In today’s digital world, graphic design plays an important role when it comes to a business’s communication and branding to its audience. It is everything you see and (sometimes) touch. There are so many things that go into graphic design. That is why we put everything we know in a graphic design guide.
Table of Contents
Graphic Design Guide To Everything You Need To Know
What is Graphic Design?
Basically, graphic design is all about making the visual materials we see look good while still conveying what the creator intended to communicate.
It is a versatile profession that covers a lot of things. Likewise, it spans from education and industry to products and services—and essentially everything in between.
Benefits of Graphic Design
Aside from producing something aesthetically pleasing, graphic design has a couple more benefits.
Communicates The Message Better
As the saying goes, “Good design speaks for itself.” It catches people’s attention without words and conveys what it wants to say.
It lets you add a personal touch to your brand. Keeping things consistent with colours, fonts, and logos across all media makes it easier for people to recognise your brand.
Leads To Higher Conversions
Good design can make a huge difference, especially when it comes to conversions. Having an eye-catching design can draw people to your website, make your brand more memorable, and even persuade them to buy your product.
Sets A Brand Apart
Looking good is important, but that is only half of it. Having a consistent style makes you more unique and can even set your brand apart from your competitors.
Good graphic design also plays a role in the presentation, especially if it is business related. It can help your company look more professional and polished.
Builds An Aesthetic Value
Graphic design can also elevate your brand’s aesthetic value. This can help create a better impression and improve your audience’s perception of your brand.
Applications of Graphic Design
As mentioned earlier, graphic design is a versatile profession. In fact, it is possible that the applications we listed in this graphic design guide article might just be a few, considering there are always new technological innovations.
- Traditional and Digital Marketing
- Interface for Software, Programmes, Website, and Applications
- Published Material
- Product Packaging
- Motion Graphics
- Environmental Design
- Entertainment and Illustration
Principles of Graphic Design
Whether you are an aspiring graphic designer or already have a career in this creative field, knowing them is beneficial. Basically, these principles serve as your graphic design guide for everything that you will create.
“Balance is key.” This rings true in everything we do. But it is especially important if you are arranging the elements of a design, like shapes and text boxes, evenly throughout the layout.
For graphic design, you can categorise balance into three types:
Alignment is essential to ensure that all the elements in a design, like pictures and text boxes, are lined up nicely. It creates a clean and organised look, making even the most minimal design aesthetically pleasing.
This is all about making certain elements stand out, which helps brands get their message across more effectively. For example, on a poster, the biggest text highlights important details, and the smaller text provides additional information.
There are other ways to create a hierarchy:
- Visual placement from top to bottom
- Adding shapes
- Font differences
Contrast helps make sure that everything in a design is easy to read and understand. This also goes hand in hand with visual hierarchy. In graphic design, contrast can be divided into:
- Light vs Dark
- Thick vs Thin
- Small vs Large
Rhythm is all about making a design look consistent and organised, which creates a consistent look. This can be done through repetition, such as with logos and colours. With that said, there are two types you should take note of:
- Fluid is adding variation to a design but still following a visual flow in a single direction.
- Progressive is guiding the viewers through a clear sequence of visual elements.
Proximity is all about making things that belong together look like they belong together. This is done by grouping related elements together, like using the same font or colour. It makes a design look clean, organised, and helps the audience understand the message—creating a better user experience.
Colour and Space
Colour is a huge part of graphic design. It sets the tone and can totally change the vibe of the design. Space is also important since this is the area around and between the design elements.
With these two, graphic designers can draw attention to certain parts of the design, like creating contrast or using complementary elements to make a design stand out.
Fundamentals of Graphic Design
To understand how to create great designs, it is important to dive into the fundamentals.
There are no rules in art. But, there are some rules of graphic design—these serve more as a widely accepted guide. These can help you make informed decisions on how to better use the elements mentioned above.
Colour is a key component in graphic design. It can attract attention and convey meaning. It can give visual cues, and using different colours can evoke different emotions or feelings.
- Red triggers powerful emotions and creates a sense of urgency.
