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Creating a successful design is more than inspiration or a great idea, it’s about understanding the fundamentals of design and how they are combined to be a coherent and eye-catching work.

Designers’ visual concepts on images, illustrations, logo design and symbols, type-based design, or a combination of both techniques are built by combinations of the following design elements.

A point to note, every work of design has the objective of communicating a message. Design can influence the purchase of the product in a retail store, or what action to take in a landing page of a website.

The day-to-day activity of a designer, therefore uses the elements of design in their design process to craft meaning and bring clarity to visual communication.

This guide will give you an overview of five basic elements of design to create that simple design.



Straight, curved, wavy, thick, thin – when it comes to lines, the possibilities are limitless.

The line can be used to guide the eyes of the viewer or make other elements follow a strategic path for added findability, to get the viewer easily to a particular area.

Lines allow designers to divide a space or separate content in a layout. Lines enclose and contain the parts of the design by creating outlines. They can be smooth, rough, continuous, broken, thick or thin.

Lines, when combined, can form shapes or forms. So, what we see will lead to the interpretation of the form as – a guitar, a house, a bird by the edge or its borders.

Lines also send subliminal messages. A straight line, for example, is more ordered and clean while a diagonal line has kinetic energy and movement.



A case study on the work done for Enterprise Development Resource Center

Shapes offer a variety of ways to fill spaces creatively, support text and other forms of content, and balance a design.

Shape as an enclosed area can be created through lines, textures, colours or an area enclosed by other shapes such as triangles, circles, and squares.

All design work proceeds from a blank space and continuous, addition of components to a composition, such as blocks of text, also shapes. The resulting design shapes that are defined by the invisible grid.

This is important when creating a balance between the design elements and the white space



Among constituent elements of design – colour or the absence of colour is important in any design.

Having a basic understanding of colour theory, as designers can influence your design with the brand identity you create with seamless integration of colour boldly or with brilliant subtlety.

Among the elements that you need to consider in colour are the saturation and brightness of each colour. Colour theory needs to be understood in order to be certain of the composition to either have the right mood, temperature, or tone.

For the design set on grayscale, it needs to be well contrasted and balanced.

Lastly, consider the colour value. CMYK is preferable for the printer while RGB is the colour mode for the screen.



Type as an element of design is the actual form of literally conveying a message you intend to communicate.

Type can change a message from mere text to a work of art. The use of different fonts, combined with customized alignments, spacing, size, and colour, can be captivating in your communication.

Type when used subconsciously, can also strike a visual element or a shape, as well as provide structure between the content and the visuals.



The materials or paper selected for example a smooth and glossy advertisement can seem tangible. It creates an impression of depth and a tactile surface through its visual appearance.

The texture is around us by either sight or touch. The addition of texture into a composition gives it life, although we can’t feel it such as on a website and printed material.

Texture can be used to communicate different messages. If you want to imply softness and comfort? Then cotton textile background. In selling building supplies, you’d probably try cement, stone, and brick, with grittier textured text.



Visual designers among many other types of designers, use most or all of these design elements while being guided by a set of fundamentals, known as the principles of design.

In basic understanding, the principles of design are the instructions and the elements are the tools.

You are able to master these elements by trying them out in your work, that way you’ll be able to craft more meaningful and effective compositions of design.

Paul Simiyu

Founder and Team Lead of Simpaul Design, a brand strategy and design agency in Nairobi, Kenya. Here at Simpaul Design, we work with brands across various categories with a focus on connecting with consumers and building brands that people want to be a part of. We specialize in brand identity and strategy, UX/UI, and brand transformation.