Olivia M Design


An Intro To Design

For our first Saturday Skills session, I wanted to talk about the very first things I learned at portfolio school. Before you hop on the computer or start drawing, you need to build a foundation. It's critical that you understand these things before you start actually designing!


  1. Line: Directs the eye, creates emphasis, gives sense of movement
  2. Scale: Draws attention to and from certain elements, creates emphasis/drama
  3. Color: Create a strong palette, consider color theory
  4. Repetition: Helps to tie multiple individual elements together, crucial for consistent branding
  5. Negative Space: The space 'in between', create clever images, fantastic for logos
  6. Symmetry: Creates a sense of calm, the human eye is generally attracted to symmetry
  7. Transparency: Helps element interaction, can create movement
  8. Texture: Gives depth, should be used intentionally
  9. Balance: Each element has its own weight/size, adjust via scale and composition
  10. Hierarchy: Shows the eye where to go, shows order of importance
  11. Contrast: Light vs. dark, thick vs. thin, helps create emphasis
  12. Framing: Highlights elements
  13. Grid: Keeps things orderly and aligned
  14. Randomness: Don't be afraid to break the rules! Can create visual interest
  15. Direction: Shows the viewer where to look next
  16. Rules: Learn the rules so you know how to correctly break them
  17. Movement: Brings you elements to life
  18. Depth: Gives dimension using texture, shadow, 3D effects, etc.
  19. Typography: Choose fonts that fit your design
  20. Composition: How you arrange elements, should be purposeful

For a more in depth description of each principle, read this article.



  • Primary colors are one pure color: Red, Yellow, Blue
  • Secondary colors are made from mixing two primary colors: Green, Orange, Purple
  • Tertiary colors are two colors combined: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet
Color Wheel.jpg


  • Hue: Another term used for "color"
  • Shade: A hue darkened with black
  • Tone: A hue dulled with gray
  • Tint: A hue lightened with white
  • Saturation: The intensity or purity of a color
  • Value: The lightness or darkness of a color



  1. Monochromatic: various shades, tones, or tints of one color
  2. Analogous: Hues that are side by side on the color wheel
  3. Complementary: Opposites on the color wheel, have a high contrast (red/green, blue/orange)
  4. Split-Complementary: Any color on the color wheel plus the two that are on either side of its complement
  5. Triadic: Any colors that are evenly space from each other on the color wheel
  6. Tetradic/Double Complementary: Two complementary pairs
Color Harmonies.jpg



Each color has multiple meanings depending on the context its put in.

  • Red: Warmth, danger, energy, confidence, power

  • Orange: Activity, energy, optimism, youthfulness, creativity
  • Yellow: Happiness, friendliness, caution, sickness
  • Green: Nature, growth, health
  • Blue: Peacefulness, calm, sadness, trustworthiness, stability
  • Purple/Violet: Royalty, honor, spiritual, religious, luxury
  • Black: Power, luxury, death, mystery
  • White: Purity, innocence, sterile, modern



If you design something on the computer and print it, chances are the colors will look a little off. The problem is probably that you designed it in the wrong color system. You can go into your Illustrator/Photoshop/etc. file and change your colors between CMYK and RGB depending on what you'll be doing with you design.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. RGB is used for on screens/monitors. If you're designing a website, app, digital ad, or anything that will live on the compute/phone, use this format.

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. CMYK is used for printing. If you're designing something for a magazine, book, or anything that will be printed on some sort of material, use this format.

When designing something like a logo that will be used in multiple ways (online and in print), you will have to create it in both formats.



Pantone is a company that made the Pantone Matching System (PMS), a standardized color system. Having a standardized color system allows people in any location to use the same exact colors without having to guess. As a designer, it's important to stay on top of color trends, and Pantone is basically the trend-setter. Every year they pick a color that they predict will be important and prevalent that year. Check out this year's color: https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2018


Ok, I think that's enough information for today, don't you? I'd encourage you to mess around with the design principles, grab a sketch book and a sharpie and just start drawing examples of each of the elements. Try sketching a page layout that uses scale, hierarchy, and typography. Or maybe a logo that uses negative space, line, and repetition. Once you understand these principles, using them will become second nature.

With color, I'd encourage you to memorize the different color terms and harmonies. Mess around with making your own color palettes. You can cut things out of magazines and paste them together, or get on Illustrator or Photoshop and make some squares and fill them with different colors. Start getting comfortable with mixing colors and learning what looks good together.

Well there you have it, our first session of Saturday Skills! Comment below with any questions you have!