Graphic Design: What is it and How Can I Improve my Designs?

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What is graphic design?

Graphic design is not just what it looks like. It needs to fulfill a purpose. And that purpose is to convey a message to a specific audience. Aesthetics are important. But if the message isn’t understood, then the design becomes art and the message lost. Graphic design is about communicating a message visually. And if you keep this in the forefront of your mind when you design your next social media post or advert you’ll have won half the battle.


How do I improve my graphic design?

The short answer. Read. Practice. Improve. Becoming a graphic designer doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years to become great at it. However, there are some tips I can give you to help improve your designs right now.


Graphic design is visual communication. This means it’s about the message. And you need to know the who, what, and where of your message in order to create a successful design.
Before you begin your design, answer the following questions:

  • Who is your message for?
  • What do you want to say?
  • What is the purpose of your message?
  • And finally, where is your message going to be seen.


Have a take a look at the following example of a poorly designed poster.


Less is more

When I worked as an in-house graphic designer for a vehicle dealership, my boss wanted as much information included in the design as possible. As a result the message was lost in all those words. Remember, graphic design is communicating visually. Fact is, you do not need a wall of text to get your message across. So keep in mind the core of your message and stick to it. Then provide only as much information as is necessary.


Below is an example of a poorly design website.

Now you can start with the layout. To begin, make use of a grid system to keep everything neat.



Grids are amazing. They keep everything neat and easy to read. And they make it simple to design something which works. There are free templates available online which you can use for this.


Space & Proximity

Space can enhance your message. And the message will be lost if there isn’t enough space between elements. In order to get your message across, you need to think of the amount of space to leave around elements. And you need to think about the elements which should be grouped together. For instance, you’re creating an event flyer. You need to display the date, venue and time. In general, you want to keep the heading and the details for each of these items together – this is what I mean by proximity. Not only does this make it easier to read, but it also makes it easier to understand.


Below is an example of a well designed flyer which uses grids, space and proximity.



The best advice I can offer is to keep it simple if you’re not sure. Whenever possible stick to one type family and use variations of that type. These variations are “thin, regular, italics, bold and black”. In addition to this, use an easy to read font. Rather stay away from decorative type. In fact, they make it difficult to read which defeats the purpose of your design.



Stick to left aligning blocks of text and keep your sentences and paragraphs short. And only use center and right align where absolutely necessary. Not only do these alignments make it difficult to read, but it also looks terrible when used incorrectly.


Here’s an example of a well designed magazine spread showing proper alignment.



Contrast comes in many forms, whether it is colour, shape or even size. And when used properly it enhances your message. But be careful of having too many contrasting elements on a page. Ultimately, this draw the readers’ eye away from the message and – again – defeats the purpose of your design.


Below is an example of contrast in size and colour.



In conclusion, graphic design about communicating a message to your audience visually. Moreover, bad design will hurt your brand. Not only does it look unprofessional but it reduces credibility as well. Lastly, hire a graphic designer where possible. Especially if you have the budget available.


Further reading:
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