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10 Things To Know About Graphic Design


6. Rods and Cones

1. Font and Typeface

7. The Anatomy of Type

2. Readability and Legibility

N 3. Kerning and Tracking

10. Itten’s Laws Of Colour

9. The Pantone Colour Guide 8. Semiotics

4. Lay-Out and Grid

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5. CMYK and RGB

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A typeface, or a font family, is a set of characters that share very similar visual qualities. Every typeface

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has meant that the size of the font used can easily be changed, thanks to the ease at which vectors can be scaled and changed. Techniques such as letterpress were the main forms of printing and font referred to the complete set of metal characters that were used to print an entire page. As the glyphs were metal objects it meant that in order for the letter to be bigger or smaller, another new metal piece would have to be made.

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Helvetica Neue Condensed Bold Italic’ is a different typeface from ‘ITC Helvetica Neue Condensed Regular Italic’. However, they do both belong to the typeface family ‘Helvetica Neue’. There are thousands of typefaces already, with many more being created constantly. As you can see from the image below,

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contains a collection of glyphs, each of which represents an individual letter, number, punctuation mark, or other symbol. A single typeface is represented by very specific features such as weights, style slant etc. but not by size. For example, ‘ITC

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the most commonly used glyphs, such as a and o, are placed more central within the drawer to allow for easier access. The less frequently used

glyphs, such as b, l and v, are placed further out from the middle. When letterpress was used as the main form of printing, people would have been paid for the speed at which they could print. This lay-out would have meant that they could complete this process as efficiently as possible.

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Knowing the difference between font and typeface in the current graphic design industry is very important.

1. Font and Typeface

A font, not to be confused with typeface, is a specific weight or style within a certain typeface. For example the typeface ‘Bulmer’ may include the fonts ‘Bulmer Roman’, ‘Bulmer Italic’, ‘Bulmer Bold’ and ‘Bulmer Extended’. Before digital printing, different point sizes would be made from different fonts. For example, ‘9-point Bulmer Italic’ would be a completely different font from ‘10-point Bulmer Italic’; the process involved before digital printing meant that this had to be the case. Digital printing


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this difference is vital, especially when trying to give good feedback.

Readability refers to aspects such as the language used within a sentence and the ease at which this can be read. For example, the way in which people converse when using text messages is greatly different to the way in which people actually write and spell things.

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‘Readability can be defined not on a letter by letter basis, but how the combination of letters are read within a larger body of text. In other words,

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readability is defined by the amount of effort one needs to make to read text, not single characters.’

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Legibility focuses on how legible the actual letterforms are and

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how clearly and effectively they represent the certain glyph. There are many ways in which the letter ‘A’ could be interpreted and shown but some representations would be much clearer and easier

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to recognise than others.

‘Legibility can be defined as the ability a human reader to read something without effort. It can depend on many things. Often, the size of font chosen restricts legibility. For our purposes though, legibility is discussed in light of typeface choice.’

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There are of course multiple methods people have used in the past to identify readability in the text. How one can search in text to find such patterns that textually emerges either as readable or legible depends on many factors, like serif presence, etc.

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There are of course multiple methods people have used in the past to identify readability in the text. How one can search in text to find such patterns that textually emerges either as readable or legible depends on many factors, like serif presence, etc.

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‘The above text is exactly the same in both cases, yet if one tries to read it, one finds some differences.The one on the left is a serif font (Times New Roman), while the one on the right is sansserif (Helvetica). When reaching the end of each line, from my experience at least, it is easier to identify the correct next line in the text on the left. The one on the right creates some problems to read the line, even though letters are easier to understand. On the left we have what is called readable type, while on the right we have a legible type.’

2. Readability and Legibility

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There is a vast difference between the terms ‘readability’ and ‘legibility’ and knowing


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next to each other can create uneven spacing that, if not kerned properly, could make the word look strange and unbalanced. This unbalanced appearance would obviously have a very negative effect on the overall visual quality of a design; text could appear too tight and squashed together which would make words very hard to read or they could look

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very spaced out and distanced which would make letters become much more independent and appear less like they were part of a word.

