The 4 Most Important Principles of Design


Design is all around us. From the simplest of household items to the most complex works of art, everything has been designed by someone. When we talk about design, though, we're not just talking about what something looks like, we're talking about how it's put together. Great designers know that good design isn't just about selecting colors and fonts or arranging objects on a page: It's about creating an experience for the viewer or user. There are some principles that are so fundamental to any good design that they have become self-evident over time—almost like laws that govern how things work together visually. 

This is good news for those who feel like they don’t have an ounce of creativity in their bones or don’t find designing the least bit intuitive: there are fundamental principles of design that you simply need to follow in order to create aesthetically pleasing designs. You don't have to somehow come up with something that looks great, the framework has already been laid for you. In this article, we will cover the 4 most important principles: emphasis, balance and alignment, repetition, and white space.


1. Emphasis

Emphasis is the use of contrast to create visual weight and hierarchy. You can use emphasis to control the viewer's eye and show them where you want them to look.  When you are creating a design, make the most important elements bigger, bolder, or brighter in color. Make the least important information smaller, thinner, or muted in color. This will lead your viewer’s eye through your design in a meaningful way.

design principle emphasis

2. Balance and Alignment

Balance refers to the visual equality of elements in a design. Alignment refers to how elements in your design relate to one another. Balance and alignment can create a sense of harmony and order in your work that makes viewers feel comfortable. Each element that you put on a design has a weight. If you put a big object on one side, you need to balance it on the other side with either a similar big object or several smaller objects.

Design principle balance and alignment

3. Repetition

Repetition is the reusing of the same or similar elements throughout your design. It achieves a sense of unity and consistency throughout your design. An example of implementing repetition would be to use the same font for your book title on the cover as you do on the spine. 

Design principle repetition

4. White Space

Equally important to the elements that you add to your designs is the negative space that you leave. This white space, or background, creates hierarchy and assists in guiding the eyes. Leave extra, luxurious blank space around important elements, while grouping less important elements close together.

Principle of design white space



With these 4 key principles in mind, it is simple to create aesthetically pleasing and tasteful designs. Anyone can create beautiful work, you don't have to be exceptionally creative or have a good eye.