Today we have some simple advice for graphic design or any art form. Some of you may already be familiar with C.R.A.P. (yeah, I know what I said) — Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. This will be particularly helpful for new Graphic Designers, but even experienced Marketers can benefit from a review! Want to make your business cards more cohesive, or your website stand out? Following these four principles will give you great results, and I promise you’ll want to include them in your process from here on out.
Contrast is used to focus the audience’s attention and provide clarity of message; plus, it’s naturally pleasing to the eye.
It occurs when you place two objects in a design that look boldly different from each other. You can incorporate contrast into your design in endless ways, including (but not limited to)
- Large text vs small text
- Serif vs Sans Serif fonts
- Contrasting colors (we will cover this in detail in a future post)
- Size of objects
An image without contrast will look dull, uninspiring, and will likely be difficult to decipher. Good contrast also makes your design more accessible to those who may have visual impairments, and accessibility should always be a priority when designing. This article does a great job of illustrating contrast, if you’re interested in learning more.
Repetition is fairly self-explanatory — it refers to elements that repeat, whether it’s shapes, words, etc. This can work wonders in unifying an image, creating movement,
or showing hierarchy.
I’m just spit-balling here, but humans seem to innately enjoy repeating elements. Think of how we seek patterns in everything from stars to natural wood grain, or those funny little popcorn textures all over your ceiling when you were ten (or…currently.) Maybe it makes us feel comfortable, like we can predict what’s coming next, or maybe it’s just that it’s helped us survive over the ages. I don’t know, this is obviously not my field.
Spit-balling aside, it’s clear that repetition is universally enjoyed, especially in design. Repetition is particularly useful in web design, because having a logo and/or navigation bar repeat in the same exact position on every page gives the viewer a sense of stability and eases their overall experience. Click here to check out a more detailed explanation of repetition, along with pattern and rhythm.
Alignment is — you guessed it — how graphic elements are aligned within a design. Common alignments include left, center, and right, but there are plenty of other options as well.
Pro tip: one of the easiest, fastest things you can do to help your design is choose an alignment and stick to it. Commit to the alignment, you won’t be sorry!
Whatever you do, avoid having elements placed all over the page with no clear underlying grid, or the dreaded mistake of plopping something in all four corners and calling it a day. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. Here is a great resource to follow if you want some visual assistance.
Proximity is about the closeness of graphic elements to each other. Placing objects close to each other creates an implied connection between them. So, if you want a line of text to be read right after the headline, place it directly under it. If you want to categorize a collection of objects, group them closely together and further away from other elements. Utilizing proximity will result in a cleaner, more organized and well-structured project that is perceived in the way you intended. I’m sure you get the gist, but here are more examples of using proximity properly.
All four of these ideas support other fundamentals of design, which we will cover later, but these are a great place to start. If you found this helpful, please stick around to see more tutorials and explanations in the future!