elements of design

Module Reflective Essay

When we had the first lecture, Dr Corrine Beaumont brought two loaves of bread to class. I was baffled at the idea, firstly because I had no clue what this had to do with branding design and secondly since it’s not every day that a lecturer uses such an approach. As it turned out, this was a metaphor in helping us understand the building blocks of branding/graphic design. We each had to take a slice of bread, taste it, feel it and make observations about it. In reality this is what we as new students in the world of branding design had to adapt to. This meant that in conjunction with the six elements of design, which are space, form, colour, value, texture and time (Beaumont, 2011) we had to be aware and observant of our surroundings. Personally I already follow a number of design websites such as www.dezeen.com, www.behance.net and www.designtaxi.com, however having realised that I only viewed them at face value I can now articulate a better understanding thanks to the aforementioned six elements.

Thereafter, each of these six elements of design together with the multitude of design principles, were incorporated into our lectures in some way or another, making us ever so attuned towards design in general. While the lectures on typography and colour where inspiring, I have to say that we haven’t even touched the surface. For me a typeface resembles a character that expresses itself in the way it is written. This means that the interplay between each element in the anatomy of the typeface represents how it is personified. Therefore choosing the right typeface has to be congruent to the design of the whole project in order to express and convey the message. Furthermore, I recently came across a blog by Brown (2014a) that illustrated the ten commandments of typography. To name a few, these are to know the different font families, having a maximum of two contrasting fonts is key, not to mix different moods and to use different weights of fonts in the same family (Brown, 2014a).

Selecting the right colour is equally important. While to designers colour is second nature, I for one found it quite daunting in understanding how different colour schemes complement each other, keeping in mind that colour also has psychological properties that evoke emotions and behaviours (Wright, 2008). Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use the colour blue in their logos since it is associated with trustworthiness, safety, dependability and reliability, which are particular traits that one would want when sharing sensitive information online (Haller, 2011; Brown, 2014b). Furthermore apart from choosing complementary colours and finding the right balance in the hue, saturation and brightness one must also consider that colour is also culturally dependent. For example the colour red is associated with luck in Asian countries and power and fear in European countries (Behr, 2014). It is apparent that colours have contrasting effects.

That said we only skimmed the surface. However, having garnered as much knowledge as we can, this was sufficient enough to help us kick-start both our individual and group assignments. My observation is that design is limitless creativity within the confines of its own rules.

Considering that all of my other modules were purely research and theory based, I lacked a certain creative edge. Such a skill like any other skill is cultivated over time and is built through Confidence, Experimentation and Observation, especially in both of our assignments. I came to understand that these three terms are reciprocal and cyclical in nature, building confidence through experimentation while keeping abreast to your surroundings through observation. I undertook this approach in both of my assignments. My first assignment involved creating brand guidelines for Ġin – the concept was a Maltese Gin with Mediterranean heritage and botanicals. This was achieved through a trifold approach. Firstly, putting pen to paper – sketching whatever came to mind in order to have a visual representation of my ideas; secondly, creating a mood board (just like planning an essay) with all the elements that I felt were an inspiration to my brand; and thirdly getting to grips with Illustrator and Photoshop. I came to realise that the first idea that pops to mind is not always the best; you need to dwell on it, get constructive feedback and most importantly be patient. The Ġin project took me roughly two weeks to complete and I am very pleased with the end result.

The group assignment in which we had to take photographs, create three different posters and online content took a whole different approach. After a couple of brain storming sessions we came up with the idea of repositioning microwavable meals as a healthy food option, as a good alternative to home cooking and a meal to be enjoyed by oneself as well as with friends. We had a sound concept but the execution left much to be desired. After testing the campaign with our colleagues it was apparent that the hidden message was not coming through. This was very frustrating, however it motivated us to sack the entire campaign and start from scratch. A very challenging feat that we managed to accomplish in one night. In the end we created a campaign to reposition Estée Lauder for men by creating adverts with images of men that have rough textured skin and after having smooth skin, signifying the importance of moisturising cream for men. Overall feedback was very positive and both my team and myself were proud to deliver such a campaign.

