Ever wondered if there was a way to consistently make great photos and graphics? Taking the perfect picture or creating the perfect design may seem mystifying, but there are rules that great artists and photographers have learned to follow and using these guidelines can help take a brand’s social media content to the next level. Here are a few tried and true “Elements of Design” straight from the art school textbook.
Color is one of the most basic elements of art, but it is also one of the most powerful. Eye-catching colors can have a scroll-stopping effect on audiences when used effectively. Consider adding shapes with brand colors to your photos for an attention-grabbing effect. Brands don’t have to have bright colors to grab an audience’s attention, muted colors can be just as effective when used properly. Also consider taking photos in unique, colorful locations to help stand out in a user’s feed.
Texture is often overlooked, but even in subtle doses it can take a photo or graphic to the next level. Texture adds visual interest and creates a more three-dimensional appearance on the two-dimensional surface of a screen. Texture is an especially powerful tool for any brand looking to appear honest and organic, as texture can give a photo or graphic a very natural and spontaneous look.
Negative space is the portion of a photo or graphic that is devoid of any elements. Negative space can be used in a variety of clever ways (take WWF’s panda logo for example) or as a way to provide breathing room in an image so it does not look too crowded. However, negative space can become an obstacle when used carelessly. Sometimes an image winds up with “trapped space,” which is a portion of negative space that becomes trapped between other elements and ends up as a distracting eye-catcher for the viewer. Trapped space can be avoided by arranging elements so that negative space has a way to “escape” off the edges of a graphic.
The first example has distracting trapped space, while the second example pushes the negative space off the edges.
Emphasis is all about highlighting what’s most important in your design. Take time to consider what the focal point of your image should be and make sure that it stands out the most in your design. Let’s say a brand wants to advertise with text like this: “End of Season Sale-Up to 50% Off!” If the brand wants users to notice “50% Off!” as the most important text in the image, there are some simple solutions to make sure the text stands out the most. “50% Off!” could be significantly larger than the rest of the text, set in a different typeface, a bold color, or a combination of all these solutions! For photos, consider selective focus and a blurred background so the subject really stands out, or crop the image tightly so all superfluous elements are out of the picture.
Unity assures that all elements of a photo or graphic work together as a cohesive whole. However, unity does not mean sameness. The best designs have what’s often called “unity with variety,” which means they have an assortment of contrasting elements that form a visual harmony. While this may seem complicated, there are examples of unified variety everywhere. The photos below are perfect examples of unity with variety. They have repeating elements, but these elements contrast with different colors and angles, creating unified variety. The graphic also illustrates how contrasting colors can work together with hand-drawn elements to form a unified design.
The Elements of Design provide great guidelines for creating effective images. Take some time to really analyze an image before posting and measure it against the Elements of Design. Could the image use more contrast to be more attention-grabbing? Is there any trapped space? Would the addition of texture make it more visually organic? Asking questions like these before posting assures that each image will be a great reflection of your brand.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, that’s where the best art comes from!