Design elements and principles
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Design elements and principles describe fundamental ideas about the practice of good visual design.
As William Lidwell stated in Universal Principles of Design:
The best designers sometimes disregard the principles of design. When they do so, however, there is usually some compensating merit attained at the cost of the violation. Unless you are certain of doing as well, it is best to abide by the principles.
Principles of design
Principles applied to the elements of design that bring them together into one design. How one applies these principles determines how successful a design may be.
According to Jose Contreras, author of The Elements of Graphic Design, to achieve visual unity is a main goal of graphic design. When all elements are in agreement, a design is considered unified. No individual part is viewed as more important than the whole design. A good balance between unity and variety must be established to avoid a chaotic or a lifeless design.
- Proximity: sense of distance between elements
- Similarity: ability to seem repeatable with other elements
- Continuation: the sense of having a line or pattern extend
- Repetition: elements being copied or mimicked numerous times
- Rhythm: is achieved when recurring position, size, color, and use of a graphic element has a focal point interruption.
- Altering the basic theme achieves unity and helps keep interest.
It is a state of equalized tension and equilibrium, which may not always be calm. 
- Asymmetrical produces an informal balance that is attention attracting and dynamic.
- Radial balance is arranged around a central element. The elements placed in a radial balance seem to 'radiate' out from a central point in a circular fashion.
- Overall is a mosaic form of balance which normally arises from too many elements being put on a page. Due to the lack of hierarchy and contrast, this form of balance can look noisy.
A good design contains elements that lead the reader through each element in order of its significance. The type and images should be expressed starting from most important point to the least.
Using the relative size of elements against each other can attract attention to a focal point. When elements are designed larger than life, scale is being used to show drama.
Dominance is created by contrasting size, positioning, color, style, or shape. The focal point should dominate the design with scale and contrast without sacrificing the unity of the whole.
Similarity and contrast
Planning a consistent and similar design is an important aspect of a designers work to make their focal point visible. Too much similarity is boring but without similarity important elements will not exist and an image without contrast is uneventful so the key is to find the balance between similarity and contrast.
There are several ways to develop a similar environment:
- Build a unique internal organization structure.
- Manipulate shapes of images and text to correlate together.
- Express continuity from page to page in publications. Items to watch include headers, themes, borders, and spaces.
- Develop a style manual and stick with the format.
- Filled / Empty
- Near / Far
- 2-D / 3-D
- Left / Right
- Isolated / Grouped
- Centered / Off-Center
- Top / Bottom
- Simple / Complex
- Beauty / Ugly
- Whole / Broken
- Stability / Movement
- Organized / Chaotic
- Mechanical / Hand-Drawn
- Large / Small
- Deep / Shallow
- Fat / Thin
- Grey scale / Color
- Black & while / color
- Light / Dark
- Fine / Coarse
- Smooth / Rough
- Sharp / Dull
- Transparent / Opaque
- Thick / Thin
- Liquid / Solid
- Light / Heavy
- Stable / Unstable
Movement is the path the viewer’s eye takes through the artwork, often to focal areas. Such movement can be directed along lines edges, shape and color within the artwork.
- Composition (visual arts)
- Interior design
- Pattern language
- Elements of art
- Principles of art
- Color theory
- Lidwell, William; Kritina Holden, Jill Butler (2010). Universal Principles of Design (2nd ed.). Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59253-587-3.
- Lovett, John. "Design and Color". Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- White, Alex (2011). The Elements of Graphic Design. New York, NY: Allworth Press. pp. 81–105. ISBN 978-1-58115-762-8.
- Kilmer, R., & Kilmer, W. O. (1992). Designing Interiors. Orland, FL: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. ISBN 978-0-03-032233-4.
- Nielson, K. J., & Taylor, D. A. (2002). Interiors: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. ISBN 978-0-07-296520-9
- Pile, J.F. (1995; fourth edition, 2007). Interior Design. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 978-0-13-232103-7
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