Design Elements and Principles

11/02/2008 master seni 0 Comments

Elements of Design


Line is the mark made by a moving point, such as a pencil or brush. The edges of shapes and forms also create line.


Color is the most expressive element of art and is seen by the way light reflects off a surface. Colour is used to create illusion of depth, as red colours seem to come forward and blue seems to recede into the distance. Colour, and particularly contrasting colour, is also used to draw the attention to a particular part of the image.


Shape is an area enclosed by line. It is 2 dimensional and can be geometric or organic. Shape is most important in that any shape creates automatically a Shape is an area enclosed by line. It is 2 dimensional and can be geometric or organic. Shape is most important in that any shape creates automatically a negative space around it.


Forms are 3-Dimensional. They occupy space or give the illusion that they occupy space.


Value, or tone, is the lightness or darkness of a surface. Using value is one of the most potent ways to create contrast and to direct the eye. Tonal or value contrast is the difference between the light areas and the dark areas in a composition. The more contrast in tone, and the closer together the contrasting elements, the more attention is drawn to the boundary between the two.

It is often referred to when shading but value is also important in the study of color.


Size is the relative proportion of objects to each other or to the canvas. Size is used primarily in relation to Balance, Gradation, and Dominance. Large objects are generally balanced by small objects elsewhere. Large size can be used to make things appear near or of greater importance, and small size to make things appear far away or less important.

Principles of Design

Design is the organized arrangement of one or more elements and principles (eg. line colour or texture) for a purpose.

Awareness of the elements and principles in design is the first step in creating successful visual compositions. These principles, which may overlap, are used in all visual design fields, including graphic design, industrial design, architecture and fine art.

The principles of design are as various as attitudes regarding modern design. They differ both between the schools of thought that influence design, and between individual practicing designers.

The principles govern the relationships of the elements used and organize the composition as a whole. Successful design incorporates the use of the principles and elements to serve the designer's purpose and visual goals. There are no rules for their use. The designer's purpose and intent drives the decisions made to achieve appropriate scale and proportion, as well as the degree of harmony between the elements.

The principles of design consist of:


Unity refers to a sense that everything in the artwork belongs there, and makes a whole piece. It is achieved by the use of balance and repetition.


Balance means that no one element overwhelms the others. An object which is strong or dominant in one way will be balanced by other objects which are emphasized in other ways.


Harmony is achieved through the sensitive balance of variety and unity. Color harmony may be achieved using complementary or analogous colors.

Harmony and unity generally make designs more visually appealing and interesting.


Contrast is the occurrence of contrasting elements, such as colour, value, size, etc. It creates interest and pulls the attention toward the focal point.

Repetition (Rhythm, Pattern)

The recurrence of elements within a piece: colours, lines, shapes, values, etc. Any element that occurs is generally echoed, often with some variation to keep interest.

Variety (Alternation)

The use of dissimilar elements, which creates interest.

Emphasis (Dominance, Focal Point)

This is the centre of interest. Emphasis creates stability, clarity, and interest.

Proportion (Scale)

Proportion involves the relationship of size between objects.


Movement can refer to the apparent activity in the artwork, or the path that the eye follows around the piece.


Gradation is the progression from one size, location, colour, or tone to another. This can produce perspective and interest. It also moves the eye through the artwork.

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