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Every picture…. Visual Language Principles of Static Image Design. What will you learn?. What static images are The essential elements involved in effective static image design

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Every picture…

Visual Language

Principles of Static Image Design

what will you learn
What will you learn?
  • What static images are
  • The essentialelements involved in effective static image design
  • How to create effective static images involving illustrations and simple text to capture the main theme or focus of an event or text
what are static images
What are static images?
  • They are, literally, visual images that do not move
  • They include: greeting cards; posters; slides; photographs; paintings; magazine, book, CD or album covers; comics; cartoons; print display advertisements; collages…
  • Many static images communicate by combiningverbal(words)andnon-verbal elements (images, graphics, colour choice, typography, design etc)
  • Combining these elements can convey a clear idea of the plot (of a novel or film etc), main character(s), setting, genre, mood/ atmosphere, and main ideas or themes – without many words.
what is a logo
What is a logo?
  • Logo is short for logotype
  • A logo is a symbol made up of letters or a name that have been ‘tweaked’ so that is is always used this way and becomes a symbol of the company or brand it represents.
how does this logo represent the brand
How does this logorepresent the brand?

School colours

Cross for Christianity


Shield of faith


School motto

Holy Spirit (fire) - red also reinforces this

design and layout glossary
Design and Layout Glossary

You must be able to identify most of, and use some of:

• Association • Axis of Access

• Balance • Breaking the Frame

• Call to Action • Colour / colour symbolism

• Composition • Connotation

• Contrast • Converging diagonals

• Copy • Dominant Visual Image (DVI)

• Fonts • Foreground/Background Depth

• Harmony • Headline

• Layers • Leading the eye

• ‘Less is more’ principle • Horizons (placement / bridging)

• Motifs • Rule of Thirds / Intersection of Thirds

• S and Z Curves • Shape / Size / Weight

• Symbols • Symmetry

• Typography • ‘White’ Space …

• Association

Words, images and ideas are also connected to others by association.

For example, an image of a rose connects us to ideas of love, the phrase ‘a rose among thorns’ and even to English royalty, Rosicrucians, Templars and hence to Crusaders and the da Vinci Code. Good writing and design use these associations.

• Axis of Access (reading line)

English and most Western language users read from left to right and top down. This creates a diagonal axis of access:

top left to bottom right. Smart design

works with this to make sure that the

viewer/reader follows the message

without confusion.

• Balance

When we speak about balance in design we mean giving equal weight to different parts of the design area so that it doesn’t feel top or bottom heavy or appear to lean to one side.

This means if you have a strong element (large lettering or a bold image, for example) in the top left corner you need to balance it with something of equal ‘weight’ in the opposite (bottom right) corner. You don’t need to use the same type of element (eg. Image and Image) – just something equally strong.

• Breaking the Frame

When an image ‘breaks the frame’ we mean that it appears to come out of the page, cross the border of an area of the page or ‘break out’ in an appearance of 3D. This adds a sense of depth, movement/action and dynamic tension.

• Call to Action

A ‘call to action’ is an advertising term meaning that you invite, challenge or command the reader/viewer to do something e.g. ‘Call Now!’

This is a useful tool to engage the audience – it’s mainly used for selling.

• Colour / Colour Symbolism

Colour can be used to highlight an element of a design: by using a bright colour in only one part of a static image it draws special attention to it.

Colour can also be used to establish a theme. For example, if there is anger and death or violence in a film, red could be used in lettering or images as a way to convey that idea to the audience.

Almost all colours have symbolic associated meanings (CONNOTATIONS)

eg white = innocence, purity, peace; red = blood, anger, violence, anger etc.

• Composition

Composition is how all the elements of the design are arranged on the page: words and images. A good composition has a single focus and is appropriate to the idea or theme, the purpose of the static image and its intended audience.

• Connotation

Many words and images have two kinds of meaning: denotative and connotative. The denotation of a word is its literal meaning: the connotation of a word or image is its associated, often emotional meaning(s).

For example, Nazi has the denotative meaning of a member of the National Socialist Party in 1930s and 40s Germany. However, its connotative meanings are brutal oppressors and sick, twisted Jew killers. To call someone a Nazi usually means that you think they are nasty bullies.

Static image design relies a lot on connotation, in its use of both words and images.

• Contrast

Contrast is a way of highlighting something – drawing attention to it or making it stand out. It can take many forms, in both words and images: light and dark tones; colour vs. monochrome; humour vs. horror; cliché vs. novelty/originality etc.

• Converging diagonals

A lot of design relies on implied shapes. These can be created by typography and the way the words are placed in the image, or by elements of the image, or both. (See Horizons, Rule of Thirds, Intersection of Thirds).

Converging diagonals are when implied or even actual diagonal lines in a design meet at a single point where a very important element of the design is placed. For example, a bottle of perfume in advertisement may be held near a point on a woman’s body where lines formed by neck, jaw, shoulder, arm and hand etc meet so that our eye is drawn to it and we take particular notice of it.

• Dominant Visual Image (DVI)

Every static image should have ONE dominant visual image. It is the biggest, most noticeable element in the design. If a design has two or three images of equal size and ‘weight’, the reader is unsure what the main idea, focus or point of the image is. The DVI may be a word used as an image.

• Font

A font is a lettering style (this is in Arial font, for example). There are four main types: serif (the letters have little tags on the end eg. Times), sans-serif (the letters are plain eg Arial), cursive (the letters imitate handwriting eg Kaufmann and decorative (the letters are in unusual or ‘funky’ shapes eg Jokerman.

Fonts come in families (Normal, Bold, Italic, Compressed, Extended etc).

It is advisable to use no more than TWO different font families in a design.

