Design Principles

Dragon1 defines principles as working mechanisms and design principles as principles that are used to create a better design. Below, you find a list of design concepts and their principles. If you use the knowledge presented by the principles, your design will be better.

Basic Design Principles

Design Principles are principles (working mechanisms) of design concepts that every designer and architect learns during his education. Using these concepts to create your design, your design will be of significantly higher quality.

Design principles in building architecture and landscape architecture are candy for THE human sight. We love to see these principles applied to designs.

Design Principles can be seen as separate from design elements. These are the things that artists and designers work with to create a design or composition. The elements of design are: line, shape, space, value, color, and texture.

In the list below* you see per item the name of a concept and a principle statement.

The design concepts and their design concept principles are:

  • Unity … All things are connected and belong to the whole. The distinguishable units and elements seem to belong to each other so that each contributes to the functioning of the whole. The work is complete when no element can be changed without detracting from the whole.
  • Harmony … Within each element and as a whole. Harmony can affect the emotional response to the composition.
  • Balance … With the "weights" of the segments of each element. An equilibrium of similar, opposing, or contrasting elements creates a unified whole. Forms of balance: Asymmetrical Balance and Symmetrical Balance.
  • Rhythm … Variety and Repetition. Variety within the design of all the elements and principles, along with, the regular repetition of particular elements or stresses, also, the suggestion of motion by recurrent form.
  • Contrast … Alternation. Provide contrast within each element i.e. light, dark; soft, hard; warm, cool, etc.
  • Dominance … Within each element. (Center of Interest, Focal Point. Eye-catcher). Dominance provides emphasis. The center of interest is the area within the work to which the eye is drawn. The Focal Point is the point within the center of interest that catches the eye. It is this area and this point that the artist emphasizes through the use of the elements.
  • Gradation … Modeling, (3-D effect), Transitions. Used in modeling or producing a three-dimensional effect and in transitional effects. Gradation of detail from the foreground to the background. (Ariel Perspective)

A composition is an arrangement of all the elements, which achieves a unified whole. But alas, it is merely a tool to create form and content. The content relates to human emotion and intellect and is the result of the reasons for painting. The design is a means to that end.

Attributes are defined as the qualities that the art or design conveys to the observer.

  • Emotional … Active, Passive
  • Esthetic … Realistic, Impressionistic, Abstract, Decorative
  • Spatial … Depth, Flat

The Principles of Designs for Architects

Also enterprise architects go that these principles are smart to use in every architecture visualization one creates or model/prototype one builds.

We advise reading the book 'Universal Principles of Design', by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler. It is a true set of universal principles and a source of inspiration. It contains many design concepts.

Design thinking and learning

*) The source of the list of design principles is Online Design Teacher Design Principles and

Another interesting website on design principles: Learn Design Principles (

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