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Color theory encompasses the explanations of how colors mix, complement, and contrast with each other — along with the effect these combinations have on human psychology. Different colors evoke different feelings among your target audience, acting as subconscious, communicative cues.
Shawn Sprockett, a Visual Design instructor at GA San Francisco, says, “Composition is how we see information. It influences the relationships we see between objects, perceptions of complexity, and affects our desire to engage with content. Learning composition as a visual designer will allow you to make information appear in ways that convey different meanings, or leave different impressions, like sophistication, affluence, cleverness, or strangeness. Combined with typography and color theory, a mastery of compositions can help a visual designer compete in a range of design job markets from editorial layouts to app design.
“At General Assembly, we teach composition primarily in our part-time Visual Design course. However, some of its concepts overlap with our user experience design courses, since composition can also implicate how something works to a user. Students can expect to learn by doing at GA: They’ll analyze their favorite web pages and apps to detect how subtle choices in composition influence their understanding of functionality and impact an interface’s feeling.”
A methodology for gaining insight into user behaviors and needs, design research helps shape the aesthetics and functionality of products, services, and experiences. Tactics — which can be qualitative or quantitative — include user interviews, data mining, surveys, behavioral studies, and more.
Providing a framework for visual design, grids are the foundation for building an organized, well-conceived layout. By establishing hierarchy, rhythm, and balance among a visual components, they guide a user’s eye throughout a design. As a web designer, you can own grids or choose from prebuilt frameworks such as Simple Grid or Skeleton.
A mood board is a collage of materials that conveys a specific style, concept, or emotion. Visual designers create mood boards to help them brainstorm ideas, pitch to project stakeholders, and collaborate effectively.
Adobe’s pixel-based photo editor and image creator Photoshop is a versatile tool that’s become a industry design standard. In addition to photo editing, users can leverage this software to design websites, user interfaces, video graphics, print brochures, and more.
An essential consideration in a mobile-powered world, responsive design ensures that the layout and dimensions of websites and applications adjust to the screen size on which they’re viewed — desktop, smartphone, tablet, or otherwise.
User Experience Fundamentals
Katharine Hargreaves, a User Experience Design Immersive instructor at GA Los Angeles, says, “User experience (UX) is rapidly growing and revolutionizing how people interact with the world around them. UX is why Google is so easy to use and how Facebook knows what article to suggest to you next. It’s why the internet evolved from Geocities homepages with blinking “Under Construction” signs to the sophisticated interfaces we use every day. User experience is practiced by UX designers — but also product managers, product designers, entrepreneurs, startups, and forward-thinking organizations.
“There are many ways to learn UX fundamentals at General Assembly. For the most in-depth experience, our full-time User Experience Design Immersive, for career-changers, introduces students to every step of the process while providing opportunities to apply skills directly through project-based learning with real clients. Our part-time User Experience Design program, available on campus or online, is a great way to gain exposure to UX tools, techniques, and industry trends, and the eight-week Visual Design course covers a high-level overview of the practice and how it relates to visual design. You’ll also learn how UX impacts the product life cycle in the part-time Product Management course. If you’re just looking to learn more about UX and opportunities in the field, there are many workshops and events that can introduce you to the core concepts and best practices.”
Read “A Beginner’s Guide to User Experience Fundamentals” by Katharine Hargreaves.
User interfaces encompass the digital and/or physical touchpoints by which a user interacts with a piece of technology. User interface (UI) designers are responsible for the look and feel of these components (drop-down menus, search bars, etc.), as well as how they interact with each other to promote usability.
Similar to the concept of composition, which applies to design across all media, web layout refers specifically to the arrangement of visual components on a web page. These elements include images, text, navigation tools, and more.
Typefaces, Fonts, & Web Typography
Although we often use them interchangeably, these three terms refer to different aspects of the world of type. A typeface is a group of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that share the same design characteristics. A font denotes a specific typeface, size, and style (e.g., Times New Roman, 12 point, bold). Web typography refers the typefaces and fonts used on the World Wide Web. Visual designers use all of these typographic elements to create work that’s both stylish and readable, making choices that reflect the tone of their message (think The New York Times versus Buzzfeed).