Principle of Design Contrast

Contrast is one of the principles of design, along with emphasis, repetition, movement, unity, and variety. Perhaps the best way to explain contrast is to define it: ‘the quality or state of being different from something else.’ We see it used a lot in fashion. Dark colors next to light colors, for example. One of the classic principles of design contrast, it’s the definitive principle we use to measure the difference between two elements — whether it’s color, size, or value.

This is a blog all about the concept of contrast. As one of the principles of design contrast is one of the most important guiding factors in selecting and applying design elements. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the principle of design contrast and how you can use it to improve your designs with examples of contrast in design. 

Contrast as a Principle

Many principles and elements appear in the design. In this post, we are going to focus on contrast, which is a basic principle. In general, the items or elements, in contrast, are arranged so that they are as close as possible to each other in order to make the contrast as apparent as possible. Contrast is something our eyes naturally enjoy, which is why we don’t shy away from it. In fact, contrast is aesthetically pleasing and exciting. Because the contrast is pleasing to the eye, it commonly appears in graphic design.

Contrast can accomplish many things when used correctly. One of its advantages is that it creates a focal point, a place to which your eyes naturally wander. It is not always true that contrasts are equal. Typically, one element stands out immediately over its contrasting counterpart, capturing the viewer’s attention. In addition to creating a sense of balance and harmony, contrast is also useful for distributing items of different visual weights evenly throughout a page or screen.

Principle of Design Contrast in Graphic Design

beautiful Contrast Design

In order to create visual balance and focal points, all artists use contrast. Paintings, sculptures, and even architects use contrast to create visual balance and focal points. However, the graphic design utilizes contrast in unique ways. One of the ways is that graphic designers must be direct. Unlike paintings that can introduce complex and difficult themes that require time to absorb, graphic designers must ensure that their designs convey a clear message as quickly as possible. In this sense, contrast can create a strong focal point.

Contrast, however, can also be used to help organize information, both visually and textually. Do you need a reader to read every word in a design right away? It is more important to capture your reader’s attention immediately. When used in conjunction with contrast, textual information can be organized so that the message is immediately clear to the audience while still allowing the details to be seen.

Types of Contrast: Principles of Design

When you think about it, contrast is everywhere in design. The difference between light and dark, big and small, hard and soft. The purpose of contrast is to make things stand out from the rest. The contrast makes an image pop, a headline seems more important, colors look brighter. Contrast is a valuable tool in any designer’s kit. Here are 4 basic types of contrast below:

1. Color Contrast

This is probably the most common type and is probably the most well-known. It is popular with beginners, as well. Despite its popularity, it is quite difficult to master. Choosing the incorrect color combination will ruin the design. It is important to choose complementary colors, and ensure that they will not irritate people’s eyes.

2. Shape Contrast

In order to create a contrast that is interesting, you can choose interesting shapes or just ordinary ones. One website page can display an amazing amount of contrast in shapes by experienced designers.

When most or all of the webpage’s elements are the same shapes, for example, a square one, consider introducing a rounded element to add contrast. Even just one can do the trick.

3. Size Contrast

It would be a good idea to make certain information large if you want to emphasize its importance of it. An easy and understandable type of contrast is size contrast. Making a certain part of the text larger instantly catches the eye.

Additionally, you can resize and enlarge images as well. Identifying the differences and making enough variations are the most critical steps here. All web pages could look pretty boring if they are all the same size.

4. Typography Contrast

Typography can also apply to create contrast. There will also be a connection between typography and size, but not only. With any graphic design work that contains text, it’s important to direct the viewer’s attention to the main elements you want them to see first. We can find countless examples here, from flyers to advertisements.

Contrast Design Principle With Examples

Contrast is one of the principles of design. It is the difference between elements in a design. The main purpose of the principle of design contrast is to separate and distinguish objects from each other. Contrasting elements can be color, space, value, size, shape, or form.

round with red color

Let’s take a look at a simple circle. How would you describe it? The only thing it mentions here is that it’s a circle, but does it specify how big or small it is? Also, how far away is it from us?

round fill with red color

A second visual element is required to suggest that. The smaller circle here creates contrast by contrasting it with the original circle. On the other hand, the above image indicates that the original circle is now larger.

