Principles of Design

Best Practices for Arranging Text and Images

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Bear, Jacci Howard. "Principles of Design." ThoughtCo, Aug. 3, 2017, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2017, August 3). Principles of Design. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Principles of Design." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 18, 2017).

The principles of design suggest how a designer can best arrange the various elements of a page layout in connection to not only the overall design but also to the other elements.

In landscape painting, principles of design might govern where the artist places the mountains or how many clouds are in the sky. In page layout, the principles of design govern how many colors are used, the sizes of fonts, how many columns of text there are, or whether pictures appear next to each other or spread across the page - creating effective and pleasing arrangements of text and graphics.

Although this article discusses the principles primarily from a print point-of-view, you can also use your smartphone to practice your page layout skills.

Note: Principles of design is also known as design principles, principles of graphic design, and principles of composition.

Principles of Design

Following are some commonly applied principles of design:


The alignment principle explains how elements on the page line up with one another and with the margins. Left, right, and centered alignment are just a few, as are vertically aligned elements like centering the objects on a page.


This principle of design distributes elements throughout the page to create an overall balance. the graphics don't take too much focus away from the text and the whole page is built evenly so as to provide a smooth focus.


It's important the readability and consistency are taken into account when it comes to good design.

Avoid using huge fonts in one place and then tiny, different colored text elsewhere. This is a big distraction that not only makes things hard to read but also encourages an unprofessional feel.

Unity and harmony (listed below) take on a similar tone.


The contrast principle of design refers to how items on a page are different.

Their differences should be obvious but not to the point of distraction. Some common methods of making something contrast is by using different sizes, values, colors, and types.


When something is dominating, it's what draws attention or is made the focal point. Read more about the emphasis principle of design.


Keep similar/like objects together by adhering to the proximity principle. This refers to how close together or far apart the items are from each other. When they're too far separated from their counterparts, there might be an unwanted effect on the contrast, emphasis, or balance.


Repetition is in regards to using the same colors, styles, shapes, or other elements and principles throughout a document.


How well parts of the document work together makes for positive unity with all the elements.

White Space

Give the layout breathing room with emptiness by using white space.


Like proximity mentioned above, grouping is visually arranging distinct components so that they appear as a single element.


The harmony principle of design pertains to establishing visual agreement among elements.

Flow, Rhythm, or Directional Movement

The opposite of scattering, this is the arrangement of individual components so that they lead the eye of the reader in logical steps to match the flow of the document.

Scale or Proportion

The use of size to establish relationships or create a focal point.

Center of Interest or Focal Point

Arranging and/or sizing components to lead the viewer to a specific area. Sections of a document that are bold or in larger text, is one way to bring a focal point together to speak of something specific.


The hierarchy component creates a visual order-of-importance of all the components of a layout.