The Elements of Graphic Design

The Elements of Graphic Design // Graphic Design Basics // Graphic Design Terminology

Elements of design are the visual elements and building blocks of the design. Depending on the book or resource, you might find differing opinions of what the elements of design actually are. This isn’t a course on graphic design and I’m not trying to train you to the point of being able to work for an agency as a graphic design. This list below is a brief introduction to get you started and thinking about every aspect, element and placement of the various elements that make up a design.

Elements of Design: Content


A line is a stroke or linear mark. It can be straight, angled or curved.

  • Lines can be thin, thick, angled, broken, curved, smooth or textured.
  • They can suggest movement or motion.
  • By their quality, they can help evoke emotion and tell a story.
  • They can help move a viewer’s eyes through the content.
  • Lines can help organize information and show relationships.
  • They can create borders and boundaries.
  • Lines can be used to emphasize text and other visual elements in a design.
  • They can separate and delineate areas in the design. They can differentiate areas and break up the page to help signify what content is related to each other as well as what is important.


Shape is an area created by an enclosed line, color or texture. Shapes can be geometric, organic or abstract. Examples of geometric shapes are squares, circles and triangles. Examples of organic are things found in nature like leaves or freeform shapes like blobs. Abstract shapes are things like symbols, icons and even the alphabet.

Ultimately, everything is a shape. As you can see, when shapes are placed close together and even the most rudimentary variation of color added, recognizable objects are formed.

Shapes can help to  organize content, create boundaries and separation and provide visual cues for proximity.

Shapes can be used to emphasize elements in a design.


In graphic design, typically actual texture is not utilized or applied to the design. The illusion of a tactile surface is applied to design. Texture is simply the way something physically feels, or in the case of graphic design, the representation of they way something feels. Texture or the illusion of texture can be clean, shiny, hard, soft, rough. Etc. Texture should always be used in moderation.

Texture can provide interest, depth, emphasis, mood, etc. to a design.


Value is the lightness and darkness of a color. It helps provide depth, realism, contrast, variety and more to a design.

color value / color value scale / DIY Graphic Design / Graphic Design Basics

Image from WikiMedia


Color is a very important element of graphic design, so much so that I will talk about it in much more depth in a few more blog posts. Color is a powerful communicator and one that should absolutely be consciously and strategically used when laying out a design.


Typography is another extremely important element of design. Again, I will cover it in much more depth in future blog posts of this series. Typography is more than just the text on the page. It is the way the text is placed on the page.

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