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13 Design Principles and Best Practices to Apply Them Skillfully

Last Updated Apr 5, 2024

Have you noticed some graphic designs have extraordinary appeal while others seem off? You know when a design is not working but fail to figure out why. We usually think designing a piece, like a Facebook post, is about following your heart. While this is half of the story, the other half involves the techniques known as design principles. In other words, design principles are the basic rules that give a magical touch to your creative endeavors.

In design, elements are the ingredients, and principles are the recipe that guarantees a masterpiece. We cannot explain everything in a paragraph, so we have brought you everything in this article. We will walk you through thirteen design principles, crucial design elements, and best practices to apply these principles. You will also learn their impact on the viewer with the help of the template designs illustrating every principle.

What are Design Principles in Art 

We are not artists, but no art piece without design principles exists. The design principles include emphasis, alignment, balance, contrast, repetition, proportion, movement, white space, hierarchy, variety, unity, rhythm, and proximity. The artist doesn’t need to use every principle in their design. In particular, an artist aims to achieve harmony and convey the intent behind the creation by using these principles in an artwork. 

Why are Design Principles Important

You start with a blank canvas and a head full of ideas to curate a simple design. Now, this can get chaotic and confusing. To avoid the confusion, one should follow the principles of design. Nonetheless, they also help to give the maximum visual impact. Further, design principles evoke a strong interest in the viewer. Even the most abstract designs require some of these principles to provide a sense of rhythm and direction. To sum up, the principle of design makes your job convenient when you sit to design. Before you start, you should be familiar with design elements. 

Elements of Design 

Elements are the tools you use to create your design. These are the basic units of an artwork. Your tools are explained to you:

  • Line- This is an essential element connecting two points. In design, a line can be straight, wavy, dotted, thin, or thick; either way, it gives a sense of neatness and direction.

Notice how this fashion square post template uses the lines to highlight the fashion brand.

Fashion square post template

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Check out the exclusive collection of DocHipo’s fashion square post templates.

  • Space- Space refers to the gap between two design elements, but you can also manipulate the white space around the objects to show a particular object.
  • Shape- Shapes can be anything with enclosed space in the design; it can be geometrical or abstract. 

Notice the sharp geometric shapes in this business YouTube banner template that are appropriate for the professional edge.

Business YouTube banner template

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Learn more about the huge collection of shapes in the library from DocHipo.

  • Color- Colors evoke emotions in the viewers. Broadly, colors have three properties- hue, saturation, and value. Hue refers to the name of the color, saturation is the intensity, and value refers to the darkness and lightness of the color.

To illustrate, this cute Christmas Facebook post template creates pleasing appeal with different colors.

Christmas Facebook post template

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Explore Christmas Facebook post templates with DocHipo.

  • Texture- Texture is the feel of a surface. It can be smooth, rough, or granular; the sight of the surface translates into the feel of the texture in the design.

This cleverly designed fashion YouTube banner template shows the denim texture to make the layout speak for itself.

Fashion YouTube banner template

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  • Direction- Direction refers to the movement in the design. With the help of various elements, you draw your viewer’s attention in a direction.

How Many Principles of Design Are There 

We have talked a lot about the principles of design. Overall, there are 13 principles to refine your designs. Moreover, DocHipo templates will help you to understand each of these principles.

1. Emphasis

Emphasis means highlighting certain design elements so that they stand out. When readers look at the design, they automatically see the highlighted feature. 

You can emphasize the design by changing the fonts, text size, and text color or adding effects like shadow or border. Look at this Christmas poster template highlighting ‘gifts’ and ‘love’ with the help of font size and text color.

Christmas poster template

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This restaurant flyer template is an excellent example of emphasis. First, it draws our attention to the bold text ‘Pizza’ with shadow effect. Secondly, the entire focus of the flyer is on this yummy cheeseburst pizza. 

Restaurant flyer template

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Another example of emphasis is this New Year X/Twitter post template. The template innovatively uses the shapes and icons related to cookies to bring the desired effect.

New year Twitter post template

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2. Alignment 

Alignment helps with organizing various components of the design. Once the elements are aligned, it shows visual consistency.

You can quickly achieve alignment by checking various elements’ hierarchy, proximity, and spacing.  To illustrate better, this is one of the designs from blog graphic templates that include lines, angular shapes, and text in alignment to appeal to the viewer.

Blog graphic template

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3. Balance

Achieving balance does not mean aiming for similarity but arranging various elements on the canvas to distribute visual weight. For a symmetrical design, you can place identical aspects on either side; for asymmetrical balance, you can place similar, minor elements on one side. Sounds complicated, right? 

Look at this presentation template design; a more extensive textured background is placed against the image with similar elements and color tones, creating the perfect balance.

