Design Principles are

  • concepts, recommendations and guidelines made by designers and design researchers regarding the best way to position design elements on a page, computer screen, phone–or some other canvas.

Symbol analysis (e.g., writers, speakers, and artists) consult design concepts when interpreting, drafting, and critiquing texts that incorporate design elements.


The foundational principles of design are Alignment, Balance, Contrast, Emphasis, Proportion, Proximity, Repetition, Proximity, Repetition. These design concepts are widely regarded as playing a foundational role in 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.
BalancePlace design elements in relation to other design elements. Symmetrical balance involves equal weighting of design elements on the left, right, top, and bottom quadrants of the writer’s workspace (e.g., page, desktop, phone, etc).
ContrastCreate focus by using design elements (such as use of bold face or font) to highlight texts and the ideas behind those texts.
Emphasis
ProximityPlace related items together. Chunk liked-minded content together and separate disparate chunks of content.
Alignment
RepetitionRepeat design elements (e.g., consistency in alignment and headings) throughout a text
Repeat words and phrases for emphasis and clarity

Recommended Readings

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.