Principles of Visual Design

Composition, Elements, Content
 The
way that elements of a design are
visually combined and arranged.
 Consists of the placement, alignment,
grouping, visual flow, division of space,
etc. of elements.
 Traditionally known as the “Principles of
 The
pieces that are being arranged
within a composition.
 Could also be thought of as components
or pieces.
 Includes the traditional “Elements of Art”
or in Graphic Design, the logos, text,
photographs, illustration, linework,
borders and background of a piece.
 Theme, connotation, message, style…
 The
thought or idea behind the design.
 Responsible for delivery of the desired
Design works when all three of these
– composition, elements and concept –
work in unison around a properly
identified audience and purpose.
Principles of Design
 Noun
or Verb…
 A plan or design of something.
 The process of arranging editorial
content, advertising, graphics and other
information to fit within certain
 Sometimes used as a synonym for
composition (noun).
Every layout begins as empty space.
It does not matter how good the element
is, if it is not placed correctly it is
Effective placement and divisions of
space are like grammar for visual
The point of design is to communicate.
The Principles of Design help you
communicate ideas.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Principle of Design
 Variety adds interest
 Variety in spacing of points makes a
composition interesting
 Point, dot, spot…
 An
Element of Art
 For our purposes today, a point is going
to be a dot.
 A point could also represent a point of
interest in a design or photograph
Try it.
Place one point in each of the boxes.
Make sure it is placed a different
measurement from each edge.
Make each composition distinctly
different from the others.
Now try it with two dots.
Make sure the measurement between
the dots is unique as well.
Instead of dots, use rectangles of various
 Appropriate
placement of elements
doesn’t “just happen”.
 Become aware of the spatial relationships
of the elements of your designs.
 The more you think about it, the more you
won’t have to.
When a line (or implied line) is used to
divide space in a design or photograph,
its placement falls under the Principle of
Unequal Spacing as well.
Dead-center placement creates a static,
uncreative image.
The viewer doesn’t know where to look –
both halves are given equal weight.
 An
implied line is created where the sky
and the ground meet in a photograph or
 Placing it in the center of the space
confuses the viewer – is it the sky or the
ground they are supposed to look at?
 Get
out your horizon line photographs
and an extra piece of paper.
 Use the paper to crop the image – move
the horizon line up and down in the
 Try out extremes – move it WAY up or
WAY down and see what happens.
When the horizon line is in the top half of
the image, where do you look? What is
the focus of the picture now?
When the horizon line is in the bottom
half of the image, where do you look?
What is the focus of the picture now?
 Slightly
off-center isn’t much better than
dead center. In fact, it could be worse.
 Slightly off-center makes it look like you
are unsure of where to place something
or were to lazy to do it right.
OWN the placement of your elements!
It is better to be extreme in the
placement of elements than wishywashy.
Why You Have to Learn Them
 Rules
help you develop an understanding
of how design works.
 Rules tell you what a design is trying to
 Rules tell you how to accomplish a look,
feeling or idea visually.
You learn the rules so you know when to
break them.
 The
Principle of Unequal Spacing creates
visual movement and interest within a
 What if you don’t want visual movement?
 You would place it dead center.
Centering the point of interest draws
immediate and final attention.
 Observe
the world around you.
 Look at design work in magazines,
newspapers, advertisements, movie
 Examine the placement of the point of
interest in these images.
 How often do you see dead-center
placement? What kind of designs use
this? Why do you think that is?