Understanding the Elements of Design and How to Use Them

graphic design elements on a

Your brand needs to be noticeable and your potential customers should be able to recognize your business instantly. There are so many logos and promotional images continuously presented to consumers, and your chance to convince them to choose your brand literally hinges upon your ability to stand out and capture their attention.

Remember, 94 percent of first impressions are design-related and 92 percent of people say the “visual” dimension, or what they see, is the most important thing affecting their buying decisions.

To summarize? There’s no doubt that visual branding and design matter, and as a business owner you’ve likely come to terms with this fact. However, how to create a stunning visual identity your audience will respond well to is a completely different beast.

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It all starts with knowing the fundamental elements of design. All branded visual identities are created using the same key component. If you understand how these components work together and the various roles they play, then you too can create a memorable and effective brand identity. But what are design elements and why are they important?

What are the Elements of Design?

There are 7 design elements that form the foundation of any visually-appealing composition. These elements include:

elements of design cream textured image
  1. Texture

Texture refers to the physical illusion of three dimensionality in an image or design. Essentially, it is the practice of making visual elements appear as if they are “touchable”. If the brushstrokes of a painting appear heavy and rough, the artist has achieved visual texture. This also applies to graphic design. If an image within a design appears glassy or slick to the eye, the designer has also achieved visual texture.

Why is Texture Important?

Texture is an incredibly important design element because it’s closely tied to the sense of “feeling.” Texture not only draws the eye instantly, it can also directly appeal to a person’s emotional senses. This emotional appeal allows a design to relay a specific message or connect with a specific feeling that you want consumers to associate with your brand.  Texture brings a sense of physical depth, as well as emotional depth to any design. 

shapes blue elements of design
  1. Shape

The term “shape” refers to any geometric form, as defined by its outer boundary or outline. Shapes are an essential part of depicting a wide range of objects, themes, and subject matter in a design, image, or artwork.

Why are Shapes Important?

The shapes we use when creating a design can completely change the way it is perceived. This is why, when considering the elements of design, the importance of shapes can not be overstated. Did you know, for instance, that squares evoke a sense of discipline and security in the human mind? Or that circles are associated with endurance and unity? 

Shapes are also critical for achieving a sense of balance in your design. Symmetry is pleasing to the eye and when shapes are used in a consistent, proportionate manner it can generate a more positive response from your target audience. When we familiarize ourselves with the various meanings and influences shapes have on design we can better utilize them to our advantage.

white and blue lines in elements of design
  1. Line

Lines are one of the most basic elements of design in art. It is nearly impossible to create an image or design without them. A line is any long, narrow mark that is used to define an object, pattern, or subject within a design or piece of artwork.

Why are Lines Important?

Lines are important because they give visuals a sense of direction, while also defining the various components that can be seen by the viewer. Straight lines convey motion and force, while curved lines convey flow, grace, and ease.

Many famed artists are known for their use of lines, including Vincent Van Gogh, who used this element of design to create movement in many of his paintings, including Cypresses and The Starry Night. In a more corporate sense, brands like Nike (the upward motion of their checkmark) and AirBnb (an airplane-like shape made from one continuous line) have used this element to create globally recognized logos.

beach ball in pink background in elements of design
  1. Space

In design, the distance or area that surrounds a shape or form is referred to as “space”. If the space is not occupied or defined, it is deemed to be “negative space” or “white space”, while “positive space” is the area found within a specific form or shape.

Why is Space Important?

Like all elements of design, the manner in which space is used has a significant impact on how a visual is interpreted by the viewer. When shapes or forms have greater amounts of space between them, for example, it establishes a sense of calmness, but if the forms are in close proximity to one another it can create a sense of clutter or confusion.

Space can also be used to give the impression of distance. When forms within a design or piece of artwork are larger or occupy more space, the viewer interprets those forms as being closer to the forefront, while smaller forms are deemed to be further away in the background. This gives a design more dimension, which can make your designs more compelling to your audience.

An organization of color hues around a circle
  1. Color

Of all the 7 elements of design, color is likely most well-known by artists, graphic designers, and everyday folks alike. Color is synonymous with art and design. It is the first thing most of us think of when we envision a painting or a mural or even a logo.

Why is Color Important?

There are subconscious meanings behind every color you see in marketing materials or visual designs. Did you know that the color orange symbolizes energy and vitality, for example? Or that blue is associated with reliability and strength? Each color has its own set of connotations and so the shades and hues you use in your design should always be selected with intention.

It’s also crucial to understand how different colors compliment or conflict with one another. Red and green are an example of opposing colors (also known as vibrating colors) that clash when used side by side, making them difficult to look at for long periods of time. You  want to avoid using color combinations that aren’t complementary as this could negatively affect the efficacy of your branding.

color value gradiant
  1. Value

In terms of the basic elements of design, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a particular color. Every color can be lightened or darkened by adding either white or black to it, creating multiple variations of the same primary color.

Why is Value Important?

By manipulating the value of a color, we open up a broad spectrum of color options to choose from. It allows us to differentiate our brand identities from those of our competitors while also giving us far more creative flexibility.

Additionally, value impacts the psychological impact of a color. Pale blues, for instance, are associated with serenity, tranquility, and relaxation, while darker, more saturated hues of blue evoke feelings of authority and productivity. You want to be sure you are choosing a color value that aligns with the mission and vision of your brand.

When considering a visual identity for your business, be sure not to underestimate the impact the value element of design can have on your final result.

Digital shapes that look realistic
  1. Form

Form refers to the exterior of any three dimensional object. It is a culmination of the width, breadth, and height of a shape. A cube is an example of form, as is a cone or a sphere.

Why is Form Important?

The primary purpose of form is to make an object appear realistic. Many brands want to use imagery or visual elements that seem to “jump off the page” and form is an essential part of creating this effect. Without form, shapes and visuals will appear flat and less compelling.

In addition to making designs more realistic, form also makes it easier to align various elements of a design in a way that is proportional. By determining the geometrical measurements of an object, it becomes easier to establish the dimensions of other objects in a uniform and harmonious way.

We highly encourage you to study these elements of design definitions if you plan to create compelling marketing materials for your business. With a strong foundational knowledge of the seven elements of design, you’ll be able to produce branding visuals that capture the essence of your business and appeal to the customers you’re trying to reach.

We also recommend reading our blog on the six graphic design rules you should never break for further information on how to keep your designs fresh, engaging, and impactful. It’s a great accompaniment to this blog!


Now that you’re familiar with the core elements of design, you’re likely eager to start designing materials for your business. We’re confident you’re better prepared to make informed design decisions now more than ever before!

The experienced and friendly customer service representatives at Printivity can help make your designs a reality. Our graphic design and printing services ensure your creative masterpieces are showcased on high-quality materials and shipped straight to your door! 

In addition to contacting one of our representatives, you can also visit our online help center. This is where you’ll find answers to our most frequently asked questions, as well as step-by-step instructions for completing an order.

Our ultimate goal is to empower you and your brand. Whether you need more information about a specific product or service, need an update regarding the status of your order, or simply have questions about how to make your design the best it can be — we never put limits on what we can do for our customers. Reach out today!


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