Design Your Own Horror Podcast Cover Art Using Graphic Design Principles

Have you ever wondered why you just can’t seem to create the same kind of amazing podcast cover art for your horror podcast that others generate with ease? One simple thing you may be missing is an understanding of the elements of graphic design.

The core principles of visual design are a fundamental set of guidelines that designers use to create visually appealing designs that effectively communicate a message. These principles are not only important in graphic design but also in other fields such as music, architecture, and interior design. 

Find BALANCE in Your Graphic Design

Balance refers to the even distribution of visual weight in a layout. Every design element carries its own visual weight, which is determined by factors such as size, texture, color, and contrast. There are three basic types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.

Symmetrical balance is when design elements are evenly placed on both sides of a central axis, either horizontally or vertically. Whenever I think of symmetrical balance, I remember my mother’s fireplace mantel. There was a clock in the center framed by two taper candles in their matching crystal candle holders and on each side of the candles were two identical 5×7 picture frames with family portraits.

Asymmetrical balance is achieved by distributing elements of unequal weight unevenly across the page. This adds visual interest and a sense of movement while still maintaining balance. In contrast to my mother’s mantel design, I decorated my mantel in groupings. The three carved stone totems I brought back from Mexico are grouped together and have equal visual weight to the Morracan tbilat drums sitting on the opposite end of the mantel.

Radial balance is when all design elements radiate outward from a central point. Most designs implementing radial balance are circular. All you need is a clear central focus and elements that extend outward from that focal point. Imagine a mandala or circular stained glass windows. Check out this article from Studio Binder for more examples of radial balance.

Imagine balance as a scale. As you add elements to one side, make sure to balance them out with elements of similar weight on the other side. This will prevent the design from looking unstable. Keep in mind that thicker lines and fonts, larger elements, and darker colors have more weight than finer lines and fonts, smaller elements, and lighter colors.

COLOR it in

Graphic of a color wheel demonstrating primary, secondary and tertiary colors

Color is a powerful tool for reaching viewers on an emotional and subconscious level. A basic understanding of color theory helps you choose colors effectively. Color theory offers a framework for selecting colors that work together aesthetically and contextually.

Graphic listing the symbolism associated with different colors

For instance, blue can create a calming and trustworthy effect, while red can evoke strong emotions and encourage action. This is why stop signs, fire engines, and “buy” buttons are often red.

What colors tend to evoke a feeling of dread in horror graphic design? 

A random sample of horror movie posters shows us that the most common colors found in horror graphic design are black, red, orange, gray, and blue. I would also add zombie green and poisonous purple to that list. So, be creative, it’s the combination of elements that “make” something horror.


Graphic design of two skulls demonstrating the design concept of contrast

In graphic design, contrast is the way to distinguish between two or more elements. It can be achieved by using various visual elements like color, shape, size, and texture. The method involves placing two or more graphic elements with opposite qualities beside each other.

Although it’s commonly known as the difference between light and dark, it can also be between thin and thick, shiny and matte, large and small, and so on. Contrast establishes a visual hierarchy that emphasizes essential elements while downplaying less important ones. Contrast is the most effective method to add visual interest and organize your image.

Your Message Needs a Little EMPHASIS

Graphic design of four skulls and a title demonstrating the design concept of emphasis

In a composition, emphasis refers to the focal point or center of attention. This can be achieved by using visual elements such as color, size, placement, and more. The main objective of emphasis is to create a visual hierarchy that guides the viewer’s attention throughout the design, highlighting the essential aspects of the content.

RHYTHM of Graphic Design

Graphic design of twelve skulls demonstrating the design concept of repetition

Rhythm refers to the use of a consistent visual element throughout a composition. This creates a sense of unity and reinforces the overall message.

Repetition is an essential element of rhythm, and it involves using a graphic element more than once in a design, such as a font, shape, color, weight, or texture. Repetition is often overlooked in graphic design, but it plays a crucial role in tying a design together. When elements are repeated throughout a design, it creates a feeling of cohesion, and when these elements are used consistently across different branding channels, brand identity is reinforced, leading to brand recognition.

The Repetition principle suggests that there should be a consistent element, such as color, font, or spatial relationship, that appears throughout the design. Repetition creates a consistent theme, unifies the design, strengthens branding, and ties everything together. However, it is important to repeat the element enough to create unity and visual interest without making it monotonous.

It’s all in the PROPORTION

A graphic demonstrating the design principle of proportion.

In graphic design, proportion refers to the relationship between elements in terms of size and scale. To create a balanced composition, it’s crucial to size each element appropriately. Proportion can also be used to convey a sense of order and emphasize certain elements over others. By considering the relative proportions of different design elements, you can create an aesthetically pleasing image that effectively communicates your message.


Graphic design of an Einstein quote with a faded skull in the background demonstrating the design concept of Hierarchy

Hierarchy is the way elements are arranged in a design, ensuring that important elements are given priority and the layout is easy to apprehend. It directs the viewer’s attention through the design, establishing a clear order in which elements are viewed. The scale, color, and placement of graphic elements all contribute to a design’s visual hierarchy.

For instance, a bright orange star would be noticed before a thin line, and an object located higher in the composition is noticed before one lower down. The visual hierarchy guides the audience through the entire message in a logical order. A design that lacks a clear hierarchy overwhelms viewers with too much information. When dealing with multiple design elements, the essential message should carry the most visual weight, with the other elements following suit in decreasing order of importance.

Give it a Little WHITE SPACE

Graphic demonstrating the use of White Space in Graphic Design

White space, also known as negative space, is the intentionally blank area between and around design elements. It plays a significant role in creating a balanced and visually appealing design, as well as improving readability. White space provides a visual break, eliminates clutter, and keeps the design elegant and straightforward. It also helps emphasize design elements and allows them to stand out. Whether it’s white or any other color, negative space is an essential aspect of design.

Go on and TRY it

To create graphic designs that are visually engaging and effectively communicate your message, try to follow these design guidelines. The more you refine your ability to apply them, the less you will have to think about them when you are designing your cover art.

Consider each principle one by one the next time you are working on a design that just refuses to come together. If you tweak your image based on the principles of design, you will find where your graphic design is falling short.

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