It’s not always easy to understand how graphic design works. You might spot a nice poster or a brochure and instantly be thinking “whoa yes, that’s it, that works”, whether consciously or unconsciously. However, when it comes to designing something or combining several elements of information together (also known as creating a composition) for yourself, it can be a struggle. This tends to be due to the fact that what may have worked elsewhere, doesn’t appear to be working for you and your brand. This often leads to frustration because you are not sure exactly what it is that isn’t working.
We want to help you with this by providing you with the key points and rules to be considered when creating a composition - whether it’s a flyer, poster, catalogue, brochure, newsletter, website page, or something different. Moreover, we’ll explain what these points actually mean and why they are important.
But first: What is composition?
"Composition is the art of discovering and representing unity in variety" - Plato ( An idea that Paul Klee developed with his students at the Bauhaus)
Composition in graphic design is the selection and the organisation of the diverse elements of the subject; it’s the “art” of linking in a relevant way, the chosen elements of the project.
For a composition to work, it has to be relevant, coherent and easy to read. To do so, there are several design rules that should be applied when creating this relevant and coherent content:
1 - Unity + Harmony: Proximity, Similarity, Continuation, Repetition
2 - Balance: Symmetry, Asymmetry
3 - Hierarchy + Path: Visual and Intellectual journey
4 - Scales + Proportions (+ Golden Rule)
5 - Dominance + Emphasis
6 - Order + Unity + Movement + Harmony = The rhythm
7 - Unity + Variety: Contrast
8 - Background + Shape: In + Out / Full + Empty
1. Unity and Harmony: Proximity, Similarity, Continuation, Repetition
When it comes to composition, the term “harmony” refers to achieving a visual balance in the field of application.
"Harmony is the relationship that accords the different parts of a complex whole in such a way that this meeting forms a coherent, happy, satisfying whole for the mind and the senses", Etienne Souriceau, professor of aesthetics at the Sorbonne University, Paris.
Proximity: A sense of the distance between elements
Similarity: The ability to be repeated with other elements
Continuation: A sense of having an extended line or pattern
Repetition: An element that can be copied numerous times
2. Balance: Symmetry, Asymmetry
Symmetry - Elements on either side of the axis are arranged similarly.
Asymmetry created by the proportion of the mass in space.
Elements differ on each side but are still in visual equilibrium.
3. Hierarchy and Path: A Visual and Intellectual journey
The composition is essential to control the progression of reading for the reader, it should not distract the attention of the reader but help to focus on the path to understand the subject. The composition should not take the lead on the subject but should serve the subject.
4. Scales and Proportions
Size: Elements of different sizes in relationships with each other
Ratio: Elements related to each other in a ratio appear together in visual harmony
Division: Elements create focal points that automatically give a sense of the relationship
Thank you for reading!
We hope this will help you for your next piece of communication - Part 2 is coming very soon!
If you have further questions please comment (we finally figured out how to activate our comment section - no comment about that! - feel free to use it, we'd love to here your thoughts about the content!) and we’ll do our best to come back with an answer that helps you! If you found this article interesting, please share it with your friends and/or people you know that might be interested to learn more about the subject!