12 Basic Design Elements

I was reminiscing about the last time I formally studied graphic design, and the basics. So, this is a list of, back-to-the-basics elements whether it be for a refresher or new designs to keep in mind. Enjoy!


Use lines to divide spaces, direct the eye, suggest movement, or create emphasis


Using distinct colour palettes consistently brings continuity to your work.


You should think about shape not just when drawing but when composing your piece to create an underlying structure.


The space between elements can be just as important as the elements themselves. Use negative space to order and balance the objects in your design, or to create an image of their own.


Texture can give tactility and depth to designs, but use it sparingly.


The typeface you choose can affect the how people interpret your text, and the overall tone of your piece: sans serif fonts are easier to read online, and serif fonts work better in large blocks of print. When you’re varying font-types, try to pick ones with similar proportions.


Vairy scale to give weight to certain elements and add interest to a page.


Creating a hierarchy in your piece, especially when it’s informational helps viewers navigate your design by signalling importance or narrative.


Emphasise elements by varying colour, shape, texture, scale or framing them, but don’t overdo it. If you have too many focal points on a page, it will end up doing the opposite of the desired effect.


Create harmony in a piece by co-ordinating the proximity, similarity, or continuation of elements, or by using repetition.


While asymmetry can sometimes create emphasis or an unsettling composition, most designs aim for balance by using varying levels of symmetry (it doesn’t have to look like a butterfly) and structured composition styles such as a radial composition.


Create contrast to bring dynamics to your work through the use of light and dark, complimentary colours, or varying line or textures.