What is Design Theory

what is design theory

Did you know that Xiaomi’s redesigned logo cost them 300000 USD, and the only thing the designers changed was the shape of the edges from square to squircle? The designers claim it looks more aesthetically pleasing, and Xiaomi has paid them the huge bucks for that, yet you are struggling with your gorgeous designs being sold out for 10 dollars.

The only thing that is holding between you and the designer who earned 300k for just changing the shape is knowing design theory. Nonetheless, according to a survey, the new design makes them more youthful and lively.

Let’s learn design theory and its importance to sell your 10 dollar design to 1000 dollars.

What is Design Theory?

Design theory is basically there to fill the communication gap between you and your viewers. Ever wondered why a few stroked arts got sold for millions? Well, it’s nothing, but the art was able to talk to the admirer without any language but art. A few symmetrical and color influence is all it’s needed to get the design talking.

Moreover, that’s the only difference between graphics designing and illustrating. In graphics designing, it’s just designing what looks the best, but on the other hand, illustrating conveys a message to the audience. The best example of design theory desirability is looking at the big companies.

The only reason big companies like Xiaomi or Apple perceives their logos’ for thousands of dollar. The big fishes around the sea highly value the one with the design theory knowledge as they can serve the companies their main moto and get them what they want to indicate to their users.

Design Theory Principles

design theory principles

Now that we know what is design theory, we will dive into the principles that matter the most for conveying your design.

There are actually 7 principles of design theory, but we can skip two for now as it’s not that important for a beginner. The five principles are as follows: Alignment, contrast, balance, repetition, and finally, hierarchy.

Knowing the names won’t do any better. Let’s dig in deep instead.


Aligning the components in your design is very crucial. Important pieces of information should always be at the top as no one starts reading from the bottom. Just like that, every text or design is meant to be aligned in such a way that viewers feel connected.

Every design has viewing algorithms, meaning viewers tends to look up, down, or left-right according to the design, and it varies every time with it. Making it comfortable to look at and also placing information in such important order is a skill that every good illustrator should have.


Did you know grey colors make us feel sad subconsciously just by seeing them? Like this, many colors tend to make us feel different things subconsciously, and it is a designer’s duty to know them so that they don’t make their audience feel unhappy and not like the brand subconsciously.

Colors can create emphasis on specific information on the design. For information on the same topic, the same color makes the viewers identify them easily and creates a better impression on the designer. Also, choosing a background that will not be present in that art that you will cover is really essential. It helps to create without the worry of readability.

Apart from colors, the warmth, coolness, and text colors also matter here. Warm tones represent emotions from simple optimism to violence, whereas cool tones represent peace and soothing. Using its full advantage can really take you places.


Placing your finger in the middle of a ruler is important to make sure it doesn’t fall, and it’s the same for designing as well. The balance on a design is subjected to how the viewer will treat it. Distributing the components wrong makes us feel something missing or incomplete, which no designer wants.

It’s like distributing the weight evenly on a ruler to balance, whereas here, it’s visual weight. There are two types of balance that can come in handy. One is Symmetrical Balance, and another is Tension Balance.

Symmetrical balance is picking the important side of your design. One side will contain the important information with matching colors and sizes so that the viewers don’t get muddled with the mixed information that you are trying to provide. Symmetrical Balance usually portrays the feeling of calmness.

On the other hand, there is tension balance where it triggers the negative emotion of a viewer. Instead of putting the important stuff on a particular side, you put it everywhere on the design. Tension balance does not contain the same text style or colors, which makes the viewer lost, triggering the danger alarm in them.


Do you know why seeing just a yellow “M” on a red background makes us think of Mcdonald’s? It’s a marketing strategy used by companies to shove their companies’ names in our heads and get familiar with them, and it is achieved by repetition.

Repeating certain components creates emphasis on a human’s brain, making the brand important. It is widely used in posters or cards, and it’s done by using the same font and color over and over again. Although it may be of different sizes and may not seem identical, the brain does its job of connecting the dots.


Placing images in order is a legitimate way of making someone think they are related to one another. Think of your childhood image placed beside Brad Pitt’s childhood image in a single frame, and I doubt anyone will figure out that they are not brothers. Just like this, Hierarchy is a simple way of relating things to one another.

Visual manipulation allows designers to create the reading order of the reader and makes the information as important as the one beside it. It makes it easier for the designer to promote products easily without the product actually being important.

