Graphic design is one of the oldest forms of communication for design and marketing. It is described as an art form and is the practice and planning of sharing ideas and stories through visual and text format. Graphic design was initially a print practice but is mainly digitized now, with images, words, and graphics all part of an end-to-end design.
Graphic design exists to persuade, advertise, promote, or otherwise elicit an emotional response. Expertise in this field is a crucial element in almost all marketing campaigns, and marketers need to know how to use it effectively.
Marketers often use their own in-house resources to create graphic design, although some may work with specialized agencies or freelancers. As the world’s digital transformation continues, is there even any need for traditional graphic design? People have asked the question “is print design dead?” for many years but the answer remains a resounding “no.”
Research by Nielsen’s Books looks at how we can link the children’s book industry with print design. The children’s book market continues to grow throughout the digital age, showing that print design is far from being unimportant; it is just often overlooked.
This is further corroborated when you look at digital brands still committed to print such as Red Bull, who still maintain a print magazine despite their extremely successful and far-reaching digital presence.
Marketers cannot discount any kind of graphic design, and will soon find similarities to keep in mind across the ages.
Basic Principles of Graphic Design
There are some principles of graphic design that will never change. No matter if you’re looking to create a digital brochure, flyer, poster, online advertisement, landing page, microsite, or website—all require excellent user experience (UX). While it is important to recognize these rules and apply them in all design projects, context will determine what will work best.
The intended use of the design is key as print can be wildly different from digital in terms of standard print sizes, pixel volume, and much more. That is to say—people don’t consume magazines in the same way that they consume Buzzfeed articles.
The hard and fast rules which make a successful design include the following:
Proximity is the term for grouping elements of a design together to help guide the viewer to your key message. It adds continuity to a page and helps guide a reader or viewer to the main point being made.
Common proximity best practices include grouping similar information in the same area (such as contact information), and keeping captions close to images to create a single visual unit rather than a disconnected set of images.
Alignment ensures everything is visible, digestible, and readable. “Centered” design is widespread and used by many designers early on in their career. However, even the most unsystematic designs created by professionals still have the balance needed to succeed and get their message across.
In the below example, it is possible to see how aligned text works to convey the design effectively. Alignment needs to be consistent but does not always have to be “centered.” It is worth also keeping in mind how print and digital design may differ in terms of alignment, especially when you consider how things look different on a page than online.
Effective and persuasive marketing design can make good use of repetition in many different ways. It creates visual appeal and can make a statement, and even typify a brand.
In this example, Violeta by Anagrama, it is possible to see how a simple line creates the identity of the brand and begins to represent the brand in any format it is displayed.
Contrast is when two elements of a design are different. It could be a color change, starkly different fonts or shapes, or something else altogether. Contrast appeals to the human eye and adds interest and intrigue to any design. It brings flat design to life.
In this example from magazine Lados No.29, stark contrasts are used to create the striking cover image. Dark blue and black against yellow creates high contrast and the circular shape positioned behind the model in the image also contrasts against the hard lines of the magazine and rectangular background.
White space can make or break a design. It is another way of creating contrast, and it can also help to promote a direct message in a clear and obvious way. Brands use it bring their point across and ensure that a key message stands out.
In this example by Made By Sofa, their message could not be more clear. Minimal design helps to further push the brand’s message, and it’s eye-catching too. In this example, sensible and clever use of white space helps the graphical elements to stand out prominently.
Print Design vs. Web Design
It would be naïve for marketers to apply the exact same approach to print and web design. In print design, one primary goal is to keep the audience on the page long enough to impress and inform. And—you might not even have a full page to achieve this task!
Another primary goal may be to keep them reading or make them pick up the physical product in the first place. This is used in book or magazine covers or on the first page of a brochure. The benefit of working with a physical product is that you can use texture and shape as well as image and text to create the end result.
In digital design, you are still trying to keep the viewers on a single page, or on a single website, for as long as possible. The number of pages on the site may be unlimited, so design consistency and longevity is particularly important. Clear navigation, animation, and sound can be core elements of online graphic design too, as well as the chance to expand into video.
Marketers should not discount the value of traditional graphic design and what it can generate for their campaign. Being mindful of all design principles can help shape both digital and print campaigns to ensure success.