What Is Visual Design?

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Robin Parker

Visual design is the way a piece of artwork, a room, yard, video game, photo or other artistic subject is composed and appeals to the human eye. The Federal Highway Administration reports that what people see denotes 87 percent of how something is perceived.


Visual design is not about what a piece is saying literally through words, but it is everything about what a piece is saying visually and emotionally--solely through appearance.


Some basic visual design concepts include color, contrast, typography, composition, line, texture, space and shape. Color and use of white space often evoke a certain mood. Lines guide viewers through a composition. Typography—the use of type as a design element—can add visual interest.


Each composition uses different concepts. The intended audience for a piece can mold its visual design. A piece primarily for the elderly might place more emphasis on type size (typography) and contrast, while a piece geared toward children may make use of vivid colors and textures.


While all elements of visual design use a basis of these concepts, variations depend upon occupation. Web designers, for example, must also consider interactive graphic content, ease of navigation through the site, background imagery and placement of multimedia.


Successful graphic design relies heavily upon a solid visual concept. Without effective visual design, advertisements, posters, signs, brochures and other print materials are meaningless. It is visual design that grabs people’s attention and encourages them to analyze the piece more carefully.