The Principles of Design
The first thing every design student learns is that there are a few key factors that we can look at to measure the success of a design. It is by these principles that you should be critiquing your work so that you can deliver your message accurately and efficiently.
Take a look at the way we layed out this article; we have a title, subhead, and body copy. These distinctions in size and weight help us create hierarchy which not only helps us organize our thoughts to better convey the message, but it also tells you what is most important, where to look first, and where to bring your eyes next.
Without emphasis in your design, your audience will be lost, confused and maybe even overwhelmed by the lack of direction. Your goal is sending a message, and unless you want it to be misunderstood, find ways that you can push and pull elements to create a visual hierarchy so they know what they’re looking at and why.
It’s not just one of the main ingredients to a happy life; balance is essential in design. Are you going for a symmetrical or asymmetrical composition? Whichever one you pick, be sure to distribute the visual weights of each element so as not to destabilize the work.
Paying attention to how the objects within a composition relate to each other is crucial to your design making sense. Think of a child’s rendering of the human body; chances are, the eyes are different sizes and the head is too big – this is exactly what we don’t want for our creations. How does the title size relate to the body text and the images or illustrations in your design? Are certain elements subduing others? How you relate these pieces and their sizes will help balance the design proportionately.
Black and white, light and dark, thick and thin. Finding ways to create contrast will help elements stand out within your design. This is one of the easiest ways to create hierarchy, as it will help the most important part stand out, while slowly decreasing contrast to separate your information.
Contrast brings interest. People like bold, bright, and risky visuals. Taking a chance with unconventional colors and type may be scary at first, but it can be a positive defining characteristic of your brand.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Got it? Placing repeated elements within a design creates a dynamic motion and brings unity within the piece. Perhaps your brand has a signature style, color, symbol, or shape. Taking those elements that are specific to your brand already and placing them multiple times within your composition will instill your identity in your audience.
Repeating elements is an easy way to create movement through your piece. Movement ensures that the viewer’s eye is being led to where you want to bring their attention to. Try staggering your information instead of center aligning everything. You want them to be interested in what you have to say -- the way your information is laid out will help you accomplish this.
Unity With Variety
It is crucial that your composition holds together as a strong, unified piece without being mundane. Try to find ways to surprise and delight your audience, whether through color, texture, or shape. Achieving the balance between interesting and unified can be a challenge; don’t forget to ask trusted friends or coworkers for help if you need a new perspective!
These 7 principles are just that, principles. Not laws. It’s okay to not follow some of these guides, but be intentional because having a reason for every design choice you make is essential. Practicing thoughtfulness as you create will take your designs to the next level; it will show the viewer why they should care about your creation as well.
Never forget the purpose of your designs: to grab attention, inform, and engage with a specific audience. Having this in mind keeps you focused on achieving your goals for the piece.
Join the Conversation
Take a look at your newest design and analyze it according to the principles above. If you notice some areas that are lacking intentionality, what changes can you make to keep your audience engaged and educated on your message?