You may possibly have the most stunning design elements in the world on screen or paper, but if the graphic design is not up to scratch, because of a lack of composition it may be heavily critiqued. Composition refers to how you arrange and place design elements on a page. The spaces between the design, the arrangement, and the ways in which the designs interact or crossover with other elements. So, it is safe to say that the composition is essential.
What is the design composition exactly?
Well, in very simple terms, that is the part where all the separate elements come together to form a whole. When all the blank spaces, images, graphics and colours come together to form a single coherent picture. Successful composition means that you have organised, delivered, coordinated and assembled the template in a manner that not only looks good but is also highly functional and effective.
So, below we will cover some really useful tips, tricks and techniques that will get you to master the composition in no time.
01. Find the Focus
Just like the way we are taught during PE lessons or in-class examinations concentrating is a very important thing. A key element in any good composition is a clear focal point, as it allows the eyes of the audience to concentrate and automatically settle first on the important parts of the picture.
When choosing your focal point, keep in mind that communication is the main objective of any design. Whether you are communicating an idea, some information, or just a feeling or emotion, your design is telling a specific storey, so be sure to choose the focal point that helps this storey to be told in the strongest and most effective way.
02. Direct the movement of the eye with a lead line
Just in the way might you point to something when you want others to look at it, by putting those lead lines and shapes into the graphics you are actually, guiding your viewer to monitor the point of view of your display. In this way, you have some control of where the viewer’s eyes go when they see your design.
A common use of the lead lines that you might be familiar with is in the flowcharts. Flowcharts use lines to direct your eyes from one point to another in an obviously coherent and usually logical way.
Leading lines can also direct you to a number of third parties or information points. As discussed earlier, you want the focus to first land at the main focal point, so then where does it go?
By positioning and adjusting your leading lines, you can not only direct your eyes to the focal point of your design, but also to the rest of your design.
Of course, not every design you create will have such clear lines for you to adjust to the point of view, but that does not mean you sink or swim. Simply find shapes and lines within your images and graphics, and use them to direct your eyes in certain ways.
03. Scaling and Hierarchy
Scale and visual hierarchy are some of the creative fundamentals that can really make or break your designs, so it is important to have a good grip on them in order to maintain a successful composition.
In a very brief explanation, the hierarchy is the arrangement and design of the elements with a view to visually signalling importance. So, you could render a more important element bigger and bolder than a less important element that might be smaller and weaker.
Hierarchy is of special importance when it comes to type. For a much more comprehensive and detailed discussion of typographical hierarchy, be sure to understand the reasons each design needs three levels of typographical hierarchy. We teach this in the Blue Sky Graphics 0110 Graphic Design Course, but there are lots of materials available elsewhere
Scale is often used to help communicate hierarchy by drawing attention to and away from certain elements, thereby indicating their importance to communication.
Scale is also an extremely handy tool to give you a sense of proportion and complexity of your style. You can make things look incredibly detailed, intricate, and tiny, or you can make them big and big.
By contrasting the small-scale element next to the large-scale element in your composition, you can create a number of different effects.
04. Align the components
Balance is a very important thing in many respects, and your designs are no exception.
But how do we find the perfect mix in our designs?
Well, let us have two common types of balance and how to master it. First, we have got symmetrical balance. Symmetrical balance is basically what it says on the tin – it balances your design with symmetry. By reflecting certain design elements from left to right or from top to bottom, you can create a strong sense of balance.
Another kind of equilibrium, and perhaps a more common type, is asymmetrical balance. Asymmetrical equilibrium is also a relatively self-explanatory concept in that it involves the formation of harmony without symmetry.
A good technique for understanding asymmetric equilibrium is to think of each item as having a ‘weight’ on it. Smaller items might ‘weigh’ less than larger objects, and finely textured components may ‘weigh’ more than uniformly coloured elements. Whatever the case with your template, even these weighted components out until you have an effective balance.
05. Use elements that work effectively together (harmoniously)
You have heard of complementary colours, but what about the complementary design features? One key element of a successful and effective composition is taking the time to carefully and purposefully select each element of your design so that each part complements the whole.
The common error in compositions is the use of images that do not complement each other. So, when you use more than one image in your composition, try to make sure that they all look effective and coherent when they are grouped together.
