The Principles of Graphic Design: How to Use Balance Effectively

balance example
21Jul, 2014
In this month’s design tutorial we continue to explore the principles of graphic design. Over the past months I have introduced you to the theories of hierarchy, emphasis and contrast and this month we explore balance.

Featured Image: “JAAAAA” by karoline grebe licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0

What is Balance

Balance relates to how we arrange elements within the design space to ensure equal distribution of visual weight. Humans have an innate sense of balance, if objects are not distributed evenly around a vertical axis we become uncomfortable or things appear to be ‘just not right’. Each design element has its own visual weight and needs to be counterbalanced with other elements in order to generate a comfortable and functional design—just as loading each end of a seesaw with the exact same weight will create perfect balance. Visual weight can relate to an element’s size, position and value.

Symmetrical Balance

Symmetrical balance is simple to achieve as both sides of the vertical axis are mirrored. This creates a formal layout, which can often be described as conservative, stable and even boring. However, it is appropriate for many design solutions, such as formal invitations.

Asymmetrical Balance

Asymmetrical balance can be difficult to achieve as objects are arranged differently on each side of the axis, yet still produce a harmonious balance. This requires careful placement of objects and consideration of their visual weight to achieve this counterbalancing effect. In other words, the colour, size, and position of each object must be considered against others on the page to ensure perfect balance. Space should also be considered, in particular negative or white space, as this can often be used to counter against the positive elements/shapes on the page. Asymmetrical layouts are considered to be dynamic and more interesting than symmetrical layouts.


Below are some examples of how balance has been applied to every day design.

Wedding Invitation

Symmetrical layouts are most common with wedding invitations as this produces a formal and stable layout which is very appropriate to the topic. Draw an imaginary vertical line down the middle of this layout and you’ll notice how the design elements are an exact mirror image of each other.

principles of graphic design: balance

“JAAAAA” by karoline grebe licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0

The Camp Fire Festival

With this invitation the designer has created an asymmetric layout which has given an informal feeling to the piece. As a result, the balance of the layout is well suited to the topic of camping as this activity would be considered relaxing and informal. Therefore, when comparing the two invitations, it is is evident that balance can play a major factor in the ‘feel’ of the design. Other points of interest with this layout is how each of the elements have been counterbalanced against each other. For example, a large area of white/negative space has been used at the top of the layout to counterbalance the objects at the bottom. Furthermore, the rectangle and type in the top left corner helps to counterbalance the piece of bread in the lower right corner.

graphic design principles: balance example

The Camp fire Festival by HANY . licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0

Final Words

And that wraps up this month’s design article on balance. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Check out the other posts in this series:

The Principles of Graphic Design: How to Use Proximity Effectively
The Principles of Graphic Design: How to Use Repetition Effectively
The Principles of Graphic Design: How to use Contrast Effectively
The Principles of Graphic Design: How to use Hierarchy and Emphasis Effectively

About The Author
Matt Smith is a graphic designer and principal lecturer with expertise in print media and web design. He has over 20 years of experience under his belt and has dedicated much of his career to educating others. He founded Edgee in 2014 with the aim of providing quality education for new and experienced graphic designers. With ‘hands on’ experience and qualifications in graphic design, along with a Bachelor of Education in Adult Vocation, Matt combines his passion for design, typography and teaching with his expertise in Adobe Creative Suite to develop eBooks, tutorials and informative articles aimed at helping designers of all levels improve their skills and knowledge.