Basic Principles of
By Stephanie Rae Cleaves
(Based on Book, “Elements of Design,” by Poppy Evans &
Mark A. Thomas)
• In this lesson, I will list and describe the
basic principles of graphic design.
• I will also give some examples of various
artwork that displays these principles.
Unity & Variety
• Unity is the control of
• Variety is necessary to
create visual interest.
• Managing variety is the
art of balancing visual
Hierarchy & Dominance
• Hierarchy refers to an established order,
importance, and emphasis given to visual elements.
• Dominance is the prevailing inﬂuence of one element
• Emphasis is the importance of one element over
• By determining hierarchy, a designer can control the
path a viewer’s eye will take in viewing the
• Lack of clear hierarchy is the reason many designs fail
to attract and hold a viewer’s attention.
Clear vs. Unclear
• By determining hierarchy, a
designer can control the
path a viewer’s eye will take
in viewing the composition.
(see top right).
• Lack of clear hierarchy is the
reason many designs fail to
attract and hold a viewer’s
attention. (see bottom left)
• Refers to the size relationships within a
• Designers & Illustrators must work with
numerous proportional formats
• Proportion in Design is determined using
The Golden Ratio
• An example of a visual ratio is the “Golden
Ratio,” which dates back to the Ancient
• The visual distribution of elements in a
• There are three main types of balance.
• Elements are arranged
the same or very
similarly on each side
of a central axis, or a
• AKA “Dynamic
Symmetry,” is the art
of creating balance
numbers, sizes, or
kinds of elements.
• All elements
radiate out from
a center point in
a circular fashion.
• The use of a focal point to stress
certain elements or to give special
attention to an element.
• Contrast is a function used to
• See Photo-> Variety can be used
to harmonize the effect of
emphasis by spreading interest
throughout the design keeping it
lively and interesting.
Rhythm & Movement
• Rhythm refers to the choreography
of graphic design. It is the implied
sense of movement of the elements
as manifested through the eye of
• Artists can create a sense of
rhythm/movement though the
arrangement & conﬁguration of
graphic elements (ie. varying line,
shape, size, and color), form, and
Proximity & Repetition
• Proximity is the position
and space given to the
placement of elements in
• The space between two
or more elements affects
• For example, as they
move together, tension
can result. (See image
• As the elements of a
composition touch, new
shapes are formed. (see
• As elements of a
apart, they can also
from eachother. (see
• Proximity groupings can also create patterns, a sens of rhythm, or
other relationships that elicit a response from the viewer
Thank you for Listening
• A general rule for
designers is that varied
proximity of elements
can result in visual
tension that brings
dynamic interest to a