Applying Design Principles to Your Life

by Abby Brummel

As an art major, I have spent many hours sitting through classes learning the basics of design. Maybe the last time you had an art class was in middle school, but I’m guessing that (even if you don’t remember it) sometime during your elementary days, your art teacher made you look over a handout about “the principles of fine art.” You probably spent time drawing patterns in little squares and labeling them as rhythm, movement, and balance, thinking, “I’m never going to use these again in my life”.

Well, even if you think you’re not a creative (which, in that case, you should read Toddie’s blog here), I’d like to tell you that those principles you learned so long ago really can be applied to your everyday life. As a graphic designer, I cannot tell you enough how applying the things I regularly use in my designs to my life has helped me live a fuller (and happier) existence.


In my first few weeks as a design intern for Navigate, there was one piece of feedback our creative director, Alex, kept giving me: “It needs a little more white space.” So now, every time I create something new, I take a second to give each element a little extra breathing room. As it turns out, that’s been very helpful advice for my life as a whole. Let’s face it; It’s difficult for the majority of us “working professionals” to sit back and take a break every now and then. It feels like we should always be going, going, and going some more. We might feel like we’re getting a lot done with that mentality, but it is ultimately not sustainable. So the next time you catch yourself gasping for breath, take a second and give yourself some room to breathe and regroup. Maybe that means taking an hour for yourself, or maybe that means taking a week. For me, it means taking a long bike ride or finding a quiet park bench where I can dig into a good book. Find what works best for you, but listen to Alex and give yourself some space!


Whether it’s creating an entire ad campaign or just tweaking a brand with a few fun shapes and pictures, most graphic designers try to establish patterns to help ensure a consistent tone and a smooth process. My day-to-day “routine” when I’m at college, however, is anything but consistent. Sometimes I have five classes, sometimes none. On my most full days, all I want to do is go back to my dorm room and sleep. On my empty days, sometimes I’m up until 1 am working on homework or talking to friends. Thankfully, this summer has been a different story. My schedule with work has been far more consistent and I’ve been able to get myself into a daily rhythm. And I’ve noticed how much of a difference that’s made in many areas of my life. For instance, a more consistent rhythm is especially important for me when it comes to sleep, so I get up and go to bed around the same time every day. I highly recommend trying to stick to a similar schedule in your daily life, both for yourself and for your family. Not only will the people around you thank you for being less grumpy because you have a more balanced sleep schedule, but your body will too.


In my (limited) free time, I enjoy taking photos. But one thing that I am constantly struggling with is focusing my pictures. My camera often wants to automatically focus on unimportant details, which requires me to put more energy into manually focusing on the object I want to emphasize. Sound kind of familiar? I don’t know about you, but I also struggle in my daily life with finding what I want to focus on. I get easily distracted by the little things, which leads me away from what really matters to me: my family and my friends. If someone were to take a photo of your life, what would you want people to notice about you? What would be emphasized? Would it be your love for your family, your love for your work, or all the time you spent worrying about things you couldn’t control? Emphasize what’s important in your life and, like a great photograph, others will notice it, too.

I’m sure there are many other “professional” examples out there that could help improve your daily life. But I hope you find the three listed above as helpful as they’ve been for me!