Proximity in Design – Graphic Design Principles

Graphic Design is not just making something “look pretty”, there are actually 4 principles that designers use to create a great design. Today we will be looking at proximity in design. The principle of proximity states that related items should be grouped together and moved closer to each other to show a relationship between the two, compared to having elements scattered. Design elements that are not related to each other should not be placed near each other as this can cause confusion. Proximity can be used to show a connection between elements and to show that there is no relationship between the two.

When using proximity, you make it easier for your viewer to interpret your design and it helps get a message across clearer. If you separate all elements, you can confuse your reader/viewer and they aren’t sure where to start reading.

It is the relationship or lack thereof, that conveys a message to your audience, trigger feelings or even add emphasis to your design work.


When creating a design, if you have elements that are in close proximity to each other – they are seen as being related to each other. Furthermore, if elements are completed unrelated, then you would place them away from each other. If visual elements are placed randomly or positioned poorly, it is very noticeable and will devalue your work if it was not intentional.

The easiest way to visually demonstrate grouping is with words. Each letter is a shape, and each word is a group of shapes. If you don’t use the correct spacing, it can become illegible and will have a completely different meaning. As above, if I put random spaces in word unintentionally, it will devalue my writing.

Another example is the volume button on a TV remote. Both increasing and decreasing the volume are in close proximity to each other because they are related elements.

White Space

You can use whitespace to separate elements and show that they are unrelated. It is often used in conjunction with Contrast (which we covered in another blog) to separate paragraphs and sections of text. This blog is an example of that, I have separated each section with white space when I go onto a slightly different topic, and when I change it completely I use contrast in text (the title) which helps to group elements together. Proximity In Design Example

As you can see above, we have used both grouping and whitespace on our author pages to show that each blog is different and we have separated them visually. We grouped the image, title and date together to show they are related, but used whitespace to show that each is a different blog post.

You can use different font weights, shapes or icons to show that elements of the design are related. You don’t always have to place things close together to show they are related, but to connect them in some way.

You can read my other blogs on my Journey in Design below 🙂

Contrast in Design

Alignment in Design

My Photoshop Journey – Content Aware