarchy to deliver their key messaging. Image via Apple Music.

Color

Color is so much more than the rainbow assortment of hues in a bag of Skittles. Color is influence. Color is power. Color drives engagement. But only if you know how to use it.

Vibrant Colors pencil packaging
Packaging design by ve_sta

The colors you choose for your designs are crucial not only to your overall aesthetic, but to how well your designs connect with your audience (which ultimately drives results).

Color meanings and the art of using color psychology

If you want to use color to your advantage, you need to understand how each color affects your audience. Learn more about the psychology of color, the deeper meaning behind each hue, and how to best use color to your advantage.

Typography

The words you use in your designs are important, but so are the fonts you use to communicate those words.

Typography types

Typography covers everything from font selection to font layout. Not only does it communicate your core message, but it also communicates a lot about who you are and what you’re about. That’s why it’s important to get it right.

Texture

Texture is a surefire way to add depth and dimension to your designs, which makes them more visually engaging.

Textured images
Texture makes graphic design feel alive. Designs via Jacopo SeveritanoGreenblatt-Wexler and Pawel Nolbert.

Whether you add an actual 3D element to a printed piece like a business card or create the illusion through design, texture makes your designs even more memorable. But it’s a tricky thing to get right. If you don’t nail the texture, your design may feel busy or overwhelming—and that’s never what you’re going for.

Branding

Branding is how you bring your business, products, services and story to life. How do you do that? By leveraging all of the graphic design basics we’ve covered in this guide to build a brand that feels true to who you are.

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Deanna deBaraDeanna deBara is a freelance writer at 99designs.