“Are not rules telling us what to do, they are guidelines to tell us what to think about when we are deciding what to do” – Earth Charter
When we build a house, the first thing that goes in is the foundation to help make it beautiful and strong. The foundation of permaculture being grounded in ethics firmly in place (asking ourselves should we do something rather than can we do something), next we need to start working on the framework that will hold our house together – The Design Principles.
Below are 2 of the many different versions of the Permaculture Principles written by Bill Mollison (the Father of Permaculture) and David Holmgren (the co-creator of Permaculture).

The Principles of Permaculture from Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay (Introduction to Permaculture) are:
1.    Relative Location
2.    Each Element performs many functions
3.    Each Important function is supported by many elements
4.    Efficient energy planning
5.    Using biological resources        
6.    Energy cycling
7.    Small scale intensive systems
8.    Accelerate succession and evolution
9.    Diversity
10.  Edge Effects
11. Attitudinal principles

The Twelve Principles of Permaculture from David Holmgren (Principles and Pathways above and beyond sustainability) are:
1. Observe and interact
2. Catch and store energy
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self-regulation and respond to feedback
5. Use and value renewable resources and services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from pattern to details
8. Integrate rather than segregate
9. Use small and slow solutions
10. Use and value diversity
11. Use the edges and value the marginal
12. Creatively use and respond to change

Like the Ethics, the Design Principles have and are continuing to go through their own evolution as we come to learn and understand more not only of our landscapes and its needs but of ourselves.  I particularly like the Earth Charter’s definition of what principles are as they are precisely that – not rules telling us to what to do, but a guide telling us what to think about when we are deciding what to do,  a design and decision-making matrix. I once saw a list that Darren Doherty put together for the opening chapter of his new book ‘The Regrarians Handbook’ where he lists 14 different regenerative design and living principles that others have worked from.
As David Holmgren talks about, the design principles are no substitute for experience or potentially technical knowledge it does give you a robust framework to work from as thinking tools when you are deciding what to do.
“Knowledge must be earned, not simply learned” – Unknown.

Below is a PDF from Patrica Allison for another perspective  – an enjoyable read

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