Design Principles in Action


For more than 2 years now, we’ve been teaching our readers about the six basic design principles, how to use them to strengthen your scrapbook pages. We’ve gone through each of the letters in the acronym ECBARF which stands for: emphasis, contrast, balance, alignment, repetition, and flow. Once you know and understand the six basic design principles, you can use them to strengthen your scrapbook pages. These principles are not meant to replace your personal creativity or stifle you, but rather give you a strong foundation on which to build your pages.

It’s one thing to read about the basic principles of design, but the best way to really learn how to use them is to put these ideas into action! If you really want to grow your digi skills, I would encourage you to take the challenge of creating a layout to practice each of the six basic design principles. You will be amazed at how much you learn! Here’s a list to work from:

  • EMPHASIS: The most important element on the page should be the most prominent and the second most important should be the next in line. Emphasis or dominance of an object can be increased by making the object larger, more sophisticated, more ornate, by placing it in the foreground, or have it standout visually more than other objects in a project. Learn more about emphasis by reading this previous post : Emphasis by Debbie Hodge

By enlarging the title on this layout, I made it the emphasis of the page. The word “LOVE” is especially dominant and goes with the theme in the photo of expressing love.

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Layout by Katie. Word art by Kitty Designs. Celebrate kit by Connie Prince.
  • CONTRAST is the occurrence of contrasting elements, such as color, value, size, etc. It creates interest and pulls the attention toward the focal point. Contrast is used to add visual interest to your layouts and to keep everything on the page from looking alike. Color choices, shapes and size are just a few of the things that can be used to create contrast. To learn more about contrast, refer to this post by Debbie Hodge.

Black and white are the ultimate pair for contrasting, that’s why black and white photos are so stunning. The black circle and title really pop visually against the muted gray and white tones. Adding another bright color such as the bits of yellow add a fun contrast and calls attention to the title work on the page.

Layout by Katie. Page map by Becky Fleck. Hazel Olive Be Yourself, Joyce Paul Curiosity and Lemonade Cocktail


  • BALANCE is the distribution of the visual weight of elements on a page in order to achieve a pleasing and clear layout. Balance can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on if the right or left side is identical or not. Also refers to a sense that dominant focal points are balanced and don’t give a feeling of being pulled too much to any part of the artwork. For more information about all types of balance read Balance with Debbie Hodge , Balance by Joey Manwarren, and  Balance part 2 by Joey.


Layout by Katie. Template by Debbie Hodge. Word art by Ali Edwards. Katie Pertiet Krafty Paper. Century Gothic Font.


ALIGNMENT: Alignment is the connection among journaling, photographs and elements on a page when their edges line up with each other. Just as alignment can create continuity, a choice to take things out of alignment can create discord. Depending on your goal for the layout, this might be just the look you want to achieve! For more ideas and information, be sure to read this alignment post from Debbie Hodge and this alignment tutorial by Katie.

Layout by Katie.  Kitty Designs Templates, Cinnamon Designs Cardstock,Jofia Devoe Candy Beach kit (NLA), Franklin Gothic font


  • REPETITION: This principle states that repeating lines, shapes, images, colors, textures and other visual elements within a layout helps establish a unified, cohesive layout. Using items similar in color, shape or pattern, your layout will have a unified look. Read more in this post about repetition by Debbie Hodge. The repetition of shapes, colors, word art, fonts, and photo size gives this layout a finished look and makes it easy to follow along with the story.

Layout by Katie. Pixel Gypsy Technogirl (the Digi Files #29 May 2011), Template by Janet Phillips, The Architect font by Heather Hess


  • FLOW is the visual path of movement in which the reader’s eye tracks though a page or pages. Read more about flow from Debbie Hodge in this post. The feeling that papers, embellishments, and photos all belong together on a page have a lot to do with the flow of the design. Is it easy for your eye to visit the important parts of a page? Are the ingredients cohesive? The flow of this layout is based a lot on using coordinated products and strategic placement to keep the eye moving through the page.


Layout by Katie. Shabby Princess Easy As Pie Template – 12, Shabby Princess Clementine, Traveling Typewriter font


I encourage you to look through your layouts and pick a page that would illustrate each of the six design principles. If you  can’t find any, it’s the perfect excuse to do some digi scrapping! You will learn a a lot about what makes layout really great!

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