11 Graphic Design Principles for Non-Designers

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The graphic design industry is tough. No matter where you turn, you’ll see amazing talent that’s just as good as your own or perhaps even better. That is why it’s so important for graphic designers to have a firm grasp on graphic design principles.

But what if you’re not a graphic designer? What if you’re a business owner or a marketer who wants to create their own graphics? Can you learn these principles, too?


1. Have a clear hierarchy

Hierarchy is the order in which your eyes perceive what they see. This is crucial to design because it helps you communicate your message by making certain elements stand out.

For example, you can use size to indicate which parts of your design are the most important, and you can use color to help draw the eye to a particular element.

A good way to think about hierarchy is to imagine your design as a map for your viewer. What do you want them to see first? What do you want them to see last?

In the example below, the most important thing to see is the headline at the top. Then, the eye is drawn to the image of the woman, and finally, we see the text at the bottom.

2. Add contrast

Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements, such as color, size, and shape. It helps to create a focus or draw attention to certain parts of your design.

There are a few ways to add contrast to your designs. The most common method is to use contrasting colors. This is a great way to make your text pop and improve legibility.

You can also use contrast to create visual interest in your designs. For example, you could use contrasting shapes and sizes to create a dynamic composition.

In the example below, the designer uses contrasting colors and shapes to create a bold and dynamic design.

3. Use repetition

Repetition is a simple way to bring unity to your designs. It’s all about consistency, and it helps to create patterns and to strengthen the overall look of your design.

One of the easiest ways to use repetition is to repeat a font, color, or shape. In the example below, the same color is used in the text and in the background shapes. This creates a unified look and helps to direct the viewer’s eye.

When you use repetition, you want to be consistent, but you don’t want to be boring. You can use repetition to create patterns, but you also want to use it to create visual interest. You can do this by changing the size, rotation, and placement of the repeated elements.

4. Ensure alignment

Alignment is one of the most important graphic design principles to follow.

If you don’t align your design elements, your graphic will look messy and disorganized. But if you do, it will look polished and professional.

There are a few ways you can align your elements, including:

• Center alignment: This is when you place an element in the center of your design. It’s a great way to create balance and symmetry.

• Edge alignment: This is when you align the edges of two or more elements. It’s a good way to create unity and harmony in your design.

• Baseline alignment: This is when you align the bottom of your text with the bottom of your design. It’s a great way to create a sense of structure and stability.

In the example below, you can see how the designer used edge alignment to create a clean, organized look.

5. Use color with care

Color is one of the most important elements of design. It communicates meaning, evokes emotion, and sets the tone of your design.

When you’re choosing colors for your design, think about how they work together.

A color wheel is a useful tool for finding color combinations that look good together. There are lots of different color combinations you can try, but some of the most common color schemes include:

• Complementary: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel

• Analogous: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel

• Triadic: Colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel

• Split-complementary: A base color and two colors adjacent to its complementary color

It’s also important to consider the meaning of colors when you’re choosing them for your design. Different colors can have different meanings in different cultures, so it’s important to think about your audience and what the colors you choose might mean to them.

6. Add white space

White space, or negative space, is the area between design elements. It’s also the space between sections of a design, or the space around text and images.

White space is an important design principle because it helps to:

• Improve readability

• Create balance and symmetry

• Highlight important elements

• Make your designs look more professional

When in doubt, add more white space! It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your designs, and it’s often the most overlooked.

7. Use images and text

Images and text are the two most important elements in design. You can create a graphic with just one or the other, but it’s always good to have both.

When you use images and text, make sure they’re working together to tell the same story. If they’re not, your graphic could look messy or confusing.

For example, if you’re using a photo of a restaurant in your graphic, you could use text to highlight the restaurant’s name and location. If you’re using a photo of a person, you could use text to highlight a quote from that person.

When you’re using images and text together, make sure they have enough contrast so that they’re easy to read and understand.

8. Use typography to create hierarchy

When you think of the word “typography,” you might think of fancy fonts. But in reality, typography is so much more than that.

Typography is the art of arranging text in a way that makes it visually appealing and easy to read. This includes choosing the right font, adjusting the font size, and adjusting the line spacing.

When it comes to graphic design, typography is used to create a visual hierarchy between different elements in your design.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a social media post to promote a sale. You’ll want to make sure that the headline (the sale information), the subheadline (the details of the sale), and the call to action button (the “shop now” button) are all clearly differentiated.

You can achieve this by adjusting the font size and weight of the text. You can also add emphasis by using color and white space.

Pro tip: Stick to two or three fonts in your design to avoid overwhelming your audience. And make sure to choose fonts that complement each other.

9. Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a principle that helps you compose a visually balanced and interesting image. Imagine laying a grid of nine equally spaced lines over your graphic. This creates nine equally sized boxes on the page.

The rule of thirds suggests that the most important elements in your graphic should be placed along these lines or at the points where they intersect. This creates a more dynamic and balanced composition than if you were to center your subject.

10. Use visual communication

Visual communication is the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s about using visual elements to convey a message without using words.

When you use visual communication, you’re getting to the point and making it easy for your audience to understand your message.

If you’re not sure how to use visual communication in your designs, start by thinking about the main message you want to convey. Then, use images, colors, and other visual elements to support that message.

For example, if you’re creating a design to promote a sale or corporate event, you might use images of products that are on sale or related to the theme of the event, as well as bold, bright colors to grab people’s attention.

11. Use the right tools

There are so many tools available that can help you create professional-looking designs for your business. Some are free, and some have a small monthly fee.

The best one for you depends on your business needs, your budget, and your level of experience with graphic design.

If you’re a complete beginner, you might want to start with a free, user-friendly tool like Canva or Adobe Spark.

If you’re a bit more experienced, you might want to try a more advanced tool like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer.

If you’re really short on time, you might want to consider hiring a professional UX designer to create your designs. There are many freelance marketplaces where you can find talented designers who can create custom designs for your business at an affordable price.


Graphic design is a powerful tool that can help you build a strong brand. By following the principles of graphic design, you can create a cohesive and effective visual brand identity.