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What Makes Good Graphic Design?

Updated on March 11, 2016

Graphic Design Poster

Sean Fliehman ©2014
Sean Fliehman ©2014

Defining Design

The definition of graphic design from the Webster's dictionary is:

The art and profession of selecting and arranging visual elements—such as typography, images, symbols, and colours—to convey a message to an audience. Sometimes graphic design is called “visual communications.” It is a collaborative discipline: writers produce words and photographers and illustrators create images that the designer incorporates into a complete visual message. Although graphic design has been practiced in various forms throughout history, it emerged as a specific profession during the job-specialization process that occurred in the late 19th century. Its evolution has been closely bound to developments in image making, typography, and reproduction processes. Prominent graphic designers include Jules Chéret, Piet Zwart, Paul Rand, Alexey Brodovitch, Milton Glaser, and David Carson.

I have an associates degree in graphic design and an associates degree in communications both from Sinclair Community College. My guest commentator David Svezhintsev is a designer for a design firm in Owasso, OK. Now that we are established on what graphic design is let us consider what it is to do good design. Like art, film, music and food there is always a debate over what is good design.

DS: Honestly, you can’t express what a good design is in couple of (paragraphs on a Hub Page) that’s just not possible! You could go on and on, dig deeper and deeper. And the “good” design depends on many different aspects: client, design type, industry or group of people you are trying to reach.

Design Should Entice You

Sean Fliehman ©2014
Sean Fliehman ©2014

Stands On Its Own

DS: In overall, take a look at all the different design types that are out there. They have a lot of things in common. Like clarity and simplicity.

Think about it, if you can't read it or understand it,if the visual interpretation is not clear then ultimately its bad design. If I'm looking at a piece and its got 50 different color schemes and 25 different patterns and 16 different fonts then its going to be a mess and an eyesore. Obviously I'm exaggerating for emphasis but you understand the point I'm making. If your designing a piece and the theme is winter fun and you use harsh reds and oranges as your colors with firm strong lines and solid shapes then your feelings are going to be harsh, rough, and not fun. But if your theme is "the bitterness of winter storms" then these colors and principals might be appropriate.

D.S. If you can read something the first time and understand what you have read with (the) help of a graphic inspiration that accompanied it; that design wins. But if you need me, to help and assist you in order to understand what you saw or what you have read, then that design sucks.

It could be summed up here that good design can stand on its own with or without words.
Take a book. A big and thick one such as the Dictionary or Yellow pages. Can you find something fast and effectively? Can you understand that information without a doubt and it’s the information that you have been looking for? That is a good design.

Wow Church Logo I designed.
Wow Church Logo I designed.

My Example

The logo above is an example of what we're talking about. The pastors came to me and wanted something that illustrated one of their founding scriptures which was: Luke 9:43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God...The use of the bright red color, the strong lines and shape, emphasizes and illustrates the name of the church.

Red on white is really going to pop and make a statement of strength. The exclamation point is a universal symbol for shouting, excitement, and drawing attention therefore; the cross made of exclamation points is a statement not only of spiritual impact but of what the church is advertising itself to do, be and believe. The fonts chosen are a sans serif so they are easy to read. Logos should be simple, bold and clean with no or little detail. The detail if any at all should come through in the design. For example the lines that make up the siren in the Starbucks logo. That log has a lot a detail in it but its made up of line art. The logo is really strong and uses a lot of detail but the detail is not over powering and still clean and crisp. Go check out the logo right now online and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Breaking It Down

DS: In simple words, let’s say you’ve made a website, maybe designed a book or a price list. Is it easy for you to read, navigate, or find that exact price? Ask yourself those questions. And be honest with yourself! If you say to me you have designed a price list for me, but I can’t find the price I'm looking for, and I have to get myself through a jungle of tables before I finally see it, than that is an example of horrible design right there my friend. You are definitely hiding something, don’t you? You need to get a sense of harmony, even in that price list. Lot’s and lot’s of tables with data won't help me if I can’t see the price tag. Making everything italic, bold and underlined all together won’t help your message to be readable, it only makes people sick.In overall, whoever is going to read / use / see / watch / touch / listen to your piece of art needs to be able to do that without any doubts or help, and be happy about it, tell people about it, be excited about it.

What is Your Favorite Principal or Element of Design?

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Other Types of Good Design

Sometimes when making design you may need to call upon your illustration skills or hire an illustrator. When doing illustration if you want to make all kinds of detail on your piece then here is where you can let loose. Caution! Again it depends on your theme and audience. A piece for children should be simple and fun with bright colors and not be to bogged down with details.

You may also call upon the needs of a photographer to capture the right image and then you'll ad text to the image. Again a powerful image can be worth a thousand words.

Photography Design

Sean Fliehman Design ©2014
Sean Fliehman Design ©2014

Illustrated Design

Sean Fliehman ©2014
Sean Fliehman ©2014
Sean Fliehman ©2014
Sean Fliehman ©2014

The Message is King

In conclusion, good design is a paradox.There is no true definition to "good" design and yet at the same time there are some universal truths and understanding to what it means. Ultimately good design shines through in the strength and clarity of your message. Good design is the pillars for which your message stands on. If people can read, see, and understand your message and feel inspired or moved in some fashion to rally behind it then you know you have good design. If however the message is not supported by your design and instead it is lost, clouded over or has become murky due to the design then you have bad design. Even the most creative idea for a piece can be bad design if it does not strengthen or illuminate the message. The message is king and good design are the knights who strengthen and empower the king. It doesn't matter how many awesome textures you have if they don't help the king. Then what good are they?

Short but Great Video

For More Info

Hi friends, I hope you enjoyed this article. Please see related articles at:

I want to thank designer David Svezhintsev for his valuable input.

David Svezhintsev


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