How to Optimize Your Graphics

Illustration by Ashley Sipe

by: Shemariah Solomon 

Graphics are a vital part of everyday life. Maybe you are creating graphics for an upcoming project or need to advertise your club’s latest event. The goal is always the same – to concisely disseminate information to your audience in an easily digestible way. Be sure to include a visual of some kind to grab your reader’s attention. It is also important to keep the four basic design principles in mind – contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. Contrast focuses on visually differentiating pieces of information and creating hierarchy. Repetition creates cohesion by committing to a consistent look. Alignment provides a connection between elements in a composition and improves visual rhythm. Proximity aids in organizing all relevant information. These design principles do not stand alone – they work in tandem with each other to achieve overall unity in a composition. Lastly, do not forget about typography and color schemes. These help to position yourself in someone’s mind and evoke emotions in your readers.


The human brain can comprehend visuals about 60,000 times faster than text. Including visuals is a great way to attract viewers’ attention and keep it. Aim for visuals that are accurate, clear, simple and easy to understand. Consider whether or not your graphic can depict a metaphor that enhances your audience’s understanding of the topic. 


           To increase readability and create visual flow, establish a visual hierarchy. Different elements should be visually unique. For example, titles, subheadings and body text should have different fonts and/or font sizes. Ways to increase contrast include using a variety of colors, shapes, line thickness and text direction. Make sure to check for enough contrast between text and background color to maximize readability and accessibility.


           Make sure that all related information is visually the same. This creates cohesion in a composition. All groupings of relevant information – headings, body text, quotes – should have the same font, size and color. When working with Adobe or Microsoft software, make sure to utilize components and styles to ensure that elements are identical. 


           Do not arbitrarily place elements in your composition – everything must have a place. Form a connection between every element in your composition. The organization of your elements can help create different moods, such as playful or formal. Most people use centered alignment, but try to experiment with flush left or right, for example.          


           Related information should be grouped together. Distance is used to imply relationships between information. Elements with a large distance between them imply a lack of relationship. Proximity immediately results in the organization of both content and negative space.                                                                                                                                    

Other Things to Keep In Mind

           When deciding upon a typeface and color palette always keep in mind how you want your audience to feel. People associate certain emotions with certain colors. For example, the color yellow signifies optimism and warmth, while blue is associated with dependability and trustworthiness. Fonts can generally be categorized as serif, sans serif, slab serif, script, blackletter, italic and display. Determine what the attitude/purpose of your message is and choose the typeface that best translates that emotion. Consider what medium and environment your graphic will be in when it reaches your target audience. For example, will the reader be indoors or outdoors? More typefaces are suited for the screen rather than print. To establish hierarchy, pair two typefaces that complement each other, such as serif and sans serif. Try not to use more than three typefaces in your composition. Always make sure that your text is legible! If no one can read it, then what is the point? If the reader cannot decipher the text, they are likely to promptly move on to the next thing.