12 Principles of Design with Examples for Every Content Marketer

Design principles play a crucial role in the success of businesses today. It impacts how customers perceive your brand, products, and services.

Designs that are well-thought-out help your target audience understand your brand’s value.

  • Why should content marketers pay attention to design principles?
  • What sort of difference can they make in your marketing efforts?
  • How can you put them into action effectively?

This blog is going to dive into the heart of these questions.

And not just dry definitions – we’ll also share real-world examples of design principles to make sure you get the full picture.

Let’s explore how these fundamental principles of design can elevate your content marketing strategy.


What is Good Design?

Good design is the art of creating something visually appealing, functional, and effective.

It combines elements like color, shape, and layout to communicate a clear message and engage the audience.

Finding the balance between aesthetics and function is crucial for designs that deliver. Without this balance, the design risks being ineffective.

Good design stands out, captures attention, evokes emotions, and guides the viewer’s focus.

It isn’t just art – it’s art with a mission.

Take a look at the shared traits of all good designs:

  • Captures attention and clearly communicates a message.
  • Creates an emotional connection with the viewer.
  • Successfully directs the viewer’s eye to the most important elements.
  • Maintains consistency across all aspects of the design.
  • It is innovative and stands out from the competition.

What are the Principles of Design?

Just like any other discipline, graphic design has a playbook of rules that ensure stability and balance.

When put to work together, they help create engaging and useful designs that make sense to users.

While there’s debate over how many principles of design are out there, most experts agree with the following list of 12.

  1. Balance: Create stability between visual elements.
  2. Contrast: Emphasize differences to catch the eye and create impact.
  3. Emphasis: Highlight key elements for maximum impact.
  4. Hierarchy: Organize elements to guide the viewer’s eye and establish importance.
  5. Movement: Create a sense of motion and flow to keep the viewer engaged.
  6. Pattern: Build visual consistency and familiarity by repeating elements.
  7. Proportion: Maintain proper size relationships between visual elements.
  8. Repetition: Repeat elements to reinforce the design’s message.
  9. Rhythm: Create a visual flow that guides the viewer’s eye.
  10. Unity: Bring all the visual elements together to fulfill the design’s purpose.
  11. Variety: Introduce diverse elements to prevent dullness in your design.
  12. White Space: Utilize empty space purposefully to enhance clarity and focus.

Knowing how these principles work with and against each other is vital for good designs.

How to apply the Principle of Design

Integrating basic design principles into your branding guidelines and content marketing improves engagement. Here are some of the best design-driven examples –

1. Balance: The Art of Design Harmony

Every element in a design carries visual weight, such as form, size, color, and texture.
Creating balance involves setting up a certain scale among elements to make the design feel stable.

Balance in design has 3 basic forms:

  • Symmetrical balance uses an imaginary line to divide the design into two equal halves.
  • Asymmetrical balance is achieved with unequal sides but equal visual weight.
  • Radial balance draws attention to a central point, adding depth and focus.

Appcues achieves balance in their design by featuring a large image on the right side, which is counterbalanced by the text of the title, subtitle, and the call-to-action (CTA) on the left.

This creates an asymmetrical balance where a larger element is contrasted by multiple smaller elements.

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2. Contrast: Adding Impact and Visual Pop

Contrast is a vital principle that adds visual interest to a design. It involves using variations in colors, textures, sizes, and shapes to distinguish between elements.

Contrast helps highlight important information, create focal points, and establish a visual hierarchy.

For example, Wistia used triadic colors (pink, yellow, and blue) in this promotional video to make it vibrant and unique.

Strategic use of contrast grabs attention, guides visual flow, and keeps viewers engaged.

3. Emphasis: Directing Attention with Purpose

Emphasis is about making specific design elements stand out.

By using different visual elements, such as lines, colors, and white space, emphasis creates focal points and draws attention to key elements.

It helps create hierarchy, guides the viewer’s eye, and ensures important information is easily noticed.

DocuSign effectively emphasizes important information through the use of size, color, and contrast.

The numbers on the right stand out with their large, bold format and distinct color, immediately capturing the reader’s attention.

Sensible usage of emphasis makes sure that all important elements are highlighted without overwhelming the overall design.

4. Hierarchy: Organizing Information for Clarity

Visual hierarchy organizes the value of elements within a design.

It helps viewers process and navigate the content by sorting information from most to least important.

Different design choices, like font sizes, colors, and layouts, help establish hierarchy and guide the viewer’s attention.

Here are 2 common hierarchy patterns used in web page designs:

  • F-pattern: Used for text-heavy pages. Viewers scan in an “F” shape: headline across the top, down the left side, and then to the right.
  • Z-pattern: Used for layouts with more visuals. Viewers scan horizontally across the top, diagonally down to the opposite corner, and then scan the bottom in a similar way as the top.

