Design Theory: Repetition

It is important that good design have continuity throughout all the different elements, which is achieved through the use of repetition. With this design theory, the elements that are repeated include typography, icons, colors, and graphic shapes. This can also include a general “look” of all of the images used. It can be easy to approach this thinking that you can just choose one typography style and one color, and wallah, you have consistency. The problem with an approach like that is that the design can become too monotonous and boring. There needs to be a balance between repeating elements and introducing distinctive elements that create interest.


Let’s look at this annual report design to see repetition in use. The first thing you will notice is the consistent use of two colors: green and gray. The color is used in every element, including the photographs. If the photographs had been full color they would have been visually interesting, but also have detracted from the sense of unity. There is also a consistent use of the circle shapes. The large graphic areas on the second page mirror the circular shapes on the left with the halftone pattern in the background. To balance this shape the text is kept in a more traditional rectangular shape. Incorporating all of the type in a circular block would have been an option to repeat the circular shape, but would have created a monotonous design.

This example shows how repetition was used in 8 different pages to create interest but also continuity. The most obvious point of repetition is through the use of color. The sea green color is used as a pop on each page drawing the eye to very specific elements on the page. This is contrasted with a black and white palette. Like in the previous piece the images here are black and white, making the sea green more prominent in the design. There is also a very strong use of shape throughout each page. The shapes are all very angular, with triangles, rectangles and straight lines. Even the type has been set tightly so that the text blocks create graphic shapes of their own. The use of typography also creates a repeated element. The headlines all have the same playful font while the paragraphs are all set in the same font with similar leading.

This newsletter example illustrates repetition in a specific type of design. The use of repetition isn’t quite as apparent as in the previous examples, but is still very evident. The images used are all in full color and the width of each image fits within one or two columns. There are also illustrations used similarly to bridge gaps between columns. If the illustrations had been used within a column in some places and between columns in other places the unity would be lost. The treatment of the headlines is another repeated element. The gray backgrounds behind the headlines vary in size and placement, but still create a sense of repetition throughout.

Hopefully these different examples illustrate a few ways that repetition can be used in design. Any element can really be used as a point of repetition. Color, typography, graphic shapes, images, placement, scale, line, and any other element of layout can be repeated for continuity.

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