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Elements of Graphic Design

By Patrick Lashmar October 12, 2015

Reading nonfiction texts frequently requires students to take graphic elements into account, because graphic design is an inherent part of much non-fiction writing today. Magazines, newspapers, web pages and even textbooks follow this pattern. Graphic design combines both form and content to create a whole which is more than the sum of its parts. Its primary purpose is to attract the reader’s attention while being easy to read and understand.

One essential element of graphic design is called “layout.” Layout refers to the physical placement of both text and graphics on a page. It is used to arrange information in logical ways, which will assure successful communication with the reader, by leading him/her through the article in an order appropriate to the audience and purpose of the piece. Layout may include text, boxes, columns, lines, colours, shapes and textures. The layout of a graphical text page leads the reader to read the text in the order the author intended and places pictorial elements near the text they illustrate. The ultimate aim of graphic design layout is to present an aesthetically attractive and balanced whole to
please the reader’s eye and mind.

The other essential element of graphic design is called “typography.” This refers to formatting of the text elements in a graphical text document. It may include various fonts and type styles, headings and subheadings. The typography of a graphical text page may be used to lead the reader through the piece, to indicate the relative importance of topics and subtopics, or to show connections between different sections of the text.

Layout and typography combined form pointers, which draw the reader’s attention to specific information, and help him/her navigate the text. Some examples of pointers include the following:

  • Bullets or numbering
  • Bold, underlined, or Italic text
  • Arrows
  • Icons (very small images such as those most frequently seen on computer screens)
  • Boxes and sidebars (supplementary information printed alongside the primary text)
  • Footnotes
  • Lines

To learn more about teaching the elements of graphic design integrated into grade-specific reading lessons, see the links below.

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