Understanding the Principles of Design

Understanding the Principles of Design

27, March 2023

Design like any other art form, be it in any part of the world, requires creativity and sticking to some generic yet fundamental design principles. The principles of design as the name might sound like an obstruction or a tiring academic exercise. But for designers, working professionals, and beginners wanting to improve their design skills, understanding the below-mentioned design principles will eventually assist in their work. The so-called design principles very nearly lay the basic approach that adds an appealing factor to a design or any art form. These principles are studied in detail in design programs and form the basis of design education. The correct approach to studying design is to differentiate between the elements of art and the principles of design. Elements of art are objects that can be seen on the canvas, like lines and shapes, whereas the principles of design in art include components that are less easy to identify but are important to design an attractive composition. Components like contrast, pattern, and space are referred to as design principles.

The top seven design principles include: • Contrast • Emphasis • Pattern • Repetition • Movement • Space • Balance

Contrast

The contrast in design points out how different elements look, and yet how they go together to create a coordinated scene. The contrast of the color tone is black vs white while contrasting colors are on the opposite ends of the color wheel. It is all about making sure that the subject contrasts with the remaining part of the image to bring it to focus. Contrast helps draw the attention of the viewer when visual components are placed in a composition. Simply put, when visual elements are in contrast, they pop out and make the design appealing. On the other hand, out-of-contrast visual elements cannot be differentiated which makes the design clumsy.

Emphasis

Emphasis is a basic element of a composition that has to be planned and thought upon in advance. To use this principle of design in composition, other principles of design have to be used in tandem. For example, while making a poster for a student fest, the designer has to keep in mind that the messaging, the details about the fest, and all the information is properly conveyed. So, emphasis has to be given to the most important factor in the poster along with other design principles in consideration. Emphasis is how probable things are highlighted or designed in the composition. The distinguishing parts have to be clear and impressive at the same time without them being noticeable to the viewer. This in turn is related to the viewer's reaction, whether the composition delivered the intended message or not. In design, emphasis can be created several ways. For example, the shape of a composition can be changed to give it greater emphasis. Using contrasting colors, or adding lines and patterns are some other ways to add emphasis.

Pattern

Patterns can be found anywhere, naturally, and we can detect them very easily. The human eye instinctively functions to observe patterns and they are good at detecting these patterns. A lot of designers and artists use this trick in their designs and art. These patterns can be made by replicating an object within the composition. This is done to draw the user’s focus and emphasis on the artwork’s subject. It completes the composition, makes it visually appealing, and makes it stand out.

Repetition

Repetition refers to any element of a composition, like a shape, form, color, or line. For designing any composition, a designer uses a color palette which in turn helps by striking as the repetition of a single element is easily noticeable. It also adds the element of uniformity to the composition and completes the composition by bringing it together.

Movement

The term movement in design principles refers to the movement of the viewer's eyes over a composition. A designer has to learn all the tricks and hacks to thoughtfully control the movement of the eye around the composition. These hacks include designers using diagonal or curved lines to control movement and to keep the eye of the viewer occupied. Varying between intense and subtle colors is another trick with which a canvas appears to be in motion. These tricks and hacks of composition can generalize the habits of the viewer. Lines and colors act as powerful tools that can direct movement in the direction the designer would like to go.

Balance

Balance refers to the visual weight, or the effect, of the elements of the composition. Balance in a composition is classified as symmetrical balance and asymmetrical balance. The common type of balance is symmetry where some parts of a composition are mirrored to align the composition or balance each other. The other type of balance is an asymmetrical balance where an object in a composition is balanced out by an object of a different type. For example, a standing object may be balanced in the composition by white/blank space. Designers use this approach to find the right layout to make their elements work best for their composition.

Space

The term space in the design principle can be divided into positive space and negative space. They are intrinsic elements to be considered while designing as they are closely related and affect the overall balance of a composition. The space that an object of composition covers is the positive space. It is the space where a designer puts important elements of a composition. Negative space, on the other hand, is the space between the objects of a composition. Designers also refer to it as white space and it’s a crucial element for a composition. This is also closely related to the balance of a composition or a design if space is not managed properly, it can throw the composition out of balance.


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