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What Makes A Good Design? The 10 Elements & Principles

When you launch a new business, you need marketing and branding to make it stand out among your competitors. You want campaigns that make your company highly visible and the talk of the town. 

You see big brands doing it all the time, and you want that for your business too.

If you look at most of the popular brands with viral campaigns, you realize that all of them have an underlying connection. Their designs seem to shine through and hook people in. 

The secret to a successful branding and marketing campaign in today’s visual world is good design. Something that communicates with people and leads them to you. 

Good design leverages the principle of psychology based on visual perception. You can make your audience feel what you want them to, without words. 

But, the word to note closely is “Good”. 

So, what makes a design a good one? How can you ensure that your branding, marketing, and all your creatives fall into that category? 

Well, understanding that and what goes into it is the first step. So, let’s take that first step and break down what a good design is. 

Making Your Creatives Work For You

You may wonder, is it possible to define good design?

Isn’t art subjective? Well, art is, but most experts agree you can quite closely define whether a design is effective or not. 

Well, as per Dieter Rams, an industrial engineer from the 1970s, a good design (in the context of marketing and branding at least) is: 

User-oriented

It always follows design thinking – a practice where every decision, creative, and move takes the user’s need into consideration. If your design puts the user first in readability, simplicity, and accessibility – you have a good one on your hands. 

Innovative

Rules are made to be broken or at least bent for best results. Good design brings something new to the table and surprises everyone with its innovation. A story can take many forms, but an effective design makes it fresh. 

Aesthetic

It may seem like we are back to subjective terms, but the aim here isn’t to make your designs palatable to the masses. It’s to make it palatable to your target audience. With the right balance in color, shape, and text – you can achieve that. Good design is aesthetic, pleasing, and inviting to generate attention for the brand with the customers. 

Makes marketing easy 

Marketing is a form of advanced and visual story-telling. Good design makes it simpler for the story to reach customers. It allows you to convey your message and draw attention to all the parts of your story that you want to. In branding, this means your brand personality. It may also mean logo, Call-to-Action buttons, and Headline in marketing.

The ten governing principles of Design by Dieter Rams 
Source: Pinterest

Now you know what investing in design can achieve for your brand. So let’s quickly jump into understanding the elements and principles that can make or break it

Elements of a Good Design 

This Kimp blog aims to make the how, why, and what of a design easy to understand. That will help you work with your design team on a deeper level.

Line 

The line is one of the pivotal and basic elements of design. Literal definition aside, a line could be anything that connects two sections, points, or areas. Designers usually characterize lines using properties like length, thickness, and style. 

With lines, you can:

  1. Bring visual flow into your creatives
  2. Add structure to highlight important aspects and avoid disorder 
  3. Create custom shapes, forms, and typographical elements to add enhancements.

Best Practices:

Leverage the different line styles (straight, curved, jagged/zig-zag) to portray different emotions like conservation, youth/playful, and excitement, respectively. 

The line is the building block of a good design. Failure to give it personality and meaningful characteristics will lead to an unimpressive one. 

Kimp Tip: Lines help you create a whole new brand style that sets your designs apart from everyone else in the industry. With a Kimp Graphics team you can get unique and meaningful patterns with lines for your designs. Sign up for a trial to test the service out for yourself and see.

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Lines can represent your brand in many different ways. Source: Are.na
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Lines create visual flow and demarcate space in a flyer design. Source: Kimp
Color 

As we said, good design communicates and connects with your audience efficiently. And color is the element that manages and directs most of these communications.

Color has different connotations in societal, cultural, and emotional contexts. Understanding and capitalizing on the principles of color psychology can help bring out certain reactions in your audience.

Some popular color themes in an effective creatives include:  

  1. A combination of dominant and supportive color(s) 
  2. A color wheel or rainbow patterns
  3. Absence of colors (Black and white designs or monochrome designs) 

Principles like harmony, balance, contrast, and repetition decide the effectiveness and aesthetics of your color themes(More on this in later sections!!). 

A good design leverages color to:

  1. Subtly convey the emotion behind the messaging
  2. Demarcate space 
  3. Create Brand Awareness
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An example of how color can highlight different elements and demarcate space by Kimp.

Kimp Tip: Color acts as a unifier for your branding and marketing materials, both digital and print. The choice of a color scheme becomes pivotal in such cases. Choosing a design that works in RGB, CMYK, and Pantone can give you the branding consistency you need. Check out our guide on color schemes here.

Shape 

A shape is a structure that all of us are familiar with. In graphic design too, it pretty much follows the same rules. An area, form, or figure between lines becomes a shape. 

Designs contain two-dimensional or three-dimensional shapes based on the design’s requirements and the medium being worked with. A shape can be geometric, abstract, or organic, such as leaves, trees, or faces (i.e. similar to things we find in nature). 

In an effective design, the shapes match your brand’s personality (just like lines) and work in harmony to present a cohesive bigger picture to the audience. 

Kimp Tip: Everything is a shape in design, right from logo to imagery. For your branding and marketing creatives to have a unique tone and style, it is prudent to look beyond stock images and symbols. 

With a Kimp Graphics team, you get design thinking and innovation at every step. Book a call today to find out more.

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Source: Kimp

The diamond shapes in the brochure above provide variety and visual relief while making the design innovative and readable.

Space

When we speak of good design, the importance of space and its arrangement is paramount. Space is the area above, below, behind, and surrounding an element like shape, image, or line. 

How designers arrange the space and the elements in it brings out the illusion of three-dimensional space in two-dimensional mediums. 

Space brings out the rhythm in design to make it readable and aesthetic. It could be a repetitive, random, or progressive arrangement. 

Given that the function of a design is to communicate a message, designers also use the proximity principle and use space to show the relationship between objects. 

