By exploring the principles of layout and composition in graphic design, you'll discover the importance of the creating the overall design concept. Using this training, you'll gain an understanding of design nuances and how to incorporate six basic principles in design creation using Illustrator. You'll learn about the components that will help you create your most appealing layout and graphic composition, including balance, alignment, and white space.
The principles of layout and composition are very, very important to the overall concept of graphic design. And unless you have a good handle on these principles, you're not going to be able to become a good graphic designer. In this movie, I'll be exploring the principles of layout and composition in a very simple way. To help you understand all of the subtle nuances that go along with them, and so that you can actually start to put those in play, as we start to create our designs throughout this course. There are actually six basic principles that I'm going to be talking about in this movie.
Balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast, and white space. Let's start off with balance. Balance is just the visual weighting of objects within a layout. You have several different types of balance that you can use in your designs, but we're going to talk specifically about three ways that you can balance. First is symmetrical, second is asymmetrical and the last one is radial. For symmetrical balance, you're going to visually weight everything the same on all sides of the design.
Meaning both of them look identical almost when you're looking directly at the piece. Let's take a look at this example here of this typography poster. At first glance there's a lot going on, but if you break it down, there's just three basic areas and together, they all form a very formally balanced piece using symmetrical balance. Asymmetrical balance is a little different though. It creates the illusion of equality. And so, you might have something like two columns and then one column that is visually weighted the same, but it doesn't really look that way, because the elements are actually in a different place.
Let's look at a practical example here. So on this page, at first glance, it may look like this page is really heavily weighted over to the right. But again, if you break down the structure of it, you have two columns right here and the third column is actually made up mostly of white space. White space is a design element, so therefore, this area is filled with something making this balanced on all sides. Whether you know it or not, it's still visually very easy to look at. Radial balance is a little difference. Radial balance is arranged around some sort of center point and then the elements are arranged and radiating outward from that point.
Let's take a look at this. Here's a great poster design for radial balance. And so you start off right here in the middle, and you just radiate outward. None of the elements are necessarily the same size. There's a lot of different weights of the fonts and the things like that, but they all visually fall on one of these lines creating a nice, symmetrical look all the way outward, every single time you go out to a different ring. Proximity: Proximity refers to how items are grouped and spaced on a page. When you're talking about proximity, you want to group like items together.
And you want to separate them from other grouped objects on the page. This goes hand in hand with alignment, which refers to keeping objects in line with one another within your design. Let's take a look at this. So, here's an example of a webpage layout and we're just going to go piece by piece here and take a look at all of the different elements of the design. So at the very top here, you'll notice that everything is just sort of spread out. The menu item at the top is sitting alone by itself, but all of those items are grouped together. The logo, again a separate element over on the far left hand side, separated, and then a gigantic heading in the middle, creating a lot of space in between all of those elements.
But everything that is like, is grouped and everything is also separate at the same time. The same holds true for this area here. You have a clear distinction between the buttons that go across that say Creative Designs, Super Clean Code, etcetera, then you also have the groupings of these points over here on the left, with the big photo over here on the right. Everything is lined up in a unique way as well, all of those buttons at the top they are center aligned, the text over on the left is left justified and then you have the big image which is sort of floating over to the right.
This is just basically a repeated pattern from above reversed. The big image is now over on the left, group items are over on the right, everything's still well aligned, both following the left and right patterns once again. And then finally, we have this section where it has all of the team members. Everything is spaced evenly apart. You also have the heading, a clear distinction from it, and the big images. And again, there's lots of space between the images and the area around it. If we zoom out to take a look at this, all of these areas could have stood alone as a design on their own.
But even when you zoom out and take a look at them all together, you can see how the proximity and the alignment help to shape the balance and the overall flow of the piece. The easiest way to get good at grouping and aligning objects is to use a grid. If you've never used a grid system in design, I highly recommend that you start exploring different grid systems for you to use. You could use something as simple as a sheet of grid paper. You could set up a grid in Photo Shop, Illustrator, In Design. All three of those applications, have the capability to do grids.
And grids are an easy, easy way to make sure you have consistent spacing, grouping and alignment for all of the elements that you're designing. Repetition: Repetition is something that ties your design together. It creates rhythm and gives your design an ebb and flow. It's very, very important. Let's take a look at some examples of repetition. Take a look at this brochure from Nikon. See the repeating pattern that just sort of guides your eyes, down over to the right, down over to the right. That's the kind of ebb and flow you want in your design pieces.
They've also used repetition. They've reused that black square, on the top of one page, at the bottom of the other. Very, very nice. Here we have an example of repetition with branding, so you have the same logo placed similarly on all of these different areas. The same color scheme used across all of this collateral. That creates repetition across multiple subjects, tying all of these together and creating easy brand recognition for all of these assets. Here's a great menu design, where everything sort of follows the same pattern.
You've got the same headings, same paragraph styles. Everything just sort of flows left to right, top to bottom, very easy and rhythmic to follow. In logo design, it's also very easy to have repetition. Look at the logo for Chanel for instance, all of the strokes on all of the characters in the logo element are very similar. You have the repeating C at the top which creates sort of a rhythmic flow to the logo. Same for Audi, which has the repeating circles across the top. And then of course, we also have PBS, which has the repeating faces that create sort of a rhythmic flow to their logo.
