Principles of Design
These are the tools that blend the ingredients for any design project. You can use all the design elements, but if you don’t blend them with rhythm, balance, contrast, etc., then you don’t have a cake. There are eight design elements that are pulled together by these eight design principles.
- Balance – Balance helps the viewer decide how to interpret your design. If it’s designed with asymmetrical balance, the design will evoke emotions like excitement, curiosity, or anxiety. If the design is symmetrical, or totally even, it will convey peace, calm, and tranquility.
- Contrast – Without values, you can’t create contrast. Without smoothness or roughness (or the illusion of those textures), you aren’t dealing with contrast. You can use various design elements to create contrast. Without contrast there would be no day or night and without contrast you cannot create an interesting design.
- Direction – Direction is the way to lead the viewer’s eye through your design layout or composition. Direction is created by line, but it also can be created by the way you use color to lead the eye through a design. Shapes, spaces, values, and perspective all create the illusion of depth in two-dimensional design, and this depth is needed to create a direction for the eye to take that journey. In three-dimensional design those shapes, spaces, values, and perspectives are all used to lead people through a design.
- Economy – If you can remove an element within a design and that design still works, then you’ve practiced economy in design. Don’t offer more than is needed, but be sure to include all that is needed to create an intelligent and economical design.
- Emphasis – You can lead that viewer all through your garden, through your building, through your advertisement, or through your painting, but if you don’t stop that viewer with one point of interest, then you’ve lost your viewer. The emphasis in a design is the message that you want to convey.
- Proportion – You can use proportion to create surreal images (like Dali) to shock your viewers into noticing your work. Or, you can use proportion realistically to emphasize the message conveyed through typography. Proportion gives the viewer a leg to lean on. In other words, a realistic composition creates a feeling of balance, whereas unrealistic proportions create a feeling of emphasis on the object that’s out of proportion.
- Rhythm – Repetition, rhythm, bam, bam, bam. While this principle of design can create boredom, it can also be used to create depth (one element smaller than the next), excitement or peace (contrast), or emphasis on a certain subject. Like music, rhythm keeps the world singing and dancing.
- Unity – This is the principle that pulls a design together. While there’s no one rule for unity, this principle can remind you to check all the other design elements and principles so that you know you haven’t missed a tick in your plans.