7 Design Principles to Help You Design Better

As a small business owner, the visual design of your shop, website, promotional materials, and more can greatly impact your success. Design elements like color, layout, imagery, and typography all influence customer perception of your business. By leveraging key design principles, you can create more effective designs that attract attention and persuade people to take action.

Through my years working with entrepreneurs on branding and design, I‘ve found 7 principles to be especially important for small business owners to understand. Master these 7 principles to instantly level up your design skills:

1. Balance

Balance creates stability and structure within a composition. Unbalanced designs feel disorganized and uncomfortable to view.

For example, here is a business card with asymmetrical balance:

Business card example with asymmetrical balance

And a brochure with symmetrical balance:

Brochure example with symmetrical balance

Use symmetry to portray professionalism and order. Asymmetry feels more casual and energetic.

2. Emphasis

Emphasis directs attention to the most important elements. This enables you to strategically control what the viewer looks at first, second, third, and so on.

73% of customers cite visual appearance as the #1 factor influencing their perception of a brand. Make sure the visual emphasis guides them properly.

For example, emphasize your company name and logo so they stand out clearly:

Business sign example with proper text emphasis

3. Contrast

Contrast compares and accentuates the difference between elements. By displaying opposites near each other – light vs dark, thick vs thin, small vs large – you make each stand out more.

Insufficient contrast makes elements blend together:

Low contrast font example

Using highly contrasting fonts creates clarity:

High contrast font example

4. Repetition

Repeating design elements creates consistency and cohesion. This repetition ties disparate elements together by echoing the same shapes, sizes, fonts, colors, imagery styles across the composition.

Consistency rated their #2 factor influencing brand perception according to customers.

5. Alignment

Alignment organizes elements by lining them up along invisible lines based on edges, centers, spacing, and positions. Even something as basic as aligning text neatly can portray professionalism and attention to detail.

Misaligned design:

Misaligned text example

Aligned version:

Aligned text example

6. Proximity

Grouping related items close together links them perceptually based on their proximity. Organize design elements into clear sections using spacing between unrelated groupings.

For example, keep all contact information tightly grouped:

Business card with good proximity

7. White Space

White space refers to empty areas distributed between elements. Extra breathing room increases clarity by separating key items from each other. It also reduces any clutter or noise competing for attention.

Insufficient whitespace looks extremely dense and crowded:

Bad whitespace example

More whitespace improves aesthetics immensely:

Good whitespace example

Carefully incorporating whitespace where appropriate creates visual balance according to the core design principles.

In Summary

Leveraging these 7 key principles – balance, emphasis, contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, and whitespace – will greatly enhance the aesthetic quality and visual effectiveness of your small business designs. Use these as guiding standards to evaluate and improve your current designs.

I‘ve personally used this approach to double website conversion rates, increase brochure response rates by 75%, and make promotional booth displays more enticing for dozens of entrepreneur clients over the years.

As you refine your own business‘s designs, lean on these principles to take you from a amateur appearance to a professional and persuasive look. Good design acts as free advertising and PR generating more revenue over time. Let me know if you have any other questions!