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Consistency in Design, the Comprehensive Guide
Essential to any extensive design like an identity system, website, or publication is the consistent style, tone, and feel of the graphics, as each is not only a part of the whole, but what makes the whole. Universal and anchor elements are carried throughout, and tie together the whole.

In addition to purpose and reason in design, ensuring elements do not compete is essential, both in the design of each graphic and the palette of graphics that are components of the visual system.

So how do you do that? Identify the elements: it can be color, palette of colors, specific uses of colors, thickness of lines, simplicity or complexity of graphics, width of elements within the graphic, negative space, the visual style of the graphic, or the feel of the graphic.

Color, palette of colors, and specific colors: While the palette of colors is a prerequisite of an identity system and design language, color can be used as an element of the design, with the use of color for specific reasoning. Color can also be an element of the design itself, working with simple and clean design to strengthen that design, setting a tone, or creating a feel. A specific color can also be used as an element, specifically placed within a graphic element and universally applied to all the graphics within the palette of graphics.

Thickness of lines, weight of the graphic, and width of elements in the graphic creates the visual consistency within the palette of graphics, defining the style and creating a feel. These factors, carried throughout all graphic elements will create a palette.

In addition to the width and height of graphics consistently used in the application of the graphics, the consistent width and height of the elements within the graphic element itself are important. The width and height helps define the weight of the graphic which needs to be consistent in all graphics within the palette.

The form, shape, and placement of elements within each graphic of the palette is essential, and creates the visual consistency needed. From a 90º angle on the left side of all graphics to a using a cut out shape that relies on negative space, these elements applied to each graphic will deliver the consistency needed to build the palette of graphics.

Curves, the shape of elements, distance and edges should be consistent throughout each element, as well as the distance between elements within the visual itself. Hard edges on one graphic and rounded edges on another can disrupt the visual continuity. Taking it a step further, the way elements like a 90º angle of an obtuse triangle is facing should be consistent throughout the palette of graphics.

The holding shape and the container of elements: The position of graphics within and the distance of space between the holding shape and graphic element inside of the element needs to be consistent throughout, and is essential to consistency and the design formula.

Positive space, negative space, and the consistent use of that space within the palette of graphics creates the consistency needed for a palette of uniform graphics.

The weight or strength of the graphic element itself is an important factor to be considered when adding additional elements to the graphic to build a palette of graphics, as it can disrupt the balance and visual consistency needed for effective design and a visual language.

The style of graphics is essential. Is it retro or vintage, elegant or upscale, bold or soft? The style should be carried through to each graphic within the palette, with typography and color adding to that feel.

Balance and space are essential to the graphics being a palette and design system. The space around and between elements of the graphics is essential in design.

Another approach to building a visual language is the consistent usage of a single graphic element carried throughout, with new graphic elements added to that single graphic to create new elements. Especially important when the primary graphic is strong, or that graphic is a consistent element that needs to be carried through in each usage, communicating a constant message reflected in the design, with the additional graphic elements adding to that message.

Whether you are building a new identity system, rebranding, building a website, or publication, consistency is essential to building a system of visuals that work together as one. No matter how strong the design, any element that is not within the style or feel can interrupt the visual language where consistency is key.

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