In our first post, Design for Non-Designers: Intro to Terms, Part 1 we spoke about the first 5 of the 12 basic principles of design. We continue with the next 6 principles in this post. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you need to create something from nothing, and you feel ill-equipped, we hope these two posts give you a foundation on what to do next.

12 Basic Principles of Design (continued):

design for non-designers
Repetition – the re-use of design elements at various places in a composition.

If no aspect of a design was repeated, the composition would likely feel chaotic. Imagine reading a newspaper that used a different typeface for every article! Repetition of some, but not all design elements, creates a sense of continuity and cohesion in a composition, allowing the viewer to feel at ease.

design for non-designers
Typography – the selection and placement of type.

While we are all aware that the typefaces and fonts used in a design serve the important function of communicating a written message, we might not consider that they also communicate a style, tone, and attitude as well. Typography is the art of selecting the size, spacing, and style of type that will most effectively convey not just the message, but also the spirit of the message. You may not have thought about it before, but typography plays a big role in our ability to recognize brands we encounter.  Give this quick typography quiz a whirl! 

design for non-designers
Proximity – showing relationship by grouping components that are similar and separating those that are not.

Proximity in design creates a sense of organization. Additionally, proximity makes it easier for the viewer to take in and remember visual information because it is already arranged in a way that is visually appealing.

design for non-designers
Alignment – positioning elements so they line up horizontally, vertically, and/or diagonally.

Alignment is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the little detail that makes a big impact, and creates a polished and professional-looking final product. Often designers will use grids with varying numbers of rows and columns to help assure that design elements are aligned. 

design for non-designers
Movement/Direction – creating a path for the viewer’s eye to travel through a composition.

This kind of movement is not about the actual elements of the design appearing to move, but about manipulating each element of the design so that the reader is naturally, but intentionally,  led from place to place. Usually, the viewer is drawn to the focal point of the design and is led by elements such as lines, shapes, and colors through the entire composition, hopefully exiting without getting stuck anywhere in the design.  

design for non-designers
Consistency – the tendency for design elements to look similar or adhere to certain patterns.

Consistency makes a reader feel at ease. Consistent design assures that the viewer’s experience will be similar no matter what piece of communication he encounters from your organization. For example, consistent color schemes are an important part of branding. If, for example, we were to receive Chick-fil-A coupons in the mail with blue typeface rather than the usual red and white, we would be taken aback. Consistency eliminates confusion because it reduces the amount of new information the reader’s brain has to process.  

The End Result? A Composition 

Composition – When all the design elements are used together to create a whole design that communicates and idea.

When all these elements are used together to create a whole design that communicates an idea, designers call it a composition. How that idea is communicated is determined by the particular layout or arrangement of elements on a page. Regardless of the form your visual communication takes, the goal is a visual design that captures your viewer’s attention and effectively communicates your message in a clear and simple manner.  

Whew! That was a whirlwind tour of the elements of design. While this is only a starting place, our hope is that this introduction will increase your awareness of and appreciation for what makes for an effective visual composition. Armed with this basic understanding, you can better evaluate designs you see and like, as well as your own communications, to figure out what’s working well and what might be missing. Here’s to excellent designing!

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the design process and would like some help developing effective marketing and communication tools, we’re always happy to help! Just click here to send us an email, and we’ll set up a meeting to discuss how we might partner with you to move your mission forward.