Principles of Design Part 2 of 2

Principles of Design Part 2 of 2

Table of Contents

Reminders Before You Start
Tips and Tricks
Re-Introduction + Review

Participants will apply their understanding of the four basic principles of design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity (CRAP) by using them to improve an existing design.

Time: 50 minutes

Computers (ideally one per person) + Internet access (specifically to
Projector/screen (for instructor computer)

Reminders Before Module Two

  • Review the module one instructor powerpoint and vocabulary before the lesson to refresh your understanding of the principles of design.
  • Try the beginner’s challenge Canva tutorial
  • (Optional) Create a shared account that students can use for the activity. Test it out to make sure the site is functional before the workshop.

Key Vocabulary

Contrast: The arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, rough vs. smooth textures, large vs. small shapes, etc.) in a piece so as to create visual interest, excitement and drama.

Repetition: The repeating of visual elements such as line, color, shape, texture, value or image, which tends to unify the total effect of a work of art as well as create rhythm. Repetition can take the form of an exact duplication (pattern), a near duplication (theme), or duplication with variety.

*Alignment: The organization or grouping information/elements to create order and balance, or to call attention to a focal point of the design. This concepts often has to do with placing items on a canvas so that they line up (example: left, right, center aligned). There are two main types of alignment: edge alignment and center alignment. Note that not all design elements have to be aligned, but non-aligned elements or asymmetry should be used in an intentional or meaningful way that benefits the purpose of the design.

*Proximity: The closeness of groups that produces a bond or emphasizes a relationship between elements. Elements that are close together are perceived to be more related than elements that are further apart. Proximity in web design is most commonly achieved by grouping information.

 Tips and Tricks

  • Try to minimize lecture time (time when you’re talking at participants)
    • Make sure to frequently ask participants to share their own thoughts/feelings, either via pair share (turn to your partner) or to the entire group. This will help them stay engaged with the content and relate it back to their own interests.
  • Make connections to their work and interests, if you can
    • If you are working with the same group from module one, post some of their examples around the room so you can point to them during today’s module.
  • Don’t touch the keyboard/mouse for participants
    • Resist the urge to take over the computer when showing participants how to do something. Many people are tactile learners and need to literally go through the movements themselves. If someone needs help, walk them through the process by sitting next to them and providing guidance while they do the work.

Re-Introductions + Review - 10 minutes
Welcome participants to the Geek Squad Design Principles class, module two! Have all staff in the room re-introduce themselves. (Name, role/title, and what you do in that role.) Review the four basic design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity) with participants.

Re-introduce the course and instructor:

“Welcome back! Last time we were together, we learned about the four basic principles of design. Who can remember what they are?”

[Prompt for Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. Have participants help to define what they are (see vocabulary for help)]

Exactly! So most of the time, we like our designs to be as CRAP-y as possible! Which, as we’ll see today, is easier said than done. Designing is a process where you usually end up doing multiple versions of a design, trying to improve each draft until you reach a final product. Today, we’re going to work on applying our four design principles to improving an existing design.”

Hands-On Activity: How to make a design more CRAP-y - 25 minutes
Have participants create a login for Canva, a free design and photo editing site. It’s a good idea to have the instructor computer linked to a projector so participants can see the instructor model the process.

Go to and create a new log-in (as an alt, you can have a group log-in that everyone uses for this activity. Be sure to set this up ahead of time if you want to use the group method).

As a class, go through the beginner’s challenge tutorial for Canva, located here: It will take about ten minutes.

Instructor’s note: Before this activity, make sure you have computers with Internet access tested and ready to go. Ideally, person has their own computer. Also make sure to go through the tutorial ahead of time so you’re familiar with it before you teach it.

Have participants use the following link to see a sample design that they be using for this activity:

Have participants go to the file menu and select “make a copy” before changing the design. This will preserve the original design for others to use.

Have participants go to the file menu and select “make a copy” before changing the design. This will preserve the original design for others to use.

Introduce the activity:

“One of the most common ways people use design principles is in improving existing designs, and that’s what we’re going to do today! This is a program called Canva, which will help us edit designs online. So here’s the scenario: You’ve been hired by a music production company called blue dog productions. Their logo is a big blue dog. One of their employees has made a design they want to spread on instagram, and they’ve hired you to improve it using the four main design principles, contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity.

We’re going to take the next 20 minutes to play with their design. You’ll want to keep certain elements, like the logo and the name of the company, the same. But you are encouraged to play with the colors, features, textures, fonts, and other elements to make a CRAP-ier design than before. If you’re not sure where to start, pick one of the four design principles and ask yourself how you might improve it in the existing design.

Even if you don’t know Canva, this is a good time to play the program and try out different features. If you get stuck or need help undoing something, feel free to ask one of the instructors.”

As participants work on their design, the instructor should circulate and ask if anyone needs help. You can also have breaks built in for participants to give feedback on each other’s designs.

For timekeeping purposes, let participants know when they have 5 minutes left and 1 minute left.

Instructor’s note:

Here is an example of a before/after for the design. Note the increased contrast from the dark background, the repetition of the dark blue color and blue dog motif, the new proximity of the logo and title, and the center alignment of the text elements in the piece.





Group share back (15+ minutes)

Take the last ten minutes of the class to go around and have everyone share their designs. Keep the original design on the overhead projector so people can refer back to it in comparison to the new designs.

Ask the individual participant to explain their design -- what they changed about it and why (which design principles they used) and for the group to give feedback on it.

“Now we’re going to go around and share the designs we came up with. Let’s take one more look at the original so we can see what we were all working from. Great. Who would like to go first (from there you can go in a circle to share)?

*ASK EACH PERSON: So tell me about your design. What did you change and why?

*ASK THE GROUP: What do you like about the design? What design principles did he/she use?

At the end of the group share back, thank everyone for participating and remind them that these design principles are all around them, and it’s something they can use when putting together their own projects for school or for fun.

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