The most challenging aspect in each assignment was that I knew what I wanted to achieve but the process of getting there proved to be difficult, especially getting used to the different tools and functions in Photoshop and Illustrator.

I found the speech given by Andre Campbell – a Brand Strategist for Wolf Ollins – very inspiring to say the least. In actual fact it’s a role that enthuses me and as such I would love that someday to work for a creative agency here in London. Eventually I would like to be self-sufficient and build a brand for myself. I very much like how food and drink are integral to one’s own culture bringing people together. Indeed my aspiration is that one-day I would open my own restaurant, the place where food, drink and culture are moulded together.

In retrospect even though the module was a challenging one, it did meet my expectations. It was challenging partly because I had no formal training or background in the subject matter and partly because my educational upbringing was very much theory based. I strongly suggest that this course should be integrated with the Masters course right from the start, allowing students to fully comprehend and shape their creative minds.




Beaumont, C.E. (2011) Basic Design Anatomy. 2nd Edn. Ellsworthio Press.

Brown, E. (2014a) [INFOGRAPHIC]: The 10 Commandments of Typography. Available at: http://www.designmantic.com/blog/infographics/ten-commandments-of-typography/ (Accessed: 21 April 2014).

Brown, E. (2014b) Why Social Media Sites Prefer Blue in their Logo? Available at: http://www.designmantic.com/blog/social-media-sites-prefer-blue-logos/ (Accessed: 22 April 2014).

Behr, S. (2014) Colours and their meaning to design. Available at: http://sumse.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/colours-and-their-meaning-to-design/ (Accessed: 22 April 2014).

Haller, K (2011) social media branding – the colour psychology of blue. Available at:http://karenhaller.co.uk/blog/social-media-branding-the-colour-psychology-of-blue/(Accessed: 22 April 2014).

Wright, A. (2008) Psychological properties of colours. Available at: http://www.colour-affects.co.uk/psychological-properties-of-colours (Accessed: 22 April 2014).







My first ever blog post

To start off, this is my first ever blog post…I’ve been meaning to blog about something for quite some time now, but I never got around to it nor did I have a topic to blog about. We were given a task in our Branding Design Class to create a blog and every week I will be writing on what we learnt in class and applying the principles to any form of media that I come across. Well here goes nothing!

I’ve always been intrigued both by marketing and design. While both have their own schools of thought, one cannot exist without the other as they do share common ground, in fact they complement one another. Quoting Aristotle “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. While this module will only skim the surface, the main purpose is to bridge the gap between marketers and designers by giving insight on the different elements and principles of design with the scope of better understanding the design world, leading up to creating a design brief. This will benefit me personally as it will fulfil my creative needs as I’ve always asked the question whether I can put into practice both areas (i.e. Marketing and Design)?

In our first lecture we first talked about the 6 elements of design, which are Space, Form (shape), Colour, Value, Texture and Time.

There are two aspects of space, actual and virtual. The former being the actual and measurable space on which the design will be implemented such as the actual dimensions of a poster or a billboard. The latter (virtual space) has to do with how design is implemented on a two dimensional medium giving the illusion of depth. Meaning that distant objects (in the background) are smaller than closer objects (in the foreground). The illusion of depth is achieved through different perspectives, leading up to a vanishing point as seen below. Renaissance artists made use of this technique.

Vanishing Point

The second is Form or Shape. A shape is the area that stands out from the space next to it or around it, either because of a boundary line or differences in value, colour or texture. There are varying types of shapes that have different physical forms that also direct eye movement. Shapes that are too complex are difficult to remember.

