Principles of Design

Design elements need to be portrayed in certain ways in order to capture attention. This is achieved by following basic design principles. Even if you have no prior knowledge of these principles, a bit of study will make you realize that in the past, you actually have had the sense to intuitively follow them. You just haven’t had the chance to articulate them properly.

If you go through the references listed at the bottom of this article, you will come across several principles. While memorizing is not required, it is best if you familiarize yourself with all of them. The principles mentioned below, however, are apparently included in many of the resources I have read myself, which lead me to believe that these may be the most important, or at least most commonly followed and respected.

Harmony and Balance

Harmony is a relationship between different elements. They go so well with each other, so much so that them as a whole become greater than their summation.


Contrast or opposition, on the other hand, provide drama or oven conflict in a frame.


A picture would normally have at least one element that becomes its focal point, or central interest. For example, a portrait will usually have a person’s head, or if you want to be more specific, his or her eyes as the focal point in a picture. Therefore, that is where the camera would focus. A photographer would probably avoid shooting other elements that might distract the viewer, creating what is called negative space around the element.


To achieve unity, the elements must work together within the frame. What I mean by this is that the elements have to be portrayed in such a manner that together, they can have a single common statement and none of them causes any distraction from that statement.



Bartel, N. (2012). Some ideas about composition and design elements, principles,
and visual effects. Retrieved January 4, 2016 from

Bradley, S. (2015). Design principles: compositional balance, symmetry And asymmetry. Retrieved January 4, 2015 from

Chmilar, S. (undated). The principles of design. Web. Retrieved December 1, 2009 fromĀ

Freeman, M. (2007). The Photographer’s Eye (Kindle version). Retrieved from

Gram, A. (2014). The Uncommon Photographer (Kindle version). Retrieved from

McClurg-Genevese, J.D. 2005. The Principles Of Design. Digital Web Magazine. Web. Retrieved December 4, 2009 fromĀ