12 Basic Principles of Graphic Design

12 Graphic Design Principles

When you are Graphic Designers there are some design principles that you must know to create harmonious and good designs. This principles will help your designs to communicate clearly your ideas and how all the graphic elements of your design interact with each other.


1. Contrast

Contrast is one of the most common Graphic Design Principles and every graphic designers must dominate it, contrast refers to the difference between the elements in your design, this mean for example in color that if you use a dark color in one element, the other graphic elements needs to be in a light color to easily differentiate from the other.

For example if you create a design with a text, and the background of your design is Dark, then the text color needs to be in a light color to make it easier to read.

Contrast 12 Basic Graphic Design

2. Balance

If you are Graphic Designer and you are working on a design project you need to know that every element you place in your design has a weight on it, and it can come from color, size or texture. 

Balance refers on how you put this elements on your design and avoid to putting all your heavy elements in the same place. There are two types of balance, Symmetrical, that creates balance by align equally weighted elements, and asymmetrical design is the opposite, you align a heavy element with lighter ones to create a contrast effect.

Balance 12 Basic Graphic Design

3. Emphasis

Emphasis refers to the importance of the elements on your design, and what order they should have on it. What emphasis principle says is that the most important information that you need to show in your design must be the first thing the people see in your project.

For example in a Movie poster design, the first thing you need to see is the Movie title, then it can be the name of the director and after the name of the actors and actresses, if you want to know which are the best Poster Design in Movies you can check my post about it and see how the emphasis work on this posters.

Emphasis 12 Basic Graphic Design

4. Repetition

Repetition is a great tool to reinforce an idea you want to transmit through your design and it also helps to unify your project, you can use repetition principle in different elements as color, typefaces, shapes or another graphic design elements.

For example if your design have multiple typefaces or colors it can be seeing as bad design and uncomfortable to watch due to the chaos, but we can avoid this by choosing two typefaces for example and using them in all the design.

5. Proportion

Proportion principle in graphic design is one of the easiest to understand, basically what proportion refers is the size of elements to one another in the design. Larger elements are easily to see in design than smaller ones and by this principle larger elements are more important than smaller.

Proportion 12 Basic Graphic Design

6. Hierarchy

Hierarchy principle in Graphic Design stands out that the most important elements in your design also should appear to be the most important, this help people who will see your design understand better what is the important element on it.

You easily can see a hierarchy example in titles and heading in a design.

Hierarchy 12 Basic Graphic Design


7. Rhythm

Rhythm principle is easy to understand by using the music as example, when you are using repeating elements in your design this create spaces between this elements, and this creates a visual rhythm as this happen in musical compositions. There are fives types of visual rhythm: random, regular, alternating, flowing and progressive.

Rhythm 12 Basic Graphic Design

8. Pattern

Pattern in Graphic Design refers to a repetition of multiple graphic elements on your design working together to create a eye catching and harmonious design.

Pattern principle is also referred to how design elements are designed in a project and set a standard on it to easily communicate your ideas.

Pattern 12 Basic Graphic Design

9. White Space

White space is also known as negative space, and it refers to the area of a design that are empty and not include design elements. But white space is actually a really important design element, you need to give your design elements space to breathe and easily differentiate them from other elements.

White space is also used in Logo design to create hidden images on it and give more information about your brand and avoiding to saturate it, and if you are interested on know the 7 qualities of a good logo design you can check my post about it!

White Space 12 Basic Graphic Design

10. Movement

Movement principle in graphic design refers on how the human eye interact with your design, and the most important element in your design must be the first thing people see, and after seeing it your design needs to lead viewer to the next most important element.

Movement 12 Basic Graphic Design

11. Variety

Variety principle is used in design to create visual interest to the viewer and it can be created with different elements as color, typography, images, shapes and many more. And by using the variety we avoid to create a monotonous design and lose the interest from the viewer.

It’s important to understand that when you use the variety principle you need to be very carefully by not overloading your design and create chaos.

Variety 12 Basic Graphic Design

12. Unity

Unity principle refers on how well all the elements used in your design project work together, they should have clear relationship and communicate the same concepts, this will cause that your design looks more organized and every element on it will be related to each other.

Unity 12 Basic Graphic Design

Conclusion and Graphic Design Principles Infographic

As I mentioned on the introduction this 12 design principles must be known by every graphic designer, now you can implement this principles on your designs and practice them, this will help your graphic design projects look better and communicate easily your ideas.

And once you have masterize all 12 principles you can start to play with them and using to create unique design and creative ways to communicate your ideas through your graphic design projects!

If you have found this Blog Post about Graphic Design Principles you will be interested in these other articles about Graphic Design Fundamentals.


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