Graphic Design Basics: Core Principles for Visual Design

Ellen Lupton, Curator, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

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8 Videos (36m)
    • Introduction

    • Symmetry vs Asymmetry

    • Scale

    • Framing

    • Hierarchy

    • Grids

    • Demo: Bringing It All Together

    • Conclusion


About This Class

Great graphic design comes from understanding just a few basic principles.

Cracking the code to great design is much easier with a solid foundation of core principles. Join designers Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips for an essential, 35-minute class as they walk through 5 basic principles of graphic design, perfect for use in all projects using images and type — creative design, marketing materials, and even photography!

The lessons include both examples and demonstration, giving you a foundation to create inspired, functional design. You’ll learn to:

  • Identify and define 5 basic design principles
  • Critique your work for effectiveness and balance
  • Apply each core concept in future projects

Ellen and Jennifer are co-directors of the Graphic Design MFA Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). This class is directly inspired by their popular textbook, now in its second edition: Graphic Design: The New Basics, available online as well as through Princeton Architectural Press.

Whether you're new to these principles or are looking for a refresher, you'll gain a solid understanding of the visual language that fuels all great design.


This class is presented in collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Ellen Lupton is Senior Curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper Hewitt. Lupton, a renowned graphic designer, serves as director of the graphic design MFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where she has authored numerous books on design processes, including the bestselling Thinking With Type; Graphic Design Thinking; and Graphic Design: The New Basics. She received the AIGA gold medal for lifetime achievement in 2007.

Jennifer Cole Phillips is director of the Graphic Design MFA Program at MICA. Her work and the work of her graduate students have won numerous awards for design excellence from the AIGA, Adobe, SoTA, Graphis, Print, STA 100, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and most recently, a Sappi Ideas that Matter grant. In 2014 she received the MICA Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has contributed to several books on design and is co-author (with Ellen Lupton) of Graphic Design The New Basics (now in its second edition). Phillips has a MFA and BFA from Rhode Island School of Design.

1,585 of 1,607 students recommendSee All

This really impacts the way i view indesign and graphic design in general now. The examples given were so helpful for just barely starting. This will really help me in both my art and public relations classes
Great and basic course couple with simplicity.
Informative. Applicable and clearly presented. Loved it.





Ellen Lupton

Curator, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

I am a curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. An author of numerous books and articles on design, I am a public-minded critic, frequent lecturer, and AIGA Gold Medalist. My book Thinking with Type is used by students, designers, and educators worldwide.

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