Presentation template

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4. Contrast

Contrast means using different colors, shapes, sizes, and elements to distinguish one component from others. It helps you to catch your viewer by surprise. There are various ways to achieve contrast, like color, hue, font, graphics, etc. In the design, the effect of the contrast depends on the other design elements.

For example, this tempting breakfast invitation template grabs your attention with an eye-catching orange hue against a subtle backdrop, creating a beautiful contrast.

Breakfast invitation template

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Take a look at the exclusive breakfast invitation templates from DocHipo.

You can play around with various shades of the same color to bring the contrast. One of the fashion X/Twitter post templates from DocHipo justifies this type of contrast. Also, notice the playful fonts in ‘Purple Passion’ to complement the design aesthetics.

Fashion Twitter Post template

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Be creative with your contrast while using the shapes in the design. This YouTube banner has various types of 2D and 3D, yet some stand out against the monochromatic background.

YouTube Banner template

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Moreover, you can make your images stand out against a dark background like this food business card template, creating a sizzling contrast.

Food business card template

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5. Repetition

To make your designs more cohesive, you can repeat elements such as shape, color, fonts, etc.. Repetition is instrumental in achieving other principles. Now the question arises: “What design principle is based on repetition?”. Two of them are unity and rhythm. Keep scrolling to know how it works. 

Also, check out this DocHipo infographic template with repetitive color combinations in the entire design. The repetition of selected colors and shapes gives a synchronized appeal to the template.

Infographic Template

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Check out these DocHipo infographic templates for inspiration.

7. Proportion

In simple words, proportion means that nothing should feel out of place. It refers to the placement and space that various design elements occupy in a design. 

For instance, this car sale business card template smoothly manipulates the size of the various elements. The striking background showcases the luxurious car but does not overpower the image of the salesperson in the front.

Business Card Template

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In one of the real estate Instagram ad templates from DocHipo, the design carries equal weight for the image and the features, distributing the overall proportion. 

Real Estate Ad Template

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7. Movement

Even though a design is static, the viewer can feel its flow. Movement makes your design more dynamic and eye-catching. It helps maintain continuity in lengthy design pieces such as menus, brochures, infographics, etc.

Now, you can use many elements to bring movement, like lines, shapes, colors, edges, etc. To illustrate, here is a real estate brochure template from DocHipo with a beautiful curvy line to bind and take the design in a direction.

Real estate brochure template

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Notice the use of zig-zag lines running across this infographic template. It adds movement and continuity to the design.

Infographic template

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8. White Space

White space or negative space does not necessarily use white color. Simply put, it is the blank area, and it’s manipulation to symbolize an object. Primarily used in minimalistic designs, white space brings the appeal with solid shapes, colors, and patterns.

This real estate business card effectively uses white space in the design.

Real Estate Business Card Template

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You can also check dozens of real estate business cards with DocHipo.

9. Hierarchy

In design, when we say hierarchy, it’s visual hierarchy. So, applying hierarchy will bring the viewer’s focus to a few elements more than others. Hierarchy is achieved by differentiating through size, shapes, and colors while maintaining harmony throughout the design. 

For instance, look at these pleasing food Facebook ad templates that can be used to draw attention to wherever you want.  In the first one, the attention goes to the 50% discount and then to the waffle image, followed by other text elements. Notice the change in the size and type of the font throughout the text.

Food Facebook ad template

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Similarly, this Facebook ad focuses on ‘2 large pizzas’ while the pizza image stands out with color contrast.

Food Facebook ad template

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10. Variety

Variety adds extra flavor to spice up your design. You can bring variety through many elements, like colors, shapes, images, fonts, and typography. 

Notice the visual variety this vibrant blog graphic template achieves with pictures and text.

Food blog graphic template

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Add colors and shapes like these poster templates to make your design more vibrant.

New Year Poster template

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This simple yet vibrant poster design captures the festive mood of Christmas with various cute elements.

Christmas post template variety

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11. Unity

To achieve unity, follow various other design principles. There is no hard and fast rule, but to connect all the visual elements. That means your text, graphics, and color combination should complement each other. 

Look at this soothing book cover template from DocHipo. You can get a sense of unity with hues of blue and wavy graphics to give the beach vibes. 

Book Cover template

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Check out the exotic collection book cover templates of DocHipo.

12. Rhythm

When you listen to good music, its rhythm tempts you to listen to it repeatedly. Repetition and movement help you to achieve rhythm. Repetition can become monotonous; that’s what we need to avoid. To illustrate, this infographic template justifies the rhythm with similar pathway imagery running all over the design.

