Introduction to the Principles of Design
Class 1: The Big Picture
By Jacci Howard Bear, About.com
See More About: • • principles of design graphic design basics
Principles of Design: Balance, Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, Contrast, and White Space.
All designs have certain basic elements or building blocks chosen to convey the message — beyond the actual words or photos used. How we place those items on the page determines the structure of our designs and affects the overall readability and determines how well our design communicates the desired message. The principles of design govern that placement and structure.
Graphic design encompasses the creation of a great many types of projects but for the purposes of these lessons we're focusing on the elements and principles of design as they apply to typical desktop publishing projects including logos, ads, brochures, business cards, newsletters, books, and to some extent, Web pages. Different instructors or designers have their own idea about the basic principles of design but most are encompassed in the 6 principles of:
• • • • • • balance proximity alignment repetition or consistency contrast white space
Through words and pictures, the next two lessons introduce each of these principles.
Even though no one will know whether you actually do the exercises and assignments included with each lesson and class, I strongly encourage you to do so. It will help to reinforce your understanding of each of the concepts covered throughout this Graphic Design Basics course.
Defining the Principles of Design Through Metaphor or Allegory
Principles of Design Lesson 1 Generally, all the principles of design apply to any piece you may create. How you apply those principles determines how effective your design is in conveying the desired message and how attractive it appears. There is seldom only one correct way to apply each principle. Balance Try walking a long distance with a 2 pound bag of rocks in one hand and a 10 pound bag of marbles in the other. After awhile you'll be wanting to shift your load around, putting a few marbles in the rock bag to balance your load, make it easier to walk. This is how balance works in design. Visual balance comes from arranging elements on the page so that no one section is heavier than the other. Or, a designer may intentionally throw elements out of balance to create tension or a certain mood. Proximity / Unity Observe a group of people in a room. You can often learn a lot about who is listening intently to another person, which are strangers, or who is ignoring who by how close together they sit or stand. In design, proximity or closeness creates a bond between people and between elements on a page. How close together or far apart elements are placed suggests a relationship (or lack of) between otherwise disparate parts. Unity is also achieved by using a third element to connect distant parts. Alignment Can you imagine how difficult it would be to find your car in a crowded parking lot if everyone ignored the parking lot stripes and parked in every which direction and angle? Imagine trying to get out of there! Alignment brings order to chaos, in a parking lot and on a piece of paper. How you align type and graphics on a page and in relation to each other can make your layout easier or more difficult to read, foster familiarity, or bring excitement to a stale design.
Repetition / Consistency What if Stop signs came in pink squares, yellow circles, or green triangles, depending on the changing whims of a town and a few of its residents? Imagine the ensuing traffic jams and accidents. Repeating design elements and consistent use of type and graphics styles within
a document shows a reader where to go and helps them navigate your designs and layouts safely. Contrast On the basketball court, one pro team looks much like another. But send a few of those players for a stroll down most any major city street and something becomes apparent — those players are much taller than your average guy on the street. That's contrast. In design, big and small elements, black and white text, squares and circles, can all create contrast in design. White Space Did you ever participate in that crazy college pasttime of VW Beetle stuffing? Were you ever the guy on the bottom struggling for a breath of fresh air or the last one in trying to find a place to stick your left elbow so the door will close? It wasn't comfortable, was it? Imagine trying to drive the car under those conditions. Designs that try to cram too much text and graphics onto the page are uncomfortable and may be impossible to read. White space gives your design breathing room.
Illustrating the Principles of Design
Principles of Design Lesson 2 The examples you'll find here demonstrate varying degrees of each of the six principles of design in a before and after format. View them individually and as a whole to see how different principles are applied. How might you do any of these differently?
Note: The text, not always readable in the examples, is the same as the definitions in Lesson 1.
You can create balance with the three elements (text block, graphic, vertical text) here but in the first example they appear to be just random elements with no unity or balance. In the second "Balance" example the text block and graphic are resized to bring them closer together and better balance each other. To tie the elements together, move accomplish this). marbles) slightly vertical text, Reversing the also adds more increased leading white space in a
them closer together (resizing helps Notice that the graphic (one of the overlaps the box enclosing the unifying the two elements. word "balance" out of the blue box contrast to the composition. The in the text block redistributes the more balanced manner.
The graphic anchors the bottom of the page, but the four text elements all float on the page with no apparent connection to each other (proximity/unity). The change in the headline (font change, reversed out of blue box) along with the subheading pulled in closer provides balance with the graphic on the bottom. The spacing between the two paragraphs of text is reduced slightly as well. There is nothing inherently wrong with centered headlines, text, and graphics. They lend a formal tone to a layout. But, for this series of layouts something a bit more informal is called for. Also, large blocks of centered text are usually harder to read. In the second "Alignment" example, text alignment is left-aligned, ragged right, wrapped around the bottom graphic which is aligned more to the right, opposite an added graphic that is aligned to the right to help balance the overall design.
Within the second
example, the headline is repeated three times using graphics that tie in with the copy in the text blocks. The repetition of the colors in the shapes and headline text that are in the copy help to reinforce the theme. Overlapping the graphic and text elements unifies the elements of the design. Another aspect of consistency that can be seen when viewing all 6 of the "after" examples is the blue borders, blue reversed boxes, and the typeface (Britannic Bold) used for the names of all the principles of design. The drop cap used in three examples (Bermuda LP Squiggle) is another element of consistency. There's isn't enough contrast between the headline and text due in part to size but also because the two different serif faces used or too similiar (not obvious from the small graphic, trust me, they are different typefaces).
of the graphic. The reversed text blue border, and the drop cap the overall unifying elements the series. Additionally, the round cap and its color echo the shape basketball in the graphic. The reversed text on the left side plus text help to balance the large White space doesn't have to be block of black created by the adds a large block of black white the number of people and of the car in the second "White provides additional contrast and theme of the copy. Additional leading, larger margins, deeper paragraph white space or breathing room to the design.
That oversized graphic provides real contrast and reinforces the copy (tall basketball players). Dropping the text down to the bottom portion of the page also reinforces the 'towering' aspect in the blue box,the carries through found throughout shape of the drop and color of the drop cap and the the left-aligned graphic element. white. The large graphic of people space. Multiplying reducing the size Space" example reinforces the indents all add
The oversized drop cap is another element of contrast and also helps to balance the page with the large, dark elements at the bottom of the page. The drop cap style, reversed title, and blue box are consistent with the rest of the series. In the next six lessons in this section we will look at each principle of design in more detail and explore ways to incorporate each into your designs. We'll also touch on the ways that
your software can simplify