Graphic Design Principles: The Complete Guide

Like any discipline, graphic design follows strict rules that work below the surface to create an attractive and effective composition.

Why you need to learn about Graphic Design Principles

Graphic design principles are like building blocks. Each layer on top of the other until you have a foundation to create an incredible design – whether it's a logo, custom illustration, or a website.

If you're a first-time designer, you might be thinking design is all about creativity. Hence, get tempted to go wild and incorporate different typefaces and colors that captivate your eyes, believing you will create a fresh and new design. Most likely, you will find yourself with an unfinished, messy, or well, a very unattractive design.

You need to learn about the graphic design elements and principles to create balanced and stable designs.

The Top Graphic Design Principles

Here are the top graphic design principles that will make your next project stand out.


Contrast is an illustration of what people refer to as design 'pops.' It comes from the page and becomes part of your memory. Contrast differentiates and creates space between your design's elements. Your background should be significantly different from your elements' color to work together harmoniously and be readable.

If you intend to work with type, you have to understand contrast fully to balance the size and weight. Otherwise, how will your viewers know the essential element if you put everything in bold?


Always remember that any element you place on a page has a weight. The weight can be from either size, texture, or color. The same way you can't pull all your furniture in one corner, you can't place all the heavy components in one composition area. Your audience's eyes will feel like they're sliding off the page if your composition has no balance.


Assuming you're creating a concert poster. What piece of information would you want your audience to know first? Is it the concert venue or the band? What about the date and the charges?

Create an outline mentally. Allow your brain to organize the data, then create your design according to the order. Whatever the most important information is, make it the most prominent element and place it in the center. Your plan will fail if you start a composition with no clear idea of the message you're trying to convey.


Proportion refers to the weight and size of the visual elements in a composition and their relation. It helps address your designs in portions instead of as a whole. Incorporating related elements can make them essential. You can achieve proportion if all your design elements are sized well and carefully placed.


Hierarchy determines how well website users can process content. It refers to a design's elements' importance. You should illustrate the most important content by using headings and titles in a design. It will help if you give the page title the most importance by ensuring it's recognizable immediately. Also, it would be best if you format headings and subheadings in a way that illustrates their importance to each other and the body, and the title.


If you restrict yourself to three solid colors or two strong typefaces, you'll eventually have to repeat some things. Well, there's no problem with that. Often, repetition strengthens and unifies a design.

Repetition can be more important than a single printed product. In fact, current packaging designs heavily embrace attractive illustrated patterns.


Consider graphic design principles as moving parts that come together to tell a story. Before approaching your design project, ensure you familiarize yourself with these principles. Only then will you be capable of creating unique design.

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