Proportion in Graphic Design: Understanding What it Means and How to Use It

Maintaining proper portion when creating a design is critical to ensuring that the design has a harmonious overall feeling. You wouldn't want to put in elements that are completely out of proportion to one another if you're aiming to create a realistic effect. On the other hand, if you're trying for a comical feel, you may find that unrealistic proportions are a great way to accomplish it: in a caricature, for example, artists often play with proportion to emphasize certain elements. 

Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more about how to incorporate proportion into your graphic designs.

What Does Proportion Mean in Graphic Design?

Proportion in design refers to the relative size of the elements in the design. In graphic design, you may not necessarily need to worry about the actual size of a specific design element, but you may be much more deeply concerned with the relationship of specific elements to other elements within the design itself.

For example, if you put together a comic panel including a number of figures, you may want to make sure that those figures are proportionate to one another and their surroundings. If your figures are the size of a building, it could indicate that they have become giants, or that they are standing far away from the building itself. By keeping those elements in proportion, on the other hand, you can create a much more effective final design.

How to Use Proportion in Graphic Design

Manipulating proportion can change the way viewers interact with and respond to your design. By incorporating the right elements of proportion, you can often control viewer reactions.

1. Keeping items around the same size--or correct, real-world proportion to one another--keeps the design harmonious.

If you're putting together a graph, for example, you will want to make sure that each element of the graph is approximately the same size to keep the finished product synchronized. On the other hand, if you want to show a person sitting on a chair or standing outside a house, you may want to make sure that the item is in the correct proportion to other elements of the design to create a harmonious feel.

2. Larger elements show increased importance.

When you make specific elements of your design larger, it emphasizes them and draws attention to them. You might, for example, want to make the subject of your piece larger than other elements of the piece, or to emphasize certain areas of the piece to draw the eye there.

3. Playing with proportion can create a humorous reaction in your audience.

Making something very large or very small in comparison to the other elements of your design will often evoke humor in your audience. Your audience may, for example, laugh at an oversized nose or chin on a caricature or an image of a dog much larger than the person walking it in the image. On the other hand, a very small element--a missing mouth--can create emphasis and humor of its own.

4. Making your elements "fit" can create a sense of harmony--but overemphasizing that fit can create monotony.

While you may want to make sure that your elements fit together to create an effective sense of proportion, you also do not want to have those elements present as exact replicas of one another for many designs and shapes. Instead, work to create elements that fit together effectively without making it appear monotonous or repetitious.


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