Principles of Design


One must remember that each Principle can be applied to every Element of Design. For example, contrast can be applied not only to color, but also to line (thickness, curve, etc.), shapes, space, textures, etc. The examples below are just the beginning of your exploration!

contrast cover


the difference in quality between instances of elements

emphasis cover


the stressing of areas of focus, a way to create dominance

hierarchy cover


the order in which the elements are viewed by the eye

dominance cover


the strongest focal point with the greatest visual weight is dominant; the secondary element is sub-dominant; and elements with the least visual weight are subordinate

proportion cover


the relationship of sizes between different elements

repetition cover


reusing the same or similar elements throughout your design

rhythm cover


a repeating element with variations used to create visual movement

pattern cover


using elements in planned or random repetitions

unity cover


the sense that elements are working together to achieve a common result

harmony cover


a logical, visually satisfying relationship or progression combining similar, related elements

variety cover


using different qualities or instances of an element - provides contrast to harmony and unity to create visual interest

movement cover


the path the viewer’s eye takes through a work of art


the distribution of visual weight; a psychological sense of equilibrium — to show the many different types of balance, it has been given its own section below:

symmetrical balance cover


(also called formal balance) arranging elements in the same way on both sides of an axis - reflective, inverted, biaxial, and radial are considered symmetrical balance

reflective balance cover


(also called bilateral) a mirror image - if a reflection is a perfect mirror image it is called pure symmetry, if it has slight variations it is called near symmetry (example: a butterfly)

inverted balance cover


elements on one side of an axis are mirrored then flipped along the opposite axis (example: the design on the playing side of a deck of cards)

biaxial balance cover


a design that contains symmetrical designs on both horizontal and vertical axes - symmetry is both top & bottom and left & right (example: a snowflake design)

radial balance cover


(also called rotational) elements arranged around one common center point (example: a sunflower)

asymmetrical balance cover


(also called informal balance) arranging elements that vary in size and/or shape on both sides of an axis while maintaining equal visual weight

mosaic balance cover


(also called crystallographic) repeating elements to create equal visual weight all over without distinct focal points - balanced chaos

translational balance cover


repeating an element in different locations while maintaining its exact size and orientation (example: a picket fence)

alignment cover


positioning used to create order and organization among elements - creates a visual connection between elements

proximity cover


elements that are close to each other form a visual group - space makes elements appear as singular objects or separate groups

perspective cover


using elements to create depth in a two-dimensional space

funtionality cover


serving a purpose - some functions of art might be to:

  • visually communicate beauty
  • allow for self-exploration
  • generate interest
  • present opinion
  • drive emotion
  • solve a problem
  • provide information
composition cover


the organization of all the separate elements in accordance with the principles of design to form one unified design (the arrangement of elements within a work of art)