- Orange is considered light and fun.
- Green is synonymous with health.
- Blue has a calming effect and is considered the colour of wisdom and trust.
- Pink portrays femininity and youth and inspires a sense of comfort.
- Black is synonymous with power and sophistication.
- White and silver are synonymous with cleanliness and usually associated with modernity.
There are some key considerations when using images.
Right at the top is image quality. This is crucial for ecommerce businesses since customers want to carefully assess a product before making a purchase. In addition, images should be appropriately sized and not stretched or pixelated.
Moreover, it is important to take note that most web users are on their mobile devices. This means it is also important to check if the graphics used can adapt to big and small screens.
Many designers usually use these dimensions for creating content for different screen sizes:
- Banner Image: 2000px by 800px
- Slider: 1920px by 890px
- Icon: 300px by 300px
- Post/ Event: 425px by 220px
- Portfolio: 1920px by 768px
As a general rule of thumb, it is important to use easy to read fonts and limit the number of font families used to two or three on a design.
In addition, it is also important to factor in the colour used to make sure the font is legible. Just to be sure, it is better to add a dark border around the text to improve its contrast.
Lastly, make sure to consider the composition of the design. It is the aspect that simplifies the visual elements and orders them into a logical sequence. In addition, composition removes unnecessary clutter.
For example, utilising white space in the composition. This can be used to draw attention and highlight the important elements of a design. It also makes the content clean and avoids becoming visually overwhelming.
Graphic Design Guide Process
Now that we have covered the basics of graphic design, let us take a look at the process of creating a graphic design. There is a lot that goes into a great design; it is not just the process of creation but also involves planning and revisions.
So, we added the creative process to this graphic design guide to give aspiring designers a rough idea of what to expect.
A creative brief that defines the scope of your project, artistic direction, business background, and expected deliverables. This is usually given to a designer at the start of the project to serve as a graphic design guide from the start to finish.
Moreover, in a designer’s portfolio, the key details of the project brief are usually added and the problem is solved.
Information about the target audience and competitors is important before you actually create the content. Researching and using your knowledge of graphic design history and trends can make the design you create more effective in visually communicating the intended message.
When you have a better idea after doing research, the next step is to come up with the main idea for the design. This is usually done by making a list of words or drawing some rough designs to get ideas flowing.
This is the step where the design really comes to life! Here, once you have picked an idea that you or your client likes, you can take that idea and turn it into an actual design.
Before a design gets greenlit or approved, it needs to be carefully reviewed. In the last step, you have to show it to the client to get feedback. This will serve as a guide on how it can be improved based on the client’s brand and what they think of it in general.
How To Get Started In Graphic Design
If you are an aspiring designer, then this graphic design guide for beginners is for you. This serves as a road map to help you build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills.
Understand The Basics
To create impressive designs, you need knowledge and a good understanding of the basics. This includes the fundamentals, elements, and principles that we mentioned here in this graphic design guide.
Having a solid foundation to work from helps you make informed decisions when creating designs. This is because, in every piece of visual content you create, you factor in composition, colour theory, typography, visual hierarchy, and even the simplest arrangement elements. All these go hand in hand to get the intended message across to viewers.
Take Online Courses
There are plenty of online resources available to help beginners get started, including graphic design courses and degree programmes. Some courses even offer a certificate upon completion. You can showcase this on your resume and LinkedIn profile to demonstrate your skills.
In addition, when choosing online courses and other available resources, be sure to learn and master these skills.
The ability to come up with fresh ideas and innovative designs and develop a visual eye for design, regardless of medium.
Effectively explaining a graphic design concept, collaborating, listening attentively, and understanding feedback without getting lost in technical jargon gives you a competitive edge.
Make written language visually appealing with expertise in font creation, proper usage, and matching with a brand’s persona.
Adobe’s Creative Apps
Being proficient in tech tools is important for graphic designers, especially in this list of software programmes:
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Dreamweaver
- Microsoft Office applications
- Video and animation tools
Exposure to different types of media, including but not limited to text, moving images, animations, videos, audio, and video games.
