If you frequent any sort of social media site like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+, chances are you have posted an image or GIF to convey an idea, a thought, or a joke. But using images to share ideas or speak with one another is not new. Visual communication can be traced back to cave drawings in France, Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs, and pictographs used by the Aztecs. Look at the chart below you can see how communication has progressed through time.
We continue to communicate with image and pictures only now digitally. Unless you have little ones at home, then you may get your own form of cave paintings on the wall!
Unless you’ve degreed in visual or graphic communications, creating appealing images or graphics may be challenging to many. In this blog, I’ll share some graphic design tips that can help you have a better grasp at creating images, and some tools that will aid you in creating visually appealing graphics.
I’m going to share with you four principles of design. There are competing thoughts that there are 4, 5, or 6 principles, but for the sake of this blog I’m focusing on the following four: proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast. These principles govern the relationships between the elements used in the design and organize the composition as a whole. Successful design incorporates the use of the principles to communicate the intended message effectively. They help designers organize the images and type on the page, so that it feels more comfortable to viewers and makes a greater impact. My hope is that I will help you.
The Principle of Proximity states that you group related items together, move them physically close to each other so the related items are seen as one cohesive group rather than a bunch of unrelated bits. Basically, if things are related, put them in close proximity. Here is an example of an academic decathlon poster. Notice the sample on the left has all items in no related fashion. I have applied the principle and grouped items that correlated with each other to the sample on the right.
Ever been waiting in line for a concert or sporting event? The chaos of a horde of people trying to get into the same place at the same time. That lack of alignment can cause discomfort. Many new designers tend to put text and graphics on the page wherever there happens to be space, often without regard to any other items on the page. The principle of alignment states, “Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every item should have a visual connection with something else on the page.” When items are aligned, the result is a stronger cohesive unit. The basic purpose of alignment is to unify and organize the page. There are three basic types of alignment; left, center, and right.
Looking back at my original poster, center aligned is not bad, but can be dull. It’s a common placement of items when creating graphics. Let’s revisit the revised poster from the previous section below on the left. Again, it’s not bad. But let’s try a flush right alignment. Because of the space available on the left, I added a transparent image there just because.
“Dum-dum-dum-di-di-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-di-di-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-di-di-dum-dum.” Sound familiar? If you said Under Pressure, you got it! Like the use of repetitious hooks in a song, repeating elements in a graphic design can be visually appealing. Repeat visual elements of the design throughout the piece. You can repeat colors, shapes, textures, spatial relationships, line thicknesses, fonts, sizes, graphic concepts, etc. This develops the organization and strengthens the unity. First off, have you noticed the layout of my blog? I’ve been duplicating the format, font use, image placement as a subtle but effective use of repetition.
In the case of graphics, think of using consistent items. The poster on the left is the most recent update. And on the right, I have added some repetition with the bold text. Doing something as simple as that can help the viewer/learner remember things. Remember the “dum-dum-dum-di-di-dum-dum” hook!
This is one of the most effective ways to add that visual appeal. The idea behind contrast is to avoid elements on the page that are merely similar. If the elements (type, color, line thickness, shape, space, etc.) are not the same, then make them very different. Contrast is often the most important visual attraction on a page–it’s what makes a reader look at the page in the first place. It also clarifies the communication. Here is one last look at the academic graphic. The left is the most recently edited version. Now on the right I have made some contrasting adjustments. Which one looks more appealing? Please say the right side, just kidding! Notice what contrast can do.
Here are some other versions with some added color. Adding color changes the feel of the poster. What do you think?
Not everyone is a full-time graphic designer, media developer, or artists, who happen to own robust applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. Fortunately, there are many apps and/or web tools that you can use to create graphics or images. Some of these apps cost free dollars while others have premiums. You can do plenty of great visual work with the free versions.
Google Drawings is part of the suite of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Drawings is a pretty nifty app! In all honesty, I created all my design principal images using it. I do own Adobe Creative Cloud, but I wanted to demonstrate that power of Drawings. Use it to add images and/or graphics into your presentations, doc, etc.
Canva gets it’s name from dropping the S off of canvas. You can create your own digital graphic masterpiece. Canva is quite different than Google Drawings in that you can build your images and graphics based on pre-made layouts. You can still start from scratch, but for those of you that struggle for ideas, Canva is for you! If you are inclined, you can take tutorials in their design school to get a better understanding of design principles. I do use Canva to create many of my blog images.
Let me get this out there. I love Spark! Adobe Spark has three options to communicate ideas. There’s an option to create stories via Page. An option to create animated videos to share ideas. Spark Post lets you pick an image and add text, filters, and shapes to create stunning graphics that can be used for social media, websites, and anywhere online.
Creating images and graphics doesn’t have to be too hard. Granted not everyone has studied graphic design. With a little knowledge of a few design principles: proximity, alignment, repetition, and contrast, you’ll be on your way to making appealing graphics. Armed with some apps and/or webtools, creating images has become easier and mobile!
The History of Visual Communication.” 2006. 13 Jul. 2016 http://www.citrinitas.com/history_of_viscom/
Williams, Robin (2014-11-20). The Non-Designer’s Design Book (Non Designer’s Design Book) (p. 95). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.