Design Principles

The 7 Key Principles of Design

There are certain design principles and rules that a designer must follow in order to create a usable design that has a pleasant effect on users. The basic principles of design philosophy include alignment, balance, emphasis, white space, hierarchy, unity, and repetition. The details of these principles are discussed below.

1. Alignment

Alignment is one of the most crucial design elements. Alignment describes how visual components are positioned, arranged, and organized relative to one another on an interface. Making sure your different design components have a good relationship with one another helps produce a defined and organized layout. Right alignment done in design provides meaningful guidance to the user to understand the flow of the product.


2. Balance

Every object you design has a weight similar to real life but this weight is known as visual weight. For example, if in a room you have displayed 5 paintings. If you display all 5 paintings in one corner of the wall while leaving the remaining area of the wall empty, it will not look like a balanced setting. Therefore to make it visually balanced, the paintings must be spread out on the entire wall so that the aesthetic look of the room improves and visitor likes it.

The same applies to the designs for digital products. The visual objects must be placed in a balanced way so that the user feels comfortable using the application. 


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3. Emphasis

To establish a focal point, use emphasis. A focus point is anything that immediately stands out and attracts the viewer’s or user’s attention. When a design feature is emphasized, it signifies that a particular object is singled out from the others and is therefore very significant and important. You can see emphasis in some text that is bold and in all caps, for instance. The primary heading on a webpage might be an emphasis. In addition to text and color, emphasis may also be created using other elements including size, shape, weight, texture, and placement. Make sure to emphasize something without upsetting the overall balance of the page.


4. Whitespace

Whitespace or negative space is the empty area where no design elements exist in your design. White doesn’t mean that the empty area is white in color rather it can be of any color. The purpose of white space is to create a room for users to avoid overwhelming elements that will create confusion.  


5. Hierarchy

In the hierarchy, the designer focuses on defining the critical elements on the screen and places them on top of the screen to notify the user. It involves the organizing of all visual elements from top to bottom according to their importance. The most important element will be placed on the extreme top while medium important elements will be placed in the middle and the least top elements will be placed on the bottom of the screen.

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6. Unity

The concept of unity in design describes how various visual elements join together to produce coherence, completeness, and a pleasant effect in the design. With unity, disparate things seem to come together to form a feeling of “oneness.” There are a couple of different ways to accomplish this. For instance, items of various sizes can all have the same color and proximity. This gives them the impression that they belong together or that they are related to one another and have something in common.


7. Repetition

It involves repeating the same element multiple times. Repetition in design is an essential principle because it creates a consistent and balanced design. Repetition is done by repeating the same colors multiple times or using a similar font size or style for repeating elements.


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Learn UX Design

To learn more on how to design better experiences, consider the Interaction Design Foundation’s (IDF) online courses on User Research – Methods and Best Practices.

Apart from courses, webinars, and bootcamps, the IDF is also home to the biggest and most authoritative library of open-source UX Design Resources. Check out the free UX Literature here.

In addition, the UX Academy offers world-class 1-on-1 online training in UX design, access to a vibrant community, and help to get a product design job.

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