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What is Graphic Design?

To understand what graphic design is, you must understand its principles. Check out this guide to the fundamentals of graphic design.

Graphic design is a profession that involves creating visual content, such as logos, banners, infographics, and charts. When you need a logo created for your website or your products, you might hire a graphic designer. The design process can be a long and arduous one, with several rounds of revisions and touch-ups to make sure the finished product is just right.

Understanding the fundamentals of graphic design is an important step in being a good graphic designer. So, what is graphic design all about? Concepts like color theory, typography, and balance and alignment play a crucial role in everything from blog design to logo design. A good graphic designer understands how these principles of graphic design can affect the finished product, and they know how to manipulate things like colors and fonts to achieve a unique look.

From your logo to your website, maintaining brand consistency is essential. You want people to recognize your brand right off the bat, and using consistent brand colors, fonts, and other graphic design elements is a good way to achieve that. Creative graphic design is also important because you don’t want your logo to look boring and generic. This is why some of the biggest brands have invested a lot of time and money into hiring the right graphic designers.

So, what is graphic design fundamentally? What do you need to know about as a small business owner? In this guide, we’ll break down the fundamentals of graphic design and why they’re important for your business.

The fundamentals of graphic design

Whether you’re an aspiring graphic designer or a small business owner, understanding the basics of graphic design is vital. You can get a better idea of how the fundamentals of graphic design work by looking at some graphic design examples from successful companies. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important fundamentals of graphic design and how they work.

Color theory

Color theory is one of the most important aspects of graphic design because colors can have a lot of effects on people. Not only that, colors are one of the most recognizable elements of your brand. So, what is color theory? Color theory is broken up into a few main parts: the color wheel, color values, and color schemes.

The color wheel is made up of primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. By choosing a color on a particular part of the wheel and using a pattern to choose complementary colors, you can find colors that go together well. This is an essential part of color theory.

Color value is another word for the degree of lightness or darkness in a color. If you take a primary blue, you can make lighter or darker versions of that color by adding white or black, respectively. When you’re looking for unique colors that make your brand memorable, color value can be a helpful tool.

Color schemes are colors put together in a specific manner to create an aesthetically pleasing combination. Choosing a color scheme that works according to color theory is a fundamental building block of graphic design.


Typography is all about the text you use in graphic design, but it’s about the design of that text rather than the actual content. Choosing the right font type, size, and color is a good start, but there’s also hierarchy, font spacing, alignment, and more to consider.

You start by choosing a typeface (a style of font), then you choose the size. When you’re deciding on a typeface and size, you can test your font choices to see how they look in terms of alignment and spacing. You may need to tweak the finished product a bit to make sure your logo looks right. Typography is also used in email design.

While it might sound complex, there are a lot of resources that can help you learn about typography.


Spacing is a fairly simple but essential part of graphic design. Whether you’re designing an email, a website, or a logo, you don’t want visual crowding. When everything is crammed together, it’s less appealing visually. The solution is to make sure there’s the right amount of space between different parts of a design.

Negative space is the important thing to focus on—these are the blank areas between lines of text, sections of a website, or parts of your logo. It’s important to space between lines and paragraphs on a web page, but you can also use negative space in your logo to give it a more balanced look.

Balance and alignment

Speaking of balance, balance and alignment are also fundamentals of graphic design. The idea is that you want to make things look even on all sides. That doesn’t mean your graphics have to be perfectly symmetrical, but you don’t want a bunch of empty space on one side with the majority of your graphics on the other side.

Alignment is also important because it can change the focus of your graphics. Making sure everything lines up and is properly balanced is a big part of creating a good logo.


Even if you’re not trying to use shapes in graphics, there are natural shapes in everything. Certain letters have a straight line on one side, which means they can line up well next to another straight line. You can also use shapes to add negative space to a graphic by replacing a portion of the graphic with a white triangle.

Like typography, not every graphic is going to use many shapes. However, it’s essential to consider how shapes (the edges of text included) fit together when designing a logo, website, or email.


Lines are another fundamental of graphic design, and fortunately, they’re pretty straightforward. Lines can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal, and they’re essential for certain types of design. You might not use lines to break up text in your logo, but lines are a great way to add some spacing and give your website or emails a visual upgrade. You can use lines to design a product page with each product neatly separated, break up an email to make it easier to read, or to give visitors a clear indicator of breaks in your website.


Hierarchy combines several elements of graphic design to achieve a single goal: emphasizing parts of a graphic. For example, people are more likely to look at the biggest parts of a graphic, whether that’s your brand name or your logo. You can also achieve hierarchy by using black for the parts you want to emphasize and gray for the others. Or, you can create hierarchy through things like contrast, alignment, and brightness.


When you’re designing for a small business, branding is one of the biggest focuses of graphic design. From your logo to your blog to your emails, you want everything to look like it belongs to your company. Using your signature colors is a good start, but most brands have other branding elements that they can include in designs. There might be a certain shape or typeface that’s associated with your brand, or maybe you have a mascot people recognize. When you’re designing for your business, keep branding in mind so you create an end product that your customers will recognize.


Texture might seem like a weird concept when you’re talking about digital graphics, but you can create texture in graphics even if you can’t actually feel them. A crinkled-up piece of paper that serves as the background for a graphic will give that graphic a very particular look. If you want to go for something brighter and a little artsier, you can use paint brush-like strokes to give your graphics a little more texture.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to include textures in all your graphics. That being said, adding a little texture can be a good way to change things up and create unique logos and website and email graphics.

Applying graphic design to your brand

Whether you’re building a website, designing a logo, or making sure your emails look just right, understanding the fundamentals of graphic design is important. If you want to learn more, there are tons of helpful resources on the internet—including some great books about typography and color theory.

Do you need help making sure everything from your website to your emails looks great? Mailchimp is a simple solution. With email design tools, a website builder, and tons of templates for you to choose from, Mailchimp makes it easy to establish an online presence for your small business.

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