There are a lot of different ways to do this, here are a couple of points:
– Use the pictures of the same photoshoot. This is a simple way to ensure that the images look consistent, as they were all likely to be in the same art direction and artistic theme.
– Colour your photos in the same way. With the proliferation of philtres and image-adjusting devices, you can colour and correct your photos in order to have more cohesive and compatible palettes. Choose photos that are shot in a similar way. Try choosing images with similar aesthetics and styles.
Creating a coherent layout also means matching the type and the imagery that complement each other. Each different typeface used under the right circumstances has certain tones and ideas associated with it – a detailed, cursive typeface with lots of curls and curls, for example, might signal elegance and sophistication. So, choose your typeface with purpose and intent.
06. Boost (or reduce) Your Contrast
Contrast is an incredibly useful tool for both revealing and covering some of the elements of your design. By upping the contrast or using a high contrast colour feature, you can help the element to stand out and draw attention to it. Likewise, by lowering the contrast, the element can fade into the background.
In this way, contrast can also be used to ‘hide’ certain elements of your designs and to create meaning within them. So, use a contrast to the purpose of your design, whether it is to adjust the focus to or away from an element.
07. Repeat the element of your design
So that consistency and a consistent structure can be maintained, try taking specific elements from one part of the layout and adding them to other parts. Maybe a style of type can be applied to more than one section of your design, or maybe a graphic pattern can be used more than once. So, try to tie your design to the repeated elements.
Repeat is the key factor when it comes to multi-page layouts. Repeating the elements of your layout and/or design helps each page to move into the next one, creating a coherent set of pages.
Repeat is also a key factor when it comes to creating single page compositions. By repeating the graphic elements, you can keep your design strong and coherent just as Jessica Hische is event poster is.
If a dense, bright, pink line-based logo were unexpected to be used somewhere in the centre, the continuity would be compromised. And, by keeping the font palette and colour palette small and the graphic styles basic and identical, the design remains beautiful and powerful.
When designing, keep a record of the typefaces, line weights, colours, etc. you use, and try to repeat them somewhere else throughout your design to tie the piece together as a whole.
08. Do not forget about the white space
The easiest way to insult someone design where there is white space is by referring to it as ’empty space.’ Emptiness means that it is meant to be full of something, that it does not do its work, but that is not the case.
White space, when used creatively, will help to enhance the elegance of your design and overall look by contrasting the more complex and chaotic aspects of your structure with the room that makes your design breathe.
So how are we supposed to use white space in our designs?
Scale down your graphics. By scaling down your imagery, type, graphics and so on, you can create some luxurious white space around your focal points while staying within the frame of your original graphic. Do not take up any space with the material. As mentioned just before, white space is not empty space, it does its own job and serves its own purpose, so do not feel the need to fill any white space you have with more content.
While designing your project, ask yourself whether you need 100 per cent of every aspect of your design. Do you need all this kind, do you need a bright blue cover, do you need three separate images? By subtracting the unnecessary bits and pieces of your design, you can create a more direct design that maximises white space.
09. Align Your Items
When designing a composition that has many elements in it, do not just throw them all on the page and call it a day, because aligning those elements is a quick and easy way to transform your design from shabby to chic.
Aligning the elements in a clear and rational manner always allows you to establish harmony between other elements. So, if you are using a lot of images, a lot of type and/or a lot of graphics, alignment might just be your best friend.
Alignment is often very critical when it comes to size. There are several options to match the type, but a simple thumb rule for larger copy bits is to adhere to the left orientation, because this is the best way for the eye to find and make sense of it.
10. Divide the concept between third parties
The rule of thirds is a basic strategy where designers split their projects into three rows and three columns, and where vertical and horizontal lines cross, the focus points will be.
Using the rule of thirds is a perfect way to kick off the structure of your concept, because it offers you a simple and easy guide to arranging and framing the components.
You might notice that the lines would cross over the focal point of each image – the two hikers in the first image, and the largest bird in the second. The lines will often converge at points across the text frames, attracting the eye to certain positions.
A great way to get started with your design, especially if you are going to use a third party rule, is to start with a grid. Grids can help you align your elements more logically and have a clearer understanding of where the focal point / s of your designs lie.
When you find a design that you think is very effective, try to mentally break it down and look for the underlying structure on which it was built. Did it apply the third-party rule? Or maybe it was using a specific grid layout. This way, dissect inspiring storeys, and grab a leaf out of their books whenever you can.