Contrast is another big important thing that design needs. This is where you create distinction by creating or highlighting differences between elements on your page. You could contrast by using different weights, size or even color scheme. Some examples of contrast include Apple's iconic iPod ads, which had stark contrast between the subject and the background, and also the iPod itself which was highlighted in bright white. Everything on this page has distinct contrast from the other elements, making it easy for you to go from one to the other and almost read it like a book, even though there's not any words.
Same holds true for things like movie posters. Check out this movie poster from The Dark Knight, where all of the dark elements sort of come together and create the contrasting part in the middle where you can actually see the shape of Batman's logo. And finally, one of the most classic examples of contrast has to be newspapers. That's why they're so easy to read. It's a white background with black text. There's nothing more simple, nothing more easy to read, and nothing more contrasted than white and black. Speaking of white, white space otherwise known as the, quote unquote, art of nothing, is another very, very important skill that you should try to learn and try to master as quickly as you can.
Some people refer to this as minimalism, making the design as uncluttered as possible, by using whitespace effectively. Some examples of well used whitespace include this ad from McDonald's. Now, the background is not necessarily white, and that's okay. Whitespace doesn't have to be white, it's just the absence of something being there on the page. So in this case, this is showcasing their new WiFi at their restaurants, and you can see here it's just french fries in the shape of a WiFi pattern at the very bottom right, it's just one little phrase, love free WiFi.
That's it. Everything else draws your attention into that one spot and that's an effective use of white space. Same for this coffee house right here, and it says simply feel stimulating. And so it's a very interesting piece right here that draws you in it looks like glasses almost like hipster style glasses. But also, it's titled a little bit so that you realize it's a coffee cup. Again, drawing focus in by using nothing as a surrounding element. Same holds true in web design nowadays. Web design has a huge trend right now in white space and using minimalistic designs.
Here's a great blog template, that I found on ThemeForest.net and this is a very interesting piece, because it has a big, bold background, but nothing else. That's it, and everything else is just right there centered in the middle. Same for this one right here. Look at all the white space that surrounds all of the elements on the page giving clear distinction between the areas of interest and also making sure that everything is just clean, well-aligned, and minimalistic. When you're trying to develop these types of layouts, just follow a simple thing called the KISS principle, which stands for keep it super simple.
This is something that I learned way back in college. And I've tried to apply that in almost everything that I do, because simplicity makes a design so much more appealing in my opinion, because you're forced as a designer to evoke emotion, control focus, and tell a story with as little as possible. It's very difficult to do, but if you can master that skill, you are going to be one great graphic designer. But you might be asking me, how do I get there, what can I do to make this work, how do I get to the point where I can design layouts that look like this? Well, I actually have a formula for that too.
I call that the 4P Formula. So the 4P Formula for getting better at graphic design consists of these elements, practice. Go out and just practice your craft, hone your skills. Design stuff for yourself. Design stuff for friends, for family. Whomever you can get to let you design something for them, just go and do it. Also, participate. And by participate I mean, join design communities, user groups, things like that. Get involved in the design communities that surround you and participate in those.
Have conversations with people. Post your work and get feedback. Give feedback on other people's work. This way, you are getting in conversations with like minded individuals and you're going to learn so much from those people who have been doing it before you. Pick apart. And by this I mean, pick apart other people's layouts and designs. Just go online, do some Google searches, search things like behance or dribble and figure out what people are doing. Why does this design work versus this design which doesn't? Why does the balance look so good here and so bad here.
Just go through and pick them apart. I would even suggest downloading an image comp of whatever it is you're looking at, opening up an application, Photoshop, Illustrator, whatever, and then going through, and just try to recreate the design. Figure out exactly what it is that makes that design tick, and then commit that to memory, so that you can then use that same pattern somewhere in your design. Now don't copy it. Don't just flat out copy somebody, but learn the psychology behind what's going on and then put that in play in your own work. Finally, just play, play around with design, it doesn't have to be for any specific purpose.
Sketch something on the napkin, when you're sitting on the train going to your morning commute, whatever the case may be, just play. Play around with designing things. Rearrange the salt shakers on the table. Just find ways that you can play with alignment, with layout, with composition and all that good stuff, and by doing so, you're going to make yourself such a better designer. If you're really interested in learning the ins and outs of layout and composition, this is just the surface. We haven't even begun to get into the deep details. I would suggest that you watch the foundations of layout and composition with Sean Adams in the Lynda.com online training library.
This is a great course that takes you soup to nuts through all of this stuff that I have been talking about, but in more detail than I could ever fit in to this course. Remember all of the different principles. Try to keep those in your head as you are creating your designs. Also, remember some of the examples I showed you and some of the ways that I gave you to improve your design skills. Then, watch courses like this in the lynda.com online training library and you'll be well on your way, to mastering the principles of layout and composition.
- Understanding the impact of color
- Sketching your ideas
- Removing unwanted objects from images
- Cropping photos
- Resizing and saving images for print
- Drawing basic shapes
- Creating a custom color theme with swatches
- Applying styles
- Creating tables
- Preflighting documents
- Packaging files for print
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 09/01/2016. What changed?
A: We revised the first four chapters with new graphics and examples.