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Design principles you must know as a designer


As a designer or freelancer, there are some rules you should follow when working on projects. These rules make it easier for you to create stunning and effective designs.

These rules are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement, and White Space.



When it comes to design there needs to be a purpose to it. In a sense, it is similar to an art piece but with design, there always needs to be a centerpiece around which everything else is placed.


The main reason you can’t just go wild when designing is because your outcome will be mudded, unfinished, or just plain ugly. Having strict rules beneath the chaos creates a sense of balance which makes the finished project more effective and stronger.


Learning about these principles will make your work strong, recognizable, and credible to your viewers.


1. Emphasis

This refers to the focal point of a design and the order of importance within the rest of the elements. For example, you are creating a poster for a concert or event. There are some important questions you need to ask yourself before you start creating: “What is the first piece of information my viewers need to know first? Is it the product? The location? The date? The Venue? The cost of attending?”



Make a timeline of importance and note these things down in chronological order. After that, you start to lay out your design following that order. The most important thing is usually in the center and clearly visible. By using the right colors and bold fonts you make it stand out.


Before you start designing anything you need to make a blueprint or a thumbnail to see how the elements look together, and if your message is clear and on point.







2. Balance and alignment


Every element you put on the design surface has its own weight which is determined by the color, size, or texture. When placing the design elements on the surface you need to be careful not to stack them together in one area. Without balance, your viewers won’t know where to look and what is important.


Symmetrical design creates balance with equally weighted elements aligned on either side or in the center line. Whereas asymmetrical design uses contrast with smaller objects around one big one. This creates a non-even composition but still has equilibrium.










3. Contrast

Using contrast to your advantage makes your design stand out and people remember it for longer. Through contrast, you create space and differences between elements in your design. Your background needs to be completely different from the color of the elements in your design.



When working with type, understanding contrast is incredibly essential because it means the weight and size of the type are balanced. If everything is in bold your audience won’t know what is important and what is not. Most designs use only one or two typefaces to excaudate the contrast. If you add more fonts, you lose the balance and confuse your audience.






4. Repetition


Repetition unifies and strengthens a design. It can be important beyond one printed product. Often packaging design is heavily imprinted with illustrated patterns. Another item for repetition is brand identity creation where you need to use the same fonts, colors, and images on various products.










5. Proportion

Proportion impacts the viewer visually by showing some elements of design to be bigger and bolder compared to other elements in the same design. It helps you to group related items together and making them important in a smaller size.



It is much similar to a small box of text at the bottom of a concert poster. That box contains all the vital information for the viewer even though it is the smallest in the whole design. Proportion can be achieved only if all elements of your design are well-sized and thoughtfully placed.



6. Movement

Movement controls the elements in a composition so that the eyes are led to move from the most important to the least important information. With movement, you create a narrative for the viewer from what is going to happen, when, how, …






The elements above all work together to create this movement. Usually, it goes from top to bottom, from left to right. If you look at a design and feel you don’t know where to look next it doesn’t have the right movement applied to it, and it needs to be fixed.













7. White space

All of the other principles deal with what elements you add to your design but sometimes your design requires of you to take some away to lessen it and minimalize it. To create a balance there needs to be white space as well. White space is the only one that specifically deals with what you don’t add. You are basically giving the composition some space to breathe.



With white space, you create hierarchy and organization. It tells the viewer that objects in one region are grouped separately from objects elsewhere. White space can communicate an entirely different image or idea from your main design that will remind your viewers to engage with it.



As a designer, you don’t have to strictly follow these rules sometimes you have to ignore one or two rules to make the design pop and stand out.


What is important to keep in mind is that in the end, your design is conveying the message it is supposed to successfully to your viewers. These principles are just basic guidelines to follow when designing so you can create great designs that will inspire others to do the same.

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