Serif is the easiest to read if you have a lot of text; sans serif is good for shorter copy. Cursive and decorative fonts should only be used for special effects, headlines of short phrases.

• Foreground/Background Depth (perspective)

By using proportion and scale, placement in layers (elements overlapping each other) a static image can create a sense of depth or three dimensionality (3D).

This can draw the reader into the image and gives it more impact.

• Harmony

As in music, harmony refers to all the elements (words and images) in a design working together to create a pleasing whole, where every element seems to have the same focus, style, mood and tone and creates a unified effect.

The opposite (disharmony) is created by contrast – conflicting elements that seem to fight each other. Sometimes this is deliberately used to create tension or a sense of unease (good for horror etc).

• Headline

A ‘headline’ is the largest-sized lettering in a static image. It may be a title or a key phrase that sums up the main point of the image.

• Horizons (placement and bridging)

If a static image contains a real or implied horizon, place it above or below the middle of the image or it will tend to make the design look like two separate images. If you must put it across the middle use another overlapping image or text to ‘bridge’ the two halves and re-connect them (see Rule of Thirds), unless you have a very good reason.

• Layers

Static images are usually created in layers ie. there is a background and on top of that other layers of lettering or other images are imposed. This give an impression of depth so the image doesn’t feel flat and also makes all the separate elements connect to each other to unify them.

• Leading the eye

Good layout leads the viewer’s eye through the design, makes it ‘read’ in logical order and makes its point clearly. Where text and images are placed and their size, colour etc is what makes this happen. See S/Z Curves, converging diagonals etc.

• ‘Less is more’ principle

Don’t try to put too much into a design. Sometimes this works but usually it makes the design hard to follow and the viewer confused. Let the elements ‘breathe’ by leaving space around them and concentrate on delivering a single, clear message. See ‘white space’

• Motifs

A motif is a symbolicelement that is repeated or echoed in the design. This may be a logo, brand, phrase or image e.g. a crucifix to symbolise Christianity or sacrifice; a piece of pounamu to symbolise treasure/taonga/heritage etc. See symbol

• Rule of Thirds/Intersection of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a design principle first noticed by the Greeks 3000 years ago, and is very commonly used in design. Dividing an image into thirds has more impact on a viewer.

This may be done obviously (e.g. text in 3 columns) or implied in

more subtle ways.

Putting important elements where these thirds intersect adds

even more impact to them.

• S and Z Curves

Arranging type and images to form S or Z curves leads the viewer through the design.

• Shape / Size / Weight

These three elements are keys to making clear the key points you want the viewer to notice. ‘Weight’ is achieved by using BOLD lettering or CAPITALS, shadows, large size etc.

• Symbols

Symbols are images that are used to represent ideas e.g. = Christianity. Colours are also symbolic e.g. red symbolises blood, death, anger, passion.

• Symmetry

Symmetry is related to balance. Symmetry means ‘two halves that are mirror images of each other’. In other words it means that elements in are of equal weight, size, proportion and evenly placed in opposite areas of a design.

• Typography

Typography is computer or printed lettering and what we do with it. We call a lettering style a FONT (e.g. Arial) but we also have versions of a font (e.g. Bold, Italic, Condensed, Expanded, Outline etc). All of these are members of the FONT FAMILY. We can also vary the spacing between lines (LEADING) or between letters (KERNING).


Freshly squeezed Lemonade

Freshly squeezed Lemonade

only 50c

only 50c

• ‘White’ Space

The best way to make important words or images stand out in a design is to give them space around them. This is called ‘white space’ but sometimes the space is not white but some other plain background colour that contrasts well with the key element you want to stand out e.g. YELLOW LETTERINGdoesn’t work well on white but stands out well on a black background.

a basic design
A Basic Design


design principles review 1
Design principles – Review 1
  • Less is moreWhite spaceFew (1–2) different fontsStandardised coloursAvoid clutter…
  • Bold, eye catching, dramatic
  • Read from Top Left to Bottom Right(UNLESS there’s a very good reason)
  • Basic elements: – Headline (hook) – Dominant Visual Image (illustration) – Body Copy (for ads, promotional material – with a Call to Action) – Contacts/addresses (for advertising)
design principles review 2
Design principles – Review 2
  • HorizonsLow or high, not across the middle Bridge with something that crosses the horizon to connect the two parts of the image
  • Rule of thirdsThe human brain responds better to images with uneven (2:1 or 5:3) divisions and proportions
  • Intersection of thirdsThe human eye and brain take more notice of visual elements at the points where imaginary thirds divide an image …
design principles 3
Design principles – 3
  • Lead the eyeDVITypography weight/size, ‘S’ or ’Z’ curvesStandout colour…
  • Balancee.g,If you have a strong visual element in the Top Left corner, balance it with something in the opposite (Bottom Right) corner
  • ContrastUse colours, images, words that contrast with other elements to make them stand out.
posters ads main elements
Posters & Ads – main elements
  • Headline~ Title of event, book, film, play, game, show, product etc~ Catch line
  • Dominant Visual Image~ Covers most of the space~ Communicates WHAT the event, book etc is about~ Communicates appropriateATTITUDE or EMOTION~ Uses COLOUR, DRAMATIC ACTION or other APPEALS
  • Copy (Text) ~ Keep copy short and punchy~ ‘Sell’ the event, book etc: persuade your Target Audience to go to the event, read the book, buy the product, get a ticket…~ Name stars, provide brief review quote or give other reasons to ‘buy’ N.B: Use emotive, colourful language
  • Essential Details ~ Manufacturer ~ Where ~ When ~ Director/Author ~ Cost …












more samples
More samples

Refuel (magazine)