Exposing yourself to examples of good graphic design is a healthy practice no matter who you are. Maybe you’re a student contemplating the next step in your journey. Or, you’re an award-winning graphic designer that’s staring at a blank computer screen, breaking out in a cold sweat.
Whether you’re at the beginning of your career or enjoying the view from the pinnacle, sometimes we all need a boost of creative inspiration. Our favorite way to jump-start the imagination is twofold: to return to the fundamentals of design and observe how they’re put to use by the pros.
Exceptional graphic design blends the use of several elements to create a visually arresting piece. Graphic designers employ the use of colors, textures, lines, shapes, sizes, value, and space to create their work.
Often, the end result elicits emotions or reactions in the viewer that serve to define a brand’s identity. Great design is a science and an art.
It creates a visual representation of an idea and communicates the unsaid, establishing a relationship between the design and its audience.
The five fundamental pillars of graphic design include Balance (for stability and structure), Alignment (for clarity and sharpness), Repetition (for unity and strength), Contrast (for impact and focus), and Hierarchy (for organization and direction).
We’ve curated a list of 31 amazing graphic design examples for designers in need of inspiration. Students and designers alike will appreciate scrolling through these stunning examples to see how artists incorporated one or more of the five fundamentals into their art.
They’re great representations of how innovative design can help articulate a company’s purpose, core values, personality, and positioning.
The BFI Movie Festival is comprised of classic horror movies, which is why Shillington graduate Kory Schulz’s event branding for the festival included spooky illustrations of classic horror figures like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s bride. The designs are clean, yet moody, pulling in design elements that feel specific to the genre. Kory won a GDUSA Award for the project.
This promotion is comprised of a kinetic logo and branding for the event “How to Get Hired in NYC.” The design is bold, utilizing sparse verbiage, but the event’s title, explanation and date appear in large capital letters, making them stand out within the larger design. The promotions reflect the underlying theme of bringing clarity to a topic muddled by confusion and angst. Anthony, who is Shillington Education’s Global Managing Director, won a GDUSA Award for this work.
Graphic design examples like this plant-identifying app use a simple and clear presentation to tell a story. First, take a picture; second, scan it. The app will identify the plant and provide growing tips. Becky Wood illustrates a hierarchy that directs the viewer to move through the three levels of action. Her use of repetition unifies the story. This project, by a Shillington graduate, was a finalist for an AGDA award.
Judit Besze provides a beautiful example of contrast through texture by setting geometric shapes, text and lines against a floral background. She creates additional depth and interest through the hierarchy.
Event promotions draw upon repetition and plenty of white space to drive their purpose home. Vice Media needed to recover from sexual harassment allegations and a “boy’s club” culture. This event celebrated women who had broken through corporate glass ceilings. A disruptive typography treatment was used to suggest the breaking away from our history of unjust acts against women. This Shillington graduate’s project was the winner of the GDUSA 2018 Award for Graphic Design.
Shillington graduate Brandon Lee masterfully uses contrast and repetition to highlight three varieties of coffee from different countries in this product package design. He uses bold colors and simple geometric shapes to contrast the text and icons. Each image leads you to find out what makes the next one different. The first notable difference is the region. This graphic design example makes it clear that Lighthouse Coffee Co. produces quality coffee with bold flavors. The project won a GDUSA Award for Graphic Design.
This three-day campaign was aimed at NYC subway riders. Riders were asked to vote for celebrity subway announcers each day. It was designed to spice up riders’ daily commutes by making them more interactive. The design leveraged bright colors and a uniform design across all posters and promotional materials. The use of dividing lines draws viewers’ eyes to each call to action. Jen Bishop, a Shillington graduate, won a GDUSA Award for this design.
This international piece by Shillington graduate Karla Lopez demonstrates contrast and hierarchy while utilizing the power of color and geometry. Everything in this design draws your eyes to the coffee and macarons. The contrast of the grey card with the white logo guides the eyes to the next important question: where can I get my coffee and cookies? The colorful cup also displays the name. This time, the colors are reversed — adding interest without compromising cohesion. Karla won a GDUSA Award for this project.
