Visual balance comes from arranging elements on the page so that no one section is heavier than the other. Or, a designer may intentionally throw elements out of balance to create tension or a certain mood.
Alignment brings order to chaos, in a parking lot and on a piece of paper. How you align type and graphics on a page and in relation to each other can make your layout easier or more difficult to read, foster familiarity, or bring excitement to a stale design.
Contrast occurs when two elements are different. The greater the difference the greater the contrast. The key to working with contrast is to make sure the differences are obvious. Four common methods of creating contrast are by using differences in size, value, color, and type.
"The sum of the whole is greater than its parts" is the idea behind the principle of gestalt. It's the perception of a composition as a whole. While each of the individual parts have meaning on their own, taken together, the meaning may change. Our perception of the piece is based on our understanding of all the bits and pieces working in unison.
Found in nature as well as the work of man, the golden rectangle or golden section is a visually pleasing geometric shape with specific proportions. The measurement of 1.61803398874989..., known as the Golden Mean or Phi, a sequence of numbers known as the Fibonacci Series, and the Golden Rectangle are all mathematically connected. However, for the layperson the primary ratio of interest is 3:5 or 5:3 — the Golden Proportion.
In design, proximity or closeness creates a bond between people and between elements on a page. How close together or far apart elements are placed suggests a relationship (or lack of) between otherwise disparate parts. Unity is also achieved by using a third element to connect distant parts.