What Are the 12 Principles of Design?

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    One of the most challenging aspects of having a discussion about design principles is likely going to be trying to determine how many different design principles there are. And once that is determined, which of these purportedly fundamental design elements ought to be incorporated?

    If you type "principles of design" into Google's search bar, the internet giant will provide you with links to articles that contain five or more distinct design principles. Even the articles that arrive at the same conclusion regarding the total number of items do not always arrive at the same conclusion regarding the items that ought to be included in that total.

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    In point of fact, there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of a dozen essential design principles that designers of all experience levels ought to keep in mind while they are working on the various projects they are responsible for. These principles include: Additionally, there is an additional group of about a dozen "secondary" design principles that are occasionally included as fundamentals. These principles are sometimes referred to as "fundamentals" (for example, the Gestalt Principles, typography, colour, and framing). The following sections will provide a breakdown of the primary design principles as well as illustrations of their application.

    Basic Design Principles

    The design community does not really have a consensus on what the primary principles of design actually are, which is something that has already been brought up. Having said that, the twelve guiding principles that will be covered in this article are the ones that appear in the greatest number of articles and books that are devoted to the subject.


    By carefully arranging elements like lines, colours, values, textures, forms, and space within the composition, one can create a composition that is harmonious and well-balanced. There are three distinct types of equilibrium, namely formal equilibrium, also known as symmetrical balance, informal equilibrium, also known as asymmetrical balance, and radial balance. Both sides of a formal balance, also known as a symmetrical balance, have the same amount of weight. An informal balance, also known as an asymmetrical balance, is one that has a different amount of weight on each side. This type of balance is used to maintain equilibrium. A radial balance is a type of circular balance that keeps its equilibrium by moving outward from a central point. Radial balances are also known as radial circular balances.

    The proportional distribution of the elements' relative visual weight within the composition is what is meant when we speak of "balance" in compositional terms. When one looks at the painting, one gets the impression that it is solid and "just feels right." When there is a lack of equilibrium, the viewer will feel uneasy about the situation.

    There are three distinct ways to achieve equilibrium, and they are as follows:

    A piece of writing is said to have symmetry when both of its halves, or sides, are made up of the same components and are organised in the same way. This is analogous to how a mirror image or the two sides of a face are both identical.

    A compositional method known as asymmetry involves contrasting one or more of the artwork's components in order to create a sense of equilibrium within the overall work. To create a sense of equilibrium within a piece of artwork, for example, one side of the composition might feature a large circle, while the other side might feature a small square.

    Radial symmetry is a type of symmetry in which the components are evenly spaced around a central point, much like how the spokes on a bicycle tyre radiate out from the hub of the wheel. This type of symmetry can be found in a number of different geometric patterns.

    Every element of the design — including but not limited to typography, colour, image, shape, and pattern — is given an appropriate amount of visual weight. Although there are some components that are substantial and draw attention to themselves, there are also others that are more subtle. The way in which these elements are laid out on the page should give the impression of harmony and equilibrium.

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    The utilisation of emphasis allows for the establishment of dominance as well as subordination in the fields of design and painting. It is possible for certain major objects, shapes, or colours to dominate a picture if they take up a larger portion of the space that is available, have a greater volume, or have a darker coloration than the objects, shapes, and colours that are subordinate to them. It is essential to achieve a balance between the components that hold a dominant position and those that hold a subordinate position.

    When an artist makes a section of the composition that is visually dominant and commands the viewer's attention, they are said to have emphasised that section of the composition. Emphasis can also refer to the process of creating a visually dominant section of the composition. The use of contrast is a common method for accomplishing this.


    The term "movement" refers to the manner in which a design or picture makes use of elements such as lines, colours, values, textures, forms, and space to carry or direct the eye of the viewer from one part of the design or picture to another part of the design or picture. Movement can be achieved in a variety of ways. Movement is introduced into the piece of artwork as a direct consequence of the manner in which the artist manipulates the structural elements that are a part of the design. In most instances, motion is generated as a result of the configuration of the shapes.

    Movement can be created in a piece of artwork by arranging its various components in such a way that they direct the focus of the viewer's gaze around and within the image. This gives the impression that the image is moving. Whether they are real or implied, diagonal or curvy lines, edges, the illusion of space, repetition, and energetic mark-making are all ways that a sense of movement can be created in a piece of artwork. This sense of movement can be achieved in a number of different ways.

