What Is Graphic Design? The Definition, Types, and Principles

We don’t have to go far to see the influence of graphic designers in our world. Big and small companies alike hire graphic designers if they want to appeal to potential consumers and investors. After all, if a product doesn’t look the part it should, no one will buy it. Everything, including this website, had somebody who worked on its graphical design.

What Is Graphic Design?

If we search a dictionary for a graphic design definition, we’ll see that it’s an art or craft of arranging visual elements to convey a message or evoke an emotion. In the fast-paced environment of modern-age consumerism, the ability to relay a message in the blink of an eye makes graphical design indispensable.

Most humans will associate certain colours or shapes with feelings or experiences depending on cultural norms. For example, black often symbolizes sadness, but also elegance; therefore, picking a black layout for a brand dealing in organic products isn’t the best idea, for example, but it’s one of the most popular choices in the fashion industry.

In the same vein, banks choose a formal design, pharmaceutical companies choose a clean and almost sterile appearance, and wellness companies use green-dominated formats with accents reminiscent of natural materials.

Graphic design helps companies create their own visual identity, promote their product, communicate with consumers, and much more. A good visual graphic design must include several principles and elements to successfully send its message to the audience and provoke an appropriate response.

The Elements of Graphic Design

A designer’s job is to manipulate the basic visual building blocks into a creative graphic design that satisfies the client’s requirements. The elements at the designer’s disposal are:

  • Colour
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Space
  • Typography
  • Texture


As mentioned, colour affects how people see objects and influences their emotions and mood. It’s the element most people notice right away, so the proper placement of colour is essential for any visual graphic design. However, colour alone probably won’t have a significant impact.


Lines may seem like a given, but a single line in the right place can change the whole tone of a graphical design. Lines affect space perception and guide the viewer’s attention to the focus point.


Shapes have various meanings and associations. Like any other element, they rarely achieve much by themselves, but forms can be manipulated and combined with other elements to create a 3D image or illusion of depth and space.


Knowing when and how to use negative (empty) space is the mark of a good designer. Proper use can enhance the readability of other elements, thus emphasizing the critical parts of the graphic design.


Typography is the arrangement of letters that makes a text readable and appealing. Not a lot has changed since 1610, when the word was first mentioned, and typography is still used to convey a specific tone and evoke the appropriate response from the viewer.


A recent addition to the graphic designer toolkit, texture can convey emotion associated with the material presented in a design. It also creates a more believable graphical design by giving it a sense of presence in real space.

The Principles of Graphic Design

Putting a bunch of elements together at random won’t result in a good design, except by a rare accident. To create an excellent visual experience, the designer needs to adhere to graphic design principles.

But how many principles are there? A quick Google search tells us there might be just a few or more than a dozen. Even when sources agree on the number, they don’t agree on which should be included.

The following nine principles are mentioned most often:

  • Contrast
  • Balance
  • Emphasis
  • Proportion
  • Hierarchy
  • Pattern
  • Movement
  • Variety
  • Unity


One of the fundamental principles in any visual form is contrast. It guides the viewer’s attention, highlights all the design’s essential elements, and helps with message readability.


Balance refers to the distribution of the visual weight of elements in a specific design to create cohesiveness, completion, and satisfaction.


Every graphic design has to have a focal point, something to grab the viewer’s attention. Even a few seconds can be more than enough to send a message, inspire an emotion, or call for action.


Proportion in graphic design refers to how different ratios interact with the other elements and whether the result as a whole is well-rounded.


Hierarchy utilizes several principles to emphasize the components of the design in the proper order of importance.


Patterns combine at least two graphical design elements, emphasizing continuity and repetition. For example, repeatedly using the same elements to create a sense of unity, consistency, and cohesiveness can add texture and bring the design to life.


While most principles focus on directing a viewer’s attention to certain spots, movement guides the viewer’s focus throughout the entire creative graphical design.


Variety holds the viewer’s attention to a design by adding complexity and creating visual interest.


The final principle is unity. It implies that all the design elements must tie in together to tell a complete story. Each component should feel like it belongs there as a part of the bigger picture.

