Basic Design Principles

A few basic design principles can go a long way toward making your flyer or brochure look like it was created by a professional.

The principles of design are like a house blueprint for an architect. And you don't have to be an architect to follow them.

Following some basic principles will help create balance, create interest, and communicate. These guidelines will create balance between the various objects, colors, texture, and space on a page. Your design will feel stable, yet interesting and pleasing to the eye. It will draw the right kind of attention.

Keep the following principles in mind, and your SmartDraw publishing projects will come out looking great.

  • Group related elements
  • Align elements
  • Consistency and visual unity
  • Contrast and emphasis
  • White space
Real Estate Brochure

Group Related Elements

Scattered elements are visually confusing. The reader's eye doesn't know where to settle, or which pieces of information are related to each other.

Organize your information into small, manageable chunks. If a headline and a subhead are related, put them together. If your address appears on the page, put it in a tight little block, and put some white space between that block and other elements.

Visually group related elements together, and the reader will take in each part as a unit as you intended.

The corollary principle is that unrelated information should be separated by white space, lines, and borders.

Take for example a flyer advertising a car for sale. The car's features can be listed close to each other in a bulleted list. Their proximity would indicate that they are related. But you wouldn't want to include your contact information in the same list. Instead, you'd group that information in a separate block, set off by white space from the features list.

Group related elements
Sale flyer design


You may not feel as if you are placing items on the page randomly—but unless you are consciously aligning each new element with something on the page, that's exactly what you are doing.

As with grouping, alignment helps the reader digest information. The imaginary line that connects aligned items reinforces their connection and pleases the eye.

Feel free to experiment with different alignment options. Flush left or flush right looks dramatic and modern compared to the traditional, centered "wedding invitation" look.

Align elements

Contrast and Emphasis

Contrast creates emphasis. If you want to shout your headline to the sky, set it in high-contrast type. Make it huge, or bold, or set it on a reverse color background.

Contrast also provides natural grouping (see above). An item in high contrast is necessarily set apart from others.

Visual Unity

Everyone knows you should try to pick colors that harmonize with each other on the page. What fewer people know is that by repeating colors, logos, icons, or shapes throughout your project you create a sense of unity—the feeling that this document, whether a one-page flyer or an entire book, is "all of a piece." Pick a visual theme and carry it through. Your project will feel like a unified whole.

Contrast and emphasis

White Space

White space refers to the empty space between design elements. Use white space liberally! Beginners almost always err on the side of too little white space. It's almost impossible to overdo it.

By giving some breathing room to your graphic elements, you help your reader's eye flow easily from one topic to the next. Clutter creates a feeling of visual exhaustion. White space is the antidote, creating a clean, open, inviting page.

White space
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