Contrary to popular belief, graphic design isn’t just about making things look pretty or making things “pop!” There is logic behind every graphic design choice. Since graphic design is also known as visual communication, the most successful solution in graphic design isn’t always going to necessarily be the “prettiest.” What’s more important is that the intended message is delivered effortlessly. While some designers have an innate ability to distinguish what is bad or good design, most of us need a little graphic design 101 refresher. Below are six design principles to keep in mind:

Balance

Picture a balance beam. Objects of equal weight are in balance. If you have one large object on one side, you can balance it out by putting several smaller objects on the other side. Much like the balance beam example, achieving visual balance works in a very similar way. Not only do we take size into account; the visual weight (also known as value) can affect balance as well. There are three different types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial. See examples below:


Proximity

The principle of proximity states that related items should be grouped together. This grouping creates less clutter and allows for a more organized structure. In order to emphasize their differences, items unrelated should be placed noticeably further apart. This is where white space (or blue space, pink space, any color space, as long as it’s space!) plays its most important role. With the use of a proper and sufficient amount of white space, a more appealing design will emerge.


Alignment

“Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every item should have a visual connection with something else on the page.” – Robin Williams (www.ratz.com)

You need to consciously think about where to place an element, not just choose randomly. Even when aligned elements are placed far apart on a page, a visual connection is achieved. Alignment is about obtaining unity on a page, making the whole piece look cleaner.


Contrast

Dark and light, old and young, big and small. Contrast simply means the opposite or difference. The principle of contrast is one of the strongest concepts in design because it can create the most energy and visual dynamics. By creating a well-established contrast, the most important objects appear clearly defined. If all items bear the same weight, value, or size, the viewer will have a difficult time distinguishing the most essential information on the page.


Repetition and Consistency

Repetition and consistency go hand in hand. Using repetition (or pattern) in your work is the key to a consistent design. Keeping the logo and navigation in the same place, using the same color for clickable links, making headlines all the same size–all are examples of repetition you are already aware of. Where contrast is about showing differences in the design, repetition and consistency provide continuity.


Hierarchy

In this article, we spoke about establishing visual hierarchy with type. The same theory applies to objects within any visual piece. It is much easier to grasp an intricate series of information when there is a clear and distinct sense of hierarchy.

Equip yourself with these design principles, and you will soon be on your way to crafting successful solutions in your work.

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