Graphic Design

Many of us from time to time want to design posters, websites, business cards, flyers etc. We see well designed examples every day, yet when we come to do them ourselves, they look amateurish. Ah you say, that is the skill of the graphic designer - and so it is. But what this page reveals is that there are just four "golden rules" of graphic design and if we follow them we wil be able to turn out work that is well designed and eyecatching time after time. Sorry graphic designers - your secret is out! These four golden rules are Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity (easy to remember by their initials!). Just follow these rules - and look at the designs - good and bad - that you come across, and see how they have or haven't used these rules. We think you'll see the light very quickly. We'll look at them in the most logical order:


The first golden rule is that everything in your document should be in some way aligned with other things on the page, either vertically or horizontally. Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page. This creates a clean, sophisticated, fresh look. This approach gives the reader clear lines to follow which is visually pleasing. Avoid centering text and go for left or right justified alignments - thay form a much stronger line for the reader's eyes to follow (with centered text you have two ragged lines instead). Examples on this site - the A of Aplhabeticks lines up with the buttons and the end of Of The Alphabet with the right hand edge of the text. Even if you only follow this one rule, your work will immediately look better.

  Avoid using more than one alignment i.e. right and left align..


The second golden rule states that elements of the design that are logically related to one another should be be grouped close together. When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit rather than several separate units. This helps organize information and reduces clutter. So for example, if you are designing a business card, the address elements should be grouped together and not spread around the card. The converse is that adding white space between elements that are not logically related helps the reader to visually distinguish between them. But do beware of so-called trapped white space and make sure reasonably large white space flows out to the edges of the design otherwise it just doesn't look right.

Squint your eyes and look down your design. If your eyes stop more than 3-5 times, regroup some of your elements.

Don't stick things in the corners or in the middle

Don't create relationships with things that don't have them


The third golden rule is to avoid using elements that are similar to one another - things should be either the same, or very different, to provide contrast. For example, you wouldn't want to have your title be just slightly larger than your regular text, in a very slightly different font. This just makes the reader see that something is off, without knowing what it is, and makes your work look unprofessional. Instead, you should make the title much bigger, or in a very different, bolder, font. Use bold sans-serif fonts for big bold titles and serif for longer text. Don't mix seif typefaces and don't mix sans-serif because they would be too similar. Colour or shading can also be used to provide contast.So remember, if the elements (type, color, size, line thickness, shape, space, etc.) are not the same, then make them very different. Contrast is often the most important visual attraction on a page. This site uses Verdana for all text except the title which is in a totally different face. Oh, and please please don't use Times New Roman unless you really want to be boring.

Don't be a whimp - do it with strength.


The final golden rule is that you should repeat certain visual elements throughout for your work, such as colors and shapes and line thicknesses, texture, spatial relationships etc. This makes your work look more unified, and gives the reader a sense of familiarity. It can also make the page look more interesting, so that people will be more likely to actually read it. It helps develop the organisation and strengthens the unity. Then you can go on to push that idea further to find places to deliberately add repetition. For example, you might use small squares as bullets, and also use the same bullets to mark the end of text in your headers and footers.We've used the flower symbol on this page in that way.

Avoid repetition that is just plain annoying - be subtle.

Sometimes you can pick up existing interesting elements and use them in repitition.

Oh, and don't forget the KIS principle - KEEP IT SIMPLE

Serendipity of the Alphabet