You don’t need a degree in graphic design to create amazing graphics. What you do need is an understanding of basic graphic design fundamentals to provide a seamless user experience and communicate a message using visuals or text. In graphic design, there are four fundamentals: Color Theory, Imagery, Typography, and Composition.


 Theory Color is a critical element to get right in your designs. It’s used to attract attention, convey meaning, and for aesthetics. We don’t usually think about the colors we look at; we judge things quickly as to whether something is desirable, professional, nice, or ugly based on its color. The most important thing to think about using colors is the contrast between them. Contrast is defined as how well one color stands out from another. For example, you can use contrasting colors within an image to make text stand out from its background. Complementary colors, such as yellow and purple, or blue and orange, provide maximum contrast with one another. Here’s a great example from Dunkin Donuts’ menu using color in a way that relates to their orange and pink logo. Contrast can also be used to guide people’s actions; to let people know what you want them to do. If you want to increase ‘click-through,’ make sure that there’s a strong contrast between the call-to-action button and the rest of the design. You can check how colors contrast using a color wheel. A color wheel shows how colors are related visually. For example, complementary colors are those opposite one another on the color wheel. Colors also give visual cues meaning. For example, a green button usually indicates an affirmative action, like ‘OK’ or ‘Accept.’ But if you were to design a large ‘Accept’ button and make it red, it could confuse the user, and in some cases, the results could be disastrous.


 Images work well on digital media, but there are some points to consider. Firstly, audiences respond well to images with people in them. It helps create an emotional connection as campaigns are targeted at real people and your imagery needs to reflect that. Image quality is also very important. When customers are considering a purchase online, they want to be able to scrutinize images that give a high level of detail. People often abandon an e-commerce site because the product image is not of a high enough quality to help them make a decision. When you choose images as part of a design, make sure they are high-definition (HD) and appropriate to the device your audience will use. They should not be stretched or pixelated. Next, remember that most web traffic comes from a mobile device – so you must test your graphics on mobile to make sure they still look okay on smaller dimensions. If not, consider creating a separate version to display to people using mobile devices. Here’s a quick guide to the best image dimensions for different screen sizes: Banner Image: 2000px wide and 800px long, Slider: 1920 px wide and 890 px long, Icon: 300px wide and 300px long, Post/Event: 425 px wide and 220 px long, Portfolio: 1920px wide and 768px long.


What about the typography, or fonts you use? It’s important when choosing a font for your visual, not to try and do something wildly different. Readers expect to see familiar fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica, or Roboto. Use a maximum of two to three font families on a single webpage, and even fewer for your ads and images. You should also consider using complementary fonts. You can combine ‘introverted’ and ‘extroverted’ fonts for balance. Or use a distinctive font with a ‘strong personality’ (a display font) and pair it with something more neutral and conservative like this example for Frank chocolate. What’s a font family? A font family simply means a grouping of fonts defined by commonly shared design styles. For example, Roboto is a family which has bold, italic, or thin styles. You will also come across Serif and Sans-serif fonts. A serif is a small, decorative line added to a character. The most common serif font is Times Roman. A common font without serifs, or sans-serif, is Helvetica. Serif fonts are used to improve the readability of text in content like blogs, articles or newspapers, and are more typically used in print than online. Try not to use more than 10 words for each line. For headings, consider using a heavy-weight, sans-serif font with a larger size. Ensure the right emphasis – or size and ‘weight’ – is applied to the text according to its priority.


 Once you know the colors, imagery, and fonts for your image, you need to put them together in the best way possible – and that’s where composition comes in. Your goal should be to make the design as simple and elegant as possible. Removing clutter and visual noise helps the user to focus on one task at a time. When you have taken away all unnecessary information, you should make sure that your content – your images, buttons, color, shapes, and text– is ordered clearly and logically. Each piece of graphic design content should serve one purpose. When you’re creating a design, ask yourself: “What is its purpose?” Should it lead the user to do something? Inform them? Nudge the site visitor to keep reading or fill in a form. Even if you have multiple goals in mind for your content, pick one and make sure your design makes it clear to the end user what the goal is.