Intercom demonstrates hierarchy in its website design by using a title, subtitle, and CTAs. The clear distinction between the title and subtitle indicates their relative importance, while the rest of the visual elements support the hierarchy.

5. Movement: Mastering Visual Flow for Engagement

Movement refers to controlling the flow of the viewer’s eye through the design composition.
It can be achieved through repetition, contrast, and hierarchy.

Using lines, shapes, and colors, designers create a sense of movement and direct attention to key information within the design.

Google’s website cleverly incorporates the principle of movement by adding a small blue line on the white background.

This subtle element hints to viewers that there is more content to explore as they scroll down the page.

Movement adds interest and dynamism, keeping viewers engaged and guiding their focus.

6. Pattern: Enhancing Visual Experience

Pattern involves the repetition of multiple design elements.

It adds visual interest, texture, creating a sense of rhythm and consistency.

Patterns can be organic (left) or geometric (right).

The website background of Atlassian features a captivating pattern with floating icons and geometric visual elements, creating a sense of space.

The central copy and clear call-to-action (CTA) enhance the overall concept of the website.

Effective use of patterns enhances the viewer’s experience and conveys emphasis.

7. Proportion: Achieving Visual Harmony

Proportion is the visual size and weight of elements in a design and how they relate to each other.

It establishes harmony and balance between elements.

For example, when reading a blog article, you anticipate the headings to be larger than the body text.

Here, monday.com effectively emphasizes the text “A platform built for a new way of working” by making it significantly larger than other text and icons on the page.

Proportion communicates levels of importance and keeps the design from being boring.

Here are some simple tips to maintain proportion in your design:

  • Use elements that are identical or serve a similar purpose.
  • Create distinct areas within the design to avoid monotony.
  • Keep size variations subtle, unless you want to emphasize something.
  • Avoid dividing the design composition into equal halves, quarters, or thirds.
  • Always aim for a balanced arrangement of elements.

8. Repetition: Creating Consistency and Flow

Repetition involves repeating a single design element throughout the composition.

It creates consistency, rhythm, and a sense of visual flow.

Repetition can be used to establish patterns, enhance recognition, and convey motion or energy.

In this example from Precog, the repetition of headings effectively unites blocks of information.

By using the same font, style, and color for each heading, it communicates to the reader that they are equally important.

Thoughtful repetition successfully blends your message with the visual elements of the design.

9. Rhythm: Adding a Visual Groove

Rhythm refers to the visual tempo created by repeating multiple elements in a design.
It creates a sense of organized movement and flow.

Rhythm can be achieved through the repetition of lines, shapes, colors, and other elements.

Different types of rhythm, such as random, regular, flowing, or progressive, evoke different feelings and moods.

The background of Freshworks’ website uses repetitive shapes that create a lively and dynamic visual rhythm through their varied sizes, colors, and placement.

10. Unity: Harmonizing Design Elements

Unity is the harmony produced by all elements in a design piece.

It ensures that elements integrate organically and belong together.

  • Visual unity involves the repetition of elements like fonts, and colors, to achieve consistency.
    For example, a brand’s marketing collateral consistently uses the same color palette, typography, and graphic elements across different mediums, such as social media posts, website banners, and white papers, to maintain a consistent brand identity.
  • Conceptual unity is all about naturally combining form and function.
    For example, a project management tool that integrates seamlessly with email platforms, allows users to convert emails into tasks or project updates without leaving their inboxes, reducing friction and streamlining task management.

Salesforce’s website showcases a visually pleasing design through its consistent color scheme, fonts, and illustrations.

This unity creates a harmonious and aesthetically appealing experience.

When your designs have unity, it reduces the mental effort for viewers and helps them understand your design’s message and purpose easily.

11. Variety: Engagement through Visual Diversity

Variety adds visual interest and keeps viewers engaged with a design.

It involves using different colors, textures, and shapes to distinguish different elements in a design piece.

For example, you can place bright colors alongside lighter shades, position text alongside images, and combine round shapes with square ones.

By breaking up the monotony, variety creates excitement and keeps the design from becoming predictable.

The example from Figma showcases an exciting variety of colors, fonts, icons, and a mosaic of pictures.

This combination creates visual movement and generates excitement.

Striking a balance between familiarity and novelty is key to the effective use of variety.

12. White Space: Creating Impact with Simplicity

White space, or negative space, is the absence of visual elements in a design.
It helps create clean and visually appealing graphic designs.

White space gives importance to objects, improves readability, and enhances the viewer’s focus.

Two types of white space: Micro white space is the space between small elements (like text), while macro white space refers to the area between large elements or surrounding a design.

Adobe’s website utilizes ample white space, creating a simple but distinct design.

This approach enhances readability and makes sure that all information is easily perceived.

The strategic use of white space brings clarity, elegance, and sophistication to a design.

