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Proximity in Design: How to Bring Order to your design

When embarking on any new project, it is imperative that a design consider the fundamentals of design. Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be diving into the principles of graphics and layout. Design is different from art in that it needs to have a purpose. In most cases, the purpose is to communicate. A designer has the job of communicating a message to the viewer and they use font, graphics, colors, etc. to achieve that end. 

It may seem like the principles of design are just a bunch of rules, but stick with me here. Rules may seem like they are made to be broken...but you have to know the rules before you can break them! 

How many principles should we follow? Well that is a highly debated subject in the design community, but these are the 8 basic principles that we’ll discuss: proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast, balance, emphasis, movement, and unity. Today, we’re going to define proximity in graphic design. 

Principle of Design: Proximity

Proximity definition: Grouping related information together. Its purpose is to organize. Items you place in close proximity out to have some kind of relationship.

Image Source

This stationary set, for example, groups several different pieces of information together. If you look specifically at the back of the business card, you see 3 groups of text: the physical address, the communication channels, and the website.

This simple text grouping gives the viewer an easy way to consume all the information and the message is simple: this is how to get in touch with the company.

Movie flyer

This Flyer, however, doesn’t communicate near as well. There are several questions that come to mind when you look at this layout design:

  1. How many movies are there?
  2. What is the name of each movie?
  3. What day? Time? Where?
Movie flyer

This redesign should clear up these questions now we can easily see what information is related and we can read it in a logical order.

This design also provides a few intellectual connections. You see, proximity doesn't mean that everything is closer together; it means elements that are intellectually connected (those that have some sort of communication relationship) should also be visually connected. It gives the reader the basic information at a glance.

You can see this in the movie club flyer through:

  • The bold green movie titles,
  • The general information about the movie in plain text,
  • And the dates and times in green.

Let’s wrap this post up with a few tips to help you understand the proximity meaning:

  1. Don’t stick things in random places just because there is an empty space. We LIKE white space!
  2. Don’t put too many elements on a page.
  3. Avoid confusion over whether a headline, subhead, caption, graphic, etc., belongs with its related material. Group those related items together by close proximity. 
  4. Move unrelated items away from each other. You don’t want to create unwanted relationships!

Now, if you’re looking for graphic design projects, here’s a free activity sheet that goes along with this article. Click the button below and enter your email!