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Introducing Graphic Design

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Practical Graphic Design

The task of a graphic designer is to communicate a message to his or her audience successfully through the organisation of words and images. Graphic designer, Paul Rand defined the designer as being ‘like a juggler, demonstrating the skills by manipulating carious ingredient in a given space. Good design has to take into consideration the practical constraints imposed by the client’s brief – the budget, schedule and audience.

All graphic designers need a wide range of the best possible quality of equipment to enable them to work to the deadlines and to the high standards demanded today. The designer must her able to work quickly and accurately, so any devises that can speed up work is invaluable.

A graphic designer is an orchestrator of words and images. Every designer will deal with typography, colour and composition in an individual manner, producing different results. The emphasis at most colleges is on self-motivation, periods spent exploring ideas and experimenting without the restrictions imposed by a client, is very valuable for the development of visual awareness. Your main objective is to always communicate information to the audience.

In practice, the designer acts as a coordinator, his or her knowledge having to incorporate extensive aspects of every ancillary reproduction process from typesetting systems to complete magazine or book printing. It is important, therefore that the designer is totally familiar with every aspect of the design process in order that he or she may tackle with confidence and assurance the most important part of their involvement – design itself.

Basic Design

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Basic design is the key to successful creative visual communication. A knowledge of design basics, allows graphic designer to create order out of chaos and develops their creative design work the invisible touch. That is the piece of creative design shows the essence of an intended communication instantly, it is easily understood by the audience as an instinctive thought. The underlying pattern or structure, purpose and intent and even as far as the quality of the design all seem understated or secondary to the true message that is pitched at the viewer.

Today more than any time in our history we are being subjected to visual bombardment. We find ourselves awash with consumer information some solicited but most of it a saturation overload and irrelevant to our lives. Some of us have become desensitised to the world of rapid visual stimulation and mass marketing. It is the responsibility of graphic designer to be honest and tome conscious in their work. Creative design that is carefully planned and facilitated plays upon peoples emotional responses. Many associate to brainwashing and therefore its the responsibility of the designers to believe what they are doing is vital to good design and correct motive. Designers can make or break companies and businesses, and also be of great benefit to target audiences or aid the manipulation of people and various levels of culture.

Basic design is a set of rules or basic guide lines used religiously by advertising agencies, publishers, internet providers, manufacturers, corporations, television and news networks all around the world. Styles, trends, technology and fashions may change but basic design principles have remained the same. Where ever a visual communication is required whether to sell, inform or entertain basic design principles are applied in some way and together with images and text, give us graphic design that works. Excellent basic creative design practice is invisible to the viewer observing a particular communication – transmitting though is the pivotal role of a successful piece of graphic design.

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Family of Type

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The combination of all styles and sizes in a given typeface. The two most common typestyles are roman and italic. Italic letterforms usually slant to the right. Some typefaces slant to the left or can be specified to do so. The normal angle for an italic is 17.5 degree, but it may now be specific to the left or right in half-degree increments.

Typefaces also vary in weight and width. Typestyles from within the one family, e.g. Univers, will have a family resemblance, their x and cap heights and length or ascenders and defenders being consistent. This will unify the design.


A complete alphabet in one size of a typeface. The number of characters in a font varies, depending on the number of special characters and punctuation marks. Note: You often hear the word ‘font’ (fount) used to refer to the complete family typeface, encompassing all weight and sizes; e.g. Times, Univers etc. This is not correct but the term is now in common usage and accepted as the ‘true’ meaning of the word.

Useful and inexpensive type management software is Adobe Type Reunion. It groups your fonts into families,m akin it easier when handling type.

Graphic Design – Design Elements

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Big Chief Creative – Design Elements

Design Elements separate, link and identify information. The design elements are point, line, shape, form, plane, texture and colour and should be used in conjunction with each other. In aiming  towards clear and effective visual communication, their effective use may demonstrate the users understanding of the design principles.
The following definitions are intended to aid a general understanding of the design elements and it should be understood that these examples may be interpreted and used alternatively.

Design Elements

  • Point – Point is a mark which may indicate position and location. When used in conjunction with other elements, it can be position at which two or more lines cross or converge.
  • Line – Essentially line represents a single dimension – length. In conjunction with other elements it can be used to represent shape, tone, form and texture.
  • Shape – Shape is the space contained within the lines. Shapes can be organic or geometric and can be used on conjunction with other elements.
  • Form – Form may be created by joining two or more shapes with the intention of creating a three-dimensional effect on a two-dimensional surface.
  • Plane – Plane is a single flat surface of a three-dimensional form usually contained within line. Plane may be further emphasised with the use of tone, texture and colour.
  • Tone – Tone may be used to describe a shape or plane in terms of its shadows and highlights. It is used to specify, distinguish and highlight shapes and to create the effect of form.
  • Texture – Texture may be achieved by the combination of elements such as point and line. It may be applied in a realistic or abstract style.
  • Colour – Colour should be considered in combination with other elements. Colour is one of the most difficult elements to use: if used properly it can add flair, interest and excitement.

