Contrast is one of the graphic design fundamentals that is often forgotten, or not used to it’s maximum capability. When someone refers to it in graphic design, the first thing you will probably think is Color contrast. That is correct, but is the only possible way to create contrast. Contrast can be created by:
And is usually a combination of all those types of contrasts that will create a good design. Adding good contrast in your artwork is necessary to ensure that it will not be boring. Remember that is all about the message you want to transmit to your audience, so using good contrast will help you create visual interest in your composition.
In this article I will show you the basics theory of contrast and give you some real examples on how its used.
Let’s start with the basic: color contrast. If you read the article on color theory, you will know that in an artwork you can apply a different set of color harmonies. Depending on the harmony you use you can create visual interest in specific point of you design.
In the following picture, your eyes are immediately attracted to the red apple.
Spotify recently change to a rich, varied and contemporary brand identity by using complementary colors on their new advertising.
You probably seen this riddle before, but which of the red circles in the image below is bigger?
Well, if you didn’t know the answer, they are the same size. By placing different size circles around the center one, you can create a different impression of the size of an element.
Infographics have become a nice trend to explain things. And usually is by using different size of shapes that you can create a visual impact. The bigger the size of the shape the more important it becomes and catches your reader attention. Look at this great example of the carbon footprint. Additionally all the bubbles are integrated to create a footprint shape. But it’s very easy to notice which are the 3 countries that create more CO2 emissions.
Another way to create contrast is to play with the shapes. In graphic design you will be using plenty of different shape elements (circles, squares, etc) , so it’s important to be aware on how you can place them in your artwork and the size they will have in order to create a different visual impact.
Take the example of these business cards, many shapes are used in the background, but the logo is always in the center inside a circle. We find also of course additional contrast created by the colors used, but its interesting to focus on how the shapes have been used.
Finally, another way to achieve contrast is through typography.
Typography will be also linked to the size, but not only. In any graphic design artwork that uses text, it will be crucial to focus the eye of the viewer in the main elements you want them to read first. Here we can find endless examples from flyers to advertising, but just to make the point, here is an example of a music festival in France. Its clear that you will first read the festival name, then the dates and finally the location.
When you are creating your next design, don’t only consider color as the only contrast possibility to create visual interest. Remember that you can also play with the size, the shapes and the typography. At the end, it’s a combination of all these elements that will make your graphic design look appealing.
SUMMARY OF CONCEPTS
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