How graphic designers utilise texture

In graphic design, the wise use of textures is a great way of evoking sensations in the person seeing the design that go beyond the purely visual. Touch is a very powerful sense, and can make something look luxurious and rich instead of just beautiful, or refreshing and cheerful instead of just light. When talking about textures, one can refer to both the texture of the medium used by the design and the visual appearance of it, as is the case with digital designs created to be shown on a screen. In the first case, the texture can be actually felt by the person seeing the design, so it becomes even more powerful, but with the adequate use of layered graphics, visual-only textures can be equally evoking.

Actual texture

When working on print, the choice of surface and painting materials will create different textures that give different impressions. Touch is the first sense developed as human beings, and affects perceptions deeply. Factors such as shine and reflections can make something look fresher and cooler, whereas using crayons and rough paper can be a great way of reminding the viewer of children painting games. Using a good quality paper on your portfolio will make your prints look more professional and tell your audience that you actually value your designs enough to display them on quality surfaces, and make you look better this way. Texture can also be used to shock the viewer, by matching contradicting visual and tactile inputs for artistic purposes. As an added touch, scents can be added to papers and other surfaces, increasing the subliminal message of the design. For example, a slightly rough paper with a slight flower accent will make a picture displayed on it feel more countryside-themed, compared with the same image on a reflecting and sharp photo paper.

Visual texture

Through the use of graphic design software, graphic designs seen on a screen can use almost any texture, changing the way one perceives colours and shapes, and so the message it conveys. Grey can look like silver, construction metal or velvet, brown can evoke the taste of molten chocolate or remind the user of Autumn leaves… The possibilities are endless. Using different layers, designs can look classic and gracefully aged by adding a texture that reminds the user of old and slightly cracked paper or canvas. A glass full of liquid can look instantly refreshing with a texture of drops, similar to the condensation that you can feel on a cool drink in a warm summer day, and so become instantly drinkable on the eyes of the viewer.

When talking about web design, the textures applied to the buttons and other graphics on the site can make the message of the site change from fun and trendy to natural and ecological, using the same green colour and shapes. Great examples are the seasonal websites from Tennessee Tourism development. Fall for Tennessee instantly evokes the feeling of Autumn and falling leaves to visitors looking for holidays, whereas Winter for Tennessee background makes you think of Christmas and clear winter nights without having to resort to the omnipresent snow white. The cracked paper texture on items of the Adventure Trekking website go along well with the idea of rough and fun adventure holidays.

In our minds, some visual textures are associated with clear tactile perceptions and they affect how we perceive the message. Because of that, learning to use the right textures for the right goals will increase any graphic designer cache, since it will show his or her ability to make the audience feel what the advertiser wants them to feel when seeing their product or website.