Design is about more than just creating something beautiful. The principles of good design should be considered when placing type and graphics in a layout so that the resulting design is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also technically accurate and effective. When done well, design will amplify your reach, clarify your message, and garner more attention from your audience.
10 Principles of Design
Consider these 10 principles when beginning the design process:
- Audience. Whom do you want your message to reach? What is the group or type of person you most want to hear your message? What graphics, colors, images and text will appeal to them and be consistent with your messaging?
- Call to action. Each piece should have a clear and concise purpose, a “call to action.” What do you want your audience to do after viewing your piece? What is the next step? You’ve asked for their attention, now what? If awareness is the only discernible goal of a piece, reconsider the messaging and elements of the design.
- Alignment. Keeping elements in your design aligned is crucial. If your design is left-justified or right-justified, check to make sure all of the elements align to that imaginary vertical line. If your elements are centered, make sure they are not only centered on the page, but centered relative to each other, as well. Use guides and margins as aids in keeping things aligned.
- Margins. Don’t place text or other elements too close to the edge of the page. The exception is when you want a graphic element or photo to “bleed” off the edge of the page, that is, to extend beyond the trim edge and leave no white margin. If this is the intent, make sure the graphic extends all the way to the bleed line so it prints properly.
- Fonts. Limit the number of different fonts on a single piece. One font is often enough. Consider using the different sizes, weights, and variations of a font to bring emphasis and rhythm to a design. Use larger or heavier type for more important information and smaller or lighter type for secondary information. Two complementary fonts can be used effectively if done well. Using three or more different fonts in a design is challenging for all but the most skilled designers.
- Text drop shadows. Avoid drop shadows on text. Typical drop shadows are outdated as a design tool and often make text harder to read.
- Colors. Limit your color palette to one to three primary colors and one to three secondary colors. Our primary colors are black and gold, and those colors should always make up the majority of your graphic elements. See the Color section of this brand style guide for more information.
- White space (the space between design elements). It is tempting to try to use every available space to place text or other elements. Fight this urge. Allowing your design to “breathe” with appropriate amounts of white space will create a stronger design that is more enticing to view, easier to understand, and more effective at connecting with your audience.
- Contrast. Make sure there is enough contrast between your text and the background. Using a bold graphic, color or photo behind your text can make it harder to read.
- Simplicity. When in doubt, remove. Distill your designs down to the most essential elements. Cut text. Reduce the number of photos. Use graphics that are simple and clean.