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Graphic Design – Design Principles

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Big Chief Creative – Design Principles

Design Principles give the graphic designer a means of ordering the design elements to produce a form of a composition. The design principles should be used to improve the visual organisation of the visual elements used. For example, a Company’s branding may have shapes that are assembled symmetrically or asymmetrically, forms that may be repeated, points that may appear in a sequence, lines that may be ordered in the hierarchy, or any other combination of design elements and principles. These can also be used to improve the quality of the form of a product or shape. For example, the design of a brochure may be symmetrical and be based on a set of repetitive shapes.

The following definitions are intended to aid a general understanding of the design principles and it should understood that the examples provided are not necessary of the ways in which principles may be interpreted and enforced. ‘Visual Communication’ may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. Therefore, design elements and principles should be considered in the design of the layout or representations and in design of graphic images, products, construction and models.

Design Principles

  • Composition – Composition is determined by the combination of elements and principles in a chosen visual presentation.
  • Balance – Balance may be achieved by the careful consideration and application of a number of design elements, principles and type within a visual presentation.
  • Symmetry – Symmetry is the mirrored arrangement of elements on opposite sides of a visual axis.
  • Asymmetry – Asymmetry is a balanced arrangement of elements that is not mirrored on opposite sides of a visual axis.
  • Cropping – Cropping is created by repositioning borders, often through the use of a viewfinder.
  • Grid – Grid refers to the invisible framework on which relevant imagery, including text may be positioned.
  • Figure – Figure usually refers to an image or images which become more visually dominant than the ground in which they are placed within a composition.
  • Ground – Ground refers to the situation where the background or ‘negative space’  is clearly defined and at time may be dominant.
  • Scale – Scale generally refers to the size of the figure on the ground; relative size, scale will determine hierarchy of elements within a visual presentation.
  • Dimension – Dimension is the actual size of the components of the visual presentation.

Big Chief Creative hold the ‘principles and elements’ guide with great respect and integrity. We can all often over think the most basic of tasks and especially when we are thinking creatively. Having a guide to bring the task back into perspective help simplify and visualise your task. We the Graphic Designer are paid to create for the client, not artists breaking the barriers of fine art. Keeping relevance and understanding of the clients needs and aspirations are important attributes when meeting the demands of clients.



Typography – Letter Spacing

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While all type can be letter spaced to produce normal, tight, very tight or loose settings, they can also be overall or selective (Kerning). As letter spacing is chosen on personal preference, your first priority should be legibility.
Reading many long lines of type causes fatigue, the reader must move his/her head with the length of each line to search for the beginning of the text. A line that is too short often breaks up words or phases that are generally read as a unit. The length of the line depends, to certain extent on the size of the text. A good rule of thumb for lengthy reading is to set a line about two and a half alphabets long.

Line spacing / Leading
This is one of he most important areas of text type setting. Just when to use line spacing and how much, depends on a number of factors;

Leading, as well as making reading easier, has an important aesthetic function. Although readability in most typefaces is improved with a little leading. The more leading, the greater the tendency for the lines to drift apart and for the type to appear grey. With too much leading, the white space between the lines becomes more important than the lines of type themselves, which seem to float loosely on the page. In small quantities, this affect might be desirable, but not for sustained reading. There is an ideal amount of leading.


Graphic design “Buzz Words”

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Buzz Words

Creativity – inventiveness and imaginative thought processes.
Dimension – a measurement (e.g. length, breadth, depth).
Function – the intended purpose of a thing.
Spatial – of or concerning space.
Stimulus – something that provokes a reaction or increases an activity.

Unlike the Graphic Design industry, many fields hold strong and direct “rules & guides” The design principles and elements guide is our “Bible” and back to basics help guide. Big Chief Creative will be talking “Principles and elements” within the next few posts. These “Buzz Words” have been taken and incorporated into creative design, its processes and concerns also relevant to the questions Graphic Designers often ask themselves, when brainstorming during the creative process for a client and intended audience. Buzz words are great when experiencing a brain block, it breaks down the often complicated process for a  Graphic Designer to create the perfect inspiration and visually impacting piece such as:

  • Corporate Branding
  • Company logos
  • Flyers/brochures
  • Promotions
  • Posters
  • Business Cards
  • Signage
  • Social Media Posts
  • Websites and Internet advertising

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Typography – Word Spacing

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Letter spacing and word spacing can drastically affect readability, the number of characters per line and the colour off the setting. What is the desirable amount of space between words? Type that runs together and type that is too far apart are both unsatisfactory. In general too much or too little spacing is conspicuous, it diverts attention from the text to the way words are placed.

Words placed too closely together force the reader to work harder to distinguish one word from another. Words placed too far apart result in large space that looks like ripples running through the page. These ripples are especially apparent in newspapers, where narrow columns make even word spacing difficult. Proper word spacing creates greater legibility but much depends on the particular typeface, space allicated and finally, personal preference.

Some factors that must be considered when selecting a typeface for text setting; Aesthetics, Appropriateness, and Legibility. Examine these factors and after choosing a typeface that is both appropriate and legible, your next consideration will be;

Does it require word spacing (Kerning)?
Letter spacing?
How long should the lines be?
Will they require line spacing (Leading)?
How should the lines of type be arranged on the page or within the selected space?

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