The 7 Principles of Design | Zizzo Group

The 7 Principles of Design

Design is all around us. As human beings, we interact with design on a daily basis whether we realize it or not. From your favorite band’s album cover, to the poster of that movie you can’t wait to see. Everything man-made you touch has been designed.

What makes good design? Aesthetically, design can be just as subjective as art hanging in a museum gallery, but looks aren’t everything. Yes, beauty draws the viewer in and can retain some attention, but design’s main purpose is to serve a function, solve a problem, or both. The messaging and functionality are what’s important – the aesthetics merely drive the point home.

These principles of design highlight the fundamental aspects of what makes design not only appealing to the eye, but functional and useful for our everyday use.


Balance is how the elements within a composition are arranged either symmetrically, asymmetrically, or radially to create the impression of equality in weight or importance.



This is an easy one – how big or small something is. Scale affects how something is balanced. The phrase “Bigger is always better” is not always the case in design. Sometimes tiny elements can call attention just as effectively as something large. It’s the message you’re trying to convey with the design.



Have you ever looked at something that makes your eyes hurt? A diner menu that had a red background but yellow type? Or a newspaper ad that is barely legible because the dark grey type was printed against black ink? This is a from lack of contrast, or the arrangement of opposite elements. Red and yellow are not far enough from each other on the color wheel to be distinguishable enough to the eye, so the colors conflict with each other and the result is a literal headache.



Pattern is the repetition of specific visual elements such as a single unit or multitude of forms. Patterns can be used to create balance, organize surfaces in a consistent manner, or create contrast. An example of this are department store floor tiles. While they serve as decoration, they have another purpose; they lead the customer throughout the store.


Movement and Rhythm

Movement is how the eye moves throughout the composition; leading the attention from one aspect to another. This can be achieved by using repeating or alternating elements or patterns. How often something repeats and the intensity of its contrast creates rhythm.



Emphasis!!! Did that get your attention? This is when a specific element is given to a distinguishing feature to separate it from a certain element or group. This can be achieved through other principles such as contrast, movement, scale or balance.



What happens when you put it all together? How do all of these elements work with one another? The way elements are arranged so that the image is seen as a whole and overall, creates a visually compelling composition is unity.


There you have it – these are the core principles of design. As you might have noticed by now, all seven principles work in tandem with each other. When you alter the scale, that affects the overall balance. When you play with contrast, you can create emphasis. You touch anything and it can mess with overall unity. And so on. Design is function and form working together!

If you’d like to work together (see what I did there?) on a project or learn more about the design capabilities of our team, just give us a call at 414-319-5700 or shoot us an email.

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