What is Graphic Design? visual elements + type = message

Form Follows Function

Graphic Design in any of its many forms is about problem solving

  • You have a message to share. "Traffic is coming, you need to stop your car."
  • You can't physically make the person stop moving (that is industrial design where you make a speed bump or create a function on a car that makes the engine cut out)
  • So you take a person on a cerebral trip by communicating directly to their mind by using all the tools in your design wheelhouse to make them get the message and solve the problem.

The message is central to Graphic Design

GOOD DESIGN is when there is a harmonious marriage between the visual art "form" and the message "function."

As journalists, our message is the story we have to share. Sometimes the most effective way to communicate might not be through written word alone. That's when visual communication becomes essential.

There are three parts to our objective in this class

  1. Understand how to make choices about the functional messaging (Visual Communication)
  2. Develop a good eye with solid principals of graphics (Design)
  3. Understand the elementary how-to rules (Layout/ Programs)

Design drives visual culture


  • It captures attention
  • it controls the eye's movement across the page or screen
  • it conveys information
  • It evokes emotion

Turn to page 8 in text book and work in groups of 2-3 to complete exercise #3 finding and example online or in a publication you have.

Elements of ART & DESIGN


  • The defined area of your design
  • Postive is area that is filled with elements
  • Negative is empty space- Crucial for balance
  • Rolls can be interchanged to make strong visual impact or subtle cues


  • Line is the element that helps define space
  • Line can be literal or figurative in your design
  • Literal Lines = type, graphic marks these have specific characteristics they may be thick, thin, straight, curvy, continuous, interrupted, smooth, jagged etc.
  • Figurative lines are formed by elements in the design = columns of type on a newspaper, visual elements in a photograph that directs your eye across the page,
  • All LINE dictates eye flow across the page


  • Organic = found in nature, curvy, not perfect, but can be simplified to a clean shape. Think leaf or scallop shell.
  • Inorganic = geometric, perfect proportions, circles, squares, rectangles etc.
  • Shapes can function like an icon representing a whole idea vs. one specific thing. For example: a leaf shape representing all of nature.
  • Or can be a simplified element that represent something instead of actually showing it in all its detail. For example: stick figure representing a human.


  • Shows the relationship between elements
  • Explains exact measurements (like font size) or dimensions of a spread
  • Can be used as a design element to bring emphasis or create nuance.


  • Evokes emotion
  • Directs viewer
  • Create relationships


  • Can be real or implied dimension
  • Can pertain to the physical characteristics of the paper or printing surface
  • Can be a pattern or random


  • Tones of light and dark
  • The range between lightest and darkest is the grayscale
  • While it's obvious in black and white, there is also value in color for example pale pink has a light value, maroon red has a dark value.
  • The wider the range of grays the more we perceive depth. Difference between simple cartoon and live action movie. Both are actually 2D but one looks more dimensional because of the range of values shown.
  • Images that are mostly WHITE or light colors may be described as "High Key"
  • Those with that are mostly BLACK or dark colors may be described as "Low Key"

Read Chapters 1, 2 and 5 for this week in our book. Review the terminology and basic concepts.

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