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Wedding Album: Elements and Principles of Design


When it comes right down to it there is good design and there is bad design. Graphic Designers are put on this earth to make things look good, however every human being with the exception of a seldom few, have a built in aesthetic ability. You can tell when something was done right because you usually do not notice it. When something is done poorly, that is when you notice. Designing 2 dimensional work is not as easy as you might think. There is a lot that goes into it. Design is a lot like photography: just because you have a computer and some trick software does not make you a Graphic Designer just like having a great camera will not make you a great Photographer.

A solid place to start is with the principles and elements of design. These are actual guidelines. They vary from teacher to teacher and country to country, so I have listed the ones I feel are important to book design. As you go down the list remember that all these items also work for your photographic composition. When designing a book you have to deal with two very separate design issues that are intertwined: the physical layout of image containers on the spread AND the images themselves and how they play off of one another to create flow within the spread and throughout the book as a whole.

Principles of Design
1. Balance – Using symmetry or asymmetry to evoke different emotions.
2. Unity – Brings the design together to create wholeness.
3. Variety – Keeps the design fresh and alive.
4. Rhythm – Helps with both Unity and Variety. Use of size repetition for Unity. Use of size progression for Variety.
5. Direction – How the viewer is lead through the design.
6. Proportion – Helps bring attention to a dominant area through the use of scale and perspective.
7. Emphasis – Stopping power. Where the viewer’s attention is grabbed.
8. Contrast – Utilize the design elements to create contrast.

Elements of Design

1. Line – Used to create perspective and helps with movement and direction.
2. Space – Negative (non image area) and Positive (image area)
3. Shape – The form that objects take.
4. Texture – Helps create visual surface appearance.
5. Color – Hue, Value, and Saturation. Also consider Color Harmonies: Complementary, Analogous, Triadic. Helps create contrast.
6. Movement – The direction viewers eyes take through your design. Can be static (jumpy) or dynamic (fluid.)
7. Typography – A secondary element of design created by other elements of design.

[The above imagery is from a book I am currently working on. Each image represents a full spread from a 10×10 inch book.]
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Copyright © 2009 by Jen O’Sullivan