Amateur and professional designers alike sometimes struggle with ways to keep designs in check with the fundamentals when printing catalogs or color posters. Still others design without regard to these basics. In this article, we discuss these fundamentals of design as a refresher course for the pros and a crash course for beginners. No matter what your level of experience, revisiting the basics every once in a while can always be a good thing.
An easy way to remember these basics is the anagram WARCUB: white space, alignment, repetition, contrast, unity, and balance.
White Space - Too much information on a page can feel crowded and cluttered. This results in tension that you typically do not want. Step back from your work and make sure that you have enough space between text and images and other graphical elements.
Alignment - Keep it organized on the page by lining elements up. Of course, you can create tension and interest by intentionally misaligning content. The key here is to know when, why, and how to do this on purpose.
Repetition - Using elements of your design over and over can be an excellent way to establish a theme or to make a point. But another aspect to repetition is the careful consideration of those elements that repeat, like page numbers, headers, and footers. Are these elements consistent when used repeatedly?
Contrast - In design, contrast is a broad concept that can be applied to elements such as black text on a white background, circles and squares, large images next to small graphics. Contrast can help draw the eye of the reader to specific elements. Be careful with contrast as too much of anything is not good. But, on the other hand, too little contrast can be boring or even frustrating, for example, colored text on a colored background without enough contrast can make the text difficult to read.
Unity - A design with unity has the parts and pieces of the design placed at the appropriate proximity. This creates a relationship or lack of relationship between elements on the page. You can also tie elements together by using boxes, frames, and separator lines to show that certain parts are related while others should be considered separately.
Balance - You can create balance by making sure that your visual elements like graphics, pictures, and text all carry the same weight on the page. If something is “too heavy” the image feels like one or more elements take up too much room, are too dark, or too light when compared to other elements on the page. Again, you can intentionally throw balance off, but make sure you know why you are doing this so create the appropriate impression.
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