The four principles of CARP: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity
Contrast—If two things are not the same make them really different
Contrast means difference, and although difference sounds quite simple it is crucially important to the way we notice things. Humans scan a scene looking for the difference, and I agree that if one is to make a design truly appealing, elements that are different, must be very different. I prefer to create or view a design, that has very distinct contrast, like dark text on a light-colored field. The design must also have a great deal of blank space, which is yet another way to show contrast. I find many designs too busy for my simple taste and therefore prefer designs with a good bit of blank space, and contrast which is achieved with more subdued colors.
Repetition—Repeated elements strengthens the organization
It is argued that repeating certain elements strengthens the overall organization of a design while also enhancing its unity. I agree that repetition is an important principle, which can be effectively used to support a theme, but it must not be overdone or a design can become boring. I find that simply repeating subdued background colors is often enough to add a sense of cohesiveness to a clean design.
Alignment—Gives every element a visual connection to another element on the slide
The visual connection between elements of a design to avoid a feeling of randomness, or worse, chaos, is very important. Alignment is about harmony between elements on a single page or slide. When the elements are not quite aligned, the design may lack a professional feel. Over the years, I had developed a preference for aligning text to the center of graphics, but after reading Reynolds’ Presentation Zen (2012) I realize my error and will now adhere to his advice (pp. 178-183).
Proximity—Related items should be grouped together
This principle states that items related to each other should be grouped together so that they will be viewed as related elements. I believe this principle adds great value as one does not have to work to figure out which elements are related.
I’m not sure any of the principles are most important as they must all work in concert to create an attractive cohesive design, although I will pay special attention to contrast and alignment.
Reynolds, G. (2012). Presentation zen: simple ideas on presentation design and delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.