Six basic principles of composition
The key to mastering layout and composition is thinking like a designer. Luckily, this is easier than it sounds. There are five basic principles that can help you transform your work and sharpen your design eye. Keep them in mind for your next project, and look for ways to apply them.
Proximity is all about using visual space to show relationships in your content. In practice, it is pretty simple — all you need to do is make sure that related items are grouped together.
Groups that are not related to each other should be separated in order to visually emphasise their lack of relationship. All in all, this makes your work easier to understand at a glance, whether it is pure text or something more visual.
White space is an important part of any composition. Now, it does not mean absolute white space; it only implies negative space, including the gaps between the text, between the forms, and also the outer margins.
There is no way to use white space correctly, but it is a good way to understand its purpose. White space helps you to define and separate different sections; it gives your content room to breathe. If your job ever begins to feel cluttered or uncomfortable, a little white space might be just what your doctor has ordered.
Alignment is something you have been dealing with all the time, even if you do not realise it. Whenever you type an email or build a script, the text would be matched automatically.
When you align objects by yourself (e.g. images or separate text boxes), getting them right can be tricky. The most important thing to do is to remain reliable.
It could help to picture the content organised within the chart, much like the illustration below. See how the invisible line is centring each picture on the text? — category is uniformly spaced and balanced, with even margins.
This attention to detail allows the layout easy to follow. Without consistent alignment, your work might begin to feel disorganised.
Contrast simply means that one item is different from the other. Contrast can help you do many things in layout and composition, such as catching the reader’s eye, creating emphasis, or drawing attention to something important.
To create a contrast, we used colour, more than one text style, and objects of varying sizes. This makes the concept more fluid and hence more successful in transmitting the meaning.
Contrast is often directly related to hierarchy, and is a visual tool that will help the user understand the job. In other terms, it teaches them where to continue and where to go next, utilising various degrees of focus.
Establishing a hierarchy is simple: only determine which elements you want the reader to consider first, and then make them stand out. High-level or significant products are typically bigger, bolder, or in any way more eye-catching.
Repeat is a reminder that every project should have a consistent look and feel. This means seeking ways to reinforce the concept by repeated or overlapping those components.
For starters, if you have a particular paint palette, search for ways to get it out. If you have selected a special header style, use it every time.
It is not only for aesthetic reasons — being clear will make the writing simpler to interpret. If viewers know what to expect, they will relax and concentrate on content.
Bring it all together
You may argue that architecture and structure are the undisguised heroes of design. It is easy to forget their position, but they are part of everything you do.
The concepts you have just discovered will help you uplift every idea. All you need is a little attention to detail, and you will create stunning, professional-looking compositions.
Why is the Visual Balance Important
Just as in the real universe, sensory harmony is a positive thing. It is desirable in and of itself. An unbalanced structure may make the spectator feel awkward. Look again at the second of the three photos you have seen — it seems false and we will warn you that the see-saw will not be in place.
Visual weight is a calculation of the visual value of the design item or location. When a composition is physically composed, there is some value in any aspect of it. The visual interest is balanced, which keeps viewers engaged in the design.
In visual consistency, audiences can not be able to see all areas of nature. They definitely would not waste much time in places with less visible weight or value. Any knowledge in these places could potentially go overlooked.
You should be forced to align the style creatively, as you want to match the points of importance in the composition so that audiences have time on all the details you want to express.
Four kinds of equilibrium
There is more than one way to balance the composition. The images shown in the previous section show two of them. The first picture is an illustration of symmetrical harmony, and the second image is an illustration of asymmetrical equilibrium. There are two other types of balance, radial and mosaic.
The symmetrical equilibrium arises as equivalent weights are distributed along the fulcrum or central axis on opposite sides of the structure. Symmetrical harmony evokes emotions of formality (sometimes called structured consistency) and beauty. A wedding invitation is a perfect illustration of a design that you would like to be symmetrically composed.
The drawback to the symmetrical equilibrium is that it is rigid and often deemed repetitive. Because half of the composition matches the other half, at least half of the composition would be more consistent.
Asymmetrical equilibrium is the product of unequal visual weight on each side of the structure. One side of the structure that includes a primary feature that could be offset by a few or more focus points on the other hand. One visually powerful feature on one side may be offset with a number of lighter items on the other.
