The Principles of Design

There is logic in creative thinking and expression. Despite whether the creative or the audience is aware of it. Unconsciously we are drawn to design that follows at least one or more of the key principles of design. On the other hand, we repel, and feel like something isn’t right or is missing if none of the principles are adhered to… which may be what the designer is trying to achieve. Hence the importance of firstly knowing what your desired outcome is of any design piece.

WHAT ARE THE KEY PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

There are six basic principles, however, some theories state there are up to 20 principles, but from research it is a further dissection/layering of one of the key principles below.  The basic principles will suffice in creating ‘good design’. The theory is that at least one of the design principles should be incorporated to achieve good design, however, all the six principles can be incorporated into the one piece.

Alignment

This helps us to create order and an invisible connection between elements. In today’s world, the number of messages that we engage in / cross our path each day, makes it essential for us to make it easy to understand quickly what it is that we want to the audience to think or do. It is a simple but effective way to creating sharp design. Interestingly, the word alignment, infers a feeling of balance and peace.

Repetition

Something that is used when you have multiple pages or pieces typically, but we can also see this principle used in one-offs. In this case, it would be for the purpose of making a very strong statement that leaves an imprint. Repetition, generally, is about creating consistency. Consistency makes people feel safe, provide clarity and helps build trust. Unless your brand is very established, playing around with the treatment of your logo for example, will only confuse your audience, whilst forgoing the opportunity of building familiarity with your brand.

Contrast

Contrast is all about emphasis. You can achieve contrast with type, colour, images, shapes, lines, etc. It’s a great tool to help guide the viewer, also playing a role in the principle of hierarchy (below). Creating strong contrast definitely helps with grabbing attention. So if you have a big message you want to get across, use contrast. You will see this principle adopted in many political movement communications.

Hierarchy

Is a means of prioritising the message order, so the design doesn’t create chaos and lose the viewer, as they are not sure what path to follow to take in the information. Our eyes, when looking at something, are looking for order of where to start and where to end. When it comes to a marketing message what is the order from the most important to least important in the eyes of the viewer: is it your logo, the message, your website, the visual, the contact details, etc? It’s crucial that we think from the viewer’s perspective. This has created many interesting conversations between creatives and clients on the percentage of space given to a logo!! Currently the trend of minimisation is impacting how and where and if we position various components… and leaving us to ask the question… do we actually need them at all?

Balance

It is what it says. You can achieve this in two ways: symmetrical, when the weight is evenly distributed (ie, two equal halves) and asymmetrical, through using contrast (eg, dark and light). Keep in mind what you are trying to achieve and whether this design principle is applicable.

Colour  – Is not a key principle, per se, but we think it’s worth including.

A game changing principle to any design piece. The key is to know how far you can take colour and when to pull it back. In most design courses, colour is the last thing you get to play with so you can focus on learning to leverage the effectiveness of all other principles. A good discipline to establish. Work on the order first and then play with colour. There are millions of colours, each every one tells a story. So think about the story you are creating with the colours you are using. If you are looking for inspiration, look to nature. There is a magic in natural that achieves colour combinations that we might not ordinarily be able to achieve.

WHAT ROLE DOES THIS PLAY WHEN IT COMES TO PROMOTIONAL PRODUCTS?

In 1919, founder of Bauhaus (An art school in Germany), Walter Gropius had the idea that design should meet the needs of society. (source:https://www.reference.com/art-literature/bauhaus-design-adc78199c0f8726d).

This thinking is still relevant today. Before we step into designing any promotional piece, we must try to understand how it will meet the needs of the user/audience. The more aligned we are with this, the more value the audience will place on the item. So staying close to what’s trending is important to ensuring your brand/business stays relevant. A well thought through promotional product clearly denotes your relevance in the market … an image speaks a thousand words. Doing something for the sake of doing it, without the thinking, will come through and may devalue your brand in its market.  

What we are seeing now is how, what were once considered promotional products, have become a merchandise range, for companies like VB and Tiffany’s. It has become a means of leveraging their engagement across new channels and new audiences. In itself, it is/has become a marketing medium that the consumer is paying for. For the reason that the brand value has been well established. VB has engaged fashion designers to create their new range of apparel line – which is a big step forward.

Before you go straight to the ‘promotional product’ consider the following:

  1. Start with your customer
  2. Research what is trending in the industry and consumer market
  3. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve
  4. Consider some concepts
  5. Think about the message and the relevance.
  6. When you go into design, apply two or more of the design principles listed above.

GREAT DESIGN ADDS VALUE

At first you may not being able to assign a monetary value to great design, however if it’s having an impact on perception, then this is the beginning of a new era for your brand, business and you. You, is in reference to how you think and feel about your brand. That it is worthy of the investment, that the customers are also worthy, that the alignment with your desired brand positioning (if your current one doesn’t cut it) is crucial to continuing to build ‘perceived value’. And perceived value, at the end of the day, is a ‘real value’. Sometimes our biggest challenge is knowing our true value!!!

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