All Things Being Equal (Balance in Design)
In this month’s lesson we’re going to explore the Principle of Balance. Balance is easy to understand in a three dimensional object. If it’s not balanced the object tips over. When it comes to compositions we have to use our imagination to carry this through to our designs as we aim for the equal distribution of visual weight in a design.Visual balance occurs around a vertical axis. There are 3 basic forms of balance: Symmetrical, Asymmetrical and Radial.
Symmetrical Balance, is where elements on one side of an imaginary vertical axis are repeated in reverse on the opposite side in what is essentially a mirror image. Symmetry achieves balance through this repetition. Symmetrical Balance is considered formal. It creates an ordered, stable design and is also sometimes called bilateral symmetry. Humans are bilateral creatures, draw an imaginary line down the center of a human being and you’ll see the mirror image concept in our two eyes, two ears, legs and arms etc. Symmetrical balance can often be found in nature, architecture and classical design.
Asymmetrical Balance is achieved through contrast. It is often off-center and uses non-identical elements in a way that gives them equal visual weight. It is also called informal balance. In Asymmetry a design is visually balanced and in perfect Symmetry a design is (in theory) both visually and mathematically balanced. Asymmetrical designs are generally more dynamic and tend to convey movement. It would be considered casual balance making it a good choice for more playful and contemporary designs.
Radial Balance occurs when the elements radiate out from one central point creating a strong focal point in the center of your design. In Radial Balance the visual weight is evenly distributed as it emits from the central point. To picture Radial Balance think if flowers, a kaleidoscope or the sun.
With Symmetry you can rely on the more straight-forward ‘mirror image’ concept to help you achieve your goal, but in Asymmetry you need to consider the visual weight of your various elements. Visual weight can be influenced by many things including color, shape, positioning and size. Here are some things to consider:
- Color: Bright & intense colors are heavier than muted & subtle colors
- Value: Dark colors are heavier than light ones
- Shape: Complex shapes feel heavier than simple ones
- Size: Larger feels heavier. A large object at the focal point can be balanced by a small object positioned further away from the focal point.
- Position: Your focal area should contain your heavier elements
- Quantity: Multiple small objects can balance one larger object
- Texture: Elements with complex textures are heavier than ones that are plain and simple
Let’s look at a few card samples that show these various types of balance in action. In the cards that use symmetrically balance, if you sliced this down the middle vertically, the shapes on the left would be mirrored on the right. Those that are Asymmetrical would not be mirror images but instead elements (and remember that white/blank space is an element too) are balanced against each other.
A Symmetrical Layout/Design (OWH Sketch #21) by Julie.
A Symmetrical Layout/Design (created for the last OWH Virtual Card Making Party) by Nancy.
A Symmetrical Layout/Design (OWH Sketch #189) by JoAnn.
An Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Lee Mae.
An Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Sandy.
An Asymmetrical Layout/Design by Barb H.
A Layout/Design based on Radial Balance by me (Paula).
Balance in a design is vital. Knowing and recognizing the differences between the types of balance will help you achieve your desired effect and no matter which you choose when it comes to your designs you just need to remember that building a design is like building a real-world structure: it needs to be balanced or it doesn’t work.
Most people will find themselves more attracted to either symmetrical or asymmetrical designs. Which are you, symmetrical, asymmetrical? Maybe radial? Choose a category and create a card to share here with everyone here.