The asymmetric balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes a sense of modernism, movement, energy and vitality. Asymmetrical balance offers more visual variety, although it may be more difficult to achieve because the relationship between the elements is more complex.
Radial balance The radial equilibrium arises as the components radiate from a specific core. Points of sunshine and ripples in a pool after a stone has been thrown are indicators of radial equilibrium. Maintaining a focal point (fulcrum) is simple since it is always the middle.
Since it radiates from a specific core, it points to that core as well, making it a powerful point of attraction.
Shape of the Mosaic
Mosaic equilibrium (or crystallographic equilibrium) is the product of an organised disorder. Think of Jackson Pollack’s paintings. The composition lacks distinct focal points, and the elements share the same emphasis. The lack of hierarchy leads, at first glance, to visual noise. Somehow, though, all of this works together.
Symmetry & Asymmetry
Both symmetry and asymmetry can be used throughout the composition, independent of, but contributing to, the final balance. You can have symmetrical shapes in an asymmetrically balanced composition, and vice versa.
Symmetry is generally seen as lovely and harmonious; nevertheless, it can also be seen as stagnant and boring. Asymmetry appears to be more complex and fluid, but it is not thought to be necessarily stunning.
There are three main symmetry forms.
Reflection symmetry (or bilateral symmetry) arises as something is reflected along the main axis. It is usually the first thing you worry about when you hear the term “symmetry.” The pole may be in any direction or orientation, but it is mostly vertical or horizontal.
Everything on one side of the compass is repeated on the other. Natural forms that grow or move across the surface of the earth develop reflection symmetry. Examples are the human face and the butterfly.
If the reflection is a perfect mirror image, the symmetry is said to be pure. It will not be perfect much of the time, and each side will have slight variations. It is almost symmetry, and it is more common than pure symmetry.
The symmetry can also exist along several axes at the same time. For example, the left and the right half of the composition could mirror each other, while the top and bottom of the composition could also mirror each other. Snowflakes exhibit reflex symmetry on more than two axes.
Rotary symmetry (or radial symmetry) arises as something rotates about a specific nucleus. It may occur at any angle or frequency, as long as there is a specific hub. Normal types that expand or shift perpendicular to the surface of the earth acquire rotational symmetry. The sunflower petals are an example of this. Rotation without reflection may be used to show motion, speed, or dynamic action. Think about the spinning wheels of a moving car.
Translational symmetry (or crystallographic symmetry) arises when components are replicated at various positions in space. Repeating fence posts is an example of this. Repeat generates a localization symmetry. They may appear in any direction or time, as long as the fundamental orientation remains the same. Natural forms develop translational symmetry by reproduction. You can produce rhythm, rotation, speed and fluid action by translation symmetry.
Symmetrical forms convey balance in and of themselves, but they may seem too stable and too balanced, leading to a lack of interest. Symmetrical forms also lead to passive space, because the negative space is the same all around the form.
Asymmetrical forms lack the balance of symmetrical forms, although the whole composition can be asymmetrically balanced. Asymmetry is quite common in natural forms: you are probably right-handed or left-handed; fiddle crabs have different sizes of claws; branches of trees grow in different directions; clouds have random shapes.
Asymmetry produces more dynamic interactions between the components, which hence appears to be more important than symmetry. Because it is more interesting, asymmetry can be used to draw attention.
Space around asymmetric shapes is more active. Unpredictable trends are formed, so you have more freedom of speech with asymmetry than with symmetry. The trade-off is that it is difficult to achieve so.
In the same way that similarities and comparison function together, you can mix symmetry and asymmetry for effective results. Balance of symmetrical forms in an asymmetrical way, or balance of asymmetrical forms symmetrically. Break up symmetrical forms with a random label to add appeal. Contrast the symmetry and asymmetry of the composition to help the components receive further focus.
A balanced composition is perfect. It feels stable and aesthetically pleasing. Although some of the components can be focal points and attract your attention, no composition area attracts your attention so much that you cannot see other areas. Balancing a composition involves arranging both positive elements and negative space so that no design area overpowers other areas.
Everything works together in a seamless whole. Individual parts contribute to their sum but do not attempt to be the sum. When you finally master the art of composition in design; you successfully master what it is to be a graphic designer. To learn more about composition or enrol onto one of our course, please.
Find more interesting topics