Graphic Design Basics

Explore the basics of design terminology and concepts, and create two-dimensional compositions.

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Course details

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Registration details

Graphic Design Basics

Explore the basics of design terminology and concepts, and create two-dimensional compositions.

What you’ll be able to do — competencies

  • Describe the concept of hierarchy
  • Explain how lines, shapes, texture and weight can be used to support hierarchy and composition messaging 
  • Explain color schemes and how they impact design  
  • Describe and explain composition concepts such as emphasis, contrast, balance, alignment, repetition, white space and unity  
  • Demonstrate the use of cropping, overlapping and intersecting to achieve design purpose  
  • Describe and demonstrate negative space, positive space, framal reference, and illusory space   
  • Identify how design elements are laid out in a grid  
  • Explain the design/client process at a high-level  
  • Explain the difference between marketing, branding, positioning and personality 

Course description

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All forms of visual art are based on fundamental principles of aesthetic design. Learn basic design terminology and conceptsand create two-dimensional abstract compositions using the elements of line, shape, space, value and color. Explore page and image management methods such as scaling, cropping and overlapping. Learn about information architecture and content hierarchy and how to assemble type and images using a grid. 


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Session 1 Topics 

  • What makes great art? 
  • The 3 Cs of design – composition 
  • Placement 
  • Golden section 
  • Lines and attitudes 

Session 1 Assignments 

  • Four squares 

Section 2 Topics 

  • Composition concepts such as grouping, alignment, grids, harmony and flow 
  • Repetition, visual echothematic references 
  • Icons 

Section 2 Assignments 

  • Circles, squares and triangles 

Section 3 Topics 

  • Composition concepts such as hierarchy, priority, emphasis, contrast, balance, alignment, repetition, white space and unity 
  • Negative space, positive space, framal reference and illusory space 
  • Typography overview and trends 

Section 3 Assignments 

  • Typographic portraits 

Section 4 Topics 

  • Components: color 
  • Color wheel 
  • Color schemes and how they impact design 
  • How many designs are enough? 

Section 4 Assignments 

  • 101 Things 

Section 5 Topics 

  • Components: connotation, attributes and placement 
  • Shapes, repetition, patterns and texture 
  • Cropping, overlapping and intersecting 

Section 5 Assignments 

  • Less is more 

Section 6 Topics 

  • Marketing, brandingpositioning and personality 
  • Concept: themeconnotation and message 

Section 6 Assignments 

  • Maps 

Section 7 Topics 

  • Website basics 
  • Bad designs 

Section 7 Assignments 

  • Book cover 

Section 8 Topics 

  • Graphic design job definitions and salaries 
  • Where to look for jobs 
  • Other Tombolo Institute graphic classes 

Section 8 Assignments 

  • Presentation of final book cover project design 

Next available start dates

Online — Evenings

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Graphic Design Basics
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Total classroom hours

16 hours

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Evenings, 6:00 PM - 9:10 PM, 5 M - 4/24/2023 - 5/22/2023

Quarter: Spring

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Total cost


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Instructor: Juan Aguilera

Juan Aguilera received his degree in Industrial Design. A self-proclaimed color nut, he believes color is an independent language with specific grammar, spelling, and intonation. Juan is a teacher at heart, having taught geometry and design to students ranging from middle school to adults. He currently teaches photography and graphic design related courses.

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Required text: Graphic Design: The New Basics: Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips (ISBN 978-1616893323).

Online courses require an internet connection and the ability to interact both through audio and video using either a web cam/microphone, speakers/headset using a computer or via a mobile phone connection. Any costs associated with connectivity or equipment are the responsibility of the student.

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