Types of Graphic Design

Because graphic design has a wide application in modern society, there are several different areas and specializations within. We’ll cover the basic eight types of graphic design.

1. User Interface Graphic Design

Anything created for the digital market had a user interface (UI) designer who closely worked with a user experience (UX) designer and developer to create an easy-to-use and functional piece of software.

We are not referring to the overall look and feel of a website – that is web design. A UI designer works on all the parts a user will have to interact with, like log-in buttons and various menus within a platform.

2. Visual Identity Graphic Design

The first impression is always important: Humans can dress sharply or rely on our wit and charm to carry us, while companies and their products have design to do the talking for them. That’s why businesses invest in building up their visual identity, i.e., their branding.

Everything from the logo to the business cards should follow specific visual guidelines to create a uniform brand that will convey a particular message and help the company stand out. When this is done right, it’s not uncommon for people to know about the company long before buying its products.

3. Marketing and Advertising Graphic Design

One of the biggest branches of graphic design and a crucial department in any company is marketing. A successful marketing campaign can turn a mediocre product into a triumph.

Each day we are exposed to a constant advertising barrage from all sides, no matter how much we hate it. Even if we’re aware of them, the methods employed to reach us are working. Consumers are more likely to buy a product they have seen in a commercial than experiment with an unknown one.

4. Environmental Graphic Design

Environmental graphic design (EDG) encompasses many areas: Interior, landscape, industrial, and architectural. All of them can work together to tell a story within a physical space and integrate the viewer into it.

Simply put, if you walk into a retail store, the layout will be arranged to convey a particular message to those entering. They will design the whole store with that in mind, creating an exciting and memorable experience.

5. Publication Graphic Design

Publications employ a more classic type of design where the visuals are adapted for physical printing. However, with the rise of digital publishing, often the design has to work both on real and virtual paper.

Like any other designer, publication designers manipulate the elements at their disposal, mostly typography and illustrations, to set the right tone and the publication’s theme.

6. Motion Graphic Design

Due to technological advancements, we can now bring still images to life with a couple of clicks. Still, this isn’t the same as making a video or a cartoon. Motion graphic designers combine animation with audio in a creative way to keep viewers engaged and watching long enough to get their message across.

7. Packaging Graphic Design

One of the best places for a product to reach out to the customers is in the store itself. Packaging design is one of the most effective product marketing methods, but that isn’t its only goal. The designer also must consider what kind of abuse the product will face during transport and storage and how to best protect it. Nobody will buy a product that falls apart during transportation.

8. Art and Illustration Graphic Design

We get art and illustration graphic design by combining raw artistry and graphic design’s commercial success. This branch uses artistic methods and techniques with visual design elements and principles to facilitate communication and emotion.


A good graphic design says just the right thing, but a bad one is mute. Therefore, being a graphic designer takes much more than just knowing how to use a drawing tablet. It takes passion, dedication, and willingness to learn methods outside of your field. A graphic designer must constantly look for new ways to improve in this evolving industry.


What exactly does a graphic designer do?

A graphic designer manipulates graphical elements to create a stylistic visual whole that will communicate and evoke the desired emotional response from consumers. To create designs, graphic designers use various computer software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, as well as equipment such as scanners, drawing tablets, stylus pens, and more.

What are the 8 types of graphic design?

Eight basic types of graphic designs are:

  1. User interface graphic design
  2. Visual identity graphic design
  3. Marketing and advertising graphic design
  4. Environmental graphic design
  5. Publication graphic design
  6. Motion graphic design
  7. Packaging graphic design
  8. Art and illustration graphic design

What is an example of graphic design?

To answer this question, we first need to answer: “What is graphic design?” In short, it’s the art or practice of arranging visual elements to convey a message and evoke an emotion.

Excellent graphic design examples can be found in any magazine, movie poster, book cover, and many more.

An eye for aesthetics and a passion for writing and technology are both parts of Dusan’s essence. He is a curious spirit with an appreciation for a well-written story and pop and indie-folk music, undying love for cats and deep knowledge of Taylor Swift’s lyrics. He discovered his passion for writing at a young age. Dusan’s creativity has been unlimited ever since, prompting him to compose various pieces one word at a time.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply