You must have observed that great designers follow a particular process in which they style and arrange distinct elements on the design canvas—also known as the layout. These different elements come together to form a composed design—we call this the design composition.
Simply put, a well-composed design is a visual story that grabs your attention and directs it to follow a particular arrangement of elements. Designers do this so that you, as a viewer, understand their narrative.
We’ll explore the basics of composition in design and discuss various attributes, with examples that help form a composed design. Finally, we’ll apply what we learned and create our own design using Shutterstock Create.
What is Composition in Design?
Let’s discuss design layout or graphic visuals. Each design layout comprises design elements, and the arrangement of these elements follow a particular set of rules that we’ll explore below, so keep reading.
First, let’s learn about the design elements.
The most fundamental element of design, in all its simplicity, is two points connected. Lines can be solid, dotted, curved, thick, or thin. When combined, lines can form many other shapes. We use lines to draw the eye to any specific design section.
Lines are also commonly used as dividers in various layouts, especially in web and editorial designs. You can use these lines to your advantage by styling them with different colors, weights, and curves.
Shapes are everywhere, from complex structures to the simplest object. Everything is a combination of shapes. Even the screen of your phone or laptop on which you’re reading this is a shape.
Shapes can be geometric or non-geometric. They can be in perfect symmetry or hand-drawn asymmetry. We use shapes primarily for interactions in designs, like buttons.
Meanwhile an arrow—a triangle head with a line—is used to point directions. Complex shapes, along with negative space, can further enhance your design.
We encourage you to experiment with different shapes and see what works best.
The most important element in the design is typography. Font is frequently the main focus of web design, editorial design, social media design, and branding design. The right font can evoke an emotional response from you.
For example, a premium product will likely use a serif font, and a blog heading will likely use a trustworthy sans serif font.
Colors—like fonts—trigger an emotional response and are one of the essential pillars of design.
The most basic emotional response can be Red means Danger. Colors enhance the look and feel of your lines, shapes, and typography.
So, finding the right balance between different tones is essential to maintain the perfect color harmony.
Negative or white space is much appreciated in design. It’s basically the design area left empty to create an overall image. The placement of negative space in your design is strategic as it declutters a design.
In web and editorial design, negative space is extensively used to break the monotony of words and other objects.
In visual design, we add textures to add depth to our overall design. We can use different textures like halftone, grunge, crumpled paper, stained glass, metal, etc.
The Principles of Composition in Design
Although there is no right or wrong in design, we follow a few guiding principles and use them to our advantage for effective visual communication.
Of course, you may bend these rules at your will, but to do so you must first know what they are.
Every element you use on your artboard/canvas in graphic design will carry weight. This weight can create balance or imbalance in your design.
Symmetrical balance mirrors the weight on either side by keeping the center as the focal point. This mirror could be top, bottom, left, or right.
An asymmetrical balance uses various elements with different weights distributed around to balance each other out. Or, it can be an object that becomes the focal point of your design.
Scale & Proportion
Larger elements in design indicate that they are more important than the smaller ones. This pretty straightforward principle emphasizes what’s important and what’s not.
Like scale and proportions, contrast is another technique you can apply to your design to make an element stand out from neighboring or background elements.
Using proper contrast is important in creating AAA-compliant (accessible) designs.
Emphasis can utilize contrast, scale, and proportions or color, shapes, or patterns to make a specific part of the overall design stand out.
You must have seen illustrations where a path leads to a small cabin up in the mountains. That’s the concept of movement.
Designers use different shapes, lines, arrows, colors, and more that lead their viewers’ eyes to a particular, much more critical section of the design.
This is when one object repeatedly appears all over the artboard or canvas. It’s commonly used to style backgrounds for various applications.
A good and balanced design has all its elements in harmony. This doesn’t mean that all the elements are the same. They can be different shapes, sizes, or colors.
In fact, they could be under a completely different hierarchy of elements, but when viewed together they appear complete and in harmony—composed and balanced.
Using Composition in Design
Now that we have established all the elements and understand that the design principles are essential to a beautiful composition, let’s create something simple in Shutterstock Create that’ll explore different principles of design.
Open Shutterstock Create and under the Start with a blank canvas click on Instagram Post.
From the top panel, click on Change Color and set your background color to #edad00.
Using the panel on the left, click on Shapes and select a triangle. Change the color to #ff57b7.
Now, repeat the same process and let’s add a rectangle then change its angle a bit as shown in the image. Change the color to #73c87d.
Let’s add one more shape, this time a circle. Change the color to #7952d9.
Now, let’s add some text. Using the text tool from the panel on the left, type “Balanced” and change the font to “Kayto Hand” and place it on top of the rectangle.
Then, add more text—this time we’ll write “Almost” using the “Archivo Black” font.
Next, from the Graphics panel, select Sketchy Labels and apply any element. Then move it under the shapes and text layer and change its color to #e2fff9.
Let’s apply a texture. We’re using a paper texture, so resize and then from the top panel click Edit image.
Under the heading of Creative Effects, select Fade & Blend and change the Blend Mode to “Multiply.”
We’ll download it by clicking the Download button from the top. Choose the file format you want to download.
License this cover image via Dreava Bogdan / Westend61 on Offset.
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