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Principles of Design

Principles of Design

Nigar Sultana
Head of the Department
Department of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
Khulna, Bangladesh
Email: nigar.kccwc@gmail.com


Principles of Design:

The principles of design are useful in creating different forms of expression in an artistic manner, which are pleasing and attractive to the eye. Principles of design is the tools to make art. Following are the principles of designing.

  1. Balance
  2. Emphasis
  3. Rhythm/Movement
  4. Proportion/Scale
  5. Harmony
  6. Contrast
  7. Unity
  8. Variety
  9. Dominance

I this articles I will discuss some main principles of design, that are mostly used to create design. These are as follows:

1. Balance:

A feeling of balance results when the elements of design are arranged symmetrically or asymmetrically to create the impression of equality in weight or importance.

In clothing balance refers Fig  to a visual attribution of weight, from a central area. Balance implies a sense of equilibrium. Pleasing balance brings about a satisfying relationship among all design parts to produce visual harmony. In clothing designs, three kinds of balance are observed.

Example of Balance
Example of Balance

Balance are three types. They are:

  • Formal Balance (symmetrical)
  • Informal Balance (asymmetrical)
  • Radial Balance
Types of balance
Types of balance

Formal Balance:

Formal Balance occurs when object appears to equalize each other by repetition and arranged at equi-distance from the center. The upper and lower portions of the design are so arranged, as to give an effect of balance.

Informal Balance:

Occurs when objects appear to equalize each other but not through repetition and the arrangement is in a haphazard manner. Here design of different sizes and shapes and of different attraction are arranged. The larger and more attractive designs are kept as far away from the center. If used correctly, informal designs can be effective in being attractive.

Radial Balance:

Occurs when major parts of the design radiate from the central part. Formal balance is the least expensive to produce apparel in mass production. Informally balanced garment is more difficult to produce. For each section of the garment cuts will have to be probably handled differently.

2. Emphasis:

Emphasis involves the concentration of interest in the selected area of design with other center of interest subordinated. Emphasis as such, should not be placed at an area that one wishes to minimize attention drawn on. Fashion Designers often create emphasis partially though the careful arrangement of line, texture and colours.

It could also be called as focal point. Each design needs some note of interest that catches the eye or attracts the attention on a specific area of the garment. Contrasting colour for example could be used to emphasize an area.


Some methods of lay emphasis could be

  • Grouping of design units.
  • Using contrast of hues
  • by leading lines
  • A combination of any of the above
  • Repeating details such as tucks, gathers, button etc
  • Unusual shapes and textures
  • Applied design on a contrast background

3. Rhythm/Movement:

Directs the movements of the eyes as one uses the details of a design. Therefore a rhythmic pattern needs to be established to give a costume unity.

There are no pre-requisite rules for establishing rhythm in a design. Rhythm is most effective when it is experienced a quiet way.

It is the repeated use of lines or shapes to create pattern. Uniform rhythm is the repetition of the same space and is known as the order lines of rhythm. In progressive or graduated rhythm the size of the unit increases or decreases as it is repeated. Unequal rhythm is an unequal use of space and this rhythm is an unequal use of space and this is called as un-orderlines of rhythm. In this type of rhythm the proportion are unbalanced; creating a larger space for enhancing the design and this finally calls in for expertise.


There are different kinds of rhythm, often defined by the feeling it evokes when looking at it.

  • Regular: A regular rhythm occurs when the intervals between the elements, and often the elements themselves, are similar in size or length.
  • Flowing: A flowing rhythm gives a sense of movement, and is often more organic in nature.
  • Progressive: A progressive rhythm shows a sequence of forms through a progression of steps.

4. Proportion/Scale:

Relationship in size between a part and the whole is defined to as proposition. For way design, an artist or a fashion designer should aim for a sense of order of unity or oneness among the principles of design.


Proportion includes planning of the basic shape within a design. It may involve the scale of the forms within the design like diversion of space to create attractive space relationship where the variety of shapes, sizes and the general idea of unity of principles of designs are to be expressed. Optical illusion is created by changing partial arrangements to enhance the attractive portion that one wishes to enhance. e.g., puffed in the shoulders or increased width in sleeves etc., In the principles of design and elements of design both are involves phasing relationships between all parts of a design with respect to each other. This may include:

  • Planning of the basic shapes
  • Division of spaces for a good relationship

Creating an optical illusion that will give an impression of proportion, when it is not possible to change the basic design.

5. Harmony:

Harmony otherwise called unity. If the principle of proportion, balance, rhythm and emphasis are applied creatively, the resultant design is said to have the harmony. Unity means that all elements of the design work together to produce a successful visual effects. If anyone of the principles is not applied the resulting design will also lack harmony which means; if the principle of structural/decorative design with balanced proportion and quantitative and qualitative emphasis creating a rhythm of its own, give an outcome of harmony of unity. It is a result or an achievement which every designer should keep in mind while designing or drawing or arranging various elements of design for achieving/creating particular purpose of design.

Lack of application of any one principles of design, will result in a design which is not harmonious or not in harmony.


6. Contrast:

The juxtaposition of different elements of design (for example: rough and smooth textures, dark and light values) in order to highlight their difference and/or create visual interest, or focal point.


Some of the most common ways of creating Contrast are by creating differences in:

  • Sizes – large vs. small
  • Shapes – geometric vs. organic/free form, real vs. abstract
  • Values – light vs. dark
  • Colors – warm vs. cool, complementary, intense vs. dull
  • Textures – smooth vs. rough
  • Direction – horizontal vs. vertical/diagonal/curved

7. Unity:

Unity is the total combination of all of the principles and elements of design. How the elements work together, fit together, so the art work looks complete. Unity refers to the combination of all elements successfully working together to achieve a sense of harmony in your design. This can be achieved through the consistent use of graphic elements. Using repetition or patterns is one of the most basic factors in creating a strong sense of unity.

Example of unity and variety
Example of unity and variety

Ways to Create Unity:

  • Alignment: Alignment creates a clean, sophisticated and fresh look on design.
  • Repetition – By using similar lines, colors, shapes, textures, values or forms, you can create a feeling of unity because of the similar elements being used.
  • Proximity – one of the simplest ways to create unity is by grouping objects in a work of art closely together.
  • Continuation – A subtle method of unifying a work of art, which involves the continuations of a line, edge or direction from one shape or area to another.

8. Variety:

An assortment of line, shape, colors and other elements of design or art in the art work. Fashion designer shows variety by having many different elements available to the viewer.


9. Dominance:

Dominance helps to create as the eye is attracted to a key point then led round the image by pictorial elements. It can be created by contrasting pictorial elements such as line, shape, tone, texture, direction, size or color. Dominance and balance work together to bring out unity.


Elements of design at a glance:

Principles of design or art
Principles of design or art



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