Fundamental principles of design

Here are some fundamental principles of design when creating a layout:

Dominance. Your main focal point. Once you know your focal point, consider hierarchy.

Hierarchy. With your focal point selected, think about how you will want to guide the viewer’s eyes through the layout. Good hierarchy is often achieved with scale (sizing things differently). Once you have this decided, consider space.

Space. Space is all about how things are positioned on the page. This includes their physical location, as well as the space between things. Items that are spaced close together are seen as related/similar to each other. For instance, related information might do well placed together. Once you have spacing decided, consider balance.

Balance. There are two kinds of balance a good design can have: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical layouts are very clean and tidy, but can also be perceived as stiff. Asymmetrical layouts may not seem balanced at first, but a smart variety of scale, space, and color can achieve a much more dynamic sense of balance than a symmetrical layout. As you balance items in your layout, consider gestalt.

Gestalt. I have discussed gestalt in a previous post. Gestalt is set of theories that explain how visuals are perceived as wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts. Simply put, gestalt isn’t just about the things on the page, but about perception and how the eye moves and makes connections. As you employ gestalt, consider unity.

  • Unity. Perhaps the most important of these seven principles, unity makes the elements of a design feel like they belong together. This can be through spatial relationships (alignment, gestalt), rhythm (hierarchy, flow), and/or repetition (texture, color).
  • Color. Last, but certainly not least, color is a vital part of any design. Whether your design includes a wide spectrum of colors, or is created with pensive grayscale, color communicates the emotions present in a design. As you incorporate color into your poster, consider not just the hue, but the tone (light/dark) and intensity (saturation/desaturation).
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