Infographic template

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13. Proximity

Proximity refers to the nearness of the elements to each other. Similar elements, when placed nearby, are seen as a whole. Proximity helps in unifying design elements while the other part stands out. For example, this New Year poster template plays with proximity, which radiates the feeling of celebration.

New Year Poster template

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Best Practices for Implementing Design Principles Effectively

You know all about design principles. However, applying these principles can feel overwhelming. Take a glance at these tips to make designing easy.

Understand the Design Principles

Take a closer look at all the design principle examples and understand the effect each evokes for the viewer. Further, understand how each principle is applied in a design to communicate effectively.

Maintain Consistency in the Design

Harmony is the key to the appealing design. You should be consistent with font, typography, color, alignment, and graphics. Bring only a few components together, as it makes the design confusing.

Understand the Purpose of the Design

Your purpose and target audience vary everywhere, whether a social media post or a sale poster. Based on your purpose, you can establish a clear hierarchy with headlines and critical information or drag attention toward an element using contrast and movement.

Utilize the Whitespace 

Let your design breathe and avoid overcrowding. White space helps highlight the essential elements of your design while giving a more organized appeal.

User-Centered Design

Applying design principles aligned with user-centered design ensures that your creations are intuitive, user-friendly, and cater to the needs of your audience.

Experiment with Design Principles

You don’t have to always follow the principles as hard and fast rules. Flaunt your creativity and create an out-of-the-box design to draw your viewer’s attention.  

Stay Updated with Trends

Keep an eye on the latest trends and innovations in design. Also, be open to adapting to new styles while incorporating these principles.

Understand Limitations and Constraints

When working professionally, you have various limitations, like specific color palettes, brand guidelines, and technological restrictions. Apply principles effectively after understanding these constraints.

Seek Inspiration

Creativity stems from inspiration. Draw inspiration from different art forms and disciplines to fuel your creativity and approach design with a fresh perspective.

Design Principles Application Made Easy with DocHipo

As a non-designer, you can feel overwhelmed with many rules to create a stand-out design. Don’t worry; DocHipo will share your load. The graphic design software is free and easily accessible, with thousands of stunning templates. Our professional designers have done the heavy lifting of choosing the most appropriate colors, fonts, hierarchy, movement, etc. You can use these as your starting point where principles like balance, contrast, and integration are already present.

With templates following the design principles, you can easily edit these templates using the drag-and-drop editor. In the DocHipo editor, you get ample creative freedom to tweak the text and graphics. For instance, you can use tools like the eye-dropper to pick colors from images to complement the design elements.

It’s not just about creating beautiful documents. DocHipo allows you to export and share your creations easily, inviting feedback and collaboration from others. That way, you can polish and refine your designs based on what others think.

In a nutshell, DocHipo provides an exciting digital playground where your creativity knows no bounds. Want to know how? 

Design Documents in Three Simple Steps with DocHipo

DocHipo’s simplified design philosophy helps you to create anything in three steps. Sign up with DocHipo and begin your design journey with these steps:

1. Choose Your Template

Once you have signed up, you will come across the homepage, where you can search for templates that suit your purpose.

DocHipo homepage

You will land across various template categories. Choose a category and get dozens of eye-catching templates to choose from.

Template selection in DocHipo

2. Edit Your Template

Use the design widgets on the left side of the DocHipo editor to edit text, background, icons, shapes, illustrations, and stock images. Customize text effects and color combinations according to the graphic elements. 

Template editing in DocHipo using design principles

Learn to add widget effects in DocHipo with this tutorial.

Also, learn to edit the text in DocHipo with this video.

Check out The Ultimate Guide to Using the DocHipo Editor to Design Your Documents

3. Download Your Design

After making all the customization, click on the three dots in the upper right corner to download.

Click on the three dots after customization with design principles

Select the quality and file type of the document. Your document is ready to download.

Download design with DocHipo

Go Ahead with Your Design

That was all about the design principles. With the best practices and handy tools like DocHipo, we are sure you are ready to create a fantastic design. Whether it’s your personal Instagram post or business presentation, follow these principles and create a design like a pro. Sign up with DocHipo to create a design now!


What are graphic design principles?

Graphic design principles are the guidelines that help with the arrangement and manipulation of the design elements to create visually harmonious and practical designs, encompassing concepts like balance, contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity. These principles ensure designs are visually appealing and communicate messages clearly to the audience.

What are the 7 principles of design?

Balance, contrast, emphasis, rhythm, proportion, unity, and hierarchy are the 7 design principles.

What are the 12 principles of design?

The 12 design principles are Emphasis, Rhythm, Proportion, Balance, Repetition, Unity, Hierarchy, Alignment, Movement, White Space, contrast, and Variety.