Design Basics: Principles of Design

If the Elements of Design are the ingredients, the Principles are the recipe. The Principles organize the elements into an appealing composition. Read on to find out how to make your designs more cohesive and appealing.

Example of Symmetrical Balance

Balance:
Balance distributes the visual weight, color, texture and space across the design. There are 3 types of balance; Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, and Radial. Symmetrical is evenly spaced and weighted across the design. Asymmetrical is still considered balanced but has differing weights or size objects or either side of the design (see example below). Radial balance is arranged around a central point.

Example of Asymmetrical Balance
Example of Radial Balance

Unity/Harmony:
Unity brings a sense of completeness as all the visual elements work together to bring a harmonious feel to the design. Disharmony/Discord occurs when the use of contrasting colors makes for the feeling of unease. Disharmony can be used effectively to call attention but is often avoided. In depth color harmony discussion in our Color Theory article.

Example of Harmony/Unity
Example of Disharmony/Discord

Emphasis:
Emphasis brings attention to a specific piece of the design by creative use of shape, size, color, texture, contrast, etc. The focal point should draw your attention yet still have the design remain balanced and harmonious.

Example of Emphasis

Proportion/Scale:
Proportion is when all elements of the design relate well with one another (sizes, amounts, quantities). Using larger than life scale can add drama.

Example of Scale/Proportion

Contrast:
Contrast is the differences between the elements in a design such as, hue, light/dark, texture that allow those elements to stand out. Contrast allows for “pop” when used correctly. A lack of contrast makes a design boring and can make it difficult to determine a focal point.

Example of Contrast

In conclusion when you effectively employ the Elements (ingredients) in a design along with the Principles (recipe) you will have a successful and appealing design that highlights your product or service. However, if you fail to use these properly your design will fall flat, leading to the opposite of your desired intent.

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