7 Basic Design Principles for Architects and Students

Everything that we encounter in our daily lives, be it a place, a building or even an object like a pen, is a design. However, design is not just the outer appearance of the object, it also determines how well the user can interact with it. 

But what makes a design good? 

Here are the 7 basic design principles that determine how good your design is:

  1. Balance
  2. Hierarchy
  3. Contrast
  4. Emphasis
  5. Repetition
  6. Scale/Proportion
  7. Rhythm

1. Balance

In design, it is necessary to create a sense of visual balance in order to make it appealing to the eye. A balanced design can be achieved in various ways such as symmetry, asymmetry, with shapes, colours, textures etc.

  • Symmetry: Symmetry is a concept of formal balance that creates the same design horizontally, vertically and/or diagonally.
  • Asymmetry: Asymmetry is an informal balance that creates designs having no similarity but with elements that balance out the visual weight.

The Lotus Temple, Delhi

Symmetric Facade of the Lotus Temple, Delhi
Symmetric Facade of the Lotus Temple, Delhi

This iconic monument, designed by Fariborz Sahba, is a well-balanced structure that showcases vertical symmetry, hence having a formal balance throughout.

2. Hierarchy

Hierarchy creates an orderly design that shows the relationship between various elements that are present in it. This helps direct the focus of the viewers to the key element first and creates an order. 

The creative utilisation of size, colour, shape, and orientation are used to establish hierarchy of a composition.

 The Taj Mahal, India

The Hierarchical Dome of the Taj Mahal
The Hierarchical Dome of the Taj Mahal

Hierarchy in spaces can be seen by the arrangement of the different elements like the domes in the main building and the four minarets of Taj Mahal.

3. Contrast

Use of visually different elements that are poles apart help create contrast in a design. Contrasting designs helps guide the viewer’s eye to a highlighting space that needs most attention. 

Adding contrast is a simple task and can be done by:

  • Opposite colours
  • Varied shapes  
  • Textures in combination with simple spaces
  • Playing with the sizes of different elements
  • Breaking uniformity

World Maritime University, Sweden

Contrasting Style of the World Maritime University

Contrasting Style of the World Maritime University

In this building built by the firm Terroir and Kim Utzon Arkitekter, contrast is seen through the variety of styles, shapes, textures and materials.

4. Emphasis

Emphasis helps create a focal point in the given space. One area can have an accent or highlighting effect so that the user can emphasize on it, which is the crux of this principle.  

Emphasis can be done using:

  • A dark-coloured element
  • Bright colours
  • A striking shape with a larger size
  • Increasing the value of the emphasised shape

Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia

The emphasis of the Red Facade at the Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia
The emphasis of the Red Facade at the Kutaisi International Airport, Georgia

The design of this airport makes the viewer’s eyes go to the highlighted part in red color.

5. Repetition

Repeating the same element in order to create a design pattern is called repetition. Repetition has the ability to bring a design to life as it adds a sense of movement. It also helps achieve consistency.

Repetition can be done with the help of repeating the same:

  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Pattern
  • Size
  • Line
  • Form
  • Font

Managano Architettura, Roma

Repetitive Roof Form at Managano, Rome
Repetitive Roof Form at Managano, Rome

With the repetition of the same shape and structure thrice, an interesting building design has been created, making a uniform but unique pattern.

6. Scale and Proportion

Scale refers to the comparison of the size of one object to a standard reference, while proportion is the comparison of the sizes of different parts of an object in relation to the whole. In a good design it is necessary to have varying scales of different objects to create interest among the users. 

La Defense, France 

Huge Scale Difference at La Denfense, France
Huge Scale Difference at La Denfense, France

A sense of scale and proportion can be easily made out by comparing the size of the structure and the humans present in this monument.

7. Rhythm

In order to create a sense of movement in design it is necessary that the design has a certain rhythm. Rhythm helps maintain a flow, which keeps the user’s eye connected and follows a path. 

Rhythm can be achieved by repeating:

  • Lines
  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Forms
  • Patterns 

John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australia 

Rhythmic Facade at the John Curtin School, Australia
Rhythmic Facade at the John Curtin School, Australia

Rhythm formed by the use of elements, shapes, colours and textures in the facade gives a sense of movement in this building designed by Lyon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    All Rights Reserved. WhereIsTheNorth