The 7 Principles of Design
Published February 18, 2021
Design is everything. Day in and day out, we are constantly and unknowingly interacting with this element. Whether it’s the logo of your favorite brand or the cover of your textbook, you can’t escape it. Most people think of this concept as the mere product of art and creativity, but that’s missing the point. Design serves a very real and tangible purpose. It seeks to captivate audiences and bring their focus onto a specific thing. You could even go as far as saying that design is a discipline. And as with all disciplines, there are strict guidelines you must follow. In this article, we will be talking about the seven fundamental principles of design.
Everything you slap onto a blank sheet has weight. That might seem strange, as most designs are in the 2D realm. But weight doesn’t have to be just in kilograms or pounds to matter. In fact, it comes in a variety of forms like color, texture, and size. In the same way that you wouldn’t want everyone sitting on one edge of the boat that it capsizes, you don’t want to stuff all elements into one space either. That’s the importance of balance. Balance is the concept of visual equilibrium in a space, creating one unified whole. In balance, your work may either be symmetrical (when your composition’s weight is evenly distributed across an axis) or asymmetrical (when it’s unevenly distributed). While symmetrical compositions are typically more pleasing to the eye, asymmetrical ones can be more exciting and bold. This makes both of these types unique and beautiful in their own right.
Emphasis refers to the focus of your composition. This concept speaks to the element that grabs the most attention. When advertising a brand, you might think about bringing emphasis to their logo, name, or tagline. These are all key considerations depending on the specific message you want to put out. There are three classifications for emphasis: dominant, subdominant, and subordinate. Dominant elements have the most weight and grab the chunk of the spotlight. Subdominant elements are second-in-line to dominant elements in weight. Subordinate elements have the least weight and are usually found in the background.
When people say something “pops,” they’re usually referring to contrast. How elements interact with the background by either blending or popping out is contrast. Contrast is especially important when you’re dealing with text. You want your target audience to be able to read a composition’s content clearly. This principle may also involve using boldface to a word to really emphasize it.
Proportion or Scale
Proportion is the size of one object in contrast to another on the same composition. Bigger isn’t always better in this case, as you can draw attention even with minute elements. Proportion is used to create a sense of visual order between the elements. Compositions may either be harmonious or unbalanced. Usually, when you master the other design principles, proportion sorts itself out naturally.
While you may be tempted to slap on as many unique elements you want onto your composition, repeating a few won’t hurt. In fact, repetition does a whole lot in bringing elements together. While you could incorporate unique typefaces, fonts, and colors into your composition, they can come off quite cluttered. Repetition creates consistency, which can give off a ton of positive effects.
How you arrange the elements of your composition affects the visual story that your audience goes through. Movement means controlling the elements of your composition so that your audience follows the message and story cleanly. When done properly, movement conveys a seamless narrative, taking your audience on a visual trip.
Last but certainly not least, we have unity. When you put all of these principles together, you’ll want to ensure that everything works together harmoniously. After all, a design or composition’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You could figure everything out individually, but whether or not they come together to form a cohesive piece of work will make or break it. Ideally, each element you include will complement the other, creating this symphony of visual elements that captivate the human eye.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer for the Vintage & Specialty Wood website blog. Her passion for carpentry and wood working coupled with her commitment to fact based blogging has helped her articles help millions of people over the years.