I was recently talking with a friend about my graphic design work and after the ten-to-fifteen-minute conversation we had, he then stated “I’m not even really sure what graphic design is.” I of course laughed at the fact that he respectfully endured my lecture about a topic he was completely oblivious to. Nonetheless, this humorous situation laid the foundation for the topic of this article: What actually is graphic design?

Graphic design is one of those things that we all sort of have an idea of, or a general concept of what it is, however, for the majority of the time, no one can truly describe what it is. It is like Einstein’s E=MC2 equation, or how a computer operates: We know the general idea of these things, however, ask us to explain or elaborate on them and our brains become “blank screens.” However, have no fear, I am here – to explain what this mysterious, daunting, abstract term means and also, how you could easily apply some of its basic principles to your life.

The easiest way to explain what graphic design is-is to use the four general principles first coined by writer Robin Williams (not the actor): CRAP. C.R.A.P. is the acronym for contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. Much can be said about each of the principles, however, as this is a short and sweet introduction, only the larger, more significant ideas will be presented. It should also be noted that this is a paraphrased version of the original author’s work.

C – Contrast is extremely important for aesthetic and mental comprehension. When two or more colors compliment each other, we call this having ”good contrast.” For example, the colors dark grey and yellow go well together, or white and black. However, the most common mistake that many people make when presenting information is the lack of attention to the contrast principle. You would be surprised at just how quickly bad contrast can throw off your eyes and by extension your mind. The inability to read text because, for example, the font color is purple and the background is red, creates a major visual inconvenience for your audience. Bad contrast and color choice is seen time and time again in school or work presentations, websites, even company logos! However, it is a small, yet very powerful added touch that can bring the information you are presenting to a step just above the rest. If you would like more information or additional examples of contrast, I invite you to visit this link: https://blog.slideshare.net/2014/03/17/how-to-use-colors-in-presentations

R – The principle for repetition in the most basic of explanations is: If you do something in one place, this must be repeated throughout. In other words, if you use Arial font for the title on a page, you should use Arial font for all of the titles and subtitles on the page. However there is an exception to this font principle, which is: Complimentary fonts. If you use a modern font for the title, you may use a classical font for the content, or vice versa. In general, this principle should apply to all aspects of whatever you are creating: Images, fonts, colors, and style. When a medium has a defined style, it is significantly easier to retrieve information from it because the medium has repeated aspects. However, if the medium were to constantly change, your brain is in a constant state of flux trying to process the differences. To elaborate, a concise example may be of assistance: If you are creating a ten page proposal and you use an orange background with a photo on the first page, and Helvetica font, in the subsequent pages, all of these aspects should be repeated to establish coherence.

A – Alignment is simply ensuring that all of the contents of the presented information follow repeated spacing. In other words, if you align the title of a paragraph to the left, but you align the paragraph itself to the right, this would immediately throw off your audience or reader. Also, alignment could establish certain connotations to the contents. For example, in English writing, centered alignment establishes emphasis, left alignment establishes structure and normality, and right alignment establishes obscurity and abnormality. These could be manipulated depending on the feeling you want to convey with the information.

P – Proximity is the space between content. An easy example to visualize this is the margins in a document. If you were set the margins of a document to “0”, not only would it print incorrectly, but again, your eyes would be immediately thrown off. Proximity is arguably the most difficult to manipulate as it doesn’t always come naturally. Also, proximity is often what graphic designers “play with” the most when designing concepts. Many minor aspects fall under the category of proximity from the space between the characters of text, to the space between a paragraph and a related image.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but one of the most redundant sentences I used in this article is “throws off your eyes” because this is exactly what graphic designers work with and manipulate. Graphic design is simply taking information and displaying it in an intelligent and aesthetically pleasing manner as to allow for faster and more efficient comprehension. You have graphic designers to thank for massive amounts of visually comprehensive phenomena around you at almost every moment and most people aren’t even aware of this. However, in following the basic principles outlined in this article, you should now be able to act as a graphic designer and drastically change the presentation of information should this ever be demanded of you. Nonetheless, you now have a basic understanding of this rather unfamiliar term “graphic design.”