Archived copy for reference only


Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Design Principles: Emphasis

(Archived from 2019)


To learn design principles through exploration and experimentation. To learn visual grammar by making abstract compositions. To practice thumbnail sketching. To be introduced to Adobe Illustrator's tools.


Emphasis (or focal point) is the second of six design principles designers use. There are three ways to create emphasis: contrast (size, shape, value, placement, color, etc.), isolation, and direction. Designers like to create one single focal point in every design because it serves as an entry point into the design. An entry point is simply a way of saying "look here first." If there are multiple focal points, then the viewer might get confused. In mass media, where your image is in direct competition with thousands of other visual messages, your design might be ignored if it doesn't have an obvious entry point.


Part A (Preliminary Studies)

  1. download starter files, examine files, read directions
  2. using Adobe Illustrator, develop your concepts in the boxes provided
  3. in your assigned teams, critique each other's work on screen
  4. based on the critique above, make adjustments (if needed)
  5. add your name to the file, then print your studies for your Process Book

Part B (Best Solutions)

  1. using Adobe Illustrator, execute your best solutions in the boxes provided
  2. have your instructor critique your work on screen
  3. based on the critique above, make adjustments (if needed)
  4. submit b&w laser proofs with your name on it for grading
  5. file graded proof in your Process Book for midterm/final review
  6. also save a PDF of your exercise (smallest file size) and publish it as a link on your Process Page

Adobe tips:

  • shift: constrains (drawing, scaling, moving or copying)
  • shift+click: adds/subtracts object to current selection
  • opt+drag: duplicates objects
  • space = hand
  • space+cmd = zoom in
  • space+cmd+opt = zoom out
  • cmd+zero = fit in window
  • the view menu offers other hotkeys

More Illustrator tips:

  • type > glyphs: visually select characters (embed type tool first)
  • type > create outlines: converts type to objects (use the select tool)
  • window > align: align and distribute tools (also in options bar)

Last updated: 5/7/21