Posted by: sarawaltemire | April 8, 2011

Five Design Principles

Being a marketing intern at Literary Arts has definitely brought me out of my comfort zone. Over the past few years, I’ve really honed in on my writing and event skills and left some other skills, like design, back in my introductory journalism courses. On my first day, my supervisor asked me to design some posters and postcards to promote our upcoming season of Portland Arts & Lectures. I must admit at first I was really hesitant to take this project on. Over the last week and a half I have designed many different promotional materials, and I’ve realized that it’s a great skill for anyone in event services to have. Most events have wide assortment of print collateral and knowing how to design them yourself can be a great benefit, especially if you’re in a crunch! These principles can even be applied to the layout of a space where you’re holding an event.

While I was working on this project, I did a little research to refresh my memory on the five design principles. I thought it might be helpful for some of my readers as well.


Balance can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical design can be achieved by placing two objects of the same size on both halves of your sheet of paper. Asymmetrical design on the other hand can be achieved by placing several smaller items on one side and one larger item on the other. For example, I achieved symmetry on the advertisement I was working on by placing the text on the left side of my ad in a box that was the same size as the photograph on the right side of the ad.


This particularly principle is important for connecting like objects. Often text that falls within two different columns or text boxes will need to be aligned to visually connect the text. This can be done by having them fall along the same line horizontally or vertically.


Contrast is used to draw the eye to particular aspects of the image. A person’s eye will be drawn to the object that sticks out first, and it will move through the image from there.  There are a lot of different ways to create contrast, such as color and size. For example, in the photo above, the eye is drawn to the red sphere because of its contrasting color and location in the forefront of the image.


Repetition can involve using the same colors, fonts or layouts on a variety of different items. I think that font repetition in one layout is particularly important. If you are using too many different fonts, pages can look overly complicated. This is also a great way to carry one theme throughout a campaign. By using the same fonts or by styling multiple designs similarly adds consistency and will bring that campaign to people’s minds when they see the design next.


Proximity often means grouping similar items together on a page. It can often be used to create a focal point on the page, which will direct the eye on how to move through the design. This principle has been the most difficult for me to adapt in my work. I’ve found that I’ve been trying to group text together on one part of the page, as long as it does not look cluttered, to achieve proximity.


For more information on each of the design principles, check out this blog post by Maddison Designs. I found it to be the most informative during my research.

Hopefully this refresher was helpful. Can you think of any other principles that are important for design? Or do you have an example of any of these principles? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I loved this post, Sara! I’m pretty unfamiliar with design work as well, but I always end up struggling with it in school work and professional work. It is usually the most time-consuming and frustrating part of a project. I agree that repetition works well to “brand” the project by using the colors or logos of the company, all while keeping it simple. Nice post!

  2. Sarah, some of the points you highlighted about what we as Public Relations majors hone in on is drastically different from what people can expect. I myself am not a very design/creative friendly person and if I were asked to do tasks along these lines I would absolutely find myself in the position you are in. As seeing as how I am not design friendly, the only piece of advice I seem to remember is the Rule of Thirds. Good luck over-coming your design challenges, as I know you will.


  3. Great post, Sara! Well done. You had some super insight and thoughts here!


  4. I enjoyed this! Its funny how so many of us (whether we think we are creative or not) can tweak,add, or redesign an entire piece to make it more aesthetically pleasing according to our eye, and yet rarely do we stop to think about these elements you have described. They are the basis design.

  5. I have been designing for a while now, but to be honest to see that basic principles lined out like that is a good refresher course for me. A lot of the time I get lost in the tediousness of just finishing products and I don’t get to look back and make sure I am hitting all the target goals. Jenna is right, branding is at the heart of design and vice versa. it most of the most important roles of a companies’ outward appearance and how the world looks at them.

    great post –

  6. Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad to hear you all found it helpful. And Jessi, thanks for pointing out the rule of thirds! I’d forgotten that one as well.

  7. i love this post…without these 5 basic principle of design,one cannot achieve a good design….please may we all endavour to apply them when designing for good.

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