graphic design, instructional design

The Value of CARP

Contrast. Alignment. Repetition. Proximity.

These four key principles of graphic design—collectively known as “CARP”—can make or break a project.

Here’s a simple overview to help you use CARP where it’s needed.


What is it?

Difference. Contrast occurs when two visual elements of a design are different.

What does it do?

Creates a visual focus by making one element of the design clearly dominant.

Helps organize visual information.

Grabs viewers’ eyes and interest.



What is it?

Connection. Everything on a page is connected to other elements on the page by invisible lines or an invisible grid. Nothing is arbitrary.

What does it do?

Organizes information.

Creates a sense of unity where the page functions as a whole.

Certain alignments can be used to create certain appearances: professional, fun, artistic, and the like.



What is it?

Reuse. Repetition occurs through the recurrence or reuse of visual elements throughout the project. These repeating elements can be anything that is visually recognizable: a particular font, shape, color, and so on.

What does it do?

Unifies different parts of the design so everything feels intertwined and cohesive, even if it’s spread out across multiple pages.

Creates visual hierarchy and a clear path for viewers’ eyes to follow.



What is it?

Groups. Related items are grouped together.

What does it do?

Organizes information, through both the groups themselves and through the blank space that grouping opens up.

Improves clarity by indicating relationships and reducing the number of elements on a page (ideally between 3 and 5 total groups or elements).

Reduces visual clutter.


CARP and the Slide Deck

How do I apply CARP to slides for a presentation?

When you design a slide deck, you need to apply CARP principles on two levels: the individual slide and the slide deck as a whole.

Individual slides are straightforward. They use CARP as any individual project would.

The slide deck, on the other hand, needs one particular principle more than others.


What is the most important CARP principle for a slide deck?

Repetition. When you repeat a set of colors, fonts, shapes, or images across a deck of slides, that repetition draws your individual slides into a cohesive whole.

You can also repeat certain layouts—such as a unique title slide—to orient your audience and organize your presentation.


Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity.

A designer’s four best friends! 

CARP apple

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s