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What are the 7 Types of Principles of Design? A Professional Web Designer’s Perspective for Business Owners


As a professional web designer, I've witnessed firsthand how the digital landscape has evolved dramatically over the years. This evolution has transformed the way businesses interact with their customers online. It's not just about having a website anymore; it's about making that website a dynamic, engaging, and visually appealing space that reflects your brand's identity and values. That's why understanding the principles of design is crucial for any business owner looking to make an impact online. In this article, I'll guide you through the seven core principles of design, providing practical tips and personal anecdotes to help you see how these concepts can be applied to your website.

1. Balance

Balance in web design is like the balance in our everyday lives - too much or too little of something, and things start to feel off-kilter. In design terms, balance is about distributing elements in a way that visually stabilizes a page. There are three types of balance to consider:

Symmetrical Balance

This is where elements are mirrored on either side of a central line. It's like a perfectly balanced seesaw. I often use symmetrical balance for more traditional or corporate websites where stability and formality are key.

Asymmetrical Balance

Here, different elements have equal visual weight but are not mirrored. It's like balancing a small, heavy object with a larger, lighter one. Asymmetrical balance is great for more dynamic, modern designs.

Radial Balance

Think of a spiral staircase or a sunflower. Elements radiate from a central point, creating a sense of movement. Radial balance is less common but can be incredibly striking.

Tip✨: Play around with different types of balance in your designs. Use grid systems to help achieve symmetrical balance, and for asymmetrical, try juxtaposing a large image with smaller, text-based content.

2. Contrast

Contrast is the design principle that makes a website 'pop'. It's all about creating difference - in color, size, shape, and texture - that makes elements stand out.

Color Contrast

Use complementary colors on the color wheel for maximum impact. For instance, I often use blue and orange together for a vibrant, energetic feel.

Size and Shape

Big and small, circles and squares - varying sizes and shapes can guide a user's eye to where you want it. A large, bold headline next to a smaller paragraph is a classic example.


Mixing textures, like a smooth, flat background with a textured font, can add depth to your design.

Personal Anecdote: Once, I worked on a website where the contrast was so low that users struggled to differentiate between different elements. By simply adjusting the color contrast, we saw an immediate improvement in user engagement.

3. Emphasis

Emphasis is all about creating a focal point that draws attention. It’s where you want your user’s eye to land first.

Strategies for Emphasis

  • Size: Larger elements naturally draw more attention.
  • Color: Bright colors can highlight more important areas.
  • Texture: A unique texture can make a section stand out.

Tip✨: Don't overdo it. Too many focal points can lead to a cluttered and confusing layout. Remember, if everything is emphasized, nothing is.

4. Rhythm

In web design, rhythm creates a visual journey. Just like in music, rhythm in design can be regular, random, progressive, or flowing.

Regular Rhythm

This is about creating a predictable and consistent pattern. Think of a grid layout where each section follows a uniform size and spacing.

Random Rhythm

Random rhythms are less predictable and can add a dynamic, spontaneous feel to a design.

Progressive/Flowing Rhythm

This is where elements change progressively, creating movement and directing the user’s eye across the page.

Personal Anecdote: I recall designing a site where we used a progressive rhythm in the form of gradually larger images leading to a call-to-action. It guided users' attention naturally and increased conversions.

5. Unity

Unity is about creating a cohesive whole. It’s the principle that ensures all parts of your website feel connected and part of a single entity.

Techniques for Unity

  • Repetition: Repeat certain design elements throughout the site.
  • Proximity: Group related items together.
  • Alignment: Align elements to create a clean, orderly look.

Tip✨: Use a consistent color palette and typography throughout your site to reinforce unity.

6. Proportion

Proportion is about the relationship between elements in terms of size and space. It's key to creating a hierarchy and readability in your design.

Techniques for Scaling Elements

  • Visual Hierarchy: Use size to signify the importance of certain elements.
  • Golden Ratio: This is a mathematical ratio found in nature that can be used to create aesthetically pleasing proportions.

Real-Life Example: On an e-commerce site, making product images larger than the text descriptions can direct focus and make the site more user-friendly.

7. Movement

Movement guides the user through your website. It’s about how the eye travels from one point to another.

Creating Motion

  • Animation: Subtle animations can draw attention to specific elements.
  • Scrolling Effects: Parallax scrolling can create an illusion of depth and movement.
  • Dynamic Content: Elements that change or update can create a sense of motion.

Balance with Usability: It's crucial to balance movement with usability. Too much movement can be distracting and detract from the user experience.


Understanding these seven principles - balance, contrast, emphasis, rhythm, unity, proportion, and movement - is like having a toolkit that can help you create a website that not only looks good but also functions well and aligns with your brand's identity. As a business owner, investing time in understanding these design fundamentals can have a profound impact on how your customers interact with your brand online.

Design is an ever-evolving field, and staying abreast of these principles will ensure your website remains engaging, functional, and visually appealing. Remember, a well-designed website is a powerful tool in the digital world. It can attract customers, build trust, and ultimately drive your business forward.

Additional Resources

For further exploration into the world of design, I recommend checking out resources like Smashing Magazine and A List Apart, and books such as “The Principles of Beautiful Web Design” by Jason Beaird. Additionally, considering professional web design services tailored to your business can be a valuable investment in your brand's online presence.