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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Basic Design Principles

Basic design principles are recognized by designers of all types.  Interior designers, architects, fashion designers, landscape designer, and artists all work with basic design principles every day.  

The design principles are listed below.


Balance pertains to the visual weight of an object, not so much the actual physical weight.  A large piano is balanced by a large sofa.  A sideboard with a large mirror hanging above it would be balanced with a china hutch.  Formal balance has symmetrical visual weights on either side. For example, you can put 2 identical vases on either end of a table to create formal balance.  

Informal balance is achieved by creating visual balance with different items. For example, you can use set of 3 candlesticks on one side of a table and a large pot on the other side of the table. The grouping of candlesticks and the large pot seem to have a similar weight.

Emphasis or Focal Point

An emphasis or focal point is the dominant item in a room that your eye is most drawn to. This could be a chandelier, fireplace, or a beautiful bed. There is usually only one, two, or three focal point in a well-designed room.

Basic Design Principles


Gradation is the use of a change in size of objects from large too small or a change in colour from light to dark . Russian stacking dolls are an example of gradation from large too small.


Proportion is how an object's quantity, size, or number relates to another part and the object as a whole. Objects with a 2 to 3, 3 to 5, or 5 to 8 proportion seem to be most pleasing.  For example, a chair that is 30" wide would look nice with an ottoman that is 20" wide, using the 2 to 3 proportion.


Radiation is a balance around a central point.  Dining chairs around a round table radiate around the centre of the table.  Tree branches usually radiate around the tree's trunk.


Rhythm is the path your eye follows. You can create rhythm using gradation, repetition, transition, or radiation.  Repetition is the use of the same object several times. You can use several photos in the same type of frame along a wall to create rhythm.


Scale refers to how an object's size relates to other objects. For example, a large room with small furniture in it would have an unpleasing scale.  A small room with an enormous piece of furniture in it would also have an unpleasing scale.


Transition is how something transitions from one element to another.  Instead of using just tall and short elements, mix in some medium sized elements to create a good transition.

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