Principles of Design

Everyone knows what design is. It’s the look and feel of an object. The lines, color, patterns, and textures are used to make things visually appealing. We use design practically everywhere. Designing with purpose is an intuitive way to create meaningful and purposefully designed artwork without the help of any rules. I feel this can help others better understand design, but it is also important to know at least 13 principles of design to learn the basics of design.

Design Principles are a set of guidelines for designers to follow. It is what differentiates design from other forms of fine art. They explain how we communicate through visual elements and make things aesthetically pleasing to our senses. In this following article today, we’re going to learn about the principles of design in detail. Let’s get started!

What Are the Principles of Design?

To create visually pleasing compositions, designers follow the principles of design. These rules were developed to facilitate the delivery of a message in the most efficient and accurate manner. Principles of Design are a set of guidelines used by designers to create a more pleasing, functional, and visually cultured design. Principles of design can also define as principles of composition and are influenced by visual communication, interaction design, and typography.

The principles of design are essential and fundamental ideas that establish the groundwork for creating a good artwork or design. Suppose you’re not creating something with a designer’s sensibilities. In that case, you risk a design that is not just ineffective and maybe even visually unappealing but can also ruin what would otherwise be a great piece of content.

These are the main principles of design:

  1. Unity
  2. Balance
  3. Emphasis
  4. Repetition
  5. Contrast
  6. Pattern
  7. Rhythm
  8. Movement
  9. Proportion
  10. Variety
  11. Harmony
  12. Space, 
  13. Hierarchy

It’s important to understand the significance of the fundamentals, even though we’ve seen a lot of experimental pieces out there. Below the surface of any design piece is a structure that supports and allows it to be visually appealing and balanced. Designers can break these rules more effectively by understanding how to use design principles. 

Principles of Design

Principles of Design

If you’re a designer, the following principles will help you create better designs. If you’re not a designer but are looking to learn more about design, the following principles will help you understand what designers do when they are designing. So keep reading!

1. Principle of Design: Unity

A work of design can be characterized as having a sense of unity by applying the principle of oneness to it. The principle of harmony is similar to the principle of unity, but unity is more comprehensive. Design is capable of creating unity in several ways. Different designers use different methods to accomplish this.

The idea of unity is about working together as separate parts. The concept of unity is easier to understand with the analogy of a car. A car is designed to transport people. It moves when its many components work together. Separate parts of the car cannot provide transportation. All of the car parts work together when they function as they should.

Unity is similar to harmony and variety in that it may be hard to understand at first. Design elements are defined as elements, while unity is defined as an impression, which works convey to the viewer.

Imagining a solitary shape and carrying that shape in your head is possible. However, unity isn’t something that is imaginable or held in mind. We must look at and analyze unity. In order to create designss with unity, the designer must pay attention to its development during the creative process.

2. Principle of Design: Emphasis

To emphasize a design element, you have to catch the viewer’s eye. You may choose to do this through any means, including a button, a website, or an image. In order to make the design stand out, we must compose something unique. Different elements can be used to emphasize different parts of your design, such as lines, colors, positive/negative relationships, etc. It doesn’t matter how you create contrast. Whether it’s with elements or color, you’ll be able to emphasize. 

  • Emphasis Using Lines: The lines on a page provide direction to the viewer by drawing the viewer’s attention to the specific elements on the page. 
  • Emphasizing with Shapes: It may also draw attention to shapes to create tension and draw the eyes, similar group shapes and break them up with a different shape. 
  • Emphasis Using Color: Any design can be enhanced by using color. In order to create a sense of urgency and attention, buttons on websites are typically contrasted with the background.
  • Emphasis Using Texture: Materials can be textured to enhance their tactile characteristics. It is possible to emphasize a logo on a business card by embossing or relief. Using digital textures, three-dimensional effects can be created by adding drop shadows to buttons.
  • Emphasis Using Space: Your design can also be emphasized with space. When enough white space is present around an object, it helps to focus attention on that particular component. A good example is Apple’s way of emphasizing products in a clean and direct manner. 

3. Principle of Design: Repetition

The term repetition refers to the use of similar or the same elements in a design over and over again. This is not the same thing as the repetition of visual elements—the visual elements of a design work related to the overall theme more than the visual style.

Throughout a piece of simple or complex work, there are certain elements that should be repeated. Using repetitions throughout a design helps to ensure unity and consistency. By repeating elements consistently, we develop a particular style, create coherence, establish hierarchy, and strengthen a design.

The design will satisfy its intended purpose to convey a message that will linger and become familiar by accomplishing this goal. A type of brainwashing occurs in design when repetition is used. We retain information about things we have seen more often because we become familiar with them. It might not be attractive, but repetition is powerful. Familiarity is comforting and appealing to the human mind.

