These principles are concerned with how components in a visual may be organized, and are usually the first steps a designer may consider or apply. They are also a good point for starting analysis. Composition, figure, ground, balance, contrast, cropping, hierarchy, scale, proportion and pattern are all design principles.
Is it open or closed? In the composition, is there any conventional drawing, any use of a grid?
The main figure in the composition. Is it dominant or is the ground dominant? Is the figure or shape in the visual positive space?
The background of the visual may occupy more space in the visual than the figure and so be called ground dominant. Also, the ground and figure can be reversed so that the ground is negative space.
Balanced design can be achieved through the symmetrical or asymmetrical placement of objects or elements. Symmetrical balance gives a uniformity and stability to a visual communication whilst asymmetrical balance creates a dynamic composition.
Contrast appears when there are opposites. Is there a contrast between shape, scale, color, serif and sans serif type? Are some parts of the visual small and others large? Is there brightness and darkness in tone, or a contrasting of texture such as rough textures in bricks contrasting with rose petals or skin?
Has the image been cropped? Has part of the image been enlarged to appear closer to you? Is part of the image missing (cropped) to create interest in the visual?
Hierarchy is whatever attracts your attention. First hierarchy in a composition is the focal point. It could be text (headings), image or type (other headings or body copy). What causes this first hierarchy or focal point? Is it scale, color or cropping, or a range of these elements and principles that cause the focal point (first hierarchy)? What is your eye attracted to next? This is the second hierarchy. What is the third? Why is your eye led around the visual to the hierarchies? Is it because of scale, color or shape? Write about all the elements that lead your eye around the visual to each hierarchy.
Scale in a composition can make an image or text small or large, particularly if cropped and can help to determine hierarchy. It can make something in the visual the focal point by its large scale compared to the other images.
The proportion of each component in the visual is important. For example, is the proportion of the image of a car in a visual greater in size than everything else in the composition? If it were, then the car image would have the first hierarchy or be the focal point of the composition. It is the relationship between all the items that make up a visual.
The pattern is all about repetition, alternation and making images into patterns. Repetition is when one shape is repeated to make a pattern or an impact; alternation is the repetition of two or more images or components that are reversed (for example, first black and then white); and a pattern is created when images are repeated over and over again.