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A brief guide to the top three visual design elements

In my work as a design consultant, whether it has been collaborating with marketing departments or clients directly, I have noticed a clear pattern. Most people find it difficult to articulate their creative vision. This can lead to design teams missing the mark and deadlines being pushed back due to getting stuck in a back and forth of feedback. That’s frustrating for everyone. Not all design teams have honed their psychic abilities, but luckily the solution lies in understanding and speaking the same language.  

Here is an overview of three common elements of design. Having even this top-level understanding can help your team communicate the vision effectively.


Among one of the first concepts taught to us as children and instantly associated with creativity, color can make an instant impact. There are three factors when it comes to color, especially in the digital space: Hue, Saturation and Value.  

The color cake above does a great job in helping you visualize the differences between these three terms, but in short, Hue is where on the color wheel it would land, Saturation means how pure that color is, and Value is the amount of light or dark. For example, green is a Hue, emerald would be saturated green (leaning towards blue) with a mid-tone value, and a desaturated green with a lighter value might end up looking like a minty/sage.

If you have a specific color or color palette in mind, save your creative team some time by noting the color codes and adding those to your project brief. I highly recommend coolors.co which is a fun web-based tool that can give you plenty of palette ideas.


Imagery can take many forms, but the most common meaning refers to photography. Research has found that the human brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds, so selecting the right image is important. When trying to describe what imagery you have in mind be descriptive and include details about what demographic you want to feature.

If you are providing imagery to the creative team, please be sure to send the proper file type and that it has a good enough resolution. Bigger file sizes are important, and if you’re sending a logo or icon that will live on any colored background, make sure the file is a transparent .png. As you can see in the image below, since the objective was to layer the logo over the soda glass, the one that works best is the white logo with a transparent background.


Fonts can inflect a personality to your brand. They can be serious, playful, modern, but no matter which style you go with…they should be legible. At the end of the day, the objective or marketing is to communicate a message. If you have a particular typeface that you want to utilize, consider its legibility not just as a heading or title, but how it would work in the smallest application.

There are a few main categories of typefaces. Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman or Bodoni, are easily identified by the brackets that terminate the letterforms. Sans serif fonts like Arial and Century Gothic do not have those brackets and usually have letterforms that end in geometric angles. Script fonts like Edwardian script can give off a more elegant feel and mimic calligraphy or cursive handwriting. Lastly, there are display fonts, these are very decorative or stylized and should only be used sparingly as legibility can easily be compromised.

Here is a little cheat sheet I created:

You can always combine different typefaces styles, but never too many, and if you have doubts, ask your creative team for suggestions.

Clear communication is not only the objective of marketing, it must also be a cornerstone of the relationship between clients and creative teams, especially when the client is the marketing team. Familiarizing yourself with these and the countless other elements will serve you in expressing your ultimate goal for a piece and speaking the correct design jargon will help your team get there faster.