This is my study notes of Fundamentals of Graphic Design provided by Coursera. The notes below contain my summaries and lecture materials. All the images below are screenshots from the online videos © CalArts.

I. Fundamentals of Imagemaking

  • Image
  • Type
  • Shape & Color
  • Composition


It is what it is!

Imagemaking techniques

  • Techniques
    • shape
    • color
    • volume
    • texture
    • weight
  • Process, Generation, Iteration


Not what it is!

An idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal meaning.

II. Fundamentals of Typography

How we communicate with words.

The Lexicon of Letters

The anatomy of letters:


A lot of typographic terms are based on the human body: Terms

Words and Spacing

Alignment: Words alignment

Spacing: Words spacing

Type Size: The Point System

POINT SIZE - the measurement system for type.

72 points = 1 inch => 1 inch = 1/72 point

Point size

Basic standard type size: Basic standard type size

Typesetting Text - Leading (行距)

Height btw baselines Leading

How to Choose a Typeface

Typefaces, Fonts and Type Families

Font vs. Typeface: font typeface

Serif vs. Sans Serif: serif

Typeface Categories

Serif: typeface_category_serif

Sans Serif: typeface_category_sans_serif

Weight & Width: weight_and_width

How to “Read” Typography

Denotation vs. Connotation in Type


How to Use a Typeface

Letterforms (字体)

Experimenting with Leterforms

Typographic Composition

III. Fundamentals of Shape and Color


  • Simple & Complex Forms
  • Negative & Position Space
  • Figure/Ground Relationships
  • Attributes of Color
  • Complimentary vs. Contrasting
  • Print vs. Screen
  • Repetition, Rhythm, Pattern

Graphic Shapes

Graphic shapes are used to make marks, icons, symbols.

Visual Contrast

  • simple geometry shapes vs. non-geometrical shapes with contrast
  • small vs. large
  • vertical vs. horizontal
  • narrow vs. broad/wide
  • (depth) shallow vs. deep
  • moving vs. static
  • (tone) light vs. dark
  • soft vs. hard
  • (weight) light vs. heavy
  • line vs. volume

Marks, Icons, and Symbols

Marks = graphic shapes = normally no connotation => denotative form


  • pictorial
  • represents actual things
  • easy to read


  • non-pictorial
  • represents ideas/products
  • learned/coded

Negative/Positive, Figure/Ground

An object on a background relationship that results in different perceptions.

Figure/Ground relationship examples:

  • black shape on white background is brighter than white shape on black background
  • different figures with different depth produce the different distance on same ground
  • figures in same size but different tones produce different depth (darker denser shapes are closer than those lighter fuzzier ones)

Working with Color

The Color Wheel

Mixing Color: Paint, Print and Screen

Rhythm and Pattern

IV. Fundamentals of Composition

All About Contrast

Visual Contrasts

Single Contrasts

Multiple Contrasts

Type Contrasts

Image Contrasts

Working with Images

Composition in a Single Image

Cropping and Hierarchy

Putting It All Together

Composition in Context