Principles of Design

Focal Point

Every design needs a focal point - an object, text or photo that becomes the center of attention. The focal point should be the most important thing you want to express. They are vital to anchoring the design and giving a place for the viewer to start. They establish the visual hierarchy. There should only be one focal point per design, page or screen. If there are two - then there isn't really even one.


Contrast are elements that different and juxtaposed. Whether you create it through contrasting colors, shapes, type, or patterns, contrast is the eye candy. It is what keeps the viewer engaged and interested in the design. It keeps them from getting bored. Contrast is the flavor, the spice, the sizzle.


Balance refers to making sure each side of a design has equal substance. Like a seesaw, you need some on one side and some on the other. If everything is on one side than it doesn't work. Balancing the visual weight of a design is pleasing to the eye and is calming to the viewer. Achieve balance by countering a heavy, dominating object with lots of airy white space.


Movement refers to the way the design works to move the viewer's eye around. Movement is created with color, lines, shapes, textures and patterns. Most designs work by capturing the eye at one corner and leading it to the opposite. It gets the reader to look at the whole design and take in all of the information.


Strategically repeating elements work together to create a unified design and give life to it. Repeating colors, fonts, layouts and other elements help guide the eye to other similar elements.


The sense of movement and depth. Perspective creates relief and a sense of movement into the distance. Perspective is created by changing the distance of the horizon line, changing the size and scale of an object, by using linear perspective to create a vanishing point, or by using differing values and colors to create atmospheric perspective.


The togetherness of a design. It needs to look cohesive - whether you achieve that through consistent colors, typefaces, layouts or graphic elements. Mastering the elements and principles will allow you to create one cohesive design.