10 Graphic Design Basics You Need To Know As A Non-Designer

February 16, 2023
Authored by:
Gareth Mankoo

Every institute, art college, or course could only do enough to make you a digital artist if you have your graphic design basics right.

Choosing a graphic designer could be a life-changing career decision in an industry where the profession is highly coveted and skilled resources are too few to satisfy the demand. Learning the tricks of the trade takes ample time, and sometimes you pay the price for not knowing the basics.

If you run a business or a project and need graphic design support without the funds or means to recruit a full-time professional, you will wish you had some basic skills to get the job done.

Here’s where the graphic design basics can be helpful, even for amateur or uninitiated designers.

Learn 10 graphic design basics and turn yourself into a pro

This post isn’t a full-fledged course, but it will give you the key aspects you need to consider. The ten graphic design basics apply to digital art and every design aesthetic you encounter.

Use these essential skills to set a discipline for yourself. Look for examples where you can test these lessons and gauge your improvement.

1. Utilize space correctly

Source: LOGO.com

Space is the prime real estate you have to carry out your visual communication with intended audiences. Each pixel or inch on a creative design can make or break the visual experience of customers.

Space, in this context, refers to the area surrounding critical elements in the format, including graphics, images, buttons, headlines, and even logo designs.

Creating a cushion of space over essential parts of a design helps your customers realize that these are the critical points in the visual. Their eyes naturally gravitate towards exclusive elements in the design.

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2. Master balance and alignment

Source: LOGO.com

A crucial graphic design basic you must pay attention to is the balance and alignment of the elements in your design. Balance is the arrangement of boxes, text, graphics, and images within a layout.

The details need to be evenly distributed and not lean heavily on one part of the design, leaving the other part looking vacant. Colors need to be balanced too. You can balance elements in different ways to create a unique effect.

Alignment is a fundamental design requirement. It affects the natural design that our eyes seek. You just know if something is out of alignment, whether you are a designer or not. As an essential skill, you need to understand how alignment works and when to draw the line so it doesn't look overly art-directed and fake.

3. Understand the power of contrast

Source: LOGO.com

Contrast forms an integral part of graphic design basics because it brings dynamism to your creations. Balancing polar opposite visual elements gives it a character and makes the creative look more vibrant.

You can apply different contrasts to graphic design. The most common use of “contrast” is in the color of a design, where designers toy with dark and bright colors to create a vivid effect.

Contrast can also manifest in typography when you use older fonts with thicker strokes and newer fonts with thinner contemporary ones. Other “contrasts” you can experiment with include shapes, sizes of elements, and design styles.

4. Observe a hierarchy

Source: LOGO.com

When you set out to make a graphic design that conveys a message, consistently rank the design objects in the sequence of their priorities. Your audience is increasingly distracted by several digital distractions surrounding them.

A hierarchy attracts their gaze to an element you want them to see. You can control customers’ eye movements by creating a solid visual hierarchy.

Without a visual scale, your customers will not know what to read first, and it can cause miscommunication or lost details.

5. Understand shape psychology

Shapes play a vital role in balancing any visual design. Graphic designs rely heavily on shape psychology. Each shape can create a mood or feeling in the viewer's mind.

Source: Visme

Sharp lines in a plan denote powerful points more effectively. In contrast, rounded shapes like circles and ovals are more nurturing and caring in personality and therefore do better at landing messages of that nature.

These shapes also extend to the shapes of the logos you design. Being the primary identifier of your brand, the shapes and lines that define your logo speak a thousand words about the kind of brand you are, even before your brand name.

6. Tap into color psychology

Color psychology is an essential subject of study when you are new to graphic design basics. Each color has a personality and creates a mood that triggers reactions from customers. There are warm colors, cold colors, robust colors, and even nurturing ones.

Source: PHMC GPE

The impact of color theory in graphic design can be significant, as colors have the ability to influence a viewer's emotions, perception, and behavior.

For example, certain colors can be associated with specific emotions, such as blue with trustworthiness and calmness, red with passion and energy, and green with growth and tranquility.

By using colors intentionally, designers can enhance the impact of their designs and communicate a desired message more effectively.

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7. Dive into the world of typography

Source: Shillington Design

One of the most complex subjects in a graphic design curriculum is typography.

While the world has an accepted list of popular fonts, some typefaces perform better than others to achieve specific results. You can broadly categorize fonts into serif and sans-serif categories.

As you dive deeper into the science of typography, more typefaces surface, each with their incredible potential to represent a specific personality of your brand.

8. Add depth with texture

Source: LOGO.com

How do you add depth to the designs you create? You can create depth with the help of shadows and lighting effects that have evolved to give you more realistic perspectives.

Textures add character to your designs. Pick them judiciously, as you must ensure they do not interfere with the text written over them. Use your designs' textures in blank or vacant spaces to create maximum impact.

9. Attain consistency with rhythm

Source: LOGO.com

You are a brand with a vision and a single-minded goal. Your content will be dispersed across the internet, making itself visible to specific users at specific times. As a result, they see your content in an ad-hoc manner, by chance, rather than in prescribed and well-timed doses.

For this reason, it is essential to maintain consistency in the flow of your visual design. An important exercise to carry out when you are new to graphic designing is to see how leading brands create consistency in their styles.

There is a caveat to the rule. Consistency isn’t the ultimate solution for great design, as it leaves room for interpretation.

10. Balance your layout with proximity

Source: LOGO.com

When everything comes together, you can view your design holistically. The different elements need to look at home with one another.

You can achieve this by identifying the needs of your customers and what will attract them the most. Pick on their habits and affect each aspect of your brand’s design with them.

From typography to color, shapes to contrasts, everything on your creative must come together and present itself as an excellent proposition for your customers. As a marketer, you are learning graphic design basics to make a profit, and not to be an artist.

Frequently asked questions about graphic design basics

What are some commonly asked questions about getting started with graphic design basics? Get your questions answered with these three FAQs.

1. Can I learn graphic design with no experience?

It's not hard to find a graphic designer to hire, as there is a large pool of professionals willing to help. There are many openings available to you despite your lack of experience. Remember, everyone begins with no experience.

2. What is the first step in graphic design?

If you're new to graphic design, the first thing you should do is establish a creative brief. This report, which is also known as a design brief, will detail everything your client requires from you in terms of the project's outcome.

3. Do you need math skills for graphic design?

Although a strong artistic foundation is essential, a firm grasp of essential mathematical concepts is also important for those interested in pursuing graphic design. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the mathematical requirements for certain graphic design principles.

Bottom line

With experience, every graphic designer builds their perception and rules by which they define their specific style. As a brand that has decided to take matters into its own hands, you are learning graphic design to fill a temporary gap. Take the advice of season graphic artists to gauge where you could improve at a personal level.

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