Design is intricate. It’s fun, creative, and exciting!

There’s so much to learn and discover when it comes to design that we’re always evolving as graphic and web designers here at TM. Technology also evolves at a breakneck speed with new trends and things to learn at every turn. So, let’s stop, take a breather, and get back to our roots with our top Elements & Principles of Design!

Principles of Design

TM’s Top 6 Elements of Design

  1. Line: A line can be much more than just a line. Lines are versatile! Straight lines evoke a feeling of order and neatness. Wavy lines channel movement. You can create an implied line, or use a zig-zagged line to create excitement!
  2. Shape: Any kind of a container, texture filed shape. The 3 basic shapes – circle, square, and triangle – are fundamental shapes found in all design.
  3. Texture: Add texture to break up the monotony of something. Instead of making a background or image a different color, make it a different texture. By doing this you can create depth, dimension, or tactility! Utilizing texture is just one way to add interest to your design.
  4. Space: Use space to balance something that’s very heavy – like image heavy. If you have a large image, balance it with whitespace above and below. Move from simple to more complex, back to simple. Space is the distance between any shape or form, whether it’s filled with something or not.
  5. Size: Or hierarchy. Creating a hierarchy helps website users navigate designs and signals the importance of elements using scale, line and color. This could be changing a heading size, or using size to demonstrate importance or draw attention.
  6. Value: Encompasses contrast as well, but also color. Whether something is light or dark – use color to create a mood and enhance a strong concept. Color is what creates a strong palette and it’s imperative to use the right color process when you’re creating! Read more here about Color Theory and Psychology.

All of these help make up anything you’re designing – whether it’s online or not. I could go through every single element on a page and point out the line, the shapes, and the space – everything can be defined with those elements!

Now, the principles that provide rules for each element.

TM’s Top 5 Principles of Design

  1. Balance: Each element has a weight, so your design should be balanced via scale and composition. Alternating between elements that are simple, open and minimal, and elements that are busier or more complicated, is an example of balance. Even if a person untrained in design doesn’t know how to describe balance, they will FEEL it. They’ll feel like something is top heavy or right heavy. They’ll know that it isn’t balanced without even knowing what balance is.
  2. Emphasis: Take a step back and squint your eyes. Pay attention to shapes… what jumps out to you? This test is meant to give you a high-level overview of your design – the relative hierarchy of all your elements. What elements stand out? Where should the primary focus be? Are there too many elements on the page?
  3. Rhythm: Does your design use movement, balance or asymmetry to bring the user through their experience? Is it interesting the whole way through? Is there a rhythm that leads the user to the next step? Symmetry creates a sense of calm since the human eye is generally attracted to symmetry! Still, in the next breath, don’t be afraid to break the rules and create a visual guide for the visitor.
  4. Unity: Understanding what should be grouped together to create a logical message. When all the elements of your design relate to each other, your content will be attractive and understandable. Never be afraid to use negative space to help accomplish this!
  5. Contrast: How you create and use contrast all depends on the client and project. It refers to light vs. dark, thick vs. thin and helps create emphasis. It’s what makes your designs pop!


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