What is it about certain spaces and places that can evoke either a positive or negative emotion and enhances our everyday experience? What about specific patterns and colours we see that make us react in different ways?

To put it simply it’s the elements of design, the universal principles incorporated by all designers that impact on the way people perceive and react to spaces and places. The principles referred to are used by architects, fashion designers, graphic designers, industrial designers, visual artists and sculptors.

The basic design principles used are; scale, proportion, balance, alignment, repetition, contrast and proximity. This article will look briefly into how scale, proportion and balance translate in an interior space.

Scale and Proportion

Sometimes these words are interchanged however it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Scale refers to the overall size of an object while proportion refers to the relative size of the object versus other objects. An example would be placing the correct scale furniture according to a room’s size, but in proportion to the other items in the same space. Scale is an absolute where proportion is relative.


Balance refers to the equal distribution of visual weight in design and is achieved in three ways: symmetrically, asymmetrically and radially. In the same way that balance is important in most things we see or do, an unbalanced building or interior space can come off as uncomfortable and unsettling.

Symmetrical balance is achieved when objects are mirrored or repeated along a central axis. Symmetry is quite common in interiors but if you applied the same principle to the exterior the architecture of the building could appear uninspired.

Asymmetrical balance relates to the visual weight of objects. Complex shapes often feel heavier and for that reason are commonly used to achieve asymmetrical balance.

Radial balance is the distributed arrangement of items around a central point either extending outward or inward. An example would be chairs around a round table.

In the next part of this series, we’ll be taking a look at the next two design principles; alignment and repetition.

About The Author

Maria Filardo

Maria Filardo is a Canberra born designer living the dream. She is qualified and practices both Architecture and Interior Design and has over 10 years of experience in both disciplines. Maria has worked with many of the large commercial firms in Canberra and now runs her own practice where she focuses on what she loves and does best - personalised service with quality design outcomes.

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