Design principles are biases, guidelines, and other considerations that serve as fundamental pieces of advice for designers.
The principles themselves are the result of the accumulated knowledge and experience of professionals from areas such as physics, sociology, ergonomics, and behavioral science.
When these principles are applied to websites, videos, banners, web content, or even product development, designers can predict how the user will most likely react to them.
Experienced designers also know how to emphasize their intended message without incorporating elements that detract from the message.
With that in mind, some of the most fundamental design principles are explained in the following sections.
Focus on alignment and balance
Alignment is at the top of this list because it is one of the most important design principles.
Proper alignment – whether it be left, right, or center – ensures harmony between the various components of the design itself.
Balance ensures that these components are pleasing to the eye and direct the user in a way the designer intended.
To that end, every component has a certain weight owing to its texture, size, or color that must be balanced with similar qualities in other elements.
One way to achieve optimal balance is to align equally weighted, symmetrical components on either side of a center line.
Components with opposite or contrasting weights can also be aligned asymmetrically to create a sense of equilibrium.
Use hierarchy to assist with focus
Hierarchy enables the user to make sense of the numerous visual elements in a design.
In other words, it clarifies the most important message(s) and shows them where to focus their efforts.
Hierarchy is critical to the user experience – particularly in website navigation where it is used in dropdown menus.
However, the same effect can also be created with bold font or by using certain shapes to frame the most important points. Including the most salient information at the top of the design is also effective.
Leveraging contrast to accentuate important elements
Contrast allows designers to emphasize the most important aspects of the design and create space between them.
Most people think of black and white when they picture contrast, but the effect can also be created by modern and traditional, thick and thin, or large and small.
Users are naturally drawn to contrasting elements, but it should be noted that overuse of contrast can detract from the user experience.
When used effectively, it attracts attention, controls visual flow, and keeps the user engaged.
The design principle of repetition refers to any element that is repeated across a design – whether that be a specific color, font, word, shape, or motif.
Designs that are strong and simple will often incorporate repetition out of necessity. Indeed, there are only so many ways a designer can recombine three colors and two font choices.
However, repetition should never be shunned because it has the ability to unify and strengthen a design. In this way, it forms a key part of content strategies and assists in brand recognition.
Make room for white space
Also known as negative space, white space is the region between design elements that does not contain any colors, text, or images.
The name of this principle is somewhat of a misnomer since negative space has positive implications for design and does not need to be white.
Instead, it creates a balanced and harmonious layout that is free from clutter and overcrowding.
White space comes in two forms.
The first is active white space, which describes space that is deliberately left blank for a more optimal layout.
Passive white space, on the other hand, is space that is a by-product of the layout process such as the blank areas inside content.
- Design principles are biases, guidelines, and other considerations that serve as fundamental pieces of advice for designers.
- Alignment and balance are critical design principles because they ensure harmony between the various design elements. They also play a role in superior user experience.
- Hierarchy, contrast, and white space are also important design principles to emphasize certain elements. Repetition is a principle that companies use to strengthen brand recognition.
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