Having a good grasp of HTML and how to code using Java and C++ is an add-on that will come in handy for future web-related projects and give a competitive edge to appeal to potential employers.
This is an essential skill to help translate a client’s needs and ideas into a clear brand design that will be applied to all of the client’s collateral.
Designers are visual storytellers. But, it is vital for you to effectively communicate your ideas and complex concepts to clients in a clear and easy-to-understand way.
Learn and understand copyright law to better manage your rights properly to safeguard your work and creativity.
Invest In A Good Setup
Graphic designers use an array of tech tools and software programmers. It is no surprise that it may require some significant upfront costs if you are just starting out.
You will need to find the right graphics software and tools. Luckily, you can opt for budget-friendly options on the market for the following things:
- Graphics Tablet
- Colour Space Reference
- External Storage
- Monitor Calibrator
In any case, when starting out, a graphics tablet and computer are the must-have basic tools you will need.
As for software tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, its monthly subscription runs on the expensive side. For the time being, it is better to go for free alternatives first and switch later on when you are ready to invest in better tools.
Follow The Experts
In reality, you do not start out amazing; it takes years of practice to develop your own creative process. Finding inspiration is one way to help you grow as a designer.
There are plenty of great graphic design examples and works by famous graphic designers and artists. You can find great artists on social media, join graphic design communities, or even just look at the designs posted by well-known brands and agencies.
Create An Awesome Portfolio
If you are a graphic designer looking for a full-time job or freelancing opportunities, having your own online portfolio is essential. It helps clients or companies get an idea of your skill set and capabilities as a designer.
With that said, it is okay if you do not have a lot of work to showcase yet. The important thing is to have an online presence. You can build up your portfolio as you gain more experience and add more of your work.
Here is a list of platforms to showcase your past works:
- Coroflot Portfolios
Get Work Experience
Once you have your portfolio ready, it is time to put it out there and gain some real-world experience.
You can start by applying for entry-level positions, as the experience you’ll gain will be invaluable in the long run. You can also start much earlier and join clubs and organisations at school.
The point is to get experience in the field. This will help you form professional relationships with other graphic designers, art directors, motion designers, creative teams, and design communities, both online and in your area.
Even though it is often overlooked, it is essential to have solid copywriting skills. There will be times when you might be the one formulating the initial tagline or story for a campaign instead of the copywriters.
Learning how to make great copy does not necessarily mean you need to be a writer. Just having this skill means you should be able to write comprehensive project briefs, descriptions, clever one-liners, enticing calls to action, and attention-grabbing headings, to name a few.
Stay Up To Trend
Graphic design is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving. It is both exciting and challenging for designers. This further highlights the importance of staying up to date with the latest trends.
One way to do this is by following well-known designers, brands, and agencies. You can also explore online resources like virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) design tools and animation software to expand your skill set. The point is to explore new styles and techniques to be dynamic yourself.
Choose A Specialisation
An education in graphic design can increase your chances of earning above-average pay. However, keep in mind that while an undergraduate degree is helpful, it may not necessarily guarantee a creative director position right away.
While it is not required, it is beneficial to specialize in a particular area of graphic design. Focusing on a niche will help you become an expert in that area and appeal to the right clients and employers.
Never Stop Learning
Even if you are not currently pursuing a graphic design degree, it is still important to continue learning. Staying ahead of the game by improving your design skills and exploring new trends can increase your value and help you grow as a designer.
With that said, do not let your formal education hold you back from building a career in graphic design. Practical experience is equally valuable and will help you get to where you want to go in your career.
It is not an overstatement to say that graphic design plays a vital role in today’s digital era. It helps effectively communicate any message in a visually appealing and understandable manner.
In this hyper-visual era, there are so many trends that keep popping up left and right. Be that as it may, it is still important for designers to know the basics. This is because while trends come and go, the basics will always be timeless. So, whether you are just starting out or looking to take your skills to the next level, a graphic design guide like this can help you achieve your goals.
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