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A Guide to Document Design: Five Principles

Know the five principles of design: balance, alignment, grouping, consistency, and contrast.



There is a very slim chance that your readers will read your document word for word. Rather, they tend to scan your documents at various levels, skimming some and paying closer attention to others. Considering that workplace readers are searching for specific information, it is important to think about them as “raiders”.


When designing your document, be sure to make it easy for your readers to locate the information they’re looking for. There are five basic design principles that can help you make better decisions regarding the look and function of your document.






Balance — From top to bottom and from left to right, a document should be balanced.


Alignment — Images and text on the page should be aligned in a way that illustrates the hierarchy of the document.


Grouping — Associated images and words should be close together on the page.


Consistency — Throughout the document, elements should be applied consistently, so the document has a uniform appearance.


Contrast — If elements in the document differ significantly, they should be displayed differently.


These principles are based on the theoretical framework of Gestalt psychology, which investigates how people perceive patterns in their minds. A wide range of designers has used Gestalt principles, from architects to fashion designers to artists. Using these principles throughout your document design will benefit you tremendously.


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