4. Principle of Design: Contrast

By contrast, we mean the level of differentiation between design elements to establish a visual hierarchy. By varying certain elements, it makes them stand out more. Contrast can be created through patterns, colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. A hierarchy between font sizes can be created in a layout by utilizing contrast. The reader is more likely to focus on larger text first. It is important to pair fonts with contrast. 

By contrast, certain elements can be highlighted, thereby attracting the viewer’s eye. In addition to creating balance and harmony, contrast can apply to distribute items on a page pleasingly. Due to the absence of contrast, a design can resemble a dull blur, and viewers might overlook the message. In the case of accessible design, contrast is especially crucial. 

5. Principle of Design: Pattern

In design, patterns and elements can have multiple interpretations and meanings. As the name implies, repetition focuses on repeating the same thing. Patterns consist of the same components repeated in a certain way throughout designs. Seamless patterns are ones that flow from beginning to end without interruptions. They are constant, coherent patterns. Applying this approach when planning designs containing significant amounts of texture, color, or depth becomes particularly important.

As patterns in architecture, motifs are used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of structures, stamp authority on design, and aid in providing helpful guidance. It is possible to improve both the user experience and the appearance of a final product by using such patterns. Still, should use them carefully to avoid a cluttered layout or unattractive design.

6. Principle of Design: Rhythm

It is possible to create a rhythm through repetitions and a sense of movement in the viewers by varying the intervals between repetitions. You can create rhythm by inserting spacing between elements. Visual rhythm can be broadly classified into five different types.

Random Rhythm

A random rhythm occurs when repeating elements do not have any regular intervals. There may be a millimeter difference here, a centimeter difference there, although the elements could apply at different locations. As an example of random rhythms in action, consider falling snow, beach pebbles, and traffic movement.

Regular Rhythm

Regular rhythms follow the same intervals, like the beating of a heart. Making a grid or a series of vertical lines makes it easy to create a regular rhythm. The user’s eye immediately recognizes a regular rhythm, which scans it for irregularities. We should also keep in mind that we pay attention to unique features. When you utilize a regular rhythm in a design, you must also be aware that there might be a risk that the design may become monotonous (similar to dripping water from a tap) as a result.

Alternating Rhythm

There is no limit to how many elements you can repeat in a design. A pattern of alternating 1-2-1-2-1-2 is used in an alternating design. Alternating rhythms are more complex versions of regular rhythms. We might imagine something as simple as a chessboard or envision something more complex. Fish, birds, and other animals are examples of fantastic alternating rhythms. An outstanding example of this is M.C. Escher’s Lizard (1942).

Flowing Rhythm

The repeated elements in a flowing rhythm follow bends, curves, and undulations. A beach or sand dunes exhibit this in nature. Designers can mimic nature by creating patterns of elements with flowing rhythms. 

Progressive Rhythm

When the progression of forms or shapes takes place through progressive steps, the result is a progressive rhythm. It is possible to have stepped changes in some characteristics of an element or the interval. Movement appears as a result of gradual changes in sequence. A good example is a color gradient.

7. Principle of Design: Movement

Good design involves movement, allowing the designer to control the viewer’s next thing. This principle can use to create the path our eyes travel when we look at a piece of design. As an example, the focal point is the first thing we notice. Next, it moves from one element to another in the composition, capturing our attention.

Within a composition, movement allows the viewer to experience motion. Additionally, it acts as an optical guide that allows the eye to follow from one element to the next. In order to control and force the viewer’s eye to travel in and around the painting composition, the designer uses eye to travel. A solid or dotted line, for example, looks like an actual path that the eye will follow. There will be subtle changes such as going from large to small elements, dark to light elements, color to colorless, unusual shapes to normal shapes.

8. Principle of Design: Proportion

It is a concept in design that entails the relationship between two or more elements within a composition and their position in relation to one another based on their sizes, colors, quantities, degrees, etc.

The combination of two or more elements in a painting creates a relationship. Whenever the elements are in harmony, they are said to be in a correct or desirable relationship. This relates to the distribution and sizing of components, which leads to a good proportion. Harmony and balance come through good proportioning of the parts of a design.

The relationship between size and proportion usually applies the principle of proportion to a work of design. It measures how large one element is in relation to another element in a composition. The following elements differ in size:

  • A comparison of height, width, and depth between two elements
  • Comparing the size of two areas
  • Relationship between the size of one element and the size of another
  • Spacing between elements

An out-of-balance situation usually makes us notice proportion until it is too late. A comparison that appears unbalanced or incorrect based on the relative sizes of two elements is said to be out of proportion. If a person’s head is larger than the rest of their body, we would say they are out of proportion.

9. Principle of Design: Variety

Most people become bored by repeating the same routine or doing the same thing over and over again. A vacation is a great way to change things up. It interrupts the routines of everyday life. While on vacation, some people choose to be active or do absolutely nothing. The main thing to keep in mind is that vacations are very different from the routines they interrupt. Vacations provide a person with a measurable dose of variety in their lives. Variety is also important for design.

