Graphic Design Principles

design principles

Design principles are a set of rules that designers can follow when creating a composition to create visually pleasing work.

All the individual parts of a design must fit together to form a harmonious and cohesive unit.

One design may use many design principles to be successful.


Shapes are 2D and Forms are 3D.

Shapes can be described as geometric, organic, and abstract.


Lines can be straight, wavy, thick, thin, dotted, dashed, and so on.

You can frame elements with lines to highlight elements.


Color helps you communicate on an emotional and subconscious level.

Color theory also involves a color’s darkness or lightness, or color values.


Pattern is the act of repeating the same or similar design elements and making them come together as a cohesive whole.


Each element in a design has a ’visual weight’ and can have symmetrical or asymmetrical balance.

You can adjust your design’s balance with scale and composition.

Symmetrical balance

Asymmetrical balance


Texture refers to the sense of feeling, touching, and tactility. 

Texture gives depth to designs.


Emphasis tells viewers which elements to look at and in what order to look at them.

Hierarchy and scale are part of emphasis and can affect the meaning, tone, and entire composition of your design.  


Contrast occurs when two or more elements look dramatically different and can create emphasis.

Contrast can be light vs. dark, thick vs. thin, large vs. small.


Flow is how someone’s eyes flow through a design and in what order they interpret elements. 

Flow brings movement and life to designs .


Grids help create alignment, which occurs when visual elements line up with other visual elements in a space.

Good composition starts with a grid.

Negative space

Negative space is the space between elements.

Breathing room can add style and elegance to designs.

Learn and apply these design principles to your work to create visually appealing, consistent, functional designs.

Watch the design principles video on YouTube.