    Variety and contrast

    When creating a design, an artist will use the tools and techniques of their trade to add variety and depth to the composition. The juxtaposition of contrasting colours, textures, and patterns in the artwork contributes to the piece's overall sense of interest. The addition of colour highlights to the corners or edges of certain shapes can be used to increase the contrast that exists within those shapes.

    By incorporating a variety of elements into the design, one can generate visual interest. A lack of variety in the design runs the risk of becoming very tedious very quickly, which can cause the user to lose interest in the product, which would be unfortunate. It is possible to generate variety by making use of a wide range of design elements, including colour, typography, images, shapes, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.

    Having said that, it is a waste of time to have a variety of things just for the sake of having a variety of things. Variety is required to provide support for the other elements of a design, and it should be used in conjunction with those elements to produce an end result that is more interesting and aesthetically pleasing. This, in turn, improves the experience that the user has.

    What Are the 12 Principles of Design?


    The design process can be simplified quite a bit if the designer takes the time to familiarise themselves with proportion. To put it another way, it refers to the degree to which one thing dominates another in terms of size. Using proportion, one can figure out which aspects of a design are significant and which are not by comparing them. Larger elements are more important, smaller elements less.

    The term "proportion" refers to the relationship between the dimensions of one element of an artwork and the dimensions of the other elements. The use of a proportion is one method that artists can employ to communicate balance, as well as emphasis, distance, and efficient utilisation of space.

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    Contrast refers to the difference that exists between the elements that make up an artistic composition in such a way that each element becomes more powerful in relation to the other. When two contrasting elements are placed in close proximity to one another, they command the attention of the viewer. The eye of the viewer is drawn to areas of contrast in a composition almost immediately after it has been drawn to other parts of the composition. A contrast can be produced by putting together any two of art's many different elements and seeing how they interact with one another. The utilisation of both positive and negative space is an illustration of contrast. A good illustration of contrast would be two rows of colours that are opposite one another and placed next to one another. The word "notan" is a great example of contrast because of how it contrasts with other words.

    People have a tendency to pay more attention to brighter colours because, in the same way that larger components are thought to be more significant than smaller components, people tend to pay more attention to brighter colours. Darker hues, on the other hand, receive less attention overall. For example, drawing attention to a single sentence within a larger body of text by highlighting it in a vivid colour causes it to immediately capture the attention of readers. This can be done in a number of different ways.

    Take a look at the illustration that's located at the top of the page. Notice how it was able to attract the attention of a much larger number of people after the natural tones were highlighted with neon colours? This type of colour scheme is known as a duotone, and it is becoming a trend that is increasingly popular in web design. It is possible to use the effect, which consists of layering two colours that contrast with one another over a photograph, to create striking designs that appear to jump off the page or screen.

    It is possible to make use of a spectrum that has a scale that is more gradual, but colours that contrast extremely strongly with one another can also be used to draw attention to particular aspects. If you place a red object against a background that is green or black, people will pay more attention to it than if you place the same red object against a background that is orange or purple.

    The colour schemes that are utilised in a design and the manner in which they are related to one another are referred to as the design's colour scheme. The colour scheme also refers to the manner in which the colour schemes are related to one another. The colour scheme that a designer selects for a project not only has the potential to bring unity, harmony, rhythm, and balance to the creation, but it also has the potential to bring about contrast and emphasis in the work that is produced.

    If a design makes excessive use of colours that contrast with one another, it will frequently give the impression of being disorganised and incoherent. [Case in point:] [Case in point:] Designs that make use of a colour scheme that does not comply with accepted principles of colour theory are susceptible to the same criticism. To choose the colour scheme that will produce the best results, on the other hand, requires a great deal more consideration than simply selecting a monochromatic, complementary, or tetradic combination at random.

    In a design, elements that are related to one another can be grouped together by using colours that are similar to one another. Additionally, the choice of colours can even imply distance and weight. Warmer colours like red and yellow have a tendency to move forwards into the foreground of a design that has a dark background, while cooler colours like blue and green have a tendency to move further into the background. The opposite effect takes place when a pattern is placed on top of a light background: Cool colours, such as blue and green, appear closer than warm colours do. Exactly how it seems to a person who is looking at it with their unaided eyes.

