The goal of graphics design is to communicate visually—to clearly deliver a message, trigger an emotion or create a first impression with elements that are appealing to the eye. When you read the classified section in the newspaper, which ads grab your attention? When you land on a website, is the design inviting and captivating to keep you there? When you look at a logo, what makes it appealing and memorable?

Graphics designers create visual interest by following a number of design principles such as unity, balance, consistency, alignment, and contrast. A successful graphics piece should have most, if not all of these elements present. But among these principles, which creates the most BAM—the most impact? The answer is CONTRAST.

Contrast can be achieved with the following:

1. Size

Placing something really small next to something much bigger in scale creates interest. Check the before and after below: Hello world.

The font size of  'Hello' is 72 while the font size of 'world' is only 21. Evidently the bigger word is the one being emphasized. Another technique applied here was adjusting the kerning (spacing between characters) for ‘world’. By adding extra space to the characters, both words are aligned to create balance.


2. Weight

Weight refers to the thickness of the strokes that compose a typeface. Weight varies from extremely thin to extra heavy. Pairing a thin font with a heavy one instantly adds contrast and interest to the design. Just by bolding a font already creates contrast--that's why we bold headers and important keywords in a sentence.

Note the weight disparity between the fonts below—the font used for ‘Express’ is Impact and the font used for ‘yourself’ is Cambria. This examples also uses size to intensify the contrast.


3. Shape and Structure

Structure in typography refers to the built or make-up of the font. Some fonts are simple and sleek, some have subtle details while others are more flamboyant.

Upper and lower cases also have different structural composition; therefore, contrast can be achieved with a word in ALL CAPS and another in lower case.

The example below uses fonts with very different silhouettes to create contrast-- the font for 'Carpe' is Edwardian Script while the font for 'diem' is Calibri.

shape and structure

4. Color

Contrasting colors also create visual impact. Think of blue and red, yellow and green, and of course, you can never go wrong with black and white.

Tip: White type on a dark color background is a sure bet for visual impact. Check the before and after below.


5. Direction

In western culture, type runs horizontally from left to right. In eastern culture, however, type runs the oppsite direction—vertically from right to left. You can create contrast by placing elements in different directions (horizontally, vertically, slanted). Just be sure to do it in an organized tasteful manner like the example below.


Now that you know one of the most important graphics design principles, you can impress others with captivating designs on invitations, flyers, posters, webpages, and other platforms. The possibilities are endless! You are encouraged to apply as many techniques as possible in your design.