Design Intelligence

Design is intelligence made visible.

— Alina Wheeler


Balance is based on the notion, “the whole is the sum of its parts.” Using balance, design elements or the “parts” are organized to create a whole that has equilibrium.


Similar to balance, good proportion maintains an agreeable relation of parts within the whole. It’s the consideration of parts in relation to the whole.


Contrast, created when elements are combined, provides necessary variety. Without contrast, even good design can be boring (or worse, ineffectual). While balance and proportion help to maintain cohesiveness, contrast adds interest.


Economy is the same as the “less is more” principle. On average, simplicity tends to emphasize a design’s intent more powerfully than complexity.


When elements are arranged well, “movement” or the illusion of direction is created. This helps lead the viewer’s eye and can emphasize the design’s intent.


Also known as dominance, this condition exists when design elements are arranged to create a hierarchy of visual importance. For example, the cover of a book might include a title, subtitle, and the author’s name.


Perhaps most important to overall quality of design — as important as emphasis, but overlooked by many designers — is space. Including space (often called white space) in a design provides its other elements with all the characteristics listed above. More often than not, a design fails without space.


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