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Graphic Design Basic Elements

Five basic elements of graphic design: lines, shapes, mass, texture, and color.
  1. Lines
    Lines are one of the basic elements of design. Alone or in combination with other lines or shapes they can aid in the readability, appearance, and message of a design. Use lines to:
    • organize
    • texturize
    • guide the eye
    • provide movement
    • make a statement
    • convey universal meanings
  2. Shapes
    Squares (and rectangles), triangles, and circles are the three basic shapes. Examine their role in design including the psychology of shapes in logo design. Class also touches on freeform shapes. Shape is one of the basic elements of design. Alone or in combination with other shapes or lines they can convey universal meanings as well as guide the eye or organize information. The three basic types of shapes are geometric, natural, and abstract. Geometric shapes are structured, often symmetrical shapes. These include squares, circles, and triangles but also octagons, hexagons, and cones. Natural shapes are found in nature or they can be manmade shapes. Leaves are an example of a natural shape. An ink blob is a natural shape. Natural shapes are often irregular and fluid.
    Abstract shapes are stylized or simplified versions of natural shapes. Symbols found on signs, such as the stylized wheelchair shape for handicapped access, is one example.
  3. Mass
    How big is it? Take a look at mass or visual weight of graphic and text elements. It includes a large section on size and measurements for type and paper and images. Mass is one of the basic elements of design. Mass equals size. Each piece you create has a physical mass. Additionally, each element within the design (graphics, photos, lines, text blocks) have their own mass relative to the whole piece. Part of working with mass in desktop publishing is understanding how we measure the various parts of a design such as paper, type, and images.
  4. Texture
    In addition to the actual texture of the paper we print on, look at the textures we create through techniques such as embossing and the visual texture created with certain graphics techniques. Texture is always a part of our designs whether intentional or not. It is the visual or tactile surface characteristics of a piece. In desktop publishing, texture comes from the paper we use. We may also add visual textures through the arrangement of lines and shapes or the use of photographic images of specific surfaces.
  5. Color
    Color symbolism and association. It also touches briefly on the mechanics of color reproduction on the Web and in print. Color is not essential to a good design. Black and white and shades of gray can create 'color' that is just as effective as reds, blues, and greens. However, color is an added dimension that can evoke moods and make powerful statements when used wisely.
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