Principle of Design Contrast

What if we were to add another circle similar to the original one, but with a darker color? Then this circle would appear to be more important or closer to us since it certainly captures our attention more than the others.

The elements of visual composition are related in interesting ways through contrast. In contrast, the elements can be pushed apart, connected, or complimented. Visual elements are meaningless without contrast.

It stimulates our visual senses when contrast is present. It is more convenient and easier for our eyes to make sense of what we see if there is contrast because it grabs our attention. As a result, it can be an effective method of communicating without the use of type.

Using contrast in design can be demonstrated by examples below:

Contrast in Shape

Contrast Shape design

It is interesting to note that these shapes have almost the same scale, but they have very different characteristics. Both are rounded, while one has a pointed top. But which one attracts your attention? We may be drawn to the other shape more because it is complex, whereas the shape with a smooth surface is so simple.

Contrast in Colour

Principle of Design Contrast

Color contrast and shape contrast are demonstrated in the next example. In spite of the variety of shapes we have, they appear in varying degrees of color. In spite of the clear contrast between shapes, there is also a clear contrast between colors or tones here. As the shape becomes darker, it draws more attention.

Contrast in Scale

Principle of Design Contrast

As you can see, this image contains eight strokes but they are written in different sizes and different grids of circles. In this instance, the context is crucial to contrast. Each visual element has a meaning as a result of the visual elements around it.

Contrast in Layout

square fill with red

The layout contrast is next. It appears that the top composition is structured and regimented. On the other hand, the lower layout appears more free and unstructured.

Contrast in Type

Principle of Design Contrast

Typography uses contrast to create structure and hierarchy. The contrast in typography can be created using many methods: typeface, alignment, type size, color, and weight.

Contrast in Shapes and Colour

many icons in white background

Road signs are among the most important visual communications because of contrast, a strong method of communication. Also, logos with simplicity and contrast are some of the most iconic. To be remembered, contrast is used in logos for the same reason it is used in road signs: to communicate bold and important messages.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can create contrast?

A contrast in value can be created between two elements based on their relative lightness or darkness. A value that is further apart from the other, whether it is gray shades or tints and shades of one color, is more contrasted. There is no limit to the number of contrasting elements you can combine in a composition.

What are the types of contrast in design?

Black and white, small and big, fast and slow, thick and thin are just a few examples of contrast. The easiest way to understand contrast is by comparing opposites, but when you apply it to design work it’s not as simple as that.

What is contrast of design?

An instance of contrast can be defined as a difference between an element and another element in the context of visual design. A larger difference between the elements means that they can more easily be compared and understood, so it’s easy for us to say that they have contrasted with each other.

Is contrast a principle of art?

Many consider contrast to be the golden rule for art creation, as it is one of the major art principles. In essence, the contrast in art is defined as the juxtaposition of different things in order to intensify the properties of the work; it is closely associated with variety.

What does contrast mean in typography?

Simply put, it is the combination of two typographical elements followed by the use of two different techniques to contrast them. Using a contrast makes the important element of the type more prominent, letting the secondary element recede into the background.

Final Words

As you can see, contrast is one of the most important principles of design. Without it, nothing would be visible: no color would be pleasing, no layout would be clear and functional. Some designs can have too much contrast, but most will need different levels of contrast in order to produce the best designs. As with any principle of visual design, you can allow your creative juices to flow when combining contrasting elements. But always keep in mind that first and foremost your design needs to be readable and understandable.

We hope you have gained a greater understanding of the concept of principle of design contrast and how to employ it in your design. Remember that contrast is all around us. It can help you establish harmony between elements, divide sections of composition and direct the viewer’s attention where you want it.

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About Tom

Tom is a blogger and artist who also loves technology. He spends his days blogging about the latest developments in the world of art, and he enjoys sharing his thoughts with readers on what it means to be an artist today. Tom has always been interested in technology - but it wasn't until he was 13 years old that he discovered how much fun making websites could be! Tom is a fun-loving, adventure seeking creative type. He enjoys reviewing art products and technology gadgets on his blog and has been doing so for over 5 years now! He spends most of his time in the studio, at the beach, or out exploring new places.

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