skip navigation
"Software developer with a kaizen mindset"

What Is Visual Design?

Friday Jan 28, 2022 | updated Feb 1, 2022 | Series design

The first step of my learning journey into design had me list some terms that I wanted to dive deeper into to understand it better. My first choice was to look into Visual Design. That may have proven a mistake as a first topic, but lets take a closer look together.

Visual design is actually a very broad term and its exact definition can depend on who you ask. Some of the closely related terms that I found while reading on it were graphics design, UI design and visual communication. However all definitions seemed to remain in the digital domain. Rarely was it used for things like print or physical products.

What is visual design?

Visual design concerns itself with the aesthetics of websites, apps or other onscreen designs. From what I can tell it is usually related to some kind of UI but it is very much aware of the brand that something is developed for and to make sure that that is integrated.

So it overlaps with UI/UX design in that with visual design you want to aim to show the user the right things in the right way. You want to make sure that the user sees the things that are important, both for the brand as the usability.

It should also be done in a consistent way. This is both for the user as well as the brand. The user benefits because it makes the interacting with the website or app predictable and easier. The brand benefits because if it is done well and inline with the branding it makes the design distinct and recognizable. In essence part of the branding.

Summarizing it for myself: Visual design is used to make brand recognizable interfaces that provide the optimal user experience.

What aspects are there to visual design?

A visual designer has some core tools to their disposal.


  • Lines
  • Shapes
  • Negative space (whitespace)
  • Volume
  • Value
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Typography


  • Unity
  • Gestalt
  • Hierarchy
  • Balance
  • Contrast
  • Scale
  • Dominance

So there is quite a bit to dig into, which I’ll do in future blog posts.

What makes a good visual design?

From what I could make out there seem to be a few core aspects that make a good visual design. I briefly touched upon them earlier.

A good visual design seems to be consistent and organized. Allowing the user to find or do what they want and fulfill the function for which it was intended as determined by the brand/company. Yet it needs to be distinct so the brand/company is recognizable.

This also means that you need to take accessibility into account as without it a part of your userbase might not be able to do what they want.

Parallels with software engineering

When learning new things I always like to reflect on any new material. I try to see if there are any concepts that I already know that has comparable principles or systems. Maybe even if its a mix of known (to me) concepts. This way I can short circuit some of the learnings. So as a software engineer I obviously try to draw parrallels in the software development world.

One aspect that is very similar is in the consistency and usability vs code readability. As software engineers we need to be constantly aware of how are code or api’s are read and used. That behaviour needs to be predictable and consistent or others will not want to user your api, library or codebase.


Visual design appears to be everything I wanted to dive into. So way to much to describe in a single post. In future blog posts I’ll go into each principle separately to make sure it gets the attention it needs.

Enjoyed this? Read more in the design series.
Share on: