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6 Principles of Design & How to Effectively Add Them to Your Marketing

Six principles of design


The below six principles of design provide a basis on which any good design can be created and organized. Used in conjunction with the basic elements of design—shape, line, value, color, texture, size and direction—the principles of design can help produce more effective marketing designs.



Unity is the feeling that things just work well together and are in harmony with one another. You may see unity become more evident as you near the end of your design, but consider the elements of design, especially color, when creating a harmonious work. For example, if you’re utilizing a banner, CTA (call-to-action) and designed image in a Newsletter email, you want to make sure these components work well together to represent your brand. Designing the components individually, but with one another in mind will help create a unified looking final product.



Balance is all about symmetry and asymmetry—an equal or intentional unequal distribution of elements on the page or within your design. You want to be sure to distribute the visual weight on either side of the vertical or horizontal axes, literally balancing your components as if they had physical weight. If you’re creating a homepage banner and you want to feature a large photograph, be sure to balance the bold, heavy imagery with equally heavy copy on the opposite side. Visual balance will ensure the viewers’ eyes keep moving and do not get distracted by one specific element on the page.



Movement is the path the viewer takes through the design or down the page, directed by shapes, lines and colors. The movement of the design can easily be determined by creating a hierarchy of content in a variety of ways. Using the ‘family tree’ method allows users to follow your content as secondary categories branch off larger parental topics, guiding them down the page and through the content in an organized manner. Nesting groups of important information into clusters encourages the reader to fully comprehend all elements of one topic (primary and secondary), before moving onto the next idea, concept or element on the page.

Varying weights—keeping headers bold and large, and body copy regular and small—can also keep content organized for the user, determining that elements of the same weight serve the same importance. To ensure overall hierarchical balance, keep the important design elements “above the fold” as they say in journalism—you don’t want viewers scrolling too far down the page to dig for more important information.



Scale and proportion go hand-in-hand with both balance and hierarchy. You want the various elements to relate well to one another, but to also distinguish your intent for the design. Using similar elements in various sizes can determine importance. Keeping elements in ratio (ie. elements are different sizes, but ultimately all elements add up to 100%) creates an overall balance of the piece, while the individual components hold their own significance. Or go for bold, and create points of importance with large elements scaled against smaller ones, drawing the user into what you believe is most important first, and creating relationships of components on the page.



Emphasis is another principle of design that encompasses all the other principles. You can use scale, hierarchy and balance to capture the viewer’s attention, but use emphasis when you have something of significance you want to stand out among the rest of your design, even dominate the design. This could be a statistic about your quarterly sales, a testimonial that validates the hard work you’ve been doing—anything you think is crucial for the user to understand about your brand before reading the rest of the story.



Contrast is key when successfully marketing your brand in order to prevent stagnant elements in your design. The most evident contrast, light & dark, can create a separation between elements and a defined foreground and background, drawing attention to the important content. Beyond color, using elements with varying texture and pattern can create a distinction. As with unity, you want the components to work well together, but not blend together. Using too much of one color or two very similar colors can create a flatness to design that is unappealing visually, and will result in shorter visit times to your page.

Utilizing these six principles of design in conjunction with the basic elements of design can increase online engagement, consumption and overall brand appeal.

What styles of branding do you find most effective? Let us know.


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