13+ Fundamental Design Principles Every Designers Should Know

The design principles are the rules a professional or designer must follow to create an effective and appealing composition. The Fundamental principles of design are. Visually, this functionality is interpreted by ensuring the image is a center of attraction and focus. Maybe you think that design is all about creativity.

If you are a startup business entrepreneur or a designer, you might want everything in your design and might want to combine the first five fonts and colors that easily get your attention, believing you are creating something new and fresh. You will probably find yourself with a design that is not completed, or well designed, is ugly. Thus, like any discipline, graphic design adheres to strict rules and regulations that work beneath the surface to make the work balanced and stable. If the design is missing that stability and balance, it will be weak and ineffective.

Therefore, in this article, we’ve collected more than 13 fundamental design principles that every designer must know to make a web design look pleasing and attract more traffic.

13 Fundamental Design Principles

Unity 

Unity is one of the significant goals of web design instead of just design principles. But, technically, it also belongs on this list of design principles. Also, if your design follows all the other design principles on this list, you’ll surely be able to achieve unity, so don’t overthink.

13 Fundamental Design Principles: Unity example - infographic template from designAC
Source: designAC

Many people think unity in design principles is harmony and comparison with the right. If you have not been too lucky to hear music, you might question your sanity; you have already understood how lacking unity in design can worsen your web design.

It is crucial to understand that harmony or unity does not mean uniformity. Instead, several ways ensure that a design’s many components operate well together. 

A good infographic example to achieve unity is when it repeats a visual metaphor or theme throughout the page. In this example, you can see the content is scientific, so the elements are perfectly fit for each other. Other design principles in play include contrast( blues vs red), rhythm and movement(dotted lines direct the eye), and repetition. In addition to the theme, the elements of the science-related image, like bubbles and test tubes, repeat. We all know that ensuring unity on a single page is much easier than across numerous pages. That is why it is essential to use design principles to create unity in printed items with multiple pages, like this brochure on this link.

Emphasis

Emphasis helps guide the visitor’s eye. It tells the visitors where they should pay attention first. Sometimes also said to be dominance, emphasis allows viewers of the web design to get drawn to key elements. Emphasis creation in a small design like the following one-stat infographic can be simple. You can use the emphasis on design principles, among others, to draw attention to key materials and ensure that visuals follow the other design principles like balance, hierarchy, and proportion. 

13 Fundamental Design Principles: examples of emphasis pattern movement and contrast
Source: Tvesha Shah

This design principle is important because humans are naturally distractible, and our attention can simultaneously be drawn to many places. Without the emphasis on design principles, our eyes wouldn’t know where to look and what information the designer or business owners feel is most important. Therefore, using emphasis creates a mental shortcut, so to speak. This helps ensure the information is easy to understand and sticky, remaining on the mind of the web design mind for longer than if all elements were given the same weight.

Rhythm

Rhythm in design means the consistent application of elements in a way that can advise patterns, movements, or actions. Repetition and movement, two design concepts I’ll discuss shortly, go nicely with rhythm. Similar to repetition, rhythm gives images a sense of movement.

Design Principle Rhythm example retro patterns illustAC
Source: illustAC

Additionally, rhythm conveys vitality in a design combined with movement. Recall how we discussed the importance of harmony and unity in music. The same is true with rhythm. In design, rhythm can also appear repetitive or arbitrary, just like in music. A design rhythm can be found in a variety of ways.

By repeating more than one specific element in a web design you can create an alternating rhythm. Or you can also create a random rhythm by repeating elements in no specific patterns, like this infographic. Look how their rhythm fell to the design despite no particular patterns. The designer has made an alternative between four main colors, i.e., dark blue, yellow and white; also, there is no rule for the order of colors.

Contrast

The design principles concept, contrast, describes using visually different elements. Contrast can draw the viewer’s eye to a focus point, emphasize significant information, offer variation or even drama to a design and grab their attention. It can effectively emphasize a design’s message when paired with other concepts like closeness.

image 81
Source: Song Hojong

Applying contrast is simple in theory. All you have to do to create contrast is use elements that are opposite or different from each other: color, size, shape, texture, value, etc. But in actuality, it’s a little more challenging. It’s not always evident whether to apply contrast and which elements to oppose. This handbook fills that need.

Simply saying, this design principle, i.e., contrast, helps one get the message of your design across. It helps to draw attention to the essential visual elements in a web design, making precise what viewers would pay attention to first and foremost. Also, contrast; design principles help for a visually pleasing design. After all, if everything were matching, the design would be boring. But add some contrast, and you will likely gather more traffic and delight your audience.

Proximity

In visual, design principles of proximity develop intuitive connections between graphics, text, and other elements in a composition. Because the rain is more likely to perceive nearby elements as related, designers use proximity design principles to convey details, establish connections and create a visually pleasing composition.

All elements in a composition must be close to one another for proximity to use in visual design. Placing all elements in the frame, including headings, body text, graphics, photos, illustrations, symbols, shapes, and so forth, depends on proximity to help the reader understand the content.

Our brain makes thousands of decisions daily, many of which aren’t evident to us. Proximity is one of the most crucial design principles because it relies on the brain’s capacity for easy decision-making. Proximity can often override other design principles or aspects of visual processing. Proximity is another vital bridge to other design principles, including balance and hierarchy.

Without knowing why proximity matters and how strong a tool is, it would be impossible to create a design that would make sense to a viewer. What does that mean? It means knowing that proximity makes readers understand at a glance that all-caps headings go with the information closest to them; also, there is no hierarchy in these design principles, which would make the infographic overwhelming. Without proximity, the icons and the text in the first part of the infographic could be completely imbalanced.

