Applying the Principles of Design

Do you ever ask yourself where to place the text, elements and objects when designing a poster, advertisement or brochure? Or do you place them where you think looks appropriate, but can’t justify why you composed your design that way? The design principles are the guidelines required to creating a successful design and provides us with a reason for placing elements within the layout.

Asymmetrical Balance:

Asymmetrical balanced designs are not mirrored on each side of the visual axis like symmetrical designs, however are still visually balanced with elements on the other side of the page. Asymmetrical balanced compositions are informal and often attract a younger target market. It is important for designers to take this into consideration whilst creating material for a younger audience. This is evident in Xavier Esclusa Trias Poster for The San Sebastián International Film Festival, called Zabaltegi.


Symmetrical Balance:

Symmetrical balanced designs create a balanced composition where the visual elements are placed on both sides of a visual axis, mirroring each other. Symmetrical compositions are formal designs that appeal mainly to a more conservative audience. As a result, we as designers should create symmetrical compositions when designing wedding invitations and formal posters for events. For example, Nate Koehler‘s wedding invitation is symmetrically balanced, as it is designed for a formal purpose.


Visual Hierarchy:

Visual Hierarchy refers to the order of importance of visual elements within a composition. It is crucial that we as designers consider hierarchy within our compositions. One mistake that is often made is making all elements on the page the same size or visual weight. This makes it harder for the viewer to establish what to look at first. The poster of the Black Swan below demonstrates how to implement visual hierarchy effectively.

Black Swans

Cropping and Scale:

It is important that designers create a visual hierarchy within their design. It is ideal to have a dominant visual element, known as the focal point. We as designers can create the focal point by incorporating the design principle, Cropping. This allows us to remove the access elements around an image and emphasise the important details.

Scale helps us designers to make sense of our design. It can be used to portray realism or to decorate the design and create a focal point. It provides the design with a sense of visual hierarchy which is important in maintaining a well balanced design.

Cropping and Scale is used in most effective designs and is portrayed clearly in the Modernist Swiss style Posters by Quinn Marin.



Contrast is the key factor to ensuring your design ‘pops!’ It refers to the visual elements in your design being in opposition of each other. This can be achieved through colours opposite on the colour wheel, the thickness of lines and different textures such as smooth and rough. We as designers can implement the principle of contrast in our work to create a dynamic design. This is evident in my design ‘Silence,’ where colour and tone are the obvious elements that contrast in the design.

Disturbing Image

Repetition and Pattern:

Repetition reinforces the visual message portrayed and allows the designer to create a focal point that draws the audience in. Repeating elements within the design will form a pattern and can be used to attract the audiences attention. However, the image does not necessarily have to be all the same size, by implementing the principle of scale and visual hierarchy, and adjusting the opacity level of the image, you the designer can subtly reinforce the message. This is observed in my design ‘He stripped away her self-worth layer by layer.’

Layer by Layer

Figure & Ground: Negative Space is the ‘space in between’

Figure and Ground is also known as positive and negative space where figure is referred to as positive space, whilst ground is known as negative space. Initially, as designers we start off with a blank page, this provides us with our ground or negative space. When we add elements to the page we are adding figure, which becomes positive space on top of the negative space.

Check out artist M.C. Escher’s was widely regarded the king path-forger of negative space! Escher created numerous tessellations that focused on one shape leading into another via figure and ground. This is evident in his woodcut print Sky & Water I.



In conclusion, there are many different design principles out there to try. Some rules may not always apply to your specific project, but implement them where you think it is appropriate, to ensure your design is successful!


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