Try telling someone you're an accountant and they'll probably say something along the lines of, "Oh that must be hard right? Lots of calculations and numbers." Tell someone you're a rocket scientist and you'll get a similar response,"Wow, that sounds like a really complicated job." However tell someone you're a Graphic Designer and the answer starts to change a little and they'd be like "Oh, that must be a pretty easy job. You don't even have to study anything to be good at it, right?"
The rule of proximity basically states that related elements in a design should grouped together or placed in close proximity to one another whereas elements with little relation should be placed farther apart. A bunch of individual elements then becomes unified as one by the readers eyes because of their close proximity. This rule helps reduce clutter and makes information easy for a reader to digest. It also helps establish a sort of "hierarchy" between elements. When used correctly this rule creates an organized and comprehensive layout. The rule of proximity is much like keeping a cabinet organized, one must keep shirts with together with other shirts, shorts with other shorts and so on.
The rule of alignment states that nothing on the page should be placed arbitrarily, Each element of the design or layout must be visually connected to another element on the work-space. This rule calls for being mindful of where elements are positioned. One must never place elements just wherever there's space. This is also much like maintaining an organized cabinet, one must be conscious of the placement of each item inside, such that it doesn't create clutter. Below, the same example from above was used to showcase the magic of alignment in effect.
By simply aligning all the elements to an imaginary border on the right, there is now more visual interest and the text group seen above is now connected to the text group below by an invisible line. Simply aligning the 2 visual elements, our theoretical closet now appears more organized and appealing.
The rule of repetition aims to make a design or layout unified, cohesive and consistent as well as add more visual interest. The element repeated may be a bold font, color, bullet or any design element thinkable that a consumer/reader can visually recognize when repeated throughout a design. This blog post itself displays repetition by using the same bold and recognizable font for all the paragraph titles (Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast).
As you can see above the 2 visual elements that use the same font are the phone number below and the 2 lines of text placed near the top (treated as one visual element due to the rule of proximity). Notice how your eyes jump between these two visual interest points. Also notice how I made it such hat the O characters of the text display the logo.
Contrast basically means different. Blue contrasts orange. Dark blue contrasts light blue. A heavy condensed font contrasts a light thin font. An important thing to remember though is that there is Bad contrast and Good contrast. To explain the difference, I must quote Robin Williams "Don't be a wimp" to attain contrast, you must make it clear that you are creating contrast. pair 2 very similar shades of blue and you have BAD contrast. Pair 2 very similar fonts and you have BAD contrast. Anyway it's easier to understand if you look at visual examples, so I'm just gonna use image grabs from Google (em too layzeh to actually make the graphics mahself like I did with the examples above teehee)
CONGRATULATIONS. You have made it through the 4 most basic rules of Graphic Design, Now go and put that newly acquired knowledge to use and just MAKE SOMETHING!
One final rule - The Platinum Rule
This rule is the rule that reminds you of the fact that "Rules are meant to be broken." Wherever you see fit, break the rules. As you gain experience, you will begin to notice that not all rules need to be followed in certain projects so experiment and have fun!
Principles based upon the "Non Designers Design Book by Robin Williams"
This Blog Post covers my personal top 5 picks of the many free Sans Serif fonts 2014 had to offer.