Repetition

Using identical or similar elements throughout the design means repetition. It is one of the best ways to achieve hierarchy, movement, rhythm, and unity. This design principle is often used for patterns, shapes, headings, and lines. Repetition is one of the easiest and most renowned design principles to use in design. It’s wise to have a soft touch in design when repeating visual elements.

Design Principle Rhythm example back and white seamless patterns illustAC
Source: illustAC

Variety

There is a famous saying that variety is the spice of life. And, of course, it also spices up the design. But as with spices, a little variety goes a long way. Appropriately used variety in shapes, colors, typography, and more can keep the reader or viewers from visually tuning out the content.

Note that not every design principle needs to hit you over the head. In these examples, the basic illustrations of each type of beer with a subtle color change provide visual variety while perfectly illustrating the details contained.

Alignment

Alignment is all about how elements are related to each other on a page. Keeping tabs on how all elements are aligned can help you ensure ideal proximity of related elements, repetition, the hierarchy of items, white space, and many more.

The infographic should showcase how alignment can help the reader understand information. In the chart, align the graphs’ bars to the left makes it easy to connect with the data. And the bottom section represents how aligning the icons with the text below them makes each of them contain pieces of information. For visual consistency, the two section headings are aligned with each other.

Proportion

Proportion, also called scale, refers to the relative size of all the elements on the page, including graphics, text, patterns, and more. Always remember that changing one element’s proportion to another makes it appear more or less critical. It also affects the dominance of that element in the design overall. Your business card template should be a perfect example of how you can use proportion to shift the focus from more dominant elements. In this case, the striking photos in the card’s background should take the limelight. But in reality, it carries the same weight as the photographer’s name, which stands out in the large font size on the front card.

White Space

One of the 14 fundamental design concepts is “white space,” which describes any blank or empty area around all other items of a design composition. It is the area that users may see on a page or screen between text, images, buttons, and other elements.

White space, also renowned as negative space, can be categorized based on its size and placement in a particular design. Active white space is when extra space is used on purpose to draw attention to specific items.

White space is one of the most renowned and important elements in any design and has many advantages when used properly. A white space bot separates and groups elements in a design that shows how factors are related and helps viewers easily grab visual information. Using white space, one of the essential design principles to separate block text makes content easier to read. It helps to enhance the readability and legibility of the content and hence tributes to increased comprehension.

White space in website design encourages visual hierarchy and makes it simple for people to reach the data they’re looking for. White space around headers, headlines, buttons, and navigation menus can drive customers to act right away.

Using white space ensures that design elements and empty areas are distributed equally and proportionally. Balance and a sense of visual hierarchy or order result in an attractive design and improve the user experience. It also contributes to a design’s overall unity.

Hierarchy

The hierarchy of an element is how it is related to other items. As a result, it has to do with alignment, emphasis, and proportion. The important thing to remember is that visual hierarchy helps establish a design’s order of importance. Size typically denotes hierarchy. There are a few more, more subtle ways to establish hierarchy, but generally, the most significant parts in your design should occupy the most space.

The hierarchy must be well-established. The cascading size of the text and the different colors and shapes help the viewer process what they are looking at.

Movement

Movement helps the eye shift naturally from one element to another, down the page. Design principles like rhythm, repetition, and hierarchy create movement. If you apply these essential design principles to a design, the eye will flow through a composition. Look at infographic that uses a motif-appropriate set of pet footprints to create obvious movements down the page, taking the viewers from one pet to another. And the series of numbers in circles establishes natural but less obvious movements, as the viewers know intuitively that another number will follow.

Balance

One of the fundamental concepts of design is balance. It refers to how elements are arranged and given visual weight in a composition. An equilibrium-filled design is naturally aesthetically beautiful and exudes stability.

But don’t let the phrase “equilibrium” mislead you. Every element need not be given the same weight in a balanced design. Instead, it simply means that everything cooperates to create a unified whole, with no one element overwhelming the design.

image 80
Source: Typographic Balance

Generally, an asymmetrical balance is the most visually satisfying thing. There is a saying that symmetrical, balanced designs have their time and place, and these types of the design appear to feel stable. It can be an excellent decision for formal documents or straightforward designs where each element has equal importance. A lack of balance in design refers to individual elements overpowering one another and competing for attention or dominating the page. Too much contrast might clutter or block text. But the lack of balance causes a sense of tension, resulting in a design that’s not so visually pleasing.

Other Various Design Principles

These mentioned principles of design can also be found in various articles. These include colors, alignment and grid, shape, framing, typography, and so on. Among these, some surely fit the definition of principles, while others are more like the elements of design.

Typography means the way the text is arranged in a design. This includes the fonts used, size and weight, their spacing, and how different text elements relate. A good typography is influenced by all the other design principles mentioned in this article at the top.

Good typography example design principle
Source: Sarah Fottner

Using color in design is one of the most psychologically essential parts of a design and greatly influences user experience. Color theory and psychology heavily influence some of the other design principles mentioned above.

Grid and alignment are closely related to balance, design principles and refer to the way elements fit in relation to an invisible grid on the page.

Farming means how the main subject of the design is placed in relation to other elements on the page.

The shape is another important part of a web design, in terms of particular shapes used as elements within the web design and the overall shape of the design itself. These design principles or elements are essential aspects of good design and should be considered with other basic principles to develop the best user experience.

Conclusion

Understanding the principles of design is essential for the success of any design project. Designers know and need to understand how these individual design principles make an impact in their work to create better designs.

It is possible to create a perfect design without having the knowledge of these elements and design principles. However, it is done by the designer’s intuition and might take lots of trial and error in the process of creating something that appeals to visitors and creates an optimal user experience. Therefore, designers can save time, effort and energy by understanding the principles we’ve discussed in this article.

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