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Written by: Mei Lin Lee-Stahr | Fall Quarter 2022
Before you begin designing, stop to ask yourself a few simple questions:
What am I trying to convey?
What color scheme will I use
What is the medium I will use? (flier, social media post, infographic, etc).
These questions will help guide you as you design your piece.
There are eight main design principles: pattern, contrast, emphasis, balance, proportion/scale, harmony, rhythm/movement and accessibility.
You can use contrast to highlight certain information or a graphic. Additionally, it can be used for accessibility purposes. High contrast colors can help those visually impaired to see the information you add to your design better. High contrast text (size etc.) can help as well.
If you need to emphasize something like an image or block of text, you could change its color or size in order to draw the eye towards the element.
There are two types of balance you could potentially use: symmetrical and asymmetrical.
Symmetrical balance is when two (or more) sides of a piece show/say the exact same thing, similar to a butterfly's two wings
Asymmetrical balance is when the two (or more) sides of a piece are not exactly the same, however, a sense of balance still remains.
In order for a piece to feel balanced, make sure that the elements are laid out in a balanced way. Balance is something that is hard to explain, it is best for you to look at your piece to figure out if it is balanced or not.
Larger objects will stand out while smaller objects will melt into the background.
Like balance, harmony is hard to describe using words. However, to ensure that your piece is harmonic (unless you chose to make it not for artistic purpose) you can use things like a color scheme (warm, cool, analog or monochrome) or have repeating patterns or shapes (i.e. a lot of circles or squares within the piece).
When considering rhythm and movement in your piece, it can help to picture a river, and how the water moves in the river bed. Take a look at the example, notice how the dots and their placement draw your eye in a certain direction down the piece. There is a dynamic feeling to the design due to the placement, size and color of the dots.
When designing something that is to be viewed by a lot of people, make sure that you make it as easy as possible to understand your intended message. Avoid using colors that are too similar to each other and use icons. Additionally take into account the size of your text, in other words, don't make it too small!
In addition to these principles, don't forget to use things like line, shape and illustration to really make your design pop!
An example of how these principles work together in one piece:
The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.
The land acknowledgement used at UC Santa Cruz was developed in partnership with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman and the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program at the UCSC Arboretum.