How to identify principles of design more easily.
Everyone immediately responds to the subject matter in a composition. Harder to understand after-the-fact is the design (as in plan or scheme) behind the finished piece. After the work is complete, deconstructing it to reveal the principle behind it can be difficult. The principle may be non-obvious because the subject matter gets in the way.
Graphic design is not a means of self-expression. Rather, it is a means of communication used to illuminate, demonstrate, tell, sell, or explain an idea or product. Knowing the purpose could make deconstruction easier. The theory being; Once you know what the “message” is, you can figure out what visual technique the designer used to communicate that message—the dominant principle is in use.
As graphic designers, we use design principles applied to visual elements like a visual grammar. The way we communicate the subject using our style of expressing visual ideas becomes the artwork we create.
Not everyone agrees what the simple elements of design are. A good start would list them.
The Elements of Two-Dimensional Design—the basic visual material used to construct the graphic design
• Conceptual Elements:
Space, Point, Line, Area
• Visual Elements as they take form (aspects of elements):
Shape, Size/scale, Colour/tone, Texture, Field/frame
• Relational Elements as they are placed into the layout:
Position, Direction, Depth, Weight
• Functional Elements we manipulate:
Illustration, Photograph, Text, Rules,
Elements of design (often together with subject matter) create visual effects. When you see a visual effect, it means that some sort of organizing principle is working. The Visual Elements and Subject Matter are used separately and together to create all kinds of relationships, motion, transition, contrasts, conflicts, variations, themes, feelings, meanings, depth effects, space effects, and so on. If you can find a relationship that creates a visual effect, you have discovered a principle.
For example, repetition (repeating something) tends to insist on being seen and it can give the effect of motion.
When you discover principles, you can use them and you will understand how to make and understand artwork better.
For example, a combination of red and orange has a different effect than a combination of red and green. By looking at these color combinations next to each other, you might discover a principle of design. When you see a big shape combined with another big shape it has a different effect than combining a small shape with a big shape. By looking at size examples, you might see another principle of design suggested. There are many general principles that work to produce effects, feelings, and meanings. There is an unlimited number of ways to use the elements, subject matter, and design principles to produce effects, feelings, and meanings. This is why, when we solve problems in art, we are not looking for one correct answer, but we are looking one or more solutions out of many unknown possible solutions.
There are different kinds of design principles. Start with a list of the principles you know. Add ones you discover. When one known by an alternate name turns up, combine them.
(Rather than an exhaustive glossary of terms, the interested person is invited to do a web search of the terms for definitions, and illustrative examples)
Here’s a start:
Principles of Two-Dimensional Graphic Visual Design
- Balance (Symmetry) - Symmetrical, Asymmetrical, Radial
- Tone & Color
- Contrast, variation, variety
- Direction (Hierarchy)
- Emphasis: “Centre of Interest,” Focus, Hierarchy, Dominance
- Repetition, rhythm, pattern
- Framing (Space)
You may even wish to include general Principles of Composition
Do a search on each one in turn. Note its definition, relevant description and actual example to illustrate the principle(s) being used. Pull-up the images in your search to isolate the specific examples to illustrate the term
Here are important additions
Cognitive Behavioural Graphic Design Principles
Gestalt Law – The law of simplicity
Gestalt principles of design (Grouping) Theories of visual perception
- Proximity – closer objects are related to each other
- Similarity – objects that look similar as seen related or part of the same group. When there is something that doesn’t seem to fit or doesn’t resemble its neighbours, it is called an anomaly and according to the Von Restorff effect, it gets noticed and remembered.
- Closure/Convexity – occurs when an incomplete shape is seen as a whole
- Continuity/Good Continuation – occurs as the eye moves naturally from one part of the design to the next. It leads to the Pragnanz Effect where complex objects appear in their simplest form.
- Figure & Ground – the subject and background appear to exchange dominance. The design alternates its position or characteristics in a random fashion. The difference between the two is vague as there is no dominance of one over the other.
- Common Region
There are more…
Principles of Colour Association – The Psychology of Color
- Blue; secure, calm, honest, trustworthy, strong, caring
- Red; love, excitement, action, boldness, passionate.
Principles of Shape Association – The Psychology of Shapes
- Circles, ellipses, and curves have a strong femininity
- Vertical lines are seen as exciting and motivating
- Horizontal lines are perceived as tranquil and static
Principles of Social Influence – The Psychology of Marketing and Sales
- Commitment / Consistency
- Social proof
Principles of Perception
Principles of Typography