.. Your Daily Design Dosis

Graphic/Visual Design Essentuals


If I were asked what I think the two most important and influential elements in design, I would say without hesitation: Color and Typography. All individual media (screen design and print design) must be called into account the limitations that these two elements in them.

Did you know that colour and visual elements activate the right brain (emotions), while the printed words activate the left brain (logic)? Colour and Typography remain to be the two most important elements in design. When you harmoniously combine them all you attract a quicker attention to the subject, reinforce impact and recognition, help in establishing powerful identities and brand, set a mood.

The colours strongly influence your audiences’ mood and a perception of your site, they will affect if visitors feel comfortable to extend their stay on the website and motivated to come back. The colours identify the sites: if you apply a different colour scheme to the same site (structure wise), you’ll achieve various looks:

  • cool colours (blues, greens and purples) would give your site a more professional look. IBM Blue comes to mind right away. Many bank sites are using blue or green colours. Purple colour is often associated with Royalty
  • warm colours (red, oranges and yellows) are exciting and not for everyone: apparently the Red colour increases blood pressure not only in bulls but people too. They should be used sparingly – you want to get your visitors attention but not scare them away
  • neutral colours (gray, black, white, beige) are unifying: they emphasize other colours or soften colours that might be overwhelming on their own

All colours are made up of three primaries: red, blue and yellow. When you combine the primaries, you get the three secondary colours: orange, purple and green. When you combine each secondary colour with its neighboring primary, you get six tertiary colours: yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange. That’s how you get the familiar 12-colour wheel.

Every colour has a temperature: from the red/yellow side of the spectrum it’s warm, and from the blue/purple side it’s cool. It has an intensity that’s described as saturation or chroma. Saturation is determined by how much or how little grey a colour contains. High intensity colours are pure, bright and vivid. Less saturated colours are muted, soft and subdued. Every colour has a value, determined by its lightness or darkness. When planning a colour combination, value and saturation are as important as the hue (synonymous with colour).

  • Most colours look great when combined with the shades in various values or intensities. These colour schemes are called Monochromatic, which consist of colours drawn from the same hue.
  • Colours also love to hang out with their next door neighbors. Any three neighboing colours on a 12 part colour wheel make up an Analogous colour scheme. They are always harmonious as they share the same undertones: yellow-green, yellow and yellow-orange. To add a bit more impact to the analogous group, you can expand it with another neighboring color, e.g. orange.
  • Opposites attracts, even with colours, and that’s how you get Complementary colours: they are the opposite hues on the colour wheel, that “complete” each other when used as a pair. Warm colours have cool complements and vice versa.

Typography and Colors

Good Typography not only looks easy on the eye, it makes the content more legible and readable, and make the marketing-tool appear more professional. Most websites contain more content than imagery, so learning good typography principles are essential for designers.

Visitors to almost any site come for the content, and they want it easily and obviously accessible. This is our area of expertise: readability & accessibility. We can certainly guide visitors through the maze of pages by setting the verbiage well.

Typography on the Web is possible: but as mentioned in an earlier post, you’ll need to learn to write CSS fluently. Although the Web is extremely limited from a typographer’s perspective, the controls we put on Web content can make radical improvements to readability and conversion rates.

While it is certainly true that much of the marketing of the sites you design is done with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that searching for what the site is offering actually brings up the site as high as possible in Google results. [The other search engines, at this point, are almost negligible.] It is really important how accessible the site is when the visitors arrive. That intuitive access is done primarily (and often entirely) with the words on the pages.

It is relatively easy for a gifted typographer to make site layouts which are compellingly easy to read & comprehend. This will put your sites miles ahead of much of the competition which is often laid out by developers with excellent coding skills but no knowledge of typography. Most developers are lacking all but the most basic knowledge of Word. Often, the grammar, spelling and word usage are at a very low level.

You cannot avoid Web page layout, but do not let the developers put you down with phrases like, “the Web is completely different” “you do not understand the uniqueness of a Web site” ” how can I even deal with someone who can’t write code?” Your skills with typography, formatting, & page layout are essential to excellence in site design. Stand your ground and work with them. Do not negate what they can do, but insist on the necessity and power of your skill set.


Cameron Moll has said that good designers use “good typefaces”, but great designers use “good typography”.


Author: Jan Rajtoral

Jan Rajtoral AKA Gonzo the Great is the Founder of and Designer at gonzodesign, providing design services across the full spectrum of Brand Identity, Graphic Design, Print and Advertising Design & Website Design.


on this article: “Graphic/Visual Design Essentuals”
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