This concept was intended to create an identity for Festival N°6, an annual art and music festival held in North Wales. The intent behind the branding was to create something that transcends into a new dimension and yet reflects the refined tastes of its target market. The typeface feels sleek and modern, yet also slightly disjointed, hinting at its theme of transcendence. This Shillington graduate won a GDUSA Award for the design.
This project, conceived by Shillington graduate Judy DeMarco, sought to rebrand SPAM canned ham and market it to millennials. The project used the tagline “it is what it is” to reinforce the campaign’s intent to show transparency. The colorful typeface feels modern and quirky and appeals to adventurous, curious diners. Judy won a GDUSA Award for her work.
Handmade designs like this album cover take graphic design to a new level. The design utilizes alignment for clarity and contrast for impact. The idea for this cardboard design came from a theme in the lyrics of the album. The musical artist sings about cardboard boxes in conjunction with the family moving and the children playing in the basement. At first glance, it is evident that there is more to the story of this design than you could tell without listening to the album. The cover successfully creates curiosity for the uninitiated and provides an “aha” moment for insiders.
Becky McCullock uses balance to tell the story of meeting someone face-to-face for the first time. Her design exemplifies the heart of the problem, which is an essential quality in great design. It subtly asks and answers this question: what will we talk about when we finally meet? The contrasting colors on the left steal viewer focus and prompt curiosity for observers. Naturally, they will want to discover the rest of the story — which leads them to the next high-contrast item: tigerair cards. The cards contain ideas for discussions when meeting face to face, answering the question and solving the problem. She was a finalist in the 2018 AGDA Awards for this project.
Esteban T has designed several top-notch product labels for liquor bottles. This Joker’s Gin bottle uses contrast through depth to create focus in this attractive bottle of high-end gin. The artist uses color to create a stabilizing balance to the design, building trust in the brand despite the name Joker’s Gin.
Pieces like this, that demonstrate balance and alignment, help viewers “feel” a cohesiveness in the presentation. Rosemary provides an instant contrast to the neutral colors and draws the focus of the eyes to the other green tones in the project. Shillington graduate Hiro Okuda’s project was a finalist for an AGDA award.
Wai San Woo wields alignment and balance for the design of this Fruitea product packaging. An open lid captures interest and highlights that the company cares about the packaging, which suggests that they also care about the quality of what’s inside. The tea bag images on the lower right balance perfectly with the open lid and the meaning behind it. This project, completed by a Shillington graduate, was an AGDA finalist.
Here are two graphic design examples with digital and practical applications. The watch faces for Android Wear Smartwatches use contrast and alignment to create a stunning but usable clock display. This example of balancing old ideas like Roman numerals with modern technology makes these watch faces instant classics.
Michaela Early’s product design for Duet employs repetition to create brand unity and strength. Alignment and contrast provide clarity and impact to demonstrate one brand with many flavors. The use of a single color on the product label speaks as clearly as the simple yet powerful design. One can expect the gin and flavor duo to be as equally smooth as the graphic. Michaela, a Shillington graduate, won a GDUSA award for her work.
Katrinka uses repetition to create a dynamic system of advertisements for a pet transportation service called Chauffur. While every ad is slightly different, appealing to owners of a variety of animals, each employs similar elements to create brand identity and cohesiveness. Katrinka is a Shillington graduate and was an AGDA finalist for this project.
This is another example of graphic design that uses repetition and alignment to represent a product brand. Marusa Rimc creates interest in the product Infinite Brew by highlighting the uniformity of the brand while also stirring up curiosity for the new flavors. The product package artist creates whimsical expressions of the characteristics to cause consumers to ask: what are these limited release flavors? The design is bright and focused with an air of mystery. This Shillington graduate’s work earned her a GDUSA award.
Book covers are great examples of graphic design opportunities that exist in the world of publishing online and in print. Bob2412 uses alignment to cause the reader to feel like they might be slipping into the void with the author. This technique provides clarity toward the purpose of the book. The back cover is also tipping into the danger zone. The contrast of light and dark creates a strong focus toward the title of the book, especially toward the word “void.” Using a human as a letter in this word lets us know that someone is in danger of slipping away.
