As a creative producer, understanding the fundamentals of design isn't about turning you into a professional designer but to equip you with a solid foundation for understanding and successfully coordinating your team.
Branches of Design
Design isn't just one-dimensional; it has multiple branches, each with its unique focus and application. You will need to work with the following specialists.
- User Experience Design (UX): XD is all about shaping the experience a user has with a product or service. We’ll look into UX in the next chapter.
- Graphic Design: This is the art of creating visual content to communicate messages. It involves combining typography, images, color, and layout techniques to engage an audience. You'll see graphic design at work in branding, advertising, editorial design, and more.
- Interaction Design (IxD): IxD focuses on creating engaging interfaces with visual reward. It's about designing for the interaction between users and products, often aiming to predict and facilitate the user's needs and goals but also to amaze and engage emotionally.
- Motion Design: Also known as motion graphics, this design discipline involves animating graphic elements, like typography, shapes, and images. It's all about adding life and movement to static designs, creating a more engaging and immersive experience. You’ll often need motion design principles to define how the website will move and feel.
Popular Design Tools
It's important to familiarize yourself with the most commonly used tools. Here are a couple you'll likely encounter, each uses a different filetype that your teams will need to collaborate with:
- Figma: Figma is a collaborative interface design tool. It's web-based, meaning you can access your projects from anywhere, making it great for remote teams. You can design, prototype, and gather feedback all in one place. It's most commonly used for UI/UX design tasks.
- Adobe After Effects: This is the go-to program for motion graphics and visual effects. It allows you to bring designs to life with animation, and it's extensively used in video post-production. After Effects is part of the Adobe suite and integrates well with their other applications, like Illustrator and Photoshop.
- Adobe Illustrator: Illustrator is a vector graphics editor, perfect for creating logos, icons, typography, and complex illustrations for any medium.
- Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is an essential tool for graphic designers. It's primarily used for photo editing and manipulation, but it's also commonly used for graphic design, web design, and user interface design.
Elements of Design
Let’s take a quick look at the foundational elements and principles of design, to give you an overview of the key terms you’re using on a daily basis.
- Lines: Lines are used to create shape, pattern, and texture. They can guide the viewer's eye and connect different elements in a composition.
- Shape: both geometric (like squares and circles) and organic (more free-form or natural shapes), are foundational in design.
- Color: Color sets the mood and tone of a design. Understanding color theory and the psychology of color can significantly impact your projects.
- Texture: Texture can add depth and bring a tactile dimension to a 2D space.
- Space: The area around or within elements of a design. Negative space (empty space) is just as important as positive space (filled with elements).
- Typography: The style, arrangement, and appearance of text. It can convey mood, establish visual hierarchy, and enhance readability.
Principles of Design
While elements of design are your building blocks, the principles of design are the rules you use to arrange these blocks - they contribute to the strategic objectives of the project. Your client will be unlikely to be able to communicate these principles in feedback, but it’s good to understand their needs and how those can be met in design. Let's look at some key principles:
- Balance: It's about distributing elements evenly for visual stability. Balance can be symmetrical (mirror image) or asymmetrical (different but still balanced).
- Hierarchy: Hierarchy helps guide the viewer's eye to the most important elements of your design first.
- Contrast: Contrast highlights differences and creates variety. This can be achieved through color, shape, size and more.
- Repetition: Repetition strengthens a design by tying together individual elements. It helps to create association and consistency.
- Alignment: Alignment brings order to design. It creates a clean, sophisticated, fresh look.
- Proximity: Elements that are related should be grouped close together, creating a relationship between them.
Hierarchy of Perceptual Importance
A lot of research has gone into confirming what visual differences and elements humans perceive most, here are the top 3 ranked in order of perceptual importance:
- Position: The most crucial element for accurately prioritisation (left to right or top to bottom). Position helps the audience to quickly discern patterns, relationships, and hierarchies in your design.
- Color: A powerful tool for evoking emotions, creating associations, and differentiating elements. The strategic use of color can enhance the overall comprehension of a visualization and guide the viewer's attention to specific points.
- Size: Important for establishing hierarchy and emphasizing differences in elements. By varying the size of visual elements, designers can highlight the relative importance or magnitude of specific elements.