Last edited 18 Oct 2016

Design principles

For information about the application of design within the construction industry, see Design methodology.


[edit] Introduction

Design principles are the fundamental ideas and elements that can be applied to achieve successful design.

The elements that together comprise a design include:

  • Line: A marker between two points.
  • Shape: Geometric (i.e. squares and circles), or organic (i.e. free-formed or natural shapes).
  • Direction: Horizontal, vertical or oblique.
  • Size: Dimensions in relation to another element.
  • Texture: Surface quality, i.e. rough, smooth, and so on.
  • Colour: Hue, value (lightness or darkness), intensity (brightness or dullness).

The application of design principles to these elements will generate the design.

Common design principles include:

[edit] Balance

Balance provides stability and structure to a design by placing the elements in such a way that the visual weight, in terms of objects, colours, textures and space, is distributed, i.e. symmetry. For example, a large shape positioned close to the centre can be balanced by a small shape close to the edge.

[edit] Unity

This establishes an agreement between elements so that no individual element is viewed as more important than the design as a whole. Proximity is achieved, not necessarily by placing the elements together, but by connecting them visually:

  • Repetition: Strengthens a design by tying together individual elements to create association and consistency.
  • Rhythm: This is a feeling of ‘organised movement’ created when one or more elements are used repeatedly. Variety is essential to keeping rhythm interesting.
  • Continuation: The sensation of a line or pattern extending.
  • Perspective: The sense of distance between elements.
  • Proportion: The sense of unity achieved when elements, or parts of elements, relate to each other in terms of size, amount or number.

[edit] Movement

This is the visual flow or path taken by the observer’s eye. It can be directed to focal areas by means of placement of dark and light areas, and positioning. Movement can be directed by the use of lines, edges, shapes and colours.

[edit] Emphasis/contrast

This is the part of the design that catches attention, usually achieved by contrasting areas in terms of size, colour, direction, form, density, texture, shape, and so on.

[edit] Space

This refers to the placing of elements such that there is space around or within them.

[edit] Alignment

Alignment enables order and organisation, which creates a visual connection between the elements.

[edit] Find out more

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External resources