    Because of this, the colours that are utilised can have a significant impact on the degree to which viewers are able to differentiate an object or figure from the background of an illustration or design. One can create depth, which is analogous to the way perspective works, by combining colours that are warm and colours that are cool.

    When it comes to making successful colour combinations, the location of each hue on the colour wheel is important; however, the warmth of the hue and its contrast with the colours that surround it are also very important factors.

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    Unity is achieved when all of the component parts and guiding principles work together in a manner that is cohesive. Every component that makes up the whole ought to be connected to the others in some way. To achieve the desired effect and convey the intended meaning as a whole, it is imperative that they complement one another effectively.

    Unity/Variety You want your painting to have a sense of unity, so that all of the elements can live in harmony with one another and still look like they belong together. Anarchy is the natural result of a lack of diversity, while boredom is the result of an abundance of unity. Both are necessary for you to do. In addition to places where the viewer's eye can rest, you should make it a goal to incorporate areas of interest into the composition you are creating.

    Everyone has experienced viewing a website or another type of design that appears to have thrown elements on a page with no regard for how they worked together with the other elements that were displayed on the page. The fact that newspaper advertisements typically use ten distinct fonts is the first thing that comes to mind in this context.

    The degree to which the various aspects of the design are able to function harmoniously with one another is referred to as "unity." When creating a design, it is critical to ensure that the connections between the many different visual elements are crystal clear. In addition, having unity helps to ensure that ideas are conveyed in a manner that is both clear and consistent throughout the organisation. Designs that have a strong sense of unity give the impression that they are better organised, of higher quality, and more authoritative than designs that have a weak sense of unity. This is because designs that have a strong sense of unity share a common aesthetic and aesthetic goals.


    Rhythm can be said to exist when movement is only suggested by the repeated use of visual elements in a manner that is both non-uniform and organised. This kind of movement is referred to as "visual pulsing." It is related in some way to a rhythm that is utilised in different types of music. Contrary to pattern, which requires uniformity at all times, rhythm is dependent on changes in the musical material.


    The pattern is the consistent repetition of any one of the constituent parts of art, or any combination of those parts. This can be done in a variety of ways. Almost anything can be turned into a pattern with enough practise and practised enough times. Traditional patterns include things like spirals, grids, and weaves, to name a few examples. Examples of different kinds of patterns and patterns themselves can be found in the Artlandia Glossary of Pattern Design. [Citation needed] Drawing Zentangles, an art form in which an abstract or representational outline is divided into different areas, each of which contains a unique pattern, has recently gained popularity as a practise. Zentangles can be drawn in either a representational or abstract manner.


    What Are the 12 Principles of Design?

    Rule of space

    When it comes to visual composition, one of the most fundamental principles concerns the elements that are omitted from a design. This is because the elements that are omitted help create a more balanced composition. Adhering to the "Rule of Space" dictates that an aesthetically pleasing design must contain an adequate amount of negative space that is free of clutter and is commonly referred to as "white space." This is true regardless of the colour that is actually used for the background of the design.

    When arranging the components of a composition, designers have the ability to make use of the empty space around the content to either direct the attention of the viewer to specific elements—think of a single element on a blank page—or send an entirely different visual message, such as the "arrow" that is concealed within the iconic FedEx logo.

    Because it helps to develop patterns of page-scanning, strategic spacing can even be used to guide the reader's eyes in a predetermined path across the page. This is accomplished by minimising the amount of white space between the lines of text.

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    White Space

    White space, also referred to as "negative space," is the term used to describe the areas of a design that do not contain any design elements and are therefore denoted by the absence of those elements. White space is synonymous with "negative space." One could say that space is devoid of anything; this is a valid statement.

    A great number of inexperienced designers feel the pressure to fill every pixel with some kind of "design," and as a result, they fail to recognise the significance of white space in their work. White space, on the other hand, helps a design achieve a number of important objectives, the most important of which is to give the various components of the design some room to move around and breathe. Additionally, with the help of negative space, particular pieces of content or aspects of a design can be brought to the forefront of attention.

    In addition to this, there is a possibility that it will make the distinctions between the various elements of the design more clear. Typography that uses both uppercase and lowercase letters is easier to read than typography that only uses uppercase letters. This is because the negative space around lowercase letters is more varied. People find it simpler to read and comprehend text that is written entirely in lowercase letters because these letters are more intuitive.

