Join Kristin Ellison for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the core elements of design, part of Getting Started in Graphic Design.
The core elements that make up every design are layout, color, and typography. To be a good designer you have to have a deep understanding of how each of these elements contributes to the overall message. It's like cooking. You need to know your ingredients and what they go well with before you can combine them successfully. Layout is perhaps the most fundamental of these three elements. It's the structure or skeleton of the piece and therefore drives the overall design. Layouts can feel dull and lifeless.
And this is never a good thing. But they can feel peaceful and serene, dynamic and exciting, even chaotic. The right mood for a work just depends on the audience and the goal of the piece. Color, balance, scale and density of type and image determine the mood of the piece. These are the elements of design that when, used correctly, will enable you to set the right tone, and create a strong composition. The role of type and design, is so much more than just communicating the meaning of the words.
Good typography is legible, it's beautiful, and it's treatment should communicate the message of the design. It should be tailored to the intended audience through the chosen typeface and how it's set. For example, the goal of the typography on an income tax form is legibility. There is no room for creative expression here. Conversely, the typography on a poster for an art exhibit can ignore the traditional rules of typography, and in some cases it can even become the art of the piece.
Typography is a little complex, but the good news is that once you know the rules, you'll know when you can push the boundaries a bit. And you'll be able to set beautiful type like a pro. Color is a powerful element and it plays an important role in every design, both visually and emotionally. Color can act as a navigational aid. Telling the audience what the most important elements are or which items in a design are connected. Because of the cultural connotations associated with color, it also plays a huge role in setting the mood of a design.
Now think of these three elements, layout, type and color, as your building blocks of design. With a solid understanding of how to harness their power, you'll be well on your way to creating beautiful designs that your viewers will connect with.
To help you get started, Kristin curated a playlist of courses covering just the foundational elements of design. View and subscribe to the playlist here.