Aug 03

Elements and Principles of Design


Design and art are distinct disciplines that have natural similarities between them. There are also differences. In this article I will discuss the similar basic concepts use by both graphic designers and artists alike. The principles and elements of design are used in art, interior design, architecture, automobile design and industrial design.

An essential element in design and art is color. Color is used to express basic human emotions. It has properties that affect the appearance of art, including hue, intensity and value. When used in art and design, it involves individual elements of color and contrasting colors. Remember when Apple iMac computers offered several unusual colors? Steve Jobs was a master at design.

Shapes in a specific work may have an impact in their own right or in terms of how they fit within the design as a whole. Shapes illicit emotions too. A curved shape gives a different feeling than a hard, sharp-edges shape. Blurring of a shape has another effect on human emotions.

In design, a line can be a visible, physical mark connecting two or more points or an implied line, drawing the viewer’s eye in a particular direction. A line may be defined by surrounding objects or it may be the clearly signified outline to a shape. Lines affects the arrangement and appearance of the objects in an artwork or design object. The lines of a car are very important to the owners and industrial designers consider this when drafting a new automobile frame.

Space is typically thought of in two senses. It can be an indicator of physical dimensions or depth and also of empty areas inside or outside an object. Space can be a factor in both two- and three-dimensional designs, indicating how elements are situated in relation to one another.

Texture is an indicator of the touch quality of an element in art or design. Texture implies that an element has some quality such as roughness, smoothness, heat, cold, softness or hardness. Texture can have a significant impact on how a piece of work is perceived. Thick oil paintings such as those by Vincent Van Gogh have a lot of texture. They are almost sculptures.

Balance refers to the way in which the elements in an artwork or design are weighed up against one another horizontally, vertically or on any other axis. Balance in art can be achieved using symmetry or asymmetry, both of which create significantly different effects on the viewer’s eye. The strategically balanced mobiles of Alexander Calder are an excellent example of balance in motion.

Proportion is a measure of the sizes and areas occupied by elements in a design or artwork, relative to one another. Proportion therefore indicates something about how the individual parts of a work relate to each other and will often involve scaling or distortion to create different visual effects. Perspective drawings in which all the lines disappear into the horizon are an example of realistic proportion. The huge human sculptures by Henry Moore are disproportionate to the reality of the female form, but pleasing in an artistic sense.

Emphasis is used in designs and compositions to imply a sense of relative importance for elements, some having more or less dominance than others. An effective use of emphasis in ¬†artwork can affect the way in which the viewer’s eye is drawn towards certain areas as well as how the objects within them are perceived. Contrast is an example of emphasis.

These elements are used by artistic designers constantly whether they realize it or not. For masters, these principles are applied intuitively.

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