Keys To Effective Layout And Graphic Design
What are the principles of effective graphic design?
This the question that confronts all creatives as they analyze the basic principles that govern the architecture of the page.
They can be broken down into a few basic subjects. Style, form, content and response.
Style covers the movements of modern or historical design such as Cubism, Constructivism, Dada, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus etc. While there is not really much new when it comes to design styles the designer should know design history to keep within a style if necessary or to move design toward a more contemporary and fresh approach.
Form develops basic principles that guide the form and function of the page. Symmetry, asymmetry, order, disorder, movement, tension, balance, contrast of value and scale and methods of dividing space from the Golden Mean to others such as the Swiss Grid System is part of what is encompassed in form.
Content examines how various elements combine to make a successful layout, combining text, illustrations, photos or other elements demonstrating the creative concept of effective communication.
Response is the final subject element. How we see and how we react are two basic aspects of communication that can have a positive influence on design. The designer is engaged in a highly personal line of communication and direct contact with the reader. Understanding response may be the most important element of design.
I am going to construct a basic layout using some 2019 graphic design trends that will give a basic overview of these keys for achieving an effective design.
I begin with a simple image of a dove that I like. Usually text will be the starting off point for page layout but a visual can provide great creative input to help direct the layout. This was taken from my photo collection where birds are a favorite theme. I give it a simple, stamp monochromatic effect as I already have a style trend I want to emulate.
Choosing content placement
I choose an 11×17″ layout for a poster. I wanted to experiment with the 2019 graphic trend of ‘darkness’ which is a style where all elements are black or dark monochromatic, it denotes richness, luxury and often masculinity but I am going to use it to convey a deep, dark mood. In this case brevity and winter. I enlarge the dove to become a focal point, and I use the placement of the perch and the eye of the dove to lead the eye in to the page creating an asymmetrical direction.This layout composition gives me an immediate direction for text placement.
After finding some text I decide to create a poster for a poetry contest. I place my first text entry in hierarchal order which will be what the poster is for. I choose Goudy Old Style as my font in keeping with the illustrative stamp style of the bird, and align the text to create some balance. Aligning text in the top left follows the natural starting place for reading. I break the trend of monochromatic to make it white as the contrast will help draw the eye to the top of the page and it also denotes the subject of the contest which is winter, cold and snow. Keep your subject in mind when you have to to create the most effective message even if breaking from your initial plan.
Adding More Content
I add some more content knowing that I want to explore another graphic design trend of 2019 which is ‘numbers element’, using numbers as design elements. While this style can be interpreted as just as a graphic element with no function in the design, I prefer to keep it as content and use the deadline date for my number element which is important in a contest. I enlarge this number text to add some counterbalance to the size of the bird. I add some more balance by aligning the month in line with the number 3. I keep the text white to keep leading the eye down the page which will follow the white text due to contrast.
Leading The Eye
I add the rules to the contest and make them white. I also keep them aligned to the right and even with the number 30 to drop the eye down the page. The downward movement of the bird’s head also helps direct the eye. Some of the texture in the background interferes with the rules text so I clean that up. Since the ‘free’ in contest is also important I make that text slightly larger.
Finally, I add some more text, a poem about a dove from the same site. I keep this text monochromatic and place it in the space to the far left as it isn’t as important as the other text in the poster but still adds interest to both the design and the content. It also helps lead the eye around the page and gives the reader some context for the choice of image.
I touch up my leading in the top text to create more space between the words. The layout is now finished for the most part and the basic subjects are in place. I have used all keys for effective layout design, style, form, content and response. Choosing an eye catching element for an illustration, enlarging it for impact and careful placement helps create an eye catching design for a poster. Carefully choosing just enough content but the most important content is appropriate for poster design. I could add more text if necessary like an address or web page. The colors and balance of the text help lead the eye as well as create some direction to offset the asymmetry of the dove. Choice of text also helps give some emotion to the subject and purpose of the piece after I added an actual poem to give more context to the reader. The poster layout is effective to communicate the core message. I also chose some trending styles to keep the piece contemporary.
I could have easily used Pages which is free design software for Mac or InDesign layout software but since poster layout is usually a simple layout I used Photoshop. I could have also easily done this in Word or some other simple word processing program since I used no text effects, only simple color changes. While I could have used columns or a grid, poster design can easily be done without it as long as you follow some basic principles of layout. Today it is easy to get formerly expensive design software, and use it for a one time project if needed by monthly subscription only.
If you like the dove I used in this illustration you can purchase it just by clicking on the image below, or visiting photo illustrations in the products section.
Knowing just a few of the keys and basic principles of layout and graphic design can help you create any published piece for effective communication.