Chapter 3. Design Elements, Design Principles, and Compositional Organization

3.1 Introduction

Alex Hass

Learning Objectives

  • Utilize basic design principles relating to visual composition
  • Define design terminology pertaining to form
  • Describe organizational systems and core principles for layout grids
  • Differentiate between typographic categories
  • Establish a visual hierarchy within a layout
  • Express ideas using the principles of composition and form

Communication design is essentially the crafting of a message meant for a specific section of the public. This written message is infused with meaningful and relevant visual components. The composition of these components should amplify, clarify, and enhance the message for the viewer. To assist in making sound design choices, a designer applies principles of composition and principles of organization to the design elements selected for a project.

Understanding how to utilize the fundamentals of design elements, principles, and composition is necessary to be able to confidently move through the stages of the design development process and build a project from the initial design brief to the final published design work.

Definitions from various design sources about what comprises a design element are consistent for the most part, but defining design principles is not as consistent and varies from one text to the next. Marvin Bartel’s (2012) definitions of these categories are both simple and on point. He defines a visual element as any “basic thing that can be seen,” and a design principle as a method for “arranging things better.” Also included in this chapter are organizational systems that can focus and direct the overall direction a composition will take.


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Graphic Design and Print Production Fundamentals Copyright © 2015 by Alex Hass is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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