The 12 Principles of Design and How You Can Work With Them

Team Pepper
Posted on 22/07/225 min read
The 12 Principles of Design and How You Can Work With Them
These 12 fundamental principles of design will help you master the art of design and guide you through creating eye-catching, clean, and great designs. Check them out.

“Design is not a single object or dimension. Design is messy and complex.” – Natasha Jen, Designer and Educator.

A set of laws and rules governs everything around us. These laws, rules, or principles make things what they are. The same applies to design. The principles of design are elements that hold interest and command attention by creating a visual impact. 

Incorporating these principles of design to create an artistic artwork is bound to amaze the viewers. Be it developing the perfect logo design, a great website, a digital design, or a good book cover, design principles are the guidelines for creating show-stopping digital designs.

In this article, we will understand the principles of design that designers follow to get fabulous results. 

The 12 Fundamental Principles of Design

It is important to understand each principle of design to create designs that will be appreciated visually and communicate the message to its viewers. These are the basic rules that make any design work. 

1. Contrast


Contrast is created when two or more elements in a design are different, preferably adjacent elements. Contrast highlights the differences between elements in a pattern design and makes it stand out. They also shift focus on a particular area and catch the eye.

Contrast can be created using color hues, sizes, shapes, and textures to instantly capture the audience’s attention. Contrast not only livens things up but also controls the visual flow, keeping the viewers engaged. However, it is important to maintain a balance and not use too many contrasts in the same design to maximize the impact. 

2. Balance


This principle of design focuses on how multiple elements are assembled. This harmonious blending of elements is called balance. 

Balance is divided into two types: symmetrical and asymmetrical. 

  • Symmetrical designs are layouts with evenly distributed elements on either side of the central focus. 
  • Asymmetrical designs are layouts where elements are not evenly spread. However, despite the unequal distribution of elements, balance is still achieved.

3. Emphasis 


Emphasis focuses on the main topic and is a straightforward principle of design. Using emphasis, a designer drags the viewer’s attention on a particular part of the design. 

Emphasis is achieved by maneuvering elements to make certain parts of the design stand out. It is usually the most critical information meant to be conveyed in the design, like the CTA. 

Some designs also use the concept of de-emphasizing to reduce the effect of certain information, like the fine print in a digital design. 

4. Proportion


In the principles of design, proportion is simply the size of one element in relation to another. It is believed that the larger the element, the more its importance. Proportion creates a parallel relationship among the elements in a design. It can be divided into harmonious and unbalanced proportions. 

  • Harmonious proportion is when the elements are placed in symmetry and order.
  • Unbalanced proportion is created when there is a disproportion in the design.

5. Hierarchy


In the principles of design, hierarchy refers to the significance of elements in that design. Hierarchy in a design show who rules. This principle ranks information from the most important to the least important, with the essential element featured at the top. 

This way, drawing the viewer’s attention to the most important element is easier. Just like a blog has headings and subheadings, a design is formatted to show its importance in relation to other components. 

6. Repetition


Repetition fortifies an idea. It brings together a lot of different elements while also unifying a design. This can be achieved by repeating the colors, shapes, or other elements. In a pattern design, the image is repeated to form a cohesive piece. In repetition, only an object is repeated over and over. 

Repetition is particularly useful in creating a distinct brand identity by repeating colors or logos. With repetition, the visuals eventually become synonymous with the brand. 

7. Rhythm


This principle of design is about the spaces between elements that give the design a sense of rhythm. Visual rhythms are classified as flowing, random, regular, alternating, and progressive. 

The Kodak advertisement above creates rhythm as the eye moves from the trash can to the text. Like in music, in design, too, the rhythm is all about offering your composition a feeling of movement. 

Designers create rhythm in designs by repeating lines, colors, shapes, etc., giving the design a sense of flow. Rhythm encourages the audience to shift their eyes across the entire design. 

8. Pattern


Patterns are a repetition of many design elements. Ideal examples of pattern designs are wallpapers, carpets, and textiles. In patterns, elements are arranged together to create a whole, cohesive design. Patterns are commonly used as backgrounds in digital designs and use colors, shapes, textures, and very rarely, even words. 

9. White space


White space or negative space in the design is the area that does not have an element; it is essentially an empty space and contains nothing. White space is said to give the design space to breathe. 

White space, also known as negative space, need not be always white; it can be any color and refers to the empty space in the design. Without white space, a design will be difficult to understand.

10. Movement 


In simple words, movement, in principles of design, is the flow in design. It refers to the direction the eye follows over a still design. Designers create a sense of direction with elements like lines, colors, edges, shapes, or even light. A savvy designer controls this process and makes a design feel more alive, thus grabbing the viewer’s attention. 

11. Variety


Variety is the principle that keeps any design away from becoming boring or monotonous. Variety is created with color, lines, hues, images, shapes, or other design elements. A designer blends diverse elements in a relationship to create variety in a design. It makes a design engaging and interesting for viewers. 

12. Unity


Unity is that principle of design that ensures all the elements of design work together in harmony, having a clear relationship with each other. It unifies the other principles and allows individual elements to coexist to form a complete design. 

Unity creates a dynamic relationship among elements to communicate the message clearly. Unity in a design adds order. Simply put, it can be compared to a puzzle, where every element comes together to reveal a complete design.

The Final Word

Everything around us is based on pattern or order, and the same theory applies to design. Anyone can achieve a good design if they have a basic understanding of the principles of design. 

By implementing the principles of design, designers tend to create masterpieces in their field. Design is ever-evolving, but these basic guidelines will help you hone your design skills and create great patterns. We hope these 12 design principles will help you move your creative designs to the next level.


1. Where do we apply the principles of design?

The principles of design are considered the building blocks of creating any work of art. These elements of design can be found in all forms of design.

2. Why is it important to implement the principles of design in any graphic design?

An effective layout using these principles looks visually attractive and conveys the message the designer wishes to deliver. These are the key elements for creating engaging designs, particularly in digital design and advertising.

3. How can I achieve a good design?

A good design can convey the message clearly. The basic principles of design act as a guideline and help create an aesthetic and honest design.

4. Is the principle of design important in digital design?

The principles of design are the key elements in any digital design. These help designers communicate the underlying message.

5. Does visual design affect the credibility of a message?

Yes, the visual design does create higher credibility. It is believed that 46.1% of consumers form an opinion about a site’s credibility based on its design. This includes layout, color, and typography.