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Design Principles 101: The Basics of Graphic Design

By August 1, 2019June 7th, 2024Design
Design Principles

What is good design?

We know it when we see it. Good design is everywhere. Even within objects of daily life. It’s an exquisite wine glass, a distinctive lamp shade, or a decorative throw pillow.

Good design is more than just eye appeal though. It balances form and function. It enhances space and works in a useful way. It pulls together both purpose and posh effortlessly.

It’s on screen right now! You’re viewing this post on a webpage that was designed for the purpose of reading.

Trends for design are changing all of the time. The methods have not. Good design can be dissected to represent principles that rule the artwork.

So, what exactly are design principles anyway? Let’s dive in.

Top 10 Design Principles Explained

As complex of a process designing is, we’re able to condense it down to a particular methodology. Elements such as color, lines, texture, space, fonts, and shapes form together in a logical fashion based on guiding principles.

While designers tend to follow their instincts with projects, good designers know these principles and how to apply them. Here are ten principles we apply to our graphic design and branding work at HenkinSchultz.

Alignment Design Principle: Midwest Funseekers Brochure

1. Alignment

Alignment is presenting design elements in an orderly manner. Lining up a block of text to a surrounding shape can make a world of difference. This principle is crucial for creating a cohesive end product.

2. Contrast

Contrast is very important for directing the eye of the viewer to prominent areas of a piece. According to Adobe, contrast is “what happens when two design elements are in opposition to each other.” This can be done with elements like color, size, thickness, and pattern.

Repetition Design Principle: Lutheran Social Services Flyer

3. Repetition

The recurrence of elements can make an idea more clear and memorable. Repetition builds consistency. It’s more than just repeating something over and over and over again. It adds a layer continuity to create a stronger composition.

4. Balance

According to Smashing Magazine, a “balanced composition feels right. It feels stable and aesthetically pleasing.” There are two types of balance—symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. Either type creates a steadiness while balancing the visual weight and form of positive and negative space.

Proximity Design Principle: Healthy Ponds Logo

5. Proximity

Knowing where to place components is done by considering the proximity—or space between elements. With proximity, you can create sections of relating parts to create a stronger dialog. It makes sense to position similar elements next to each other to assemble an arrangement.

6. Unity

Creating connection under a unified theme pulls the whole concept together. BonFX says unity “achieves overall harmony with all the elements for a holistic and consistent composition”.

Proportion Design Principle: Teddy Bear Den Card

7. Proportion 

Proportion happens when balance, proximity, and unity work together. It adds breathing room between sections of similar elements. The combination produces an orderly sequence of design parts.

8. Rhythm

Attaining rhythm visually isn’t easy. Designers create rhythm by building upon consistent elements to make something flow and move together. Rhythm and repetition are often closely associated with each other.

Emphasis Design Principle: LSS Billboard

9. Emphasis

Emphasis interrupts the rhythm of a design by drawing attention to a focal point. The focal point is the main center of interest. Working with space, color, contrast, and patterns can add prominence to viewpoints.

10. Hierarchy

A hierarchy creates structure. Designers construct a system of ranking according to priority for elements to define hierarchy. Achieving hierarchy takes a combination of all design elements and principles, especially emphasis.

Passion for Graphic Design & Communication Arts

At HenkinSchultz, our team of designers are passionate about graphic design and communication arts. We understand the many variables in traditional and digital printing, and oversee each project until it’s launched online or hot off the press.

We can help you kick off the design process. Contact us if you are ready to get started on a new logo, website, brochure, brand, or signage.

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