Understanding the fundamentals of graphic design can greatly increase the way in which a business person, or any person for that matter, presents themselves on paper and through visual design. In Allison Goodman’s The 7 Essentials of Graphic Design, she lays out the most crucial principles for mastering the basics of graphic design.
Chapter 4 of Goodman’s book focuses on layouts. She begins, “A design’s layout is a map for the viewer.” When a designer know their goals and exactly what they need to achieve, the result turns out much better and a design layout allows for this to happen. Furthermore, the layout is arguably one of the most important principles of graphic design . When something is created for viewers to see, the layout provides a “road-map” or direction for the viewers. It should communicate to the viewer in the way it is layer out what information should be processed and in what order, which is known as information hierarchy. All-in all, a design layout seeks to portray a certain message and the hope is that viewers perceive that message.
Goodman then goes on to discuss how visual elements create “a solid hierarchy” yet at the same time, they still work together. The first of these design strategies is visual contrast, which is in regards to size, value, eight, white space, position, figure/ground, texture, and color. The differences in visual contrast create an appeal to the human eye. The second visual element she outlines is symmetrical & asymmetrical balance. Symmetrical layouts create balance through “mirrored arrangements” and are typically the choice when a calm graphic presence is the goal. Whereas, with asymmetrical layouts, these create balance through “a less predictable, more dynamic layout” (Goodman 58). I particularly like Goodman’s explanation of “The Pinball Theory of Dynamic Layout.” She asks that we visualize our layout as a pinball machine and the ability of the layout to keep viewers’ eyes on the playing surface, perceiving all elements in the layout as a pinball would do. The third visual element is sequencing or visual rhythm, which is the changing of peace in a visual design. It may be adding or removing an unexpected or expected element or changing the scale of something, for example. Goodman also highlights the importance of depth; depth gives a visual design more liveliness and this can be achieved by playing with the scale, layering, foreground/background relationships, and color and contrast. Implied Space is “the area the designer references beyond the actual page” (62). Using scale (so that a large image “falls” off the page) and repetition (so that a succession of images or letter “fall” off the page) are ways to create implied space in graphic design. Goodman finishes Chapter 4 with her thoughts on how to flesh out fresh, creative ideas via sketching. Clearly, she believes that sketching ought to be a freeing, non-restrictive creative thought process on paper.
In Chapter 5 of Goodman’s graphic elements book, she discusses grid systems, which are essentially placement guidelines. While grid systems are invisible to the untrained eye, they are a crucial part of graphic design and provide structure to the design itself. Goodman adds of the importance of grid systems, “Grids are essential for creating visual consistency in projects that move across multiple pages, panels, or screens” (76). Though the term “grid” may sound as if it hinders one’s creative ability, rather it gives a designer a foundation to grow and flourish from. So what are the more specific reasons for the purpose of grid systems?
- A grid for a multipage and/or multi-issue publications. Magazine designers, for example, have strict deadlines and therefore, a reusable grid system saves them a lot of work for each new issue. Grids create a template that fosters a consistent look for a magazine, which is important when developing a following of loyal readers.
- A grid that “evolves during the design process for one-time application” (78). An example of when this would be useful is with stationery. With this grid system, once a design has one element placed in the layout, the position of the future element is already implied because of the prior decision.
- A grid within the area of information design. This kind of grid system allows people to understand specific technical, monetary, geographic, and time-based information. One example of this is the chart and how that specific type of grid system portrays information in a clear, organized manner.
Goodman discusses the process of “reverse engineering” in how to create a grid system. She advises readers to trace the grid lines in color that you think are there from your favorite magazine publication. Be sure to trace columns, margins, page number locations, baselines, photo locations, etc.
Finally, in Chapter 6, Goodman give readers the low-down on identity design and more specifically, logos and logotypes. It is no surprise that humans are visual creatures and that we react more to visual images than we do to words on a page. Therefore, logos are a very important aspect for companies, for example, because they represent that company in a few words, letters, or less. Logos and logotypes create memorable and quick-to-read graphics. The steps in the process of creating a logo and or logotype are: distill, translate, formalize and simplify.
- Distill: The process of brainstorming all images and icons that could potentially represent the client and “distilling” those images to the best options.
- Translate: This stage requires geographically transforming the elements and or letterhead into visual creations by playing around with different illustration techniques, typefaces, forms, line weights, figure-ground ambiguity, and visual attitude.
- Formalize: Once all the elements have been picked, they must be approved as visually in agreement with one another.
- Simplify: A final step in identity design is that it be “geographically simple as appropriate” (96).
Graphic identities via logos and logotypes are applications that visually portray something. Frequently used applications include letterhead, envelope, and business card designs.
Overall, Goodman makes the case for how successful layouts properly use various graphic elements in order to strike viewers and peak their curiosities. We ought to take her knowledge of graphic design and use it to create creative designs for ourselves or for other businesses.