Hi, I’m JennV and I’m excited to be here to talk about what many argue is the first principle of design….balance. I’ve been scrapping for 10 years and I never tire of designing a page. I’m one that will turn my layers on and off in photoshop a hundred times with my finished file using only half of the layers that are buried in there. I will play with this design, then that design, add this flower, balance it out with a word strip on the other side. When I design a page, there is nothing more important to me than the balance of it or in some cases, the lack of balance!! This quote from Matisse sums up my thoughts perfectly….
Technically speaking, balance is the equal distribution of visual weight around a midline axis/point. As humans, we like to see what is called bilateral symmetry. This is essentially the repeating of the reverse of a design on the opposite side of the axis/point, in essence, each side becomes a mirror image of the other. This balance is considered formal, ordered, stable and quiet…but can also be boring.
To show this design principal in action, I designed a layout for each balance type using the same kit with the exact same elements for each layout. Here is my layout showing symmetry. I used At The Farmer’s Market by Mari Koegelenberg and Sugarplum Paperie. All the elements and papers are distributed down the vertical axis so that each side is a relative mirror image of the other side.
While symmetry achieves balance through repetition, asymmetry achieves balance through contrast. Asymmetrical, or informal balance, involves different elements that have equal visual weight. Many things can influence visual weight, such as position. The further an element is from the center, the “heavier” it feels. So you can balance a large center object with a smaller object on the edge. Some other factors that will influence visual weight we intuitively know…a larger element and/or element with an intense color feels “heavier” in a design. The more complex a shape, the heavier it will feel. A diagonal orientation carries more visual weight than a horizontal or vertical one. Finally, multiple smaller objects can balance a larger one. Asymmetrical balance is considered more casual, interesting and dynamic than symmetrical balance, but it can also be harder to pull off.
Here you can see an example of asymmetrical balance. I balanced the heavy photo with a bold colored paper strip at the top of the layout. I framed the word strips with the painted dots and added in the lighter colored background behind the photo to draw your eye to the photo.
Finally, we have the last balance design …and it is breakdown of balance…the end of all things sweet and good….it’s called Discordant balance!!
Discordant is defined as disagreeable, at variance, conflicting, clashing, jarring, grating….essentially it doesn’t sound good!!!
However in terms of design, a discordant balanced design can suggest movement or flow. It can be used to make a statement or just catch someone’s eye.
Here is an example of a a discordant layout. Again, I used the same elements as in the previous two layouts.
Whether we like it or not, there is a balance in everything we do. We hear about work/life balance ad nauseum. We eat good foods and exercise, but might balance that out with an occasional trip to Krispy Kreme!!! Study, study, study for that Algebra test and then watch Amazing Race the next night. We scrap all day and night and feed our kids cereal for dinner as we try and finish the “last” layout…..wait, that would be an example of no balance….LOL!!!
Too much of one thing never works. Whatever your design preference for balance, it is important to try new things and switch it up every now and then. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes on the matter of life and balance…….
About the Author: JennV is a lover of history and art (luckily she lives 5 miles outside of Washington, DC) and an accountant by training. She currently stays home with her two boys and is pursuing a career in photography, when she is not busy volunteering for every school and county initiative!!