Balance

A good sense of balance is healthy for your design layouts

Asymmetrical balance
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Balance is the principle of design that places elements on the printed page or website so that text and graphic elements are evenly distributed. In layouts with an even balance, the graphics don't overpower the text, and the page doesn't seem to tilt to one side or the other.

Specific types of balance include symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial. 

Symmetrical Balance

In symmetrical balance, the page elements are centered or create mirror images.

Examples of symmetrical balance are often seen in formal, static page layouts. When a design can be centered or evenly divided both vertically and horizontally it has the most complete symmetry possible. Symmetric designs often convey a sense of tranquility, familiarity, elegance or serious contemplation. 

One way to tell if a piece has symmetrical balance is to fold a printout of it in half and then squint so you aren't seeing the actual words and images to see if each half looks the same.

Asymmetrical Balance

In asymmetrical balance, there are an odd number of elements or the elements are off-center. Examples of asymmetrical balance may incorporate odd numbers of elements or different sized elements and can be more informal and relaxed than symmetrical designs.

With asymmetrical balance, you are evenly distributing the elements within the format which may mean balancing a large photo with several small graphics.

You can create tension by intentionally avoiding balance. Asymmetrical balance can be subtle or obvious.

Uneven elements present designers with more possibilities for arranging the page and creating interesting designs than perfectly symmetrical objects. Asymmetrical layouts are generally more dynamic and—by intentionally ignoring balance—the designer can create tension, express movement or convey a mood such as anger, excitement, joy or casual amusement.

Radial Balance

In radial balance, elements on the page radiate from a central point. Examples of radial balance might appear in a circular arrangement such as the spokes of a wagon wheel or the petals on a flower. Often the center point is the focus of the design. Radial designs can also be spiral in nature.

Other Elements of Balance

Balance is only one of the principles of design. Others include: 

  • Emphasis
  • Repetition
  • Unity
  • Flow 
  • Proportion
  • Scale
  • Variety

Balance is achieved not only by the distribution of text and images but by the distribution of white space. Closely related to balance is the concept of the rule of thirds, the visual center and the use of grids.

The rule of thirds says that most designs can be made more interesting by visually dividing the page into thirds vertically and/or horizontally and placing the most important elements within those thirds.