Also, negative space is a concept that designers love and exploit to highlight a particular element, as shown below. If you want your designs to display a sophisticated, contemporary, and modern personality, the principle of negative space is your biggest ally. 

Kimp Tip: An effective design is that which holds the balance between negative and positive space. Negative space draws attention to elements, while positive space weaves the story of the connection between those elements. 

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Source: Wikimedia

Paramount’s logo uses the negative space to bring out the iconic mountain imagery of their brand. 

Meanwhile, the logo by Kimp below creates the illusion of an eye using negative space for an Eye clinic. 

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Source: Kimp
Texture 

Now, we all know and accept that most designs in marketing and branding are visual experiences. But, what if you could enhance it and play with your customers’ other senses? It will make an unforgettable impression on them.

Including texture has that effect when you use it in your design. Textures mimic the actual object in two-dimension, providing a visual experience that’s closer to reality. 

This element is especially important in designs meant for print, such as posters, business cards, menu cards, flyers, billboards, and signages.

By incorporating texture, a design:

  1. Connects the audience with the product and the brand directly. A diamond business can use a shiny, sleek texture, whereas a florist may want to replicate the texture of wood, dirt, and stems.
  2. Depicts the brand’s personality, right from rustic and traditional to modern and soft. 
  3. Opens a point of communication through innovation in design.

Kimp Tip: Incorporating too many textures can become overwhelming and drown out your message. The best idea is to pick one that is simplistic, meaningful and resonates with your brand.

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An example of a texture on a label design by Kimp
Typography 

Typography is the art of arranging and designing types so that the result is appealing, aesthetic, and readable.

In marketing and branding, typography is not only there to make your design beautiful, but also make it effective.

People judge your designs and your brand subconsciously by the typeface, font, and style you choose. The principle of space, shapes, typography, and color come together to tell your message to the customer. 

So be sure to follow these Best Practices:

  1. Choose one typeface for uniformity. 
  2. Ensure that the copy fits the medium size and is not too big or too small. This will eventually determine the effectiveness of the composition.
  3. The size of your font must bring out the importance of the message while clearly differentiating between the title, headings, and body of the text.

Kimp Tip: Typography plays a vital role, in all your designs but especially in logo design. Most businesses opt to style their names as their logo in either full (wordmark) or monogram (lettermark) versions. Here, the logo is the window to your brand personality, so choose carefully. 

Experiment with different typefaces and designs to see what fits your brand the best. With a Kimp Graphics subscription, you can make unlimited revisions for one flat fee. 

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Source: Kimp

The logo above is for a software firm with a typographical arrangement that mimics a robotic and computerized design by Kimp. 

Principles of Good Design

To understand design, it is not enough to understand the elements alone. The principles that govern their arrangement and composition play an equally vital role. 

While art and design have umpteen principles, coming from different schools of thoughts and usages, some important ones to note include:

7) Balance

For a good design, the key is balance, much like most things in the universe. There are two kinds of balance that designers practice: Symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns. 

While symmetry helps you bring cohesion and tranquility to a creative, asymmetrical patterns establish the importance of one section over the other.

Both are valid principles and have their own place in making a design effective. 

Kimp Tip: Consider each element to have its own weight and then consider if the entire design is balanced. A lack of balance may make one element dominate the composition. So keep an eye out for this to ensure that only the most important pieces of information are being emphasized accordingly.

8) Harmony 

We discussed many elements of a design, and they each have their own subsets. With so much present, a designer needs the principles of harmony to bring them together. 

Harmony ensures that no element is out of place and unnecessary. All of them work together to achieve a singular objective.

Moreover, Gestalt’s principles state that the audience views the design as a whole without paying much intentional attention to the individual elements. So, the shapes, scales, color, and texture must be in harmony for a unified message. 

9) Repetition

Repetition is a marketer’s favorite tool. Customers have short attention spans, and repetition helps imprint your designs and messages on them. Designers use the principles of repetition in color, shapes, and texture to drive home their messages.

By repeating brand colors, businesses achieve brand awareness and leave a lasting impression of the brand’s personality on their customers. 

Consistency in branding and marketing plays a vital role in making your business memorable to the customer. Consistency, combined with the repetition of key elements, can make customers associate the design with specific characteristics of your business. This in turn allows you to more easily keep your brand top of mind for customers. 

Kimp Tip: Repetition also needs balance. Too much of a color, for example, can take away the variety from a design and make it uninteresting.

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Source: Kimp

Brand colors and product representations are used in above to create brand/product awareness on a product poster by Kimp. 

10) Grids and Framing 

Framing is the process of bringing attention to a particular element or a group of elements

Frames can be boxes, flowery frames, or even a random arrangement of other designs that bring an element into the spotlight.

You can also use the concept of grids to divide the whole design into smaller frames and segregate elements. We see this in newspapers, magazines, and other advertising mediums.

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Source: Kimp

In the menu above frames are used to prevent the copy from crowding the creative.

Kimp Tip: Frames do not have to be obvious or typical. Experiment with distinct elements like color, shapes, and even texture to build your own grids and frames. It adds a touch of innovation to your design without making it overwhelming.

Kimp – Your Partner in Creativity 

Building a good design takes practice, skill, and marketing knack. Doing it while also running a business means you all but need superpowers.

But why burden yourself with all that when you can be out there doing what you love? How, you ask? By asking us to do what we love – create good designs. 

Kimp is a comprehensive subscription-based design service that handles both graphics and videos for businesses worldwide.

Our model allows you to work with a dedicated team without worrying about management, timelines, or revision costs. Just give us the brief, and we will take it from there.

We are partners in your brand’s journey, not just another agency. Talk to us today for all things designs or sign up for the free trial and check our solutions yourself.