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Principles of Design

Best practices for arranging text and images


Principles of Design

Principles of Design: Balance, Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, Contrast, and White Space. | Design & Layout | Alpha Index to Full Dictionary:

# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ alignment

Too many text alignments and no overall alignment. The principles of design ignored.

# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ Layout featuring a small image surrounding by lots of white space.

A small image and minimal text within generous margins (white space) gives the impression of something special, elegant, or high class.

Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com | Oranges clip art Dixie Allan for About.com Clip Art


The principles of design suggest how a designer can best arrange the various elements of a page layout in connection to the overall design and to each other.

In landscape painting, principles of design might govern where the artist places the mountains or how many clouds are in the sky. In page layout, the principles of design govern how many colors are used, the sizes of fonts, how many columns of text there are, or whether pictures appear next to each other or spread across the page — creating effective and pleasing arrangements of text and graphics.

Commonly applied principles of design include:

  • alignment
    how elements on the page line up with each other and with margins


  • balance
    the distribution of elements on the page


  • consistency
    uniform use of design elements


  • contrast
    differences between items on the page


  • emphasis
    creating a focal point


  • proximity
    how close together or far apart items are to each other


  • repetition
    use of the same colors, styles, shapes, or other elements and principles throughout a document


  • unity
    how well parts of the document work together (see proximity)


  • white space
    the use of emptiness to give a layout breathing room


Also Known As: design principles | principles of graphic design

Examples: "In the illustration on this page, some principles of design at work include contrast between the font size and style of the headings with small text blocks, and contrast of light red script with black sans serif, repeating horizontal lines, the balance of short, large headlines with longer but smaller, lighter text blocks, headings aligned the same and all the small text blocks aligned the same."

Principles of Design - Further Reading
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