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Understanding the 5 Principles of Design

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Graphic design is a skill many employers value nowadays. Whether it’s for a website, advertisement, logo or business card, there’s a constant need to produce work to the highest quality. This is where *drumroll please* the principles of design come in. When you, the designer, need to create something, these principles become super important. They are the guidelines you follow to make your work visually appealing to the people who are looking at it. Your job as the designer is to evoke a feeling, idea or concept through visuals and that’s exactly what these principles will help you do.

So, for those of you who are new around here, there are five main ones. Hierarchy, balance, contrast, repetition and space. These are the principles that graphic designers follow in order to create a seamless and effective visionary to optimise the design’s form. They’ll make your work simply extraordinary.

The Principles

Hierarchy

When you’ve got multiple aspects to a design, you want to make sure that your most important message is holding visual weight. This is where hierarchy comes into play. Hierarchy refers to the importance of specific elements on a page, which can be done in several different ways. You could use a bold, larger font for your main message, or you could place the message at the top of the page so it’s higher up. The most important part of a design (such as the heading or an image) always needs to hold a higher visual hierarchy than secondary elements (such as text or contact info).

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Balance

The way you lay everything out on the page should create this feeling of balance. In design language, balance refers to the relationship between elements on a page on a vertical or horizontal axis. There are two ways you can create balance. Balance to create a sense of order or intentionally unbalance to give the design an abstract or playful feel. This either provides stability and structure or creates disharmony between elements. It’ll depend on the type of design you’re going for that will determine the composition but ultimately, it’s all about helping guide the viewer down or across the page in a meaningful way.

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Contrast

Contrast is the most effective way to create impact and emphasis in design. Contrast is first created when two opposites come together – light and dark, big and small, vertical and horizontal. It works hand in hand with hierarchy and is used to create a focal point within the design. It gives the reader a visual idea of where to look first and what the most important element on the page is.

Note: Sometimes poor contrast can make text difficult to read, especially for those who are visually impaired. Keep that in mind when working on your next design.

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Repetition

Repetition refers to the repeating of an icon or design element. It also, however, can refer to the subtle repetition (but not complete copy) within a design. Repeating colours, fonts and shapes bring together the entire look and feel of your design, and help your audience remember your brand. This brings to life the idea that different elements of a design belong in the same family. For example, the fifth and tenth page of a magazine should always look like they come from the same design, but not necessarily be a copy of one another. Repetition is crucial in order to create a cohesive, established design. It’s a great way to put emphasis on an idea.

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Space

Space refers to the area within, around, above or below an element in the design. Space can be defined as positive or negative and is an essential component to understand as it affects the overall balance of the design. Just to clarify, positive space refers to the actual space your main subject is positioned in whereas negative space refers to the space that surrounds your subject. Your use of space can create an effective visual design. Having too much space can leave the design feeling empty and lacking substance, while having too little space can create a busy and overwhelming look. It really depends on your intended outcome and the feeling you’re wanting to evoke within your audience, but positive and negative space will always play a big role.

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We’re sure you’ve noticed by now that all of these elements stand together. They act in unison to create visually appealing work and once you start recognizing this, you’ll see the bigger picture. There are plenty more design principles out there, but for now, these are the main ones you should get yourself familiar with. Now that you’ve seen what makes a good design, why not have a go at incorporating these principles yourself?

If you find yourself needing some professional help, we’ve got a team of fabulous graphic designers that do this on the daily. So, if you’re wanting to take your brand to the next level, get in touch with us here at picos and we’ll take the next best steps to do so.

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