10 Essential Principles and Elements of Design

Essential Principles and Elements of Design

Do you want to learn graphic design? Then, you need to start with the very basics. The main thing that makes design different from art, for example, is that it has int focus and goal. You need to follow specific rules as a designer, which are also essential design principles. These principles can be used by both pro designers as well as beginner bloggers who want to create a professional-looking piece of content.

Keep in mind, that each design element has a message. Graphic design can help us choose a brand of toothpaste, say that you fail in a game, or show unread messages. The front-end of websites, mobile apps, and everything you see on a screen designs.

Elements of Design

In this article, you are going to learn some basic principles of graphic design including colors, shapes, textures, lines, balance, and more. We will show you examples of each principle described here to help you understand and remember them.

1. Colors

Color has a significant impact on a whole perception of a particular design. You should never choose colors uncarefully. Even design project created in black and white colors should be adequately contrasted.

Let’s get a closer look at each color. A red color shows strong emotions, such as love, passion or even anger. This color can attract viewers attention. While blue is calm and cold color. It can be used to calm down the audience.


We used to see orange as the standard color of a prison uniform, but in design, this color can cause happiness and joy.

Black is the darkest side of the color spectrum. It can make a room look smaller because it does not reflect the light. At the same time, black is often used to show elegance and to create contrast with other colors.

You need to learn more about color theory to understand the colors, their meaning, and when to use them.


To find contrasting and matching colors try to use Adobe Color.

2. Lines

When it comes to lines, they show the borders of each design element. They could be thin or thick, smooth or rough, or even broken. They all come with a message our eyes read.

For example, a diagonal line represents a movement. At the same time, a straight line is clean.


Precise or hand-drawn lines can say a lot about design atmosphere. Hand-drawn lines can add some personal apparel to design.

3. Shapes

Just like any other part of the design, shapes can also convey some particular mood. A shape is an enclosed space which is defined by lines.


Shapes can be geometric, such as a triangle, circle, or square. And, they can be organic, for example, a bubble. Everything has its shape around us.

You need to pay attention how forms in your design interact with each other. If you used precise forms, you can’t use hand-drawn shapes in this design.

4. Textures

Textures are natural because just like shapes, they surround us. We can see, and in the real world, we can touch textures. The textures can be applied to add some depth and bring the composition to life.


If you want to translate softness and tenderness, you can use a cotton pattern as a background. At the same time, textures with flowers and plants can represent something organic and natural, for example, if it’s used on a food packaging.

5. Negative Space

Negative (or white) space is a space which is left white or black, or just empty. Also, negative space is often underestimated. It gives a design someplace, separate elements from each other, and help to add a piece of focus. Not proper use of negative space can cause an annoying lousy design.


A white space helps us better see and understand shapes, lines, and colors. If you want to learn more about it, here are great examples of negative space in the design.

6. Balance

Balance is quite an abstract word which is difficult to understand. It means a perfect combination of design elements and negative space when they don’t overpower each other. Balance is when all parts of the design fit each other.


For example, it’s easy to achieve balance with a symmetrical design, because all the elements should be placed aligned with the center line in proper places. The unbalanced composition can be overcrowded or convey a wrong message to a viewer.

7. Contrast

Contrast is a difference between elements which makes one or a few aspect stand out. This way you can create a focal point and make people notice what you need.


For instance, you need to have a light background to make a black text readable. Weight and size of your fonts should also be balanced to create a correct contrast. Balance can be achieved only with two big fonts per page (or one design). You’ll notice it when you see terrific design examples.

8. Scale

Has your client ever asked you to make a logo bigger? Maybe it happened because in comparison to a large heading logo seems small, but the client wants to make it stand out.

Playing with scale or size of your design elements you can bring specific emphasis and create a focal point.


The scale also helps to create proper proportions in your design. It makes your design separated into sections which makes it easier to see and remember. For example, subheading of an article is smaller than a heading, and this way you can determine them quickly.

9. Repetition

Repetition helps to tie different design elements and make them more organized. There are many ways to create a connection between parts of a particular design, for example, you can make header and footer at the same color.


Brand identity is an excellent example of repetition in design. Branding usually includes a logo, business card, t-shirt, website, and other things which can be all combines by the same corporate color and type. This is a repetition as it is.

10. Type

Typography is one of the fundamental parts of design because it tells a message. Byt typography is more than just a font. You can play around with shapes and textures to create unique types.


As I mentioned before, two main fonts in one design work the best. You can learn more about perfect font pairing here.


Developing beautiful visuals starts with these basic principles. The best way to master all these ten rules is to practice and experiment. You should not follow these rules blindly, but to have your vision of design.