A great example would be what you are reading right now. As soon we see the bold and big letters, we assume it is the title and the small ones its elements.

Fundamental of Design Theory

design theory fundamental

Before you hop into designing, it’s also important to know a few things to design your theory. Coloring, contrasting, and aligning text correctly isn’t the ultimate answer to what is design theory. Knowing the fundamentals helps the artist put the right design in the right place, and as you already know, it’s crucial to keep clients happy.

The first point to note is the target audience. Knowing who you are designing for is important for everybody who is producing that design. For example, no 60-year-old would want the psychedelics you designed to make things look edgy.

Although it may attract teenagers, your product is targeted at a different age range. Therefore it won’t make any difference. So understanding your target audience’s likes and dislikes is key here.

Next up is problem-solving. Your design should be the solution to the problem that the audience is facing. Honestly, it’s simple as that. Thinking of your design as the solution automatically makes your vision clear to design, like it contains all the answers that your audience is searching for.

Nevertheless, brainstorming is another basic that every designer should do before laying hands on the mouse. Thinking over and over again creates a strong perception of how you want to design it overall.

Last but not least is trying new stuff. Once you are done with your design, don’t think that it’s the best. There are still many better possible outcomes that you can achieve just by moving things here and there. Also, adding new elements adds a new perspective to the design and lets you create something better out of it.

It’s not like you are doing it on paper, and it ruins your entire art, just a simple undo button takes you back to your original design, and that’s what is the most fascinating about illustrator designing. You simply can’t stop discovering new things.

Issues in Design Theory

When compared to paper artists, the life of a designer might be rather demanding. It’s not as straightforward as it appears, but more challenges are to overcome. There are certainly pros that outnumber the downsides, but there are some concerns to be aware of before committing on this journey.

Technology is developing every day. Illustrators and all other designing applications are adding new features daily, and it’s really hard to cope with. One day you design something the next day, a new feature pops up that could make it better and more satisfying for the client. It’s really hard to keep up in this competitive market.

Into the bargain, there is being multi-talented. Just being a good artist who can do fancy designs that no others struggle with is not good enough to keep you up in this specific market. Nowadays, graphics designers also have to know multiple other skills that are related to designing. Motion graphics is one of them, and it’s really hard to be a master of all trades.

Apart from this pain, then comes the constant interaction part. Don’t you just miss the days when you could get feedback on your correction work within a few days? Unfortunately, as technology advances, so does communication.

Now you have to constantly update your clients with the work that you are doing, and they ask for immediate changes, which can get frustrating.

Last but not least, you need to find the right client for you. Not everyone understands the value of design and how to pay the appropriate price for it. That is one of the reasons why most designers quit the market after a while. First, it’s extremely competitive, and second, finding someone who values it is the most difficult.

After putting so much effort into a particular design, most clients perceive it as nothing more than a logo that took five minutes to produce. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a designer.

Tips for Using Design Theory

tips for design theory

A few hacks that can make your work easy are quite relieving to even think about. Don’t worry; we have got that covered for you here with these amazing three tips that can help you improve your overall design theory to the next level.

Tip 1:

Always be true to yourself and identify a bad design against a good one. Doing it will improve you to choose the components better for a better overall design. You can achieve it by browsing other works. There are a lot of websites that portray others’ works, and simply knowing this is the good one comes with nothing but the experience.

Tip 2:

Making a custom world for yourself comes in handy for designers. Making a world where there is no one but you and your canvas makes you explore the world you never explored before. There is no one there to pass you orders to make changes, but you only do it for yourself.

Tip 3:

Taking a tour of somebody’s work can be beneficial and relaxing. You don’t have to design or think about any fancy designs to improve. Just visit famous designers’ portfolios and try to understand how they did it all.

With practice, you’ll be able to tell just by looking at the design and tell yourself why they put the square there and the circle there and all their justifications for doing so.


Everyone is a graphic designer until they are asked what is design theory. It is a large library with no end in sight for your learning curve. Nonetheless, it’s not a difficult task; it’s simply doing some creative alignments, coloring, and contrasting. But the most important thing is to organize it correctly, which is what design theory is all about.

Even though design theory has some issues, it is definitely like planting a tree that will bear fruit later on and is worth digging into.

Anyhow, knowing the design theory principles is critical for any designer. In a nutshell, these principles give meaning to your design; without them, it’s just a bunch of color strokes.

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