The Principles of Design

Here are the principles of design and examples of each. Please feel free to use this as a reference.


Balance is the weighted relationship between the visual elements.

Principle of Design: Balance

Balance: Principle of Design


Composition is the organization of the elements of design into a unified whole.

Still-Life by Vincent van Gogh

Emphasis or Dominance

Emphasis is the focus of attention in a composition.

Principle of Design: Emphasis

Harmony in Photography

Emphasis in Photography


Harmony is the unity of all the visual elements in a composition.

Principle of Design: Harmony

West Seattle Fishing Pier at Sunset


Proportion is the ratio of one part of the composition to another.

Principle of Design: Proportion

Golden Section Within


Repetition is the use of an element or elements more than one time in a single composition.

Piet Mondrian

Repetition Principle of Design


Rhythm is the repetition of an element to achieve movement in a composition.

Principle of Design: Rhythm

Rhythm in Nature


Unity is the organization of elements and principles into a whole.

Unity in Design: Gestalt


Variety is the differences among and between elements in a composition.

Principle of Design: Variety


Contrast where there is distinguishable difference between objects. This may be in shape such as the letter “s” and the letter “l”. Or it may be in contrast in tone, colour, mass etc.

Principle of Design: Contrast

Examples of Contrast

Contrast in Type


Economy is the intentional removal of elaboration. Only the elements that have a purpose remain.

Economy in Practise: Principle of Design

You can witness economy being practised in an advert when the product is the only item shown, with a very minimal (or plain) background.

Don’t offer more than is needed, but be sure to include all that is needed to create an intelligent and economical design.

See the Elements of Design.


2 Responses to “The Principles of Design”

  1. 1 Maria August 19, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    Thanks. Beautiful well chosen images to illustrate elements and principles of design.

  1. 1 The Elements of Design « TAFE in 2009 Trackback on March 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM

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