Are All Design Principles Global?

We’ve all at some point or another thought about globalisation. Many see it as the big bad wolf when it comes to originality and local, bespoke flavour – which in some cases may be true – think local design languages, manufacturing and making techniques, material selection and so on.

Sure, we need to protect some aspects of local design from becoming globally homogenised. But, the increasing permeation of design globalisation has meant that we as an industry can protect and augment the core principles of the craft that we hold dear on a universal scale, and position design as a unique blend of scientific problem solving and art en-masse.

You might be asking: “So, what exactly are these global design principles?” And while there are many more, there are three that really stand out on a world scale.


Arguably the most important philosophy is design is a healthy preoccupation with functionality. Whether you’re a product/industrial designer, interior specifier or an architect, function should dictate the essence of your project.

OneCentral pARK 2

Function is so inherent within our practice that it transcends local design communities. The Scandinavians prize function above all else. As do the Italians, the Japanese, the Danes, Australians and so on. And why shouldn’t we? Functionality should be priority numero uno when it comes to any design discipline. So it should come as no surprise that it is high on the list of global design principles.

Examples around the world

  • Product/Industrial design: The Stay-brella by Nendo (Japan)
  • Architecture: One Central Park residential and retail precinct, designed by Jean Nouvel, Koichi Takada, Smart Design Studio and Frasers Property (Sydney)
  • Interior design: Grand Central Terminal Building designed in 1871 by Cornelius Vanderbilt, Alfred T. Fellheimer, John B. Snook and John Wellborn Root (New York)


Balance + Rhythm

Balance and rhythm are slightly more challenging global principles. Not only does your project or product need to be functional, it needs to be balanced. In design, balance creates a feeling of equilibrium. It is all about equalising or approximating the physical and meta-physical elements of a project or product. Design also needs to have a workable rhythm in terms of guiding and impacting the users behaviour, and creating a comfortable atmosphere. As in music, rhythm in design is all about creating patterns of repetition and contrast to create visual and mental engagement.


The specifics of what makes a space rhythmic or balanced certainly differs greatly between cultural centres around the world. What is atmospheric and well-adjusted for the Middle-East is markedly different for those in North-America, for example. But the raw principles of balance and rhythm, beyond the details, are globally practiced elements of design – and well they should be.

Examples around the world

  • Product/Industrial design: The Roundish Chair by Naoto Fukasawa for Maruni (Japan)
  • Architecture: Sydney Opera House, designed by Jørn Utzon (Sydney)
  • Interior design: The Living Office by Herman Miller (USA)

LivingOffice herman miller

Details + Harmony

The devil is in the details, so the say. And they would be right. While each country or culture embellishes (or purposely doesn’t embellish) their designs, the emphasis on detail as a way to communicate a particular idea and message is a very important and universal to the practice.


Harmony is created when all the details act together to create a unified message. Just as rhythm can create excitement, harmony creates a sense of restfulness, productivity or energy – depending of course on the purpose of the details. For instance, you can create harmony by using just one colour, one carving, two contrasting materials and so on.

Details and Harmony might seem a little superficial – but they are equally as critical to universal design as functionality, balance or rhythm. Why? Because design’s ability to communicate an idea and engage with the way person thinks beyond its physical use is part of makes design as an industry so successful.

Examples around the world

  • Product/Industrial design: The Lemon Squeezer by Philippe Starck for Alessi (France)
  • Architecture: St Basil’s Cathedral, designed by Petrus Antonius Solarius (Russia)
  • Interior design: Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry (Spain)


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