The Principles of Design and Their Importance

One of the most difficult parts of talking about the principles of design is figuring out just how many principles there actually are (are there five? Seven? Ten?). And once that’s been figured out, which of these supposed design fundamentals should be included?

Search for “principles of design” and Google will return results for articles that include from five to more than a dozen individual principles. Even the articles that agree on the number don’t necessarily agree on which ones should be included in that number.

In reality, there are roughly a dozen basic principles of design that beginning and expert designers alike should keep in mind when working on their projects. In addition, there are another dozen or so “secondary” design principles that are sometimes included as basics (for example, the Gestalt Principles, typography, color, and framing). The main design principles are explained and illustrated below.

Basic Design Principles
As already mentioned, there is no real consensus in the design community about what the main principles of design actually are. That said, the following twelve principles are those mentioned most often in articles and books on the subject.

Contrast
One of the most common complaints designers have about client feedback often revolves around clients who say a design needs to “pop” more. While that sounds like a completely arbitrary term, what the client generally means is that the design needs more contrast.

Contrast refers to how different elements are in a design, particularly adjacent elements. These differences make various elements stand out. Contrast is also a very important aspect of creating accessible designs. Insufficient contrast can make text content in particular very difficult to read, especially for people with visual impairments.