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Principles of Design

Updated on April 2, 2012

Having trouble in understanding the principles of design?? This hub discusses the principles of design such as balance (symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial), unity, pattern and rhythm. It describes them and explains how the principle has been applied in an artwork making it easier for you to grasp these basic concepts.

Progressive Rhythm

Rhythm is a principle of design which denotes movement by the repetition of elements. Rhythm causes the viewer to follow the work of art.

Various types of rhythms can be created by arranging the motifs (the unit that repeats) and the spaces in different ways. Progressive rhythm is created by the repetition of motifs but these motifs change every time they are repeated.

The image on the right is an example of progressive rhythm. It is a fine piece of art done by Bjorn Baar. The artwork shows the significance of coffee in waking up in the morning to provide you with the boost needed to get out of bed. To illustrate how mornings are related with coffee Bjorn Baar has used the module of a coffee cup which is repeating itself but the cup varies in size every time it is repeated thus creating variety and unity in the painting at the same time.

Symmetrical balance

Balance is a concept of visual equilibrium which involves arranging the elements in a way so that the artwork does not appear to be heavy on one side or light on the other, both parts are balanced to create a comfortable feel for the viewer.

One type of balance is symmetrical balance which is created by balancing both sides of an art equally with visual weight. If an artwork is split from middle, the left side will be a mirror image of the right side. It is mostly used in architectural designs.

Symmetrical balance has been created in the abstract graphic design in a way that the right side is a mirror image of the left hand side.

The graphic designer has shown in this the various colors of life. When one is born, he/she is not much aware of the world and is thus not able to understand much about the beauty of life which the designer denotes with blues and gray; as one becomes mature, the person better understand life and what it has to offer which is depicted by the use of calm colors in the middle showing life is beautiful and lastly as one grows old and is near the end of life, the colors of life start to fade which is denoted by the use of hues gray and blue.

Asymmetrical balance

This type of balance is also known as informal balance. The visual weight is equal on both the sides but the arrangement of the elements on each side is different suggesting movement to the eye. For instance a painting have a dark red color on the right will be balanced by the use of muted colors on the left. Also the paintings can be balanced by the use of texture, color, value or shape

This still life painting was done by Paul Cézanne. It’s the most expensive still life painting ever sold. The left side of the painting containing the pot and the cloth in the background is balanced by the cluster of fruits on the plate and the fruits spread on the white cloth thus each side has equal visual weight and the painting is balanced.

Also the pot on one side is balanced by the fruits on the plate on the other-with the small area of intense color (the fruits on the plate) are equal distance from the centre to a large area of muted color (the pot ).

Radial symmetry

This type of balance involves the arrangement of segments in a way that it radiates out from a central point. The segment can be divided into similar halves from any plane that contains the main axis. The segments can be exact repeats or can be varied. Starfish is a good example of radial symmetry.

The painting on the right has radial symmetry. Rangoli is a traditional art of India and Hindus paint Rangoli on festive occasions such as Diwali and also as a means of welcoming guests. Rangoli is painted outside their houses.

This painting is done by Kruti Shah using the motifs of flowers. The Rangoli motifs are usually of flowers, plants, mango, elephants and eagles. This painting has a floral design which radiates out from the central point.


Unity is the final result of a composition which ties all the elements together to create a unified work of art to give the viewer a sense of order and belonging. Unity in design can be achieved by similarity/repetition, continuation and proximity.

Unity that is created through similarity involves repeating of shapes, color, lines or form to create a sense of completeness and consistency.

This painting by Christine Treibert shows a calm and serene view by the beach. The artist has created unity by repeating the form (beach chairs) and also by repetition of lines on the wooden path giving the painting a sense of completeness.


It is one of the principles of art and it is created by repetition of units. There are many types of patterns such as random, alternating, flowing, regular etc. Random pattern has motifs which repeat in no particular order. Alternating pattern has two or more different motifs that repeat regularly. Regular pattern has motifs which repeat in order that is motifs repeat in identical spaces. Flowing pattern is one which has repeating wavy lines.

The art work done by the artist on the right demonstrates an alternating pattern. The two motifs which are the brown and the beige squares are repeating regularly in this chessboard creating unity and the various chess pieces are creating variety making the painting interesting.


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      Saim 5 years ago from California

      Yes these principles are important and every designer should be kept in mind while designing. Thanks for sharing nice piece of work.