Understanding the Principles of Design

The principles of design are the rules a designer must follow to create an effective and attractive composition. The fundamental principles of design are Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.


1. Emphasis

Emphasis is a foundational element in the composition that needs some planning and forethought to get just right. To do it, you use the other elements of art and principles of design to make your point.

In design, emphasis can be created several ways. For example, the scale of an object can be changed to give it greater emphasis. You can use contrasting colors, or add elements like lines or shapes.


2. Balance and alignment

Balance refers to the visual weight, or the impact, of the elements of the composition. Balance lends stability and structure to an overall design. To understand it better, think that there’s weight behind each of your design elements. Shapes, text boxes and images are the elements that form your design, so it’s important to be familiar with the visual weight each of those elements possesses. Now, this doesn’t mean that the elements always need to be distributed evenly or that they must be of an equal size — balance is either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is when the weight of elements is evenly divided on either side of the design, whereas asymmetrical balance uses scale, contrast, and colour to achieve the flow in design.


Alignment is the placement of visual elements, to see the accuracy of design as they lined up in composition. Designers use alignment to organize elements, to group elements, to create balance, to create structure, to create connections between elements, to create accurate outcomes. Alignment is also used to organize and create a degree of structure. Cellar Red Wine Mockup


3. Contrast

Contrast in design refers to how different things look, and yet how they go together to create a cohesive scene. Contrast of tone is black versus white, while contrasting colors are in opposite positions on the color wheel.


Contrast is all about making sure your subject contrasts with the rest of the image to help bring focus. When visual elements are placed in your composition, contrasts help draw attention to them. Things that don't contrast tend to blend together, while things that contrast pop out. Other things in your image can be used to create contrast. The scale or size of the objects can be changed to show a contrast between big and small. Baby Photo Frame Mockup


4. Repetition

Repetition is a fundamental design element, especially when it comes to branding. It creates a rhythm and strengthens the overall design by tying together consistent elements such as logo and colour palette, making the brand or design instantly recognisable to viewers.


5. Proportion

Proportion is the visual size and weight of elements in a composition and how they relate to each other. It often helps to approach your design in sections, instead of as a whole.
Grouping related items can give them importance at a smaller size. Proportion can be achieved only if all elements of your design are well-sized and thoughtfully placed.


6. Movement

Movement is controlling the elements in a composition so that the eye is led to move from one to the next and the information is properly communicated to your audience.


7. White space

Space is an art which refers to the distance or area between, around, above, below, or within elements. The main positive and negative space are two important factors to be considered in every design.


As all of the other elements deal with what you add to your design while white space (negative space) is the only one that specifically deals with what you don’t add. White space is actually the empty page around the elements in your composition.


Simply giving a composition more room to breathe can upgrade it from average to successful. White space creates hierarchy and organization of design. Our brains are naturally associated with ample white space around an element with importance and luxury. That’s why we should keep in mind that principle while designing something.