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The Basics of Design: Balance, Harmony, and Function

The Basics of Design: Balance, Harmony, and Function

Posted In // Design Tips

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 54,900 interior designers employed in the United States in 2012. The work performed by these professionals is obviously considered valuable in our country, and that’s in large part because of the basic design principles that ground their efforts, building a sense of cohesion into any space.

Here are three design principles that can help you ensure that your office is not just functional but also has elements that work together to create just the right ambience.


Balance is a completely natural concept that is perhaps best embodied by a tightrope walker – carefully shifting her weight so that she does not fall. Interior designers are similarly careful about how much visual weight is in each part of a room so that an unwanted imbalance isn’t created. The three basic types of balance are symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial (the last of which involves a central piece with other elements “radiating” outward).


The second of our top design principles is harmony, a concept from the natural world that is applied by professionals in various settings. Just as the cellists and flautists in a symphony orchestra use harmony to create beautiful music, the same concept is used by designers to express an overarching message, explains corporate design consultant Abe Abbas. “Just as rhythm can create excitement, harmony creates a sense of restfulness,” he says. “For instance, you can create harmony by using just one color, even though your forms vary greatly in shape, size and texture.”


Function is another natural necessity. It’s essential in any environment, especially a workplace. Without it, the other design principles really become superfluous and nonsensical.

The basic elements of function are as follows, according to Matt Fox and Shari Hiller of the PBS series Around the House with Matt and Shari:

Focal point – Every room should have a focal point – and it certainly doesn’t have to be in the center.

Furniture – Obviously other design principles are also key, but the furniture you choose should use purpose as the first consideration. One aspect of function is that your furniture keeps your staff healthy, so keep ergonomics in mind as well.

Lighting –Indirect lighting brightens the room, and direct lighting should be added as needed so that your employees aren’t squinting to see their work. Finally, “[a]ccent lighting — floor spots, track lighting or recessed spotlights — enhance texture, color and room details,” say Fox and Hiller.

Furniture layout – Layout allows your staff to conduct their tasks seamlessly. A core concern here is traffic patterns.

Design principles in action

The above three elements are really just a few of the guiding concepts that help our interior design professionals make sound recommendations. At Beaux-Arts Group, we incorporate intelligent design, research, superior products and innovative thinking to create distinctive, high-performance workplace interiors. Learn more. [About us page]
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