Beautifully combine text and image — 5 graphic design principles

Text integrated with images can serve as a powerful communicative tool. But achieving this combination in a professional and appealing way can be quite a challenge. Aleksandra Pekala, graphic designer and illustrator, shares 5 graphic principles to help you harmonize text and image.

About Aleksandra Pekala

Aleksandra is a graphic designer and illustrator with an academic background in psychology, interactive media design and UX. With her passion for humans, she has chosen to focus on designing for social and health-related matters. Today, she works as a Brand Designer at Docplanner Group.

"I believe that from understanding people, great things can emerge and that design can help creating a better world."

From ancient, illuminated manuscripts to modern digital graphics, the synergy between text and imagery has been a powerful tool in capturing attention and conveying messages. Skillfully integrating typography and imagery into a coherent composition is still one of the main challenges many graphic designers and content creators face.

"Job", by Alphonse Mucha (1896), advertising poster for Job rolling paper.

The gracefully flowing hair of the central figure intertwines with the lettering, creating a harmonious fusion of image and text. This poster not only promoted a product, but also captured the essence of the brand through its artistic synergy.

5 key rules for integrating text with images

By understanding the foundations, we can create some easy-to-follow rules for crafting captivating designs, resonating with audiences across time. Whether you're creating social media graphics, advertisements, or digital art, understanding the principles of combining text and images will elevate your designs to new heights.

1. Mind Your Space

The golden rule from the COVID era is still highly relevant in design – leave some space and avoid crowd. Just as a cluttered room often overwhelms, an image overloaded with text smothers the visual impact. By allowing text to breathe, you give it space to resonate with the viewer's mind. So embrace whitespace, and let what cannot be seen be part of what carries your message.

Tip: Try our search filter for finding images with extra copy space!

2. Choose Typography with Flair

Consider typography as the fashion statement of design, dressing up your text in various styles. Just like clothing, fonts can convey personalities because of our ingrained mind models of shapes and cultural associations.

With the power of typography, you can indicate a completely different type of brand – even when the exact same image and words are being used.

Avoid applying too many trends at once – you risk appearing messy and losing brand recognition. Instead, create a cohesive visual language that aligns with your brand's personality and reflects its unique sense of style.

3. Contrast is Key

No point in adding a text onto an image if it won't be readable. A good starting point is high-resolution images that are clear, well-lit, and have sufficient contrast themselves. You need to ensure that the image details won't interfere with legibility. Finding an image that contains one-color areas will help you place the copy without too many visual obstacles. On occasion, you might want to blur a part of the image slightly.

If the desired copy color is too close to the image colors, some designers apply overlay color or gradient. Before doing so, ensure that this effect is aligned with your brand visual guidelines and always adjust the color to it.

Adjust the weight and size of your text to maximize contrast. Bolder or heavier fonts can enhance readability against busy or textured backgrounds, while larger font sizes provide more visual impact. Make sure that the font size is readable on smaller screens if you are publishing to digital platforms. And don't forget rule #1 – aim for balance between readability and aesthetics!

4. Alignment

Creating for audiences used to Latin alphabet, you may consider left alignment of the text. It's deeply ingrained in our reading habits and follows our traditional left-to-right reading pattern. It feels familiar to viewers, as it mimics the structure of sentences and paragraphs they encounter daily. The consistent left margin guides the eye smoothly along the text, facilitating easier reading and comprehension.

However, what's even more important, you'll want to align your text to the image's natural lines and shapes. Be guided by the focal point you want to direct the viewer's attention to.

5. Embrace the Power of Visual Hierarchy

By arranging your design in a logical way, guiding the eye, it becomes easier to comprehend. Think of it as a compelling story, where every word and element play a crucial role. Try to establish a visual hierarchy that mimics the ascending and descending action of a narrative. What do you want the recipient to notice first, and what weaves your message together?

Begin with a bold headline, akin to an intriguing book cover that entices readers. Progress to subheadings, resembling captivating chapter titles. Then, let your body text weave the story, with keywords emphasized like the plot twists that keep readers hooked. Like a master storyteller, you guide your viewers' attention and leave them eager for more.

To sum it up...

Adding text to an image is an endeavor that demands creativity, precision, and a tad of panache. By implementing these few principles, you can turn a simple image into a design piece that captures attention, conveys a message, and leaves a lasting impression. Imagery, especially combined with typography, is hugely important for the brand's identity. Ensure your imagery aligns with your brand's aesthetics, values, and tone. Let your text and images support together, harmonizing with your brand's essence and letting your audience know what you're all about.

Photographers: Plattform (IMA213953), Aleksandra Pekala, Alphonse Mucha, Hans Berggren (IMA88724), Johanna Nyholm (IMA151799), Matilda Holmqvist (SCA27058) and Maskot Bildbyrå (MASMA92507).