Daniela Tomanova combines hierarchy and contrast to create interest, organization, and focus in this graphic design example. The message is clear: 4U is for you, and it is a part of you — no matter what. The position of the subject’s arm inside and outside the logo creates a sense of fluidity with the design, representing the dynamic nature of the 4U mobile network provider. Teenagers instantly connect to the brand. Daniela is a Shillington graduate and AGDA finalist.
We all use calendars every single day — most often it’s on our computers or phones, but others prefer to have physical calendars at their desks or in their homes. Katsumi Tamura took calendar design to the next level when he created (and won an award for) his 3D calendar you have to put together yourself. Its shapes are simple: consisting of circles, triangles, and squares. But people can transform their calendars into various forms, making it a beautiful, useful accessory.
Jessica Baker uses contrast to highlight the fun nature of this product package for natural, healthy home-baked goods for children. The peek-a-boo cloud creates interest and zeros the focus onto the product beneath, inviting viewers to imagine how heavenly the loaves inside taste. Even better, the idea of heaven promotes the purity of the brand. Jessica is a Shillington graduate and her Lite Loaves packaging earned her a position as a AGDA finalist.
This campaign — consisting of website, posters, stickers, and more — advertised a fashion installation in New York City. The project drew upon bright colors, clean design, and geometric shapes to create a quirky yet refined design. This work is both eccentric and balanced and playfully interacts with viewers by combining traditional fashion iconography with offbeat elements. Ernie is a Shillington graduate and this project was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Adobe Design Achievement Awards.
Here are three examples of graphic design pieces that aim to promote the summer festival in New Orleans honoring Louis Armstrong called Satchmo. This Shillington student design won a 2018 American Graphic Design Award from Graphic Design USA. The design uses alignment to create interest and contrast to promote clarity. Blue and pink epitomize summer and the picture of Louis Armstrong, whose nickname was Satchmo, recalls the city’s rich jazz history. Alfred, a Shillington graduate, won a 2018 GDUSA award.
Simon Pearce uses contrast both with colors and fonts to drive focus in this captivating design. With a busy design like this, it is easy for information to get lost. The contrast used here ensures that everything that needs to be seen pops out at the viewer.
These three package graphic design examples by Forough Abadian use contrast and repetition to convey a message of simplicity and authenticity. The package appears to be shipped directly from Italy with a postage-like label. Immediately you know how to cook it and what it’s made from, leaving no questions unanswered. The packaging is also a great example of how alignment promotes clarity. This Shillington graduate is a GDUSA Award recipient.
The goal of this design was to create interest in a new brand of Irish whiskey. The design firm used repetition for strength and contrast for focus. The redheads in the images represent the brand. In the same way, the scenery (girls on rocks, in the house, and on nostalgic bikes) represent the characteristics of the whiskey.
These Inject Hope graphic design examples powerfully portray the realities of drug addiction, particularly for heroin addicts. The campaign inspired Ohio county commissioners to approve over $2 million to help fight drug abuse. The client was Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. The use of repetition in this design series provides unity of a single idea, while contrast creates focus and leaves a substantial impact on the observer.
Here Nnorth uses design to define brand identity for CI. This package was chosen from among 1,272 other visual design concepts. The client requested a mind-blowing design, and they got it. The artist uses color contrast brilliantly with just enough color to create impact. The CI logo is bold, which instantly creates a strong brand presence that’s easy to identify.
Email graphic design examples are great for inspiration. This design by Charlim888 is crystal clear with the perfect blend of balance, alignment, and contrast. The woman at the top of the page is engaged in the activity that the email wants to elicit. This design tells a simple story: refer a friend and earn a reward. The button at the bottom of the page makes it simple to start earning rewards immediately.
The more you study the work of others, the more you’ll be able to identify the elements of great design and know when it is present in your own work. There’s no need to suffer from designer’s block again. Bookmark this page for future inspiration, and seek out the portfolios of the talented artists featured in this post. Winning designs are always just a click away.
Would you like to create work like this? Consider studying graphic design at Shillington for 3 months full-time or 9 months part-time in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane –> www.shillingtoneducation.com.