Graphic Design 101

January 03, 2018

Should I make the logo bigger? Does this color match? What is the message we are trying to convey? Does it need more contrast? Should I change the font? Does it look too busy? Should I leave more white space?

These are all questions that I ask myself as a graphic designer.

I can’t tell you all there is to know about graphic design in one blog, but I can tell you some of the need-to-knows of design. Welcome to Graphic Design 101. (Good news– you don’t have to pay tuition and there are no tests)


As a graphic designer you have to change hats depending on what the design is representing. You wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have the same mind set or design for a dentist that you would for an ice cream shop. So, knowing who or what your design is for is the first step.


Now that we know what we’re working with, let’s think about which colors to use for the logo and promotional pieces. Color is very important when it comes to graphic design. According to Zapier, people decide how they feel about a product within 90 seconds—and researchers have found up to 90% of that judgement is solely based on color.

Colors like red, orange, yellow, and their variations give off emotions of optimism, friendliness, excitement, and power. Colors like blue, green, and purple can inspire creativity, trust, and peacefulness. Finally, colors like black, white, and grey represent balance, calmness and neutrality. Which colors would choose for an ice cream shop verses a dentist? Here are some examples of different colors chosen for both.


You have your colors figured out! Next step is to make sure the contrast of those colors will complement each other. You could have an amazing design, but if you put a certain color text over the wrong background your reader or audience isn’t going to be able to read it. Black and white are the ultimate contrasting values, but you can also create a high­-contrast design by using lighter and darker colors. Here’s an example:


Now you have color down, next let’s pick a font to use! There are countless amounts of fonts out there, but the two main font families are serif and sans serif. Here’s a breakdown of each:


Hang in there, you have almost graduated Graphic Design 101! We have picked out the color, created the perfect contrast, and picked the right font. Now you have to make sure everything is balanced.

When creating balance, imagine a vertical line running through the center of your design. To keep your design balanced, arrange your elements (text, picture, shapes, etc.) on either side of the line. Each element has “visual weight.” For example, the larger something is the heavier it appears.

Something that I struggled with when I first started graphic design is white space. It is so tempting to fill a design with as many elements as you can, but white space (which means blank or negative space) plays an important role in spreading your elements out for a balanced layout.

Congratulations! You made it through Graphic Design 101. There’s no diploma or certificate, but I hope this helps you get your creative juices flowing.


Karley Horton is the marketing communication specialist and graphic designer at Morris Marketing Group.


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