Principles of Design

Learn the key Principles of Design to make your message clear, relevant, and concise. Learn how to focus on your message and your audience.

Design Principles are a catechism, an epistemology, a set of stylistic assumptions. Use the key elements of principles of design to make your message clear, relevant, and concise. Focus on your message and your audience.

Symbol analysts (writers and readers, speakers and listeners) use data visualization, design elements (e.g., Color, Copy, Line, Shape, Size, Texture), Design Tools, Page Design, and Universal Design to compose texts, applications, products, and services.


Alignment, Balance, Contrast, Emphasis, Proportion, Proximity, Proximity, Repetition—these shape how users interpret and act on information.

AlignmentAlign copy and visuals in consistent manner. Avoid a jumbled look, the feeling of puzzle pieces scattered willy nilly.
Balance: Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, & RadialPlace design elements in relation to other design elements. Place equal weighting of design elements on the left, right, top, and bottom quadrants of the text to achieve balance.
ContrastCreate focus by using design elements (such as use of bold face or font) to highlight texts and the ideas behind those texts.
Emphasis
Gestalt
Harmony
Movement
Pattern
Proportion
ProximityPlace related items together. Chunk liked-minded content together and separate disparate chunks of content.
RepetitionRepeat design elements (e.g., consistency in alignment and headings) throughout a text.
Repeat words and phrases for emphasis and clarity.
Rhythm
Scale
Simplicity*, Visual Design
Space

Williams, Robin (1994). The Non-Designer’s Design Book : Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice. Berkeley, CA :Peachpit Press, 1994.

Thanks to the popularity of Robin Williams’ 1975 book on design, a book that has already seen four major editions and wide adoption, the most commonly referenced design principles are Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, Contrast. (These concepts are so important to graphic design and data visualization that they are commonly referred to by the acronym P.A.R.C. Still others, perhaps hoping to shock audiences, use the acronym C.R.A.P.)

Works Cited

Williams, Robin (1994). The Non-Designer’s Design Book : Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice. Berkeley, CA :Peachpit Press, 1994.