To seduce a customer who visits your site you need to appeal to their visual senses. Any sensible discussion about “web design” begins with the idea that what we call web design is really just the latest in a chain of various art forms under the rhubric of “design”. These art forms, such as cave drawing, lithography, typography, painting and industrial design, evolved from teacher to pupil through different mediums (rock, canvas, paper …) and a number of basic rules have emerged that guide each new artist in developing an artistic design interpretation. When it comes to web design then, it helps to under the framework of the fundamental rules, prinicples and elements of design and see how they interplay in the medium of a computer screen.
The following list includes what is known as the 5 principles of design:
Balance is the arrangement of the objects relative to their visual weight within a design. Symmetrical (formal) balance occurs when the weight of a composition is evenly distributed around a central, vertical or horizontal axis. Think of a globe centered in a box (square or rectangle), cut down the middle and you have a standard Symmetrical balance because the design elements assume identical forms on both sides of the axis. Asymmetrical (informal) balance is basically a balance that is not symmetrical. If you want to be technical this describes when the weight of a composition is not evenly distributed around a central axis. It involves the arranging of objects of differing size in a composition such that they balance one another with their respective visual weights. Often there is one dominant form that is offset by many smaller forms. In general, asymmetrical compositions tend to have a greater sense of visual tension. Think of a box of balls of varying sizes with some balls being noticeably larger than others and drawing your attention even moreso by their comparison to the smaller balls.
Rhythm is used to create a sense of movement by using repetition or alternation of design elements – sometimes with defined intervals between them – that tend to form a pattern of sorts. The viewer may even sense some form of feeling as he identifies or merges with the flow of the rhythm in the design.
There are a few rhythmic movements:
Proportion is the relationship in scale between one element and another, or between a whole object and one of its parts. Differing proportions can relate to different kinds of balance or symmetry, and can help establish visual weight and depth.
Dominance is perhaps the most important design principle because it dicates where the eye goes first when looking at a design. Accordingly, there are 3 stages of dominance which establish the guidelines for space and perspective for each element and/or object within a design. Thinking along the lines of distance in a very linear fashion, the Dominant stage includes those elements that “Pop” into the foreground and have what is known as the most visual weight. Second, comes the Sub-dominant elements which enjoy a secondary emphasis and reside in the middle ground of the composition. Last comes the Subordinate objects which are given the least visual weight and thus recede to the background of the composition.
Unity, the last design principle, sort of encapsulates the other 4 because it describes the relationship between the individual parts and the whole of a composition. It is the finishing touch of a design that gives it a sense of wholeness – not in a formal sense but in a finished sense, that the design is complete (even if that means its completeness is completed by its lack of completion).
Unity obeys a few psychological prinicples itself.
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