The Crucial Role of Design in Content Marketing

Good design is influenced by marketing and business goals. But it alone won’t guarantee success.

Visual storytelling is key here – a journey with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Content marketers must learn to effectively control and influence that visual message.

Why Design Matters in Content Marketing?

1. Visual Appeal = Increased Engagement

Innovative designs help your content stand out in a crowded digital landscape.

It keeps users hooked and encourages them to spend more time interacting with your content, improving brand loyalty, recognition, and recall.

2. Brand Identity + Trust

Design can make your brand a distinctly recognizable image.

Design elements like logos, color schemes, and typography help establish a consistent brand presence. This enhances brand recall and recognition.

3. Crystal Clear Communication

Design helps deliver your message clearly and quickly.

It makes things easier for your audience to understand and remember. Plus, it adds depth and emotion to your storytelling.

4. Accessibility Matters

Designs that consider readability, usability, cognitive load, etc., make your content accessible to all.

This also means it’s more likely to perform well on social media, expanding its exposure and reach.

Empowering Your Content Marketing Strategy with Design Principles

Now that we’ve explored the key design principles and their examples, let’s discuss how you can leverage them to enhance your content marketing efforts:

1. Building a Visual Brand Identity

Set clear and consistent design guidelines that reflect your brand’s personality and values. This keeps your marketing assets consistent and reinforces brand recognition.

HubSpot ensures consistency in their brand logo, signature brand art (the blobs), and color scheme throughout their website and media platforms.

This unified approach strengthens their brand identity and creates a recognizable visual presence.

2. Designs that Speak to Your Audience

Tailor designs to resonate with your target audience. Consider their preferences, demographics, and preferred platforms to create content that grabs their attention.

3. Simplify Ideas through Effective Design

Use design to simplify and visualize complex concepts. Make it easy for your audience to understand your message and digest information.

Zoom’s Youtube banner effectively showcases their features with a simple and functional design.

4. Directing Attention for Impact

Apply design principles to establish a clear visual hierarchy. Help your audience navigate content and focus on the most important messages.

5. Designing for a Multi-Platform World

Adapt designs for different platforms. Ensure your visuals look great on the web, mobile, and social media. Provide seamless user experiences across different devices.

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Design plays a crucial role in delivering a clear message.

And good design speaks volumes.

Remember, it’s not about what you say, but also how you present it.

Use these design principles in your content marketing strategy. Attract, inform, and inspire your audience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The principles of design refer to a set of guidelines that ensure stability and balance in graphic design. These principles provide a set of rules that designers follow to create engaging and useful designs that make sense to users.

The purpose of the principles of design is to guide designers in creating appealing and effective designs. Design principles help organize and unify visual elements to convey messages and attract audiences.

The commonly accepted 7 principles of design are:

  • Balance: Finding the right equilibrium in a design.
  • Contrast: Emphasizing differences to create visual impact.
  • Emphasis: Highlighting key elements that deserve attention.
  • Hierarchy: Organizing elements to establish their importance and guide the viewer’s eye.
  • Movement: Creating a sense of motion and flow in the design.
  • Proportion: Maintaining proper size relationships between elements.
  • Unity: Ensuring all elements work together harmoniously.

The 12 principles of design include:

  • Balance: Achieving visual equilibrium.
  • Contrast: Highlighting differences for impact.
  • Emphasis: Giving prominence to key elements.
  • Hierarchy: Establishing importance and guiding the viewer’s eye.
  • Movement: Creating a sense of motion and flow.
  • Pattern: Building consistency and familiarity through repetition.
  • Proportion: Maintaining proper size relationships.
  • Repetition: Reinforcing the design’s message through repetition.
  • Rhythm: Establishing a visual tempo for the design.
  • Unity: Bringing all elements together cohesively.
  • Variety: Introducing diverse elements to prevent monotony.
  • White Space: Purposefully using empty space for clarity and focus.

The 7 elements of design are

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Space
  • Tone (Value)

The 8 principles of design are:

  • Balance: Achieve stability and equilibrium in your design.
  • Contrast: Highlight differences to create visual interest and impact.
  • Emphasis: Direct attention to key elements and create focal points.
  • Hierarchy: Organize elements to establish a clear order of importance.
  • Movement: Create a sense of motion and flow to engage the viewer.
  • Pattern: Establish consistency and repetition for a distinct design.
  • Proportion: Maintain proper size relationships between design elements.
  • Unity: Create harmony and unity among all design elements.

Four examples of principles of design are:

  • Contrast: Using bold colors or different font styles to create visual impact.
  • Emphasis: Making a visual element stand out to attract viewer attention.
  • Balance: Arranging elements symmetrically or asymmetrically to achieve stability.
  • Hierarchy: Using visual elements and positioning to guide the viewer to important information.
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