A Guide to Asymmetrical Design (Definition and Principles)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Asymmetrical designs refer to artistic arrangements of visual content that are intentionally uneven in their design. There are several reasons designers might create asymmetrical content, such as improving the engagement of viewers or encouraging more complex thought processes. By reviewing the definition of this artistic approach, you can identify circumstances where an asymmetric design technique may be appropriate. In this article, we define asymmetric design, detail the difference between symmetry and asymmetry, list the design principles of asymmetric content and provide a guide for creating asymmetrical designs.

What's asymmetrical design?

An asymmetrical design is the intentional creation of visual content that shares uneven proportions. When artists and designers create visual content, they typically incorporate lines of symmetry or asymmetry. These lines split a visual into sections. In asymmetric designs, the visuals in each section don't represent the exact replications of other sections. For example, in an image of a tree, the portion of the tree on one side of the asymmetrical line looks different from the other side. Designers typically create asymmetrical visuals to invoke a more complex thought process. This can create more engaging and emotional viewing.

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Asymmetric vs. symmetric design

Asymmetry is essentially the opposite of symmetry. In a symmetrical design, the visuals on either side of the line of symmetry look identical. In asymmetrical designs, if you draw a line across any point of the visual, the image looks different. For example, in a symmetrical design of a square, you can split the image in half and either side of the square is identical. There are benefits and functions to both design styles that are appropriate for different purposes.

Symmetrical designs are typically easier to view but don't invoke complex thought processes. Visual aesthetics can be subjective, but symmetrical designs are commonly more aesthetic as they represent design principles of harmony and order. Viewers typically consider symmetrical designs as satisfying to view, though their engagement with the visual might not be as substantial as an asymmetric design. Asymmetrical designs can encourage viewers to spend more time analysing the visual, which can leave a longer-lasting impression. This can be particularly beneficial for marketing purposes, as targeted customers may think about the content longer.

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Asymmetric design principles

Design principles are aspects of a design that define the creation. You can incorporate the same design principles into different visual content to achieve a similar purpose. Asymmetrical designs may have different visual elements, though the design fundamentals remain the same. Below, you can explore the typical design principles of asymmetrical designs:

Balance

Balance is one of the primary design principles in asymmetrical designs. It may seem counterintuitive, as asymmetrical designs incorporate uneven visuals, but the principle of balance refers to compositions and visual weight. Visual weight refers to the elements of a visual that attract the viewers' attention. Designs with a substantial visual weight are usually extremely effective in gaining and maintaining the viewers' attention. While asymmetrical designs have different visual elements, the attractiveness of these elements may be the same. This is what the balance design principles help artists achieve.

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Contrast

Asymmetrical designs, while remaining balanced, typically have easily distinguishable elements. Artists incorporate the design principle of contrast to achieve this distinction. You can define contrast in visual design as being an element of a design that's the opposite of another element. A common example of contrast may be the colours black and white. White is the absence of darkness, and black is the absence of light. When contrasting colours are in a design, viewers can easily distinguish between aspects of the visual. This helps artists emphasise a specific message or focus of the visual for the viewers to analyse.

Proportion

In asymmetrical designs, artists may utilise the design principle of proportion to encourage viewers to focus on a specific visual element. It's a similar design principle to contrasting colours, except proportions refer to the size of an object rather than its colour or shape. For example, in a graphic design for a logo, the business name may be one of the largest proportions of the design. This can encourage viewers to focus on the business name rather than the creative aspects that make the visual engaging. The largest proportion of a visual element is typically the primary focal point.

White space

When creating any visual content, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, artists typically incorporate white space, also known as negative space. White space refers to the absence of content and colour. There are typically two primary functions of white space design. It helps create contrast in an image, encouraging viewers to focus on a specific visual and it also allows the image to 'breathe'. An image that can 'breathe' usually refers to an image with enough visual content to attract viewers but not overload them with functional design elements.

Movement

When an audience views an image, they typically have visual perception tendencies. This refers to the order they might view content. For example, many cultures view content from left to right, similar to reading a book. An artist may incorporate the design principle of movement to create visual content that's easy and logical to view. The movement of the image can depend on the target audience, so artists typically consider their audience before designing the visual. A visual with excellent movement design can help viewers analyse the images easily, as the content may be in a logical order.

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How to create an asymmetrical design

Below, you can explore a detailed guide on how to develop an asymmetrical design:

1. Consider the function of the visual

Depending on the purpose of the visual, you might focus on some design elements more than others. For example, if the visual you're creating is for marketing, you may include design principles that encourage the viewer to focus on the product and its notable features. If you want to create a visually aesthetic design, you might utilise vibrant colours that viewers perceive as naturally pleasing. The purpose of the visual typically dictates the design principles you incorporate.

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2. Determine the target audience

Along with the purpose of the visual, it can be important to consider the target audience. Some demographics may find some content more engaging than others. A younger audience may prefer vibrant colours and content that's relatively 'chaotic' compared to minimalistic symmetry designs. If you're creating a visual image for marketing purposes, you're essentially communicating with a target audience through visuals. Some audiences may understand some visual cues more than others. If you determine the target audience, you can incorporate design principles to create content that viewers can understand.

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3. Use focal points

Focal points can be crucial in visual designs, particularly for marketing purposes. Several design principles can help you achieve a desired focal point, such as proportions, contrasts, movement and white space. For example, if you develop a visual where you want viewers to focus on a business name, you might make the business name proportion larger than other design elements. You may also include white space to ensure viewers don't focus on background design elements.

4. Implement contrasting colours

Because asymmetrical designs are inherently uneven, it can be important to ensure there's an element of visual weight to each section of a design. One of the most common methods you can use to achieve this may be contrasting colours. For example, light and dark colours can invoke substantially different emotions, but these emotions are equal in visual weight. Contrasting colours can be important for achieving visual balance and portraying a specific message for viewers to interpret.

5. Include visual cues

Depending on the purpose of the visual and your target audience, you might incorporate visual cues into your design. A visual cue is a design element that encourages viewers to look at a specific element of the visual. For example, if you include an arrow pointing to an object in your design, most viewers follow the direction of the arrow. You might use visual cues in content with substantial design elements. This can help your viewers navigate the visual and make desired conclusions.

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6. Achieve visual balance

Visual balance may be the most important design principle, as it's primarily responsible for maintaining the viewers' attention. Most design principles work together toward achieving visual balance. Because asymmetrical designs are uneven, they typically require an element of balance to ensure viewers still perceive the image as satisfying and engaging. Visual balance can also help viewers understand your image. For example, if one section of your image has a substantially larger visual weight, viewers may focus more on that section. This might cause viewers to miss important content that conveys a specific message.

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