    Page-scanning patterns

    The distinct patterns that readers adhere to when they scan pages can be deduced through the use of eye movement analysis. As they read, they will notice these patterns repeating. The majority of the time, when designers want audiences to notice elements in a particular order, they will rely on the most common patterns in order to achieve the results they want in order to achieve what they want.

    People who were born and brought up in the United States, for instance, learn to read from the left to the right. When presented with a page of text, they display a pattern of scanning that is, as a consequence, typically quite similar to the pattern exhibited by one another. On the other hand, written Arabic is done so that it progresses from right to left across the page. People who are accustomed to reading that language have a greater tendency to scan pages in this "opposite" direction than people who don't read that language very often. When designing content to be consumed by people all over the world, designers have a responsibility to keep these differences in mind.


    The F pattern is the most common way that readers of English move their eyes around the page. The pattern is named after the letter F. Why? Simply because this is the way that most things, including books, letters, and web pages, are typically read by most people. We begin at the top left corner of the page and work our way down, reading each line of text in turn from left to right until we reach the bottom of the page. This continues until we reach the end of the text.

    Because of this natural tendency, websites and other types of illustrations that rely heavily on text make excellent candidates for the F pattern. Designers use it so frequently because it is such a good fit for these types of illustrations. Because most of us find it difficult to read in a direction that is opposite to what we are used to, reading can be awkward when done in the opposite direction.


    The composition of designs that rely more heavily on images frequently makes use of patterns in the shape of a Z. [Case in point:] [Case in point:] A quick scan of a page can be accomplished by looking left to right across the top of the page, then diagonally down the page, and finally back across the page from left to right to complete the process. This is a possibility because the brain processes images more quickly than it does text, which makes this a possibility (or right to left if the audience typically reads in that direction).

    Designers are able to direct the viewer's attention to specific elements of a composition by positioning them in such a way that they coincide with the well-known "Z" eye-movement pattern. This causes the viewer to focus on those elements. Take into consideration an image, a heading, and a subheading all at the same time.

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    Hierarchy is yet another essential design principle that plays a direct role in determining how quickly users of a website can process the various types of content that the website presents to them. The components of a design can be arranged in a hierarchical structure using hierarchy. A design's "significance" can be understood as the importance of the design's "individual components," as this term indicates. The aspects (or the content) that are most significant should be presented in such a way that they appear to be the most significant overall.

    When creating a design, making use of titles and headings enables the most direct and understandable representation of hierarchy that is possible. The title of a page ought to be accorded the utmost significance, and as a result, it ought to be easily identifiable as the component of a page that bears the most weight. [Case in point:] [Case in point:] [Case in point:] [Case in point:] When formatting the headings and subheadings in a document, the importance of the elements should be reflected, not only in relation to one another but also in relation to the title of the document and the body copy of the document.


    The process of repeating an idea is an efficient method for ensuring that one will remember it. It is also an excellent method for unifying a design that incorporates a wide variety of components into one cohesive whole. This can be accomplished by using it in the way described above. It is possible to achieve the effect of repetition in a design in a variety of ways, including by reusing the same colours, typefaces, shapes, or other components. One of the most common techniques, however, is to simply repeat the same element multiple times.

    For example, the structure of the headings in this article uses repetition in a number of different places, which you can see in the examples below. In this section, the presentation of each design principle is the same as that of the other principles; this sends the message to readers that all of the principles are of equal importance and that they are connected in some way. Utilizing headings that are consistent throughout helps bring together on the page the various components that make up the whole.

    The question of what, precisely, should be considered "basic" design principles is one that has been, and will continue to be, the subject of much debate. However, in order for any design project to be successful, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the aforementioned design principles and to put those principles into practise.

    It is essential for designers to have a thorough comprehension of how each of these design principles can be implemented in the work that they do. Studying the ways in which other designers have implemented these ideas into the structure of their own designs can be helpful in expediting the process of learning how to create designs that are of a higher quality. This is a method that can be of great assistance.

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    It is not completely essential to have a comprehensive understanding of all of these design principles and elements in order to produce a design that is of high quality, but it certainly helps. On the other hand, this is typically accomplished based on what is referred to as the "designer's intuition." It is possible that it will be necessary to conduct a significant amount of experimentation in order to create something that not only has a pleasing appearance but also offers the user the best possible experience that can be had with it. If designers were to simply practise the principles that we have discussed here until they became second nature to them, they might be able to cut down on a significant amount of time and effort spent on their projects.


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