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What Are Principles Of Design

What Are Principles Of Design


What Are Principles Of Design

by Chris Kincaid

I write a lot of articles about what design is and how to go about creating design that works. I often talk about the elements of design like color, line, etc. You can have all of the right elements in design and still go terribly wrong. And that's because you need to know how to apply the elements of design. What a person "does" with design is, or should be, an artful application. Here I define design principles so that designers can make the most of them. Note that this is the base of design work. The more you can do with this information, the better and more successful your designs will be.

The first design principle we should define is balance. Basically, design elements like color or shape need to counter each other in way that equals out. The best way to understand it is to use examples. A little mark close to a border will counter a big mark in the middle of a design area. The same is true for light and dark. The darker the shape, the heavier it appears, so make sure to balance your lights and darks accordingly.

The principle of gradation refers to the size and direction to produce a linear perspective. For example, gradation of color from warm to cool will produce an aerial perspective. The same is true for tones going from dark to light. Gradation will add appeal and a sense of movement to a shape. Dark to light gradation will cause the eye to move along a shape.

Repetition is a fairly simple concept in terms of design. Repetition with some variation is appealing. Repetition without variation will be irritating or boring. It's tricky to pull off a good design with repetition done well and most beginners do little of it.

Contrast refers to the positioning of opposing elements. For example, using colors opposite one another on the color wheel, like red and green or purple and yellow, provide a great contrast. Contrasting tones would be light vs. dark. Contrasting lines would be horizontal vs. vertical. The most contrast should be at the focal point of your design piece. Too much contrast a bad thing, and can crush unity, so choose carefully.

Harmony is similar to contrast because it deals with how elements interact with each other, but instead of opposing elements working together, harmony is about adjacent elements working together. Examples are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel or ovals next to circles. Harmony gives subtlety and depth to design.

I like to refer to the principle dominance as the oomph of design. Dominance equals emphasis. You may have two contrasting or harmonizing elements, but one of them will take over the other if just a little bit. Make sure you choose the dominating element carefully as it will be the focal point in design.

The connecting or centering design principle is unity. Unity is defined as how the concept is expressed in all elements of the design. So, if the concept is aggression, go with dominant harmonizing colors, jagged lines, and rough texture. If the concept is purity, go with lots of white space or little tonal contrast, few or wavy lines, smooth textures.

About the Author:
Chris Kincaid is a twenty year marketing professional and writes extensively on business including local topics such as graphic design in Michigan and Ann Arbor web design.

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