The absence of variety and harmony is boring. Variety makes design interesting. In an artwork, variety adds to the joy and enchantment of the piece. Contrasts and juxtapositions create variety. Variety occurs when an artist juxtaposes different visual elements next to each other. The juxtaposition of straight and curvy lines creates variety. Combining geometric shapes with organic shapes creates variety. Colorful contrasts with dull hues add variety.

Variety can transform into emphasis, another principle of design, when used to draw the viewer’s attention to a specific area in a composition. The principles of art are interconnected. Their concepts overlap. It is really impossible to differentiate between harmony and variety since both are expressions of one nebulous concept. When one is emphasized, the other is deemphasized. The wrong amount of harmony can be boring, while the wrong amount of variety is pointless and incomprehensible.

10. Principle of Design: Harmony

In design, harmony emphasizes the similarities between parts that are separated but related, creating a sense of cohesiveness. You don’t have to have the same elements or completely different elements, but you should still relate them somehow. The use of color palettes and similar textures can bring together different components in an appealing manner. By using similar shapes, harmony is created since they seem related. 

Harmony is created with colors that combine according to a specific scheme. The same is true for a canvas with a uniform texture of brush strokes. Harmony can also be achieved by choosing compositional elements that have similar shapes and contours. A work of design can be harmonious even with a narrow range of values. It is important to have some variety in a design to make it visually interesting; too little or too much harmony can be boring.

11. Space Principle of Design

You must add content to your design in order to complete the other elements. The only type of white space that specifically refers to what you do not add is negative space. The white space around your composition is precisely that – an area of blank space. This can be a particularly dangerous area for new designers. A composition may be elevated from mediocre to successful by simply allowing more breathing space.

White space isn’t just empty space-it is a means of establishing hierarchy and creating organization. Our brains naturally attach importance and luxury to elements with plenty of white space. Doing so allows our eyes to distinguish between objects in one region and objects in another. Additionally, it can significantly enhance the interaction between you and your audience by conveying a completely different image or concept from your core design.

12. Hierarchy Principle of Design

A hierarchy is the arrangement or presentation of visual information so that it implies importance. The human eye perceives things in hierarchical order based on hierarchy.

Hierarchies are used to:

  • Adding structure
  • Organize visually
  • Establish a direction
  • Emphasize
  • Make it easier for a viewer to digest information

The hierarchy of a composition is usually based on contrasts between elements. It is common to notice the visual elements of the composition that are of the most contrast first. By controlling a viewer’s engagement with information via hierarchy, we can ensure that the viewer digests information in the way that it is intended. 

It is crucial to establish a visual hierarchy to keep a design cohesive. If hierarchy is used effectively, complex messages can be simplified. Hierarchy manifests itself in many different ways in design. A clear hierarchy is created by carefully arranging visual elements. Hierarchical order can appear visually in many different ways, including scales, colors, contrasts, alignments, shapes, and forms.

13. Principle of Design: Balance

The visual balance of elements in a composition can be described as their visual weight. Adding balance to a design adds stability, adds structure, creates emphasis, and creates dynamics. Visual elements should be arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, or according to a particular plan, in order to accomplish a particular purpose or get a particular look and feel.

Balance can take three forms:

Symmetrical Balance

Mirror image balance is symmetrical balance. If you draw a line down the center of the interface, all elements on one side will be mirrored on the other side. There is no need for them to be identical but they can be similar based on their scale, color, shape and number. An element is said to be in balance when its weight is equal. One can use symmetrical balance when they wish to achieve formality, structure, and stability.

Asymmetrical Balance

In asymmetrical balance, both sides of a central line are not exactly the same. Contrary to symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance lacks symmetry.

One may utilize asymmetrical balance to achieve a less planned and more casual look. By using an asymmetrical composition, you can create the illusion that the page or screen might tip over or that things may slide. The audience is more likely to pay attention to a visual message when the balance is asymmetrical rather than symmetrical.

Radial Balance

Third, we have radial balance, in which all elements radiate outward in a circular motion from a center point. All the radial elements in balance lead the eye towards the center, which makes maintaining the focal point very simple.

The designer must recognize the type of balance that is needed based on the intended use or look. A composition needs to be balanced before it can be created. The use of good balance can help to produce good visual effects and top-quality designs.

Final Verdict

Whether you are new to the world of design or an experienced designer, it never hurts to learn more about your craft. These principles of design will give your work a greater level of balance and beauty. Hopefully, we helped bring some clarity to the concept of design principles. There’s no right or wrong way to use these principles in your designs, but we hope that they can help guide your work when creating harmonious compositions. Start experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. It won’t always be easy, but you’ll learn a lot in the process. Ultimately you have to trust your own judgment and instincts to guide your choices.

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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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