Thirdly, colour. To understand colour is to understand the basic principles of colour. The colour wheel is made up of primary colours which are red, yellow and blue. A combination of those three colours yield the secondary colours which are orange, green and purple. When the secondary colours are combined they form tertiary colours, which are the rest of the colours in the colour wheel. Colours opposite to each other are complimentary colours and provide contrast when used with each other, while neighbouring colours are analogous to each other and provide a more harmonious effect when used together. Saturation gives colour brightness or darkness, it is used to describe the intensity of the colour of an image. Colour can either be warm (red, orange, yellow), cold (blue, green and violet) or neutral. Hue refers to a pure colour, one that is without a tint (added white) or shade (added black). Colour is the last of the design elements.

Value is the level of light or dark in a colour – the relative degree of lightness and darkness in a design element. Value describes objects, shapes, and space. It is used to add emphasis and can evoke feelings, example high value (dark) contrast evokes drama and conflict, while low value contrast creates a calming and quieting effect. 

There are two forms of texture, actual and visual. In a 2D design, actual or tactile texture is the feel of the canvas or the surface of a book cover. On the other hand visual texture or simulated texture is suggested texture through the use of the design elements, they are perceived visually but interpreted tactilely. Texture can be used to accent an area so that it becomes more dominant than another.

Time. Capturing time in a still image is a difficult thing to pull especially in a static 2D medium. This however, can be overcome through motion blur when capturing objects, thus instigating the process of continuity through space and time, as seen below. The time element impacts how a person perceives the design and may evoke emotions.

These 6 elements of design are just the ground work. The crucial step is the successful interplay of the elements together with the design principles to produce a final successful design. Author Alex White in his book The Elements of Design says that the “one goal of graphic design is to achieve visual unity or harmony”. 

The design principles are:

Alignment: when objects are lined up with each other giving off visual uniformity

Contrast: an image with high contrast attracts the eye – instigating that the viewer is directed towards that image (this can be a juxtaposition of a subject or a value or colour contrast

Opacity: the degree of an object being visible or invisible –

Stepping: a form of measure either increasing or decreasing

Symmetry: a symmetrical pattern gives a sense of order and structure

Rhythm: the timing of events – in design this would be represented through the visual beat of an image

Foreground/Background: images/designs that appear near or far, this is achieved through the use of different colours and space

Overlapping: creates a sense of space and depth

Repetition with variation: showing objects in repetition but varying one object by changing the colour, value or texture

Positive/Negative: using the value element to create a negative or positive design

Balance: when a design is to heavy or light sided, leaving the viewer to trail off to other areas of the design. Important to have balance

Isolation: depicting something in isolation shows the importance of that object. It directs attention to that object.

Sharp/Soft Focus: used when trying to identify objects that are close in their value or the texture suggesting that the object is different from the rest – making it stand out.

Pattern: a repeated design that imposes a mechanical way of viewing things

Rough/Shiny: variations in the texture that show that an object is either rough or shiny and evokes different moods

3-Dimensional: adding a shadow gives 2D objects the illusion of a third dimension – however must be used with caution

Reflection: making the object look shiny or lifelike

Organic/Geometric: organic objects are those that are free flowing, whereas Geometric objects are precise and clear cut

As I said earlier the elements of design are used in conjunction with the above principles to create any form of design imaginable.

Earlier today I came across an article on a technique called photogravure. I found that it is a print making technique developed in the 1800s whereby a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin and then exposed to a film positive, the copper plate is then etched creating a high quality print. Its use was to immortalise fine art prints and to create a photo reproduction of paintings due to its high quality and richness. Its unique qualities allow for varying tones in the ink, since the depth of each etch varies the shadows are etched deeper than the highlights, resulting in a detailed print with a mysterious feel to it. That said the process is much longer than the brief description that wrote. Applying from what I have learnt, I would say that there is a sense of balance in the resulting images through the use of colour and value. The images seem to have a soft focus and because of the use of the copper plates they have a form of texture.

Using A Centuries-Old Printmaking Technique To Immortalize A New Museum

Hope you liked the read!