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Tracking is the overall letter spacing; the adjustment of space for groups of letters or entire paragraphs. It can have a huge impact on the overall appearance and readability of text if not applied correctly. Just like kerning, tracking is a vital aspect of graphic design, as it could possibly ruin an otherwise good piece of

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design. If not applied properly, it could be hard to distinguish where one paragraph ends and another beings or perhaps numerous lines of texts become slightly overlaid and therefore distorted and hard to read. At the end of the day, if the text is unreadable then it doesn’t matter how good the content is as it won’t be able to be read.

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These images are from a kerning game that teaches the user what kerning is and how to effectively apply it. It can be found at ‘http://type. method.ac/’. It is very useful in teaching the basics

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of kerning as well as giving the user practice and knowledge of how different types of lettering look when kerned properly.

3. Kerning and Tracking

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Kerning is the term given to selective letter spacing. When put adjacent to one another, some letterforms create very awkward spaces between them. For example, the letters ‘g’ and ‘r’ when put


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way in which text and images are laid out on a page, this obviously being the aspect of the design that is seen instantly. Usually, if the composition of the content is bad or interferes with the content, people will not even go any further than simply glancing at your work. This is why it is essential that these are applied correctly in order to successful present text and/

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or images.

‘Page layout is the part of graphic design that deals in the arrangement and style treatment of elements on a page.’ There are no hard and fast rules in how this is applied to graphic design; much of this application is based on personal aesthetic preferences. If the designer thinks that something looks good a certain way then that is up to them, but it does not necessarily mean that everyone will think the same. This explains why there are so many different examples of design that has been

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clearly considered and laid out accordingly.

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‘A typographic grid is a two-dimensional structure made up of a series of intersecting vertical and horizontal axes used to structure content. The grid serves as an armature on which a designer can organize text and images in a rational, easy to absorb manner.’ The use and application of the grid is the tool that the designer uses in aid in the

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reading or viewing of the content on a page. It could make the viewer look at something in a certain order or perhaps just make the page much easier to take in. Once again, this is very much down to the designers aesthetic opinions.

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4. Lay-Out and Grid

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Lay-Out and Grid are essential parts of almost all graphic design, especially within the area ‘editorial and publishing’. They determine the


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is less significant, the colours from within the two modes are/can be slightly different. CMYK contains the colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black (or key). ‘The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colours on a lighter, usually white, background.

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The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” brightness from white.’ The way in which this works is when these four colours are overlaid at varying amounts you get different colours; the idea being that you can achieve every colour from the CMYK colour selection just by changing the percentages of each colour. When it comes to printing, normally, you would be charged per printing plate. This means that if you were to print black onto white paper, you would only need to use one plate. However,

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if you had even 1% of another colour within that design, which your eye wouldn’t even be able to tell, you would need to pay for a whole other plate. This can be very costly and is something that the designer needs to ensure is correct before any printing is done. RGB contains of the colours red, green and blue. ‘In additive color models such as RGB, white is

the “additive” combination of all primary coloured lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is the opposite: white is the natural colour of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks.’ This colour mode is used for screen and the colours within this range differ slightly from those of the CMYK range.

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5. CMYK and RGB

CMYK and RGB are both massive parts of graphic design and knowing the difference between them and being able to use them appropriately is vital. The colour mode CMYK is used for print whereas RGB is used for screen. It is very important that this is taken into consideration when it comes to setting up your original document as although sometimes it


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These are actually parts of your eyes that allow you to see colour and give you the ability to distinguish one colour from another. ‘The retina is the back part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light. These specialised cells are called photoreceptors. There are 2 types of photoreceptors in the retina: rods and cones.’ The rods main functions

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involve detection light and dark change, shape and movement; they are not useful in the distinction of colour. There are about 120 million rods in the human retina. ‘The cones are not as sensitive to light as the rods. However, cones are most sensitive to one of three different colors (green, red or blue). Signals from the cones are sent to the brain which then translates these messages into the perception of colour.’ There are about 6 million cones in the human retina. Colour blindness occurs when a person is missing a certain type of cone, or perhaps a type of cone is slightly weaker; this results in the eye lacking distinction between certain colours.

