Read these 11 Principles of Design Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Graphic Design tips and hundreds of other topics.
Repetition is used in design mainly for pattern. Various samples can be found in wallpaper, stencil designs, and textiles. This principle is one you might use in your graphic design to offer contrast or a visual pattern to your work; however, overuse of this imagery may lead to a boring product for your client. Use this principle sparingly, and it will have greater impact.
Unity in design happens when the form and content supports the goal or idea of your message. A "successful graphic designer" really means "a planner with a visual message that is clearly understood." Use the principle of unity to pull every element to portray the message you want to send.
You can balance the elements of design by symmetry (equal balance/formal) or asymmetry (not centered or equal/informal). Asymmetry can be a very powerful tool for "tension" to create a mood of unrest or unease. You can use a combination of the two forms of balance to create a visual "dialogue." Approximate symmetry is in a slight divergence between formal and informal balance. An example of approximate symmetry is a human face.
Rhythm or motion in visual images is an illusion. You can blur an image (sfumato) or twist or shift the weight of a figure (contrapposto) to give a still image the force of movement. Use line, shape, value and perspective to help the image along. Repetition is also a tool for rhythm. Use planned or random color, lines, value and texture to create patterns. Also regular, irregular, and progressive rhythms of repetition of colors, shapes, and lines create rhythm.
I've included movement, for those of you interested in web design and film. Basically, movement or motion is implied through repetition or pattern, or other illusions of movement. In web, animation provides movement, which also implies repetition (the animation is time lined to repeat patterns). Movement in film and web is also an illusion. The movement is actually many clips of an action that appear to move smoothly in motion.
You don't need whirling dervishes or spinning globes on your web site (just try it in print!) to imply motion. Motion in visual images is an illusion. You can blur an image (sfumato) or twist or shift the weight of a figure (contrapposto) to give a still image the force of movement. Use line, direction and dimension to help the image along.
Contrast in design is unavoidable. As soon as you add an element to a blank page or screen, you've created contrast. So you can create contrast with any element and within any principle of design. Use two different typefaces - sans serif for the heading and serif for the text. Use smooth against rough, as in metal and brick in architecture. Use thick against thin, hot against cold color, bright against dull. Use contrast with drama or with a subtle hand, but above all - don't let it detract from the message.
In the English-speaking world, our eyes are trained to take in a page the way we read - from top left to bottom right. If the direction of your objects takes the viewer's eye from top right to bottom left and back up again (an "X" or "Z" pattern), then you've done your job.
The use of several images in an ad or a web page can often get muddled and confusing. This is because your images need direction. Direction can be vertical, diagonal or curved. The job of the graphic designer is to keep the viewer's eyes on the page in order for them to take in the information. Having too much information on your page can not only be distracting, but may lose your viewer.
Do you have a lot of content? Is it necessary? Then KISS on the direction of your design (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!).
The element of line as a grid can be a strong force in creating unity within your design. You don't have to stay within the grid. Using the grid, you can decide how to pull together all the elements and principles of your design. The placement of the elements within your design, along with the use of the principles of design is paramount to achieving unity. Unity and balance are important "buddies" in defining how much contrast to use in your design.