MA 01 – Design Principles


This report is written as part of the Graphic Design education at Noroff – School of Technology and Digital Media. Given a Mandatory Assignment, I’ve been through a process learning about nine Design Principles and illustrating three of them.
It has been great fun to learn this theory and at the same time work with the creative process and illustrate some of them. I wish I had more time to explore the possibilities, but as this is basic for design and art, I’ll learn more about this later.


1.1 Interpretation of the task

This Mandatory Assignment is about the basics of Design Principles. To learn more about the subject, I searched the Internet for more information. I found both theory and some visual examples. I chose the three principles that stood out to me and illustrated them. This way I learn about the principles, show understanding in making my own illustrations and get some more practice in sketching, idea development and illustrating/ drawing by hand.

1.2 Concept and target

In this report I want to tell about the nine Design Principles in theory and show some of the visual examples I’ve found. Then I’ll show the process from choosing three Design Principles and my work progress in illustrating each of them until the finish design.



2.1 Creative methods

The main goal for me to fulfil this task, is to learn the theory behind the nine Design Principles and illustrate the ones I choose to show an understanding of the gained theory. To make nice illustrations I chose to use pencil and markers on paper. This way it’s easier to use a ruler – making the illustration of the theory as accurate as possible. Personally, I like straight lines and “mathematical” art and this is what I’ve tried to create.

2.2 Inspiration methods

The most efficient method to find inspiration was to search the web for information and examples. I’ve also tried to analyse and think about this walking around in town, watching art-work like posters, logos, commercials etc trying to find out if they’ve used any of these principles.

2.3 Analysis

The main tool for analyse has been searching the internet for the different Design Principles (see below – 4.0 Sources and References).

I found some poster-illustrations with the Design Principles:



Here are the 9 basic principles of design with some visual examples I’ve found:

2.3.1 Figure / Ground

What is in the foreground and what is in the background?
«The gestalt principle that applies most to space is that of figure-ground. Everything in a design of yours will be seen as one or the other, and the relationship between them is mutually exclusive. Neither can be perceived except in relation to the other, and changing one is impossible without changing the other as well». Smashing magazine – May 24th 2014

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.2 Continuation

(Continuity: We follow the lines) Once the eye begins to follow something, it will continue in that direction until it encounters another object.

Continuation dictates how we interpret direction and movement through a composition. Our mind chooses the path of least resistance, perceiving lines as continuing along their established direction. In the examples below, our eye follows the less abrupt path, following the straight line or the curved path through the compositions on the left, more so than the jarring paths on the right.” Smashing Magazine – May 23rd 2016


Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.3 Closure

Viewers can fill the gaps to see the full picture.

According to Universal Principles of Design, the Gestalt principle of closure states that we tend to perceive a set of individual elements as a single, recognizable pattern, rather than multiple, individual parts. Using closure effectively decreases complexity by reducing elements to the fewest possible parts needed to complete an object. Provided with enough information, we will fill in the missing parts to create a whole. This is achieved through the use of positive and negative space”. Smashing Magazine – May 10th 2016 

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.4 Proximity

Related elements are grouped together to form a whole. (Grouping: We tie objects that are near each other together.)

The gestalt principle of proximity says that elements that are closer together are perceived to be more related than elements that are farther apart. As with similarity, proximity helps us organize objects by their relatedness to other objects. Proximity is the strongest principle for indicating relatedness of objects, helping us understand and organize information faster and more efficiently.” Smashing Magazine – May 3rd 2016

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.



2.3.5 Similarity

We link similar elements together.

“The gestalt principle of similarity says that elements that are similar are perceived to be more related than elements that are dissimilar. Similarity helps us organize objects by their relatedness to other objects within a group and can be affected by the attributes of color, size, shape and orientation.

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.6 Symmetry

Elements are arranged equally on both sides of an axis.

Symmetry adds balance to a design. When elements are the same on both sides of an axis, the design feels harmonious. If we design a street with five houses on one side and five on the other, walking down the street would feel comfortable because the arrangement of homes is balanced.

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.7 Common Fate

Elements that move in the same direction are seen to be related. Think of a flock of birds.

“Common fate is a powerful principle for designers to wield, because it involves movement and animation. Movement can be used to clarify relationships between elements, helping users to see how different elements group together, as well as to guide attention to where we want it. When elements move in the same direction, they are perceived to be more related than elements that don’t move or that move in different directions or at different speeds.

Take fish, for example. We’ve all most likely seen a school of fish swimming together in synchronized movement. They do this, in part, as a defence mechanism to guard against predators — by sticking together, they’re less likely to be eaten than when on their own. This behavior exemplifies the principle of common fate beautifully. When fish swim together like this, they truly are sharing a common fate, sharing the same motion, direction and speed to achieve their goal of survival. We perceive the fish as a whole, related, moving mass, rather than thousands of individual fish.” Smashing Magazine May 23 rd 2016

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.3.8 Prägnanz

We tend to reorganize complex shapes into a simpler whole.