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6. Rods and Cones

One part of the retina however does not contain any of these photoreceptors. This is our ‘blind spot’ and anything that falls within this area will be completely invisible to our eyes.

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To find your blind spot, look at the image of the dot and the cross: Close your left eye. Hold the image about 20 inches away. With your right eye, look at the dot. Slowly bring the image closer while looking at the dot. At a certain distance, the + will disappear from sight...this is when the + falls on the blind spot of your retina. Reverse the process. Close your right eye and look at the + with your left eye. Move the image slowly closer to you and the dot should disappear.

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The anatomy of type, being able to identify different sections and elements that make up a letterform, is something that amateur graphic designer often knows very little about; this knowledge however must be learnt if you wanted to create your own successful and professional typeface. Here are just some examples of various sections and elements of typography.

This website, ‘Typography Deconstructed’ was very useful for

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this section of my publication and is where I gathered much of my information from.

A small stroke extending from the upper-right side of the bowl of lowercase g; also appears in the angled or curved lowercase r.

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A horizontal or upward, sloping stroke that does not connect to a stroke or stem on one or both ends.

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The part of the letters that extends below the baseline.

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7. The Anatomy of Type

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An imaginary line drawn from top to bottom of a glyph bisecting the upper and lower strokes is the axis.


Semiotics is a very significant aspect of graphic design that, in one way or another, every one understands. It ‘is a theoretical framework for the study of the meaning of language, signs and symbols.’

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8. Semiotics

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Semiotics is usually divided into three parts:

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Semantics - what was the meaning of the words or signs used; Pragmatics - who said it, to whom and in what circumstances and Syntactics - the formal rules of the language used.

For example, the Apple logo:

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Pretty much everyone knows what this iconic logo is for; the company Apple. However, in terms of semiotics it represents three separate things. It is a sign, symbol and signifier. For example: It is a sign for an Apple.

It is a symbol for the computer company ‘Apple’ It signifies quality, innovation, creativity etc.

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This is a colour guide that, if used properly, could help save a lot of time and a lot of money. It is made up from many many colours, which is constantly being updated and added to, that allows people to easily and effectively match colours of objects to colours from the guide. This colour within the guide will be accompanied by certain useful information that can make a designers job a lot easier. It comes with a code and set of percentages that clearly show how you can get this exact colour when working digitally. You even have the option to either simply put in the code and it will automatically select the colour for you, or you could use the colour sliders and manually adjust the individual colour percentages to get the desired colour. The pantone colour guides come in a whole range that cover matt colours, glossy colours and even metallics so no matter what colour it is that you’re trying to achieve, you can.

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Pantone P 110-6c

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9. The Pantone Colour Guide

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Pantone P 110-5c

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Contrast of light and dark: The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of light and dark values. This could be a monochromatic composition.

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Contrast of hue: The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of different hues. The greater the distance between hues on a color wheel, the greater the contrast.

Contrast of complements: The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of color wheel or perceptual opposites.

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Contrast of saturation:The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of light and dark values and their relative saturation.

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Contrast of Extension: (also known as the Contrast of Proportion) The contrast is formed by assigning proportional field sizes in relation to the visual weight of a color.

10. Itten’s Laws Of Colour

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Johannes Itten was the creator of the laws of colour which still today prove to be an effective guide when choosing colour schemes or selections of colours to work together. ‘He was one of the first people to define and identify strategies for successful color combinations. Through his research he devised seven methodologies for coordinating colors utilizing the hue’s contrasting properties.’ These are his laws:

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Simultaneous contrast: The contrast is formed when the boundaries between colors perceptually vibrate. Some interesting illusions are accomplished with this contrast.

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Contrast of warm and cool: The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of hues considered ‘warm’ or ‘cool.’


By Sam Horbury

10 Things To Know About Graphic Design  

My selection of the 10 most important things to know about Graphic Design

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