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Graphic Design Basics

Graphic Design Basics

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Two basic elements of graphic design include typography and page layout.


  • Flush left type is the easiest to read. Centered type is the hardest.

  • Upper and lower case is best for titles. (Upper & Lower Case).

  • Initial cap & lower case is best for text and some headings. (Initial cap & lower case.)

  • It is best not to use ALL CAPS, accept for acronyms.

  • Serif vs. San Serif Type. It is best to use serif type (like Times) for long text. Sans Serif is best for signage, presentations graphics and large headings.

Serif Type Has Feet/Sans Serif Type Doesn’t

When to use bold or italic. Use italics for book titles in text and bold for subheads. When used very sparingly for emphasis as an attention getting device, bold and italic can be useful. But use only sparingly.

Leading--the space between lines--and how to use it.

Less leading is needed for bigger type and shorter lines. Smaller type and longer lines usually require more leading. typically two points of lead added to lines of body text works for most situations. Headlines may not need any lead at all and lines above 70 characters need 3 or more points between lines. Captions may only need one point.

Letter spacing or tracking can be adjusted so that letters are closer or farther apart. Bigger type needs less space between letters. Do not decrease tracking very much on small text, it will run the letters together.

What about Kerning?

This technique closes space between certain letter pairs like Ty and vo. Kerning makes spacing look more even because it adjusts for individual differences in letter combinations.

Avoid confusion and use as few fonts as possible. It is best to use one san serif and one serif.

Page layout and design

When deciding page size consider the cost and use standard sizes.

Simplify your message.

Complicated information can be simplified in many ways. One technique is to insert subheads. Subheads guide readers through long articles by breaking them into easily read two and three-paragraph topics. Set the subhead in a contrasting face´┐Ż-- a bit bigger and bolder. You can also simplify by replacing text with tables, charts and other graphics.

Use layout tools to provide emphasis to key information.

Pull quotes area useful tool to add emphasis and reinforce ideas. A pull quote is a short quotation used as a graphic device to summarize surround material and draw attention to it. It is used to break up large amounts of body copy. As a design element, a pull quote can be set in large type, reversed or boxed.

  • Keep design elements consistent: ie subhead use and styles, photo caption placement and style.

  • Text should be easy to follow; sequence of  photos and art should be logical.

  • Use columns for text layout--avoid lines that are too long. It’s hard for readers to follow across entire 8 inch width.

  • Don’t overdo the design. use a few colors and typefaces. The best looking documents use minimal colors and effects. White space is good.