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Elements of Visual Design
Pages and Files
Composition and Layout
Emphasis or Focal Point
Format & Orientation
language of design
Unity is an umbrella principle for visual design, meaning all aspects of "The Language of Design" contribute to the visual unity of an image. Consistency among parts that contribute to the whole is a hallmark of a unified design. Such parts may include color schemes, typography, hierarchy and many other factors. When all of these parts are in sync, the end result is a unified design. However, if one of the parts is inconsistent or improperly applied, unity suffers and the image or Web site often appears disjointed, as though the design was ad-hoc and cobbled together from disparate parts.
Corporate branding heavily relies on the concept of unity. Most large corporations go to great lengths to control how their products are perceived in the marketplace. Corporations often devote entire “branding” divisions to selecting color schemes, logos and typefaces for product marketing collateral. Consistent use of these themes avoids a “watered down” brand. For example, Coca Cola controls one of the most lucrative and recognizable brands in the world, largely due to a number of factors that contribute to the brand’s unity.
Coca Cola Classic
If you were to compare several versions of the Coca Cola classic logo (in magazines, on bottles/cans, on television ads), you’d notice that the logo's appearance is consistent in all media. The shade of red for Coca Cola Classic is always identical; the flowing typeface is never modified and the dimensions of the wave below the line never varies. In fact, the Coca Cola marketing style guide probably has a list of specifics about what is and what is not permitted with the Coca Cola Classic logo.
This is a small scale example of how unity and consistency of various parts build a solid brand identity.
Other Elements That Contribute to Unity
Image design and Web site design should consistently use a stable color scheme that appeals to viewers. For example, if a Web site consists of multiple pages and the font color for hyperlinks is blue on the first Web page, then hyperlinks should be blue on subsequent Web pages.
Also, background colors should be used consistently and should enhance readability (in the case of Web site design), preferably by relying on a template or some type of CSS to ensure that page loads are cohesive. As part of the Web site development process, designers should avoid irritating color schemes, such as shown below:
A repeated pattern of objects allows readers to discern patterns in a design, which appeals to our natural inclinations toward grouping objects. This repetition, when properly built into designs, makes them more palatable and more unified. As an example, refer to the Green Festival homepage (
) below that shows the thick green bar throughout the site that identifies links to information about the festivals:
Target Brands, Inc. is another company that is extremely effective at using unity design concepts in their advertising. The company uses repetition in almost all their ads, using their target logo as the recurrent theme. Notice how the billboard ad below repeats the Target logo both in color choices and shape. Even the photographs of human beings that overlay the ads seem to fit within the overall logo theme. The result is an advertisement that effectively draws the eye across the entire display.
Consistent use of typography is also a critical aspect of image or Web site unity. A big part of putting together a good design is making sure the overall look is consistent. The best way to accomplish a consistent look is to limit the number of typefaces used in the design. A good rule of thumb is to use a maximum of two or three typefaces per design. If we again consider Web site design, all content headings should use a consistent font while all body text should also use a consistent font. Designs that use a large number of jumbled fonts are difficult to read and detract from a site’s sense of unity.
See below for an example of a page design that uses strongly unified typography to great effect.
A defined hierarchy within your design ensures that readers’ eyes are attracted to logical parts of the design. Content should be categorized appropriately to avoid confusing readers or developing a design/Web site that turns off readers/users because it is “too busy”. The Web site below is a perfect example of how unity suffers due to a lack of hierarchy. Try to read through this site without developing a headache:
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