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The 7 Elements of Graphic Design, and How to Apply Them

By (Karla Cook)

Have you even looked at a seemingly simple design and thought: I could totally do that.

But later, when you sit down to actually give it a whirl, you don’t know why your attempt doesn’t measure up to the professional version. What gives?

It turns out professional graphic designers have a few tricks up their sleeves to make their work look, well, professional. Even with all the amazing free tools available for wannabe graphic designers these days, amateurs usually don’t have the foundational know-how necessary to create consistently polished-looking designs.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of seven basic graphic design elements. It’s not a graphic design degree by any means, but having a foundational understanding of these seven basic elements can boost your content creation skills and improve your ability to communicate your design preferences if you ever decide to hire a professional.

We deep-dive into the seven elements below, covering what they are, why you should care, and how to use them to create more professional looking designs — even if you’re operating on a zero-dollar budget.

7 Basic Elements of Graphic Design

1) Color

Sir Isaac Newton is widely credited with creating the very first color wheel back in 1706. As the story goes, Newton took the spectrum of colors produced when light passes through a prism (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) and arranged them in a segmented circle. When the circle was spun rapidly on a rotating disk, the colors blurred together, appearing completely white to the human eye.

Below, you can get an idea of how Newton’s color wheel likely appeared. This 1708 version was illustrated by the French painter, Claude Boutet, and makes reference to Newton’s color theory research.

Newton’s visual categorization system for color was adopted and expanded upon by scientists, artists, and philosophers over the years, eventually resulting in the modern color wheel we all know today.

The modern color wheel consists of three primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — which can theoretically be mixed in varying ratios to produce secondary and intermediate colors. Although modern research tells us that color theory is actually a little more complicated than that, the color wheel is still a valuable tool for graphic designers looking for aesthetically pleasing color combinations.

When selecting hues for a project, consider colors that appear directly opposite or beside each other on the color wheel — these tend to produce the most consistently pleasing combinations. You could also consider using a free online color scheming tool, like ColorSchemer, to do the work for you.

Image via: Lifehacker

Color in Action:

This example from ∆ Studio–JQ ∆ is a great example of complimentary colors in action. Violet and yellow, which appear directly opposite on the modern color wheel, produce a bold, visually appealing effect when paired together.

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Source:: HubSpot Blog