2.3.9 Regularity

The repetition of a design element to form a pattern.

Denne lysbildefremvisningen krever JavaScript.

2.4 Sketches

2.4.1 Figure/ Ground

First, I started off with sketches of letters in Figure/ Ground.


Then, I got inspired by an IKEA stool on my bathroom:IKEA_Bolm_Stool

Which gave me this sketch:

Sketches design principles figure_ground 1- 25x25 cm

Next, I wanted to make the sketch look more like a traditional stool seen from the short side (the black area). This made the opposite (background) looking like a pyramid with the moon over it.

Sketches design principles figure_ground 2 - 25x25 cm

Then I wanted to try to switch colour on the figure and background on the computer to see the effect.

Sketches design principles figure_ground 3 - 25x25 cm

To make this work, I noticed I had to make a black frame to outline the stool (figure – here the white area).

In the end, I made a sketch of the design with pen and paper


2.4.2 Proximity

I like the concept of grouping – the design theory of Proximity. I also believe an anomaly can be a very strong tool sending a message. Instantly I had an idea I wanted to try.

The Proximity design made on the computer (Adobe InDesign):Sketches design principles similarity_anomaly 25x25 cm

2.4.3 Regularity

The harmony, rhythm and pattern within the principle of Regularity is very appealing to me. I like order and neatness, mathematics and straight lines. I made a sketch with pencil and paper before I started drawing the final one.

This picture inspired me:


First, I tested how to draw the hexagon to make it work on the 25×25 cm paper. The easiest way was to use a ruler and draw periodically, parallel lines making triangles. Then I tested with colours, to check how the pattern came out. I chose colours that fits harmonically together but also colours that separates objects from each other. 

  The Regularity design made on the computer (Adobe Illustrator):



GRA1_ MA_01_ Design_Principles_AneFrederikkeBye_19.09.2018.Figure-ground
Figure – ground
GRA1_ MA_01_ Design_Principles_AneFrederikkeBye_19.09.2018.Regularity

3.1 Style/genre

I chose the three design principles “Figure/Ground”, “Proximity” and “Regularity” because I like these principles very much.

3.2 Typography

There is none in these designs because I didn’t need letters in the design to describe the principles.

3.3 Colours

3.3.1 Figure/Ground

I chose black and white to make the contrasts as great as possible. This makes it easier for the viewer to understand the concept. In the end, I think I maybe should have chosen opposite colours, because the persons I’ve tested the design on, tend to easier see the concept with a black stool and a white moon and pyramid. Different colours can communicate day or night.

This was a lesson for me, as I think the designer have to take precaution that the customers maybe won’t see what you find so obvious in your own design. Next time, I’ll test the sketches with potential/fictive customers before I go into the final design process.

3.3.2 Proximity

The hearts are red because this symbolize happy love. I wanted to make one heart heartbroken, therefore the black one.

Now I see the Design Principle would have been better illustrated if I had left the middle row out – making a white space. In the end, I think the design serve its purpose.

3.3.3 Regularity

The six different colours in the hexagon are chosen to illustrate the complementary colours in harmony. The repetition of the design element (the hexagon) makes a pattern where you can discover different shapes depending on what colour you are focusing on (white – you can see stars, triangles in different sizes, the hexagon etc.). Out of the three, I think this is the best one.

3.4 Composition, layout, grid

First reading the assignment, I thought I had to make a paper sized 25 x 25 cm from a normal A4 paper. Hence, I used the knife to experiment with the possibilities. Then I realised this was not a very suited paper to sketch on, hence I cut normal A3 sketching paper into the wanted size; 25 x 25 cm.


3.4.1 Figure/Ground

This design could also describe the principle of Symmetry because it’s similar on both sides of the middle axis. I chose to make the design clear and simple to make the concept easier to understand.

The white area can be seen as a stool from the side, capital letter A or a square “PacMan”. The black area can be seen as the moon/sun and a pyramid or tent. To make the design work, I had to make a black frame around it.

3.4.2 Proximity

The idea behind this design, is that in every group of happy people, there is a person not as happy and even heartbroken. It’s not always visible for the eye, but might be the reason for particular behaviour etc.

The hearts are positioned together to illustrate the close relation to each other. The black heart is right there, in the middle with the other ones, with the same shape, value and contents, just heartbroken.

3.4.3 Regularity

In this design I tried to make as many complete hexagons as possible, within the sheet, using a ruler giving me the size of the space between the lines. The hexagons are placed close into each other to form the pattern. As I coloured it, the pattern became proportionally easier to recognize as I put colour into the triangles.



Please se the attached pdf file of the report below to find all the sources for this blogpost.

GRA1_ MA_01_ Report_ AneFrederikkeBye_19.09.2018



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