Co.Design

24 Of Design's Most Important Principles, Animated

This fantastic short cartoon won't teach you everything you need to be a designer, but it's a great start.

Although not anyone can be a designer, everyone who wants to can learn the elements of visual design: contrast, transparency, hierarchy, randomness, and so on. In fact, it doesn't even take all that long. Just watch this 50-second video.

Animated by Toronto-based art director and motion designer Matt Greenwood, this video walks you through 24 of the most important visual design principles, ranging from rhythm to texture to color. It won't teach you everything you need to know to be a designer, but it's a good start.

I wonder, though, how many designers will agree with the sentiment at the end of the video: "Design isn't a science. Just move things around until it feels right." I'd personally disagree. What makes design so special is that it is a fusion of both art and science. And there's definitely more to it than just moving things around until it feels right.

You can see more of Matt Greenwood's animation work here.

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25 Comments

  • Many designers wouldn't agree with the last line in this video. Consider the layout of a well designed magazine, and read through Josef Muller Brockmann's book: Grid Systems.

  • Kacper Prochownik

    Very good video that sums up a lot of important aspects in the styling part of design. I have one huge disagreement though: Design is a definite science. -Design means planning of creation and as a Human Care Product Designer I do have to say that a good feeling is sadly far away from always the key to great design. Design involves an overwhelming process that consists of design briefs, analysis, research, specifications, problem solving, production and environmental optimization, presentation, development, evaluation and conclusion. But otherwise this is a very good video and I am happy to share it.

  • rob.curedale

    Design should be connected to the needs of people.

    Creating things because they feel right to the designer leads to creating things that do not have a purpose. Design should be about creating useful things not just creative expression. That is art. Designers have responsibilities to people who use their designs, to the environment, to apply technology and to provide return on investment.

  • Moving things around until it feels right is exactly opposite to what designers do. Oh yes we move things around but based on constraints ranging from experience to usability and sometimes it doesn't feel right to me.

  • A little basic thing I learned along the way- E-C-B-A-R-F as in ecbarf. You can remember that right?

    E Emphasis C Contrast B Balance A Alignment R Repetition F Flow (Ahhhh....like the beautiful video above :))

    ohhhh...now you get it...ecbarf!!

  • hellogwood

    I just wanted to suggest that using creative intuition can't be rationalized using a scientific formula. I think the statement is ambiguous enough that it has sparked some debate which is a good thing.

    From a recent review of the animation on motionographer -

    "while you’re making design decisions, intuition can be an excellent guiding force, but only if you’ve already internalized what constitutes successful design"

    Thanks all - Matt.

  • dawkins.spamtrap

    The "scientific formula" that eventually automates and supersedes human creativity will not be a reductionist system of equations (like the Standard Model of physics) that you could put into a textbook.

    Rather, it will be a highly complex artificial intelligence system using data-supported neuroscientific models of brain structure and processing systems (and, hence, projected aesthetic preferences and susceptibilities). Moore's law will ensure that, eventually, the model of the human brain in silico will significantly outperform the real one in vivo.

    I am saddened that this is probably inevitable in the long run-- the economics of extremely cheap machine invention are irresistible-- and that it could happen in my kids' lifetime.

  • Beautiful animations.

    I think "move things around until it feels right" is not far off but it is definitely an over simplification. The difference between what felt right when I started my career seven years ago versus what feels right now is vast. Through experience, research, schooling and exposure my design subconscious became much more informed and I make much better decisions.

    I think creatives have ability to know what feels right and what doesn't—the "eye" if you will—but that eye can be developed. I've known that to be true in graphic design as well as the way I decorate or dress myself. As silly as it sounds, that eye has been sharpened through Pinterest and exposure to seasoned artists, the homes of artists etc.

    Plus "move things around until it feels right" makes it sound so subjective to the outside world.

    Oh and for web. A ton of copy and say... a big kitten at the top of the home page may feel right to the client. But is SO very wrong.

  • roblarosa

    I think at the end, he's speaking to other designers, not non-designer.

    I think what he means by "move things around until it feels right" is that for someone that is educated in design principals and how to use them, that perhaps rather over-thinking you should instead just trust your eye.

    This "move things around" method obviously wouldn't work for a non-designer.

  • roblarosa

    I think at the end, he's speaking to other designers, not non-designer.

    I think what he means by "move things around until it feels right" is that for someone that is educated in design principals and how to use them, that perhaps rather over-thinking you should instead just trust your eye.

    This "move things around" method obviously wouldn't work for a non-designer.

  • Ricky Lyman

    Just moving things around is more akin a remix than the original.

    Design is psychology, technology and so many more considerations.

    I wish this guy thought this one through ... the artwork and animation is quite inspiring.

  • Marc Posch

    My job in a nutshell: "just move a few things around". We had a good laugh about this .

  • Sandy Fischler

    Sure, there is science in design. But style is all about moving things around until they look right to your eye. If design is just science then anyone can do it. Just check off the boxes and follow the map.

    Creativity and art -- there isn't any map for that.

  • cemery50

    While good at the points of impact it is too abreviated. The human mind and patterns of perception are a bit more complicated. While engaging it does not engage...thoughts happen through time and enviorments.., reading visual eye movements, emotional impacts and sources of stimulation count

  • Stephanie Newman

    Each element segues to the next smoothly so that all 24 appear in the first 34 seconds of this short animation. That part is beautifully done. Whether this is design as the visual control of imagery or professional graphic design, it leaves out the crucial problem solving that Mallowany mentions, and the connections and ideas which allow design to on occasion transcend its basic elements. If it stopped at 34 seconds, it would be a stronger piece. Indeed it is the connections from one element to the next that make the animation strong.

  • Alex Sung

    I believe the quotation refers to the intuitive components of design rather than declaring a complete lack of system and order.