Design Composition: The Foundation of Great Graphic Design

There’s a fine line between art and science when it comes to graphic design, learn how design composition is the building block for amazing design.

Design Composition

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Every artist and designer understands that in order to improve in any art form, learning the different tools, principles, and techniques should be done first. Design composition is just one of the principles of graphic design that should be mastered in order to achieve a design that is effective and looks good in the eye.

Graphic designers employ compositional guidelines in their work to draw the viewer in and immerse them in a creative environment. The right combination of visual components creates not only visual stability but also mood enhancement through composition and order, which prevents visual disorder. 


What is Design Composition and How Does it Influence a Design?

Design composition is the term used for putting up and arranging various design elements together. It is the careful planning of the layout, choice of colors and fonts, use of white spaces, and the arrangement and distribution of the images, graphics, illustrations, and other design elements to produce a single, cohesive image.

Developing a good design composition involves the strategic arrangement and placement of the design elements to shape a specific experience for the viewers. It establishes a strong focal point and spontaneity and achieves a design that is not only visually appealing but also extremely practical and effective.

Rules of Composition

There are different rules in design composition that must be implemented and used when developing designs for various purposes. 

1. Create a Visual Hierarchy

Create a Visual Hierarchy

Source: Michigan Creative – Visual Hierarchy in Graphic Design

Visual hierarchy is one of the most effective graphic design techniques in achieving spontaneity and fluidity when presenting information to the viewers. This rule enables you to lead the audiences’ eyes based on the design elements’ order of significance. Thus, letting them absorb first the message that matters most in your design.

Scale is usually used to aid in communicating hierarchy, pulling the viewers’ attention toward the significant elements first and then onto the next. This is usually done by making the most important element or information appear enormous. Then the next elements or subheadings will be adjusted to appear smaller in size.

The other ways that can help you pull off a good visual hierarchy are to use other colors, typography, and contrast.

2. Create Balance

The idea of visual balance can be related to physical balance. An uneven graphic design would be as perplexing to most observers seeing an extremely little person and another very huge person sitting at opposite ends of a perfectly balanced seesaw. 

Implementing balance in design creates dynamics, adds stability, and produces visual harmony; and a good distribution of visual weight makes a design pleasing to look at. However, it does not necessarily mean that it should look symmetrical. You can actually implement balance in your design in 4 ways: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial, and mosaic.

Symmetrical balance appears to have the visual weight evenly distributed from the central axis. On the other hand, the asymmetrical balance could have different elements on both sides and yet has equal visual weight. Radial balance has symmetry in different directions, while mosaic might look chaotic. But if you look closely at the elements in a mosaic design, you will find that they still work together in creating balance. 

There are many ways to achieve balance in design. You can use vibrant colors to balance neutral colors, patterns to create a sense of order, and shapes to give additional weight to seemingly empty areas.

3. Use Complementary Elements

You’ve probably read about using complementary colors from many design tips, but what about complementary design elements? Taking the time to carefully and consciously pick each piece of your graphic design so that each section compliments the total is a critical factor to a successful and effective composition.

You have to make that all your elements will look harmonious when grouped together. Colorize your design elements accordingly by altering them to have more unified and complementary palettes. If you are using illustrations to go with your design,  use elements with comparable aesthetics and styles to complement one another. For example, if your illustration is highly minimal, choose elements that are minimalist-inspired to complement it.

4. Use Contrast

We have a natural tendency to group comparable items together and distinguish between those that are dissimilar. Thus, contrast becomes one of the most powerful graphic design techniques for drawing attention to specific components in your design. One of the first things our eyes perceive as humans is ‘difference’, whether it be a difference in color, form, texture, size, or location, among other things.

5. Set a Point of Focus

A strong focal point is critical in every effective composition because it directs your visitors’ attention to the most important components of your design first. When deciding on a focal point, keep in mind that the fundamental goal of any graphic design is communication. Whether you’re presenting an idea, some facts, or just a feeling or emotion, your design is telling a story, so choose a focal point that will enable this story to be delivered in the strongest, most effective way possible. The use of scale, contrast, and leading lines are some approaches for drawing emphasis.

6. Maximize the Use of White Space

When utilized carefully, white space may assist improve the clarity and overall aesthetic of your design by balancing out the more difficult and busy portions of your composition with a room that allows your design to breathe.

Reduce the size of your visual components. You may add some nice white space around your key elements while staying inside the frame of your original visual by scaling down your imagery, writing, graphics, and so on. Don’t cram stuff into every available area. As previously said, white space is not empty space; it performs its own function and has its own purpose, so don’t feel obligated to fill any white spaces you have with more material.

When creating your design, ask yourself if each aspect is absolutely required. You can create a more straightforward design when you effectively use whites spaces and remove the elements that are not really necessary. You can use a background remover tool when using images for your design. It will automatically remove the unnecessary background so you can freely use great images in your design that will effectively convey your message.

7. Use Leading Lines

Just as you point at something to get others to look at it, you may influence the perspective of your design by putting particular lines and shapes in specific directions, i.e. where viewers’ eyes go when they see your design. Flowcharts are a frequent application of leading lines that you may be familiar with. Flowcharts use lines to guide your eye from one point to the next in a clear manner.

Leading lines may also take you to other layers or areas of information. You want the eye to first settle on the major focus point, but where does it travel from there? You may guide the eye not just to the main point of your design, but also throughout the rest of it, by locating and altering your leading lines. Of course, not every design will have such apparent lines for you to alter to direct sight, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Find forms and lines in your photographs and graphic components and utilize them to guide the viewer’s eye in certain directions.

8. Figure out a Nice Alignment of Elements

When creating a composition with several parts, don’t just slap them all on the page and call it a day; instead, aligning these pieces is a quick and easy method to convert your design from shabby to stylish. Aligning your elements in a powerful and logical manner also aids in the creation of order among multiple elements. So, if you’re working with a lot of photos, words, and/or visual components, alignment maybe your greatest friend.

9. Create an Illusion of Movement

Your brand may have anything to do with physical, mental, or spiritual movement, or you may just wish to stand out from your competitors’ designs. In any situation, a design that exploits illusory motion can provide you with the competitive advantage you seek.

You may reach out and touch your consumers by using the illusion of motion, a phenomenon known as kinesthetic empathy: a cognitive activity in which the observer intentionally or unwittingly reproduces or perceives an action or motion they just witnessed. The emotion may be so strong that the spectator is physically dragged forward, pushed away, or even sways from side to side as on a miniature roller coaster! This puts you in a visible interaction with your prospects right away.

Keep in mind that simplicity is essential. Using more than one indicated movement approach on a single composition might cause visual confusion and even nausea in viewers. Also, while working with fonts, avoid employing the “blurred outlines” technique. There’s a delicate line between efficiency and excess, which makes the typeface difficult to read. Color and shade combinations should be treated with caution as well. Hotter colors and hues tend to stand out, whereas cooler colors and shades might fade into the background. Consider how these phenomena may alter the sense of directional movement in your design. 

10. Repetition

Repetition is one of the most important graphic design techniques that is frequently used to achieve a great design composition. It is the use of one or multiple elements many times within a single design or the same patterns in multiple design pages to create consistency all throughout. Repetition also creates a pattern, movement, and unity. 

Repeated use of design elements can also help achieve branding consistency. Using the same logos, typography, and brand colors repetitively in graphic designs establishes consistency and a stronger branding foundation. This way, viewers can easily associate your designs easily as one that belongs to a specific brand. 


Designing visual pieces into a good composition is a complicated endeavor in and of itself, but designers are increasingly being expected to construct massive compositional systems that others will apply. Designers must be able to create powerful compositional systems while also communicating how their systems function, how to apply their principles, and how to apply them in such a way that they remain relevant and fresh.

This is only a brief introduction of the various ways a designer might structure composition to have the best impact on viewers. Always keep in mind that rules are made to be violated. However, if you begin to comprehend and use these laws and structures in your own work, your design compositions will improve and strengthen enormously.