Intro to Fundamental CSS Concepts for Design


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When designing the front-end of a website, the line between development and design can often be blurred. It's ultimately the front-end developer’s job to take the designer's vision and translate it into the HTML and CSS calls that bring it to life on a web page. However, having a firm understanding of fundamental CSS concepts will aid the designer in creating a layout that is more efficiently and accurately translated into front-end code.

This post is not a full overview of everything that CSS is capable of. Rather, it's an introduction to the basics of how things work. A guide to help designers understand the tools that will ultimately render their creation for users. 

What You Need to Know About CSS Concepts for Design

Understanding Positioning in CSS

Every design relies heavily on the positioning of objects within the space. CSS provides developers with several ways to position the elements of a design: static, absolute, relative, and fixed. The terms will likely sound familiar to anyone who has done design work. So, we'll just briefly go over how they work in CSS.

Using Parents and Children

CSS concepts of parents and children play an essential part in website design. Imagine you have a box with some text at the top and a button at the bottom. It would be inconvenient if you had to modify all three of those elements every time you wanted to reposition the box. Instead, you can make the text and the button the children of the box, and they'll automatically move wherever the box does. 

Just like in humans, CSS elements have a hierarchy of relationships. For example, you could place several of our button/text box examples into a large box. The small boxes would be children of the big box. The text and buttons would be children of the small box. When the big box moves, the text and button move because their parent box moves, and they move with it. 

The root element of your layout is the page itself. Every element that you add to the page is a descendant of the page in some way. It may be a child element, or it may be the child of a child. This type of nesting can occur as frequently as you would like to facilitate complex designs that can be easily modified.  

Setting Object Spacing

In CSS concepts for design, empty space is a powerful tool. Without sufficient empty space, everything is bunched together, and the design looks either cluttered or monotonous. Creating space to add style and interest to your design in CSS can be done in two ways: margins and padding. They both provide the similar functionality of creating spacing but behave in completely different ways. So, it's essential to understand the distinction between the two. 

Designers and programmers in an office working on computers showing different CSS concepts used to design a company's website.

Aligning Elements with Flexbox


The direction property determines how the elements will be stacked. Check out the values below:


To aid in creating responsive designs, the flex-wrap property will allow objects to wrap around should they run out of space. The values for this include set to wrap or no wrap, with the default being not to wrap. 


Just like the text on a page, elements in a flexbox can be justified. To do this, Use the justify-content property to do this. The values of flex-start, flex-end, as well as center, are similar to left, right, and center justification in most software.


Justification shows how the elements align in the flexbox. But if your elements are not all the same size, you need a way to determine how they are aligned relative to each other. Similar to justify-content, the align-items property has values of flex-start, flex-end, as well as center. These will align elements, so their starting points align, their ending points align, or are centered. Two additional values provide extra control over the alignment:


Along with HTML, CSS is the foundation of how website designs become a reality. The best designs will be made by designers who have some idea of the tools that front-end developers will be using to implement their designs and the technological constraints they'll be working under.

Now that you're armed with knowledge about these fundamental CSS concepts, you'll be able to better design your websites around how they are put together by the development team.  Do you need more information and ideas about CSS concepts and webpage design? Visit our website today to learn more!


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About Lindsey Perron

As Thomas’ daughter, Lindsey was introduced to the world of sales and marketing at an early age. Curious about what her dad did, Lindsey would jump at every opportunity to help and ride along on sales calls. Always quick to take charge and lead the group—a trait that has only grown with time—Lindsey was frequently told by her parents that she was destined to be a manager or CEO of some sort. While working toward earning her bachelor’s degree in human services from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Lindsey interned with the UW Office of Equality and Affirmative Action and served on several councils, which gave her the opportunity to develop her persuasive writing skills, researching skills, problem-solving skills, project management skills, and more. After working as the lead teacher of the 4-year-old room at the local daycare center, Lindsey decided to switch gears and join the Viral Solutions team. In her position, Lindsey is able to help clients think through an end goal and reverse engineer it into the steps needed to achieve it.

When she’s not working, Lindsey loves spending time with family, be it traveling somewhere together or just hanging out at home.