Principle of Design

Principles of Design

Principle of Balance

The state of equal relationship; the sense of stability when weight is distributed equally on either side of a vertical axis; a pleasing arrangement of parts in a whole.

There are different kinds of balance:

  1. Symmetrical balance wherein each side is the mirror-image of the other
  2. Asymmetrical balance wherein there is a sense of balance achieved through careful planning of elements; ex: three small objects on one side of a page may be arranged to balance one large object on the other
  3. Radial balance wherein the design elements swirl out from a central axis (star, explosion)

Principle of Unity

The sense of “oneness” in a work of art; the sense that the design components or objects belong together.

About unity

  • Unity is achieved by placing components close together (proximity), by repetition, or by creating a sense of flow whereby the eye is led from one aspect of the work to another using line, direction or colour.


Principle of Variety

The use of different colours, sizes, shapes, etc. to create interest and avoid monotony.

  • Variety may be achieved by varying aspects of the same theme (see below).


Principle of Harmony

The sense of order or agreement-among the parts of a whole; aesthetically pleasing relationships among parts of a whole.

For example:

  • The harmony of colour in a painting


Principle of Movement

The sense that static elements on a page or plane can seem to be in motion, possibly because our brain understands that movement is about to happen or is actually happening.

For example

  • A dancer is balanced so delicately that he must move or fall over; or, running figures are so blurry that our brain attributes speed to them.


Principle of Rhythm

The sense that our eyes are being carried from one part of the design or painting to another; this may happen abruptly through the use of jagged lines, abrupt shifts of colour or shape, or in a flowing circular way. Repetition of design elements also contribute to a sense of rhythm.

About rhythm

  • Repetition of line or other elements create rhythm, and also mood (calm, restful versus unsettled or dangerous.)


Principle of Emphasis

The sense that our attention is being focused to a particular spot – a centre of attention –  achieved by :

  • Scale: a larger object dominates smaller objects
  • Colour: one bright colour against subdued colours catches the eye
  • Contrast: the juxtaposition of black and white, dark and light highlights differences
  • Position: an object placed in the foreground or the center of a work dominates, as does one in isolation from other objects



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