5 Graphic Design Conventions to Follow

Posted on August 22, 2022 | Updated on July 10, 2023

When it comes to graphic design, one of the things you most certainly need to avoid is reinventing the wheel. Sometimes, you may feel tempted to create a new solution to a problem. Yet, those new solutions don’t always make sense or provide a significant improvement.

When designers break conventions, it takes more time for a reader to process the information. Therefore, designers need to consider cognitive thinking and working memory when working with a new design.

Here are the most basic design conventions to follow when working with graphics.

1. Incorporate Simplicity

The saying is true when designers impose the idea that less is more in graphic design. The concept behind this allows you to prioritize certain elements within your design. As a result, you leave out the excess and provide the reader with the most necessary features, information and components. 

While maximalist designs can be truly impressive to the human eye, they can often be more difficult to decipher. For example, if a visitor uses a website with a complex design, they’re more likely to end the session without accomplishing the end goal. 

That’s because they may not be able to understand how to navigate your website fully. Another example is when a designer creates a logo filled with various elements — the audience may get confused about what the brand’s message is saying.

2. Draw Attention With Hierarchy

When you use multiple elements in a design, you have to ensure you prioritize certain ones by providing extra weight to them. Accomplishing this allows you to get your message across.

For example, when readers look at your design, they’re first drawn to the headings or areas you need them to focus on the most. Using this technique is known as a visual hierarchy and you can achieve it in various ways.

For instance, you may use shapes to frame a certain point. Or, you can use bold fonts and place them higher than other elements to highlight the main message. 

When using this design convention, consider the most important piece of information and make it the focal point of your design.

3. Leverage Contrast

Contrast is essential because it enables you to draw out certain design elements while adding emphasis. 

Contrast occurs when two design elements are opposite, such as big and small, thick and thin, black and white, etc. The use of comparison is critical for guiding the viewer to the most crucial parts of the design. 

Consider being strategic in your decision-making process when creating a new design project. For instance, you could pair a bold typeface with a delicate font or dark color with a lighter one.

Strategically emphasizing certain aspects of your design means you’re using contrast well.

4. Prioritize White Space

White space refers to the areas of the design that don’t have text, objects or images. It’s also the space in between two elements. In other words, white space is the background and you can use it to guide eye flow and improve legibility. 

White space is an important part to pay attention to in design. It helps avoid clutter in your design and allows brands to convey the message effectively.

Essentially, the more whitespace you have, the more the reader is drawn to your design. Therefore, this powerful tool can make a layout simple and inviting. 

5. Support Your Design With Color

Color is a powerful element in design because they’re often associated with emotion — which you can use to communicate subconsciously. First, you’d have to understand the basics of color theory to optimize your design. 

For example, red is the color brands use to get users to take action. Often, you’ll see “buy” buttons have this color on websites to persuade customers to make a purchase.

Brands also often use blue to convey the message that they’re trusting and the color helps users feel calm.

It also helps to use brand colors. You can choose up to three shades and determine how to use them in certain settings. This method will ensure consistency and help consumers remember your brand the next time they go shopping.

Put Design Conventions to Good Use

While design is constantly evolving, many of the conventions mentioned here will never change. Simply put, these design conventions are useful guidelines to follow when creating your next design. Therefore, it’s important to keep these in mind and consider your audience, especially when mastering a certain element in your project.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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