Branding & design principles

Design Principles and Branding

Design principles are used across all brands and products you see around you, whether it be a family cleaning service or a high end bank chain. From leaflets to logos, banners to business cards – use of design principles is the essential glue which holds good designs together.

So you’re starting up a business, and you’re ready to show it to the world.  You need a brand that will reflect your company, now and in the years to come.  Your brand is very important, it is your first impression and your hallmark in this day and age where we are immersed in social media and advertising.

We are bombarded by much more information than ever. A recent scientific finding reported that, thanks to our smart phones, the average attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish.

Image is everything so it is more paramount than ever to shine from the start to give your company the head start it needs in this competitive age!

Fear not! This guide will highlight the key principles in piecing together your design.

1. Colour

Much like decorating a house, choosing the right colour is essential. Every colour has certain associations and can even create different moods!

Key examples being; green depicting nature and is considered neutral, yellow depicts joy, blue is airy and red is strong. You can use the colour wheel to extract various colours into palettes to give an array of moods and tones to give a fuller flavour of your message.
For example, an outdoor gardening company  may be inclined to utilise earthy tones to keep in line with the natural quality. Not only is the type of colour important but the nature of the colour in particular the degree of saturation. For example if you want to promote a festival a lot of high saturation may be employed, contrary to this a wedding photographer may go for a muted palette to give a more classical feel.

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2. Line

Line quality and weight are two often overlooked aspects of design. They can make all the difference to a design. A jaunty line can give an urban or edgy look whereas a fluid line is often employed to give an organic feel. Rigid lines give a sense of importance whereas intricate lines can give a handmade or artisan quality. Also the weight can speak volumes. Combining variations to give a juxtaposition can be most effective at breaking up a boring wall of text into smaller more digestible facts you wish to convey. Furthermore grouping these together helps categorize and organise the information making it much more reader friendly. A way of doing this may be to use bold text as the main slogan and then use delicate italics to give dates and venues. This serves its purpose as it entices the viewer with its bold statement and then whilst the viewer is engaged they may be able to look for important information relevant.

Branding & design principles Impress

3. Space

Creating the illusion of 3D space within a 2D designated area. This can be done in several ways; perspective and overlap are the most prominent two. Perspective is a way of depicting graphics so that they appear to be descending into a vanishing point. Overlap is an effect used to render graphics where the top element appears to be closer to the viewer. The back element typically gives the illusion of being further away from the viewers eyes. These two essentially give a strong sense of depth and is a very powerful way of having graphics appearing to come out of the page.

Branding & design principles Impress

Branding & design principles Impress

Also an important point to mention would be to consider the negative space as well is the positive. Negative space is under rated and is every bit as important as the focal points. It sets it out, it can frame it, accompany it or echo it. A final note to consider on this; never underestimate the power of simplicity!

Branding & design principles Impress


4. Alignment

It is important to organize and line up the elements either to a margin or to a certain point within the design. Central alignment of text and graphics is a simple and straight forward way of presenting information.

Conversely off centre arrangement can give an offbeat and quirky vibe.

Branding & design principles Impress

Whichever way you opt for, lining up of key elements in relation to one another in some fashion is important to give the impression of overall unity in your design. It creates balance on the eye which is extremely important in aesthetics.

If you have strong graphics coming out of the right – perhaps text on the left can counterbalance it. Sometimes it’s a simple case of trial and error to see which is the best option for your design. Fine tuning the elements so there is no mis-match is crucial as it demonstrates your attention to detail which is a subtext for professionalism!

Branding & design principles Impress

5. Contrast

It’s not always black and white! Following on from balance; light and dark combined help achieve a different sense of equilibrium. Even if you have the best design in the world, it is redundant if contrast isn’t implemented. An example would be having a block of orange text on a red background.

Branding & design principles Impress

Additionally, contrasting colours, black and white effectively create mood and are a powerful way of combining various layers of information without over doing it. One final note on this; purpose must be well thought-out. For instance contrast may be amplified in the case of large format banners and such, which are intended to be viewed at a distance.


6. Texture

Obviously the print stock or surface used is very important. A shimmery foil finish can make a huge difference to the overall quality and provide a glamorous feel. Alternatively, if you are an eco friendly client you may wish to go for a recycled material to print on.
Furthermore, you can use different textures within the design itself to give a collaged or bespoke feel. Texture provides a tone, an environment and a message that should mimic all other aspects of the design.When done really well these can tap into your senses and entice your viewers very effectively.

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7. Typography

There are trillions of fonts to chose from and hundreds more added every week. The choices can be perplexing however as a rule of thumb the typeface should complement the line work and imagery within your design. I have compiled 5 basic font families and their typical place in the design industry;

  • Serif fonts – refers to the small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or a symbol. They are kind on the eyes and are commonly used in books, newspapers and published material.
  • Sans serif  – is the opposite of the above. As you may guess; sans in french means ‘without’ – so a sans serif font is without these small embellishments. This usually gives a modern and crisp feel, it commonly appears in packaging, advertising and art galleries.
  • Calligraphic and Script – these are used to give a handwritten quality. They are commonly used in artisan products, quotes and annotations.
  • Display – These are highly stylised and tend to be used for headlines not body. They are bold and decorative. They are commonly used as festival headliners, band logos, t shirts etc.
  • Dingbat – This is usually only used to depict mathematical and scientific formulas and symbols. They are rarely used in large bodies of texts, but sometimes appear in logos etc.
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8. Scale

Scale is a powerful tool in graphic design. Without variety in sizes the design runs the risk of looking flat and dull. Mixing up sizes is a wonderful way of creating an intriguing and dynamic design that lures in the viewer and sustains interest. Often it is used to highlight key elements by making them relatively larger than less important aspects of the design.

Branding & design principles Impress


9. Shape

A shape is defined as an area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a distinct or implied boundary, or because of differences of value, color, or texture. Variations of elements can group together to give one shape, for example a text wrap can be used to bound text into a designated area, or shapes themselves can be used separately, to overlap or tessellate. Text itself constitutes as a shape or lots of shapes, which is why using the correct typeface sympathetic to the overall look is so important. Negative space also classes as a shape and should be considered when putting together your design.

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10. Repetition

Consistency is key! Although, some variety is wonderful and captivating, having an underlying theme and utilising the same typeface throughout the design gives a nice uniform and refined look.
If you have many number of different images you need to include, all the more reason to limit your typeface to 1, 2 or possibly 3 styles. Vice versa, if you have a text heavy design, chose your colour palette, shape and textures carefully to tie the design together. If there’s not enough repetition in some manner holding the design together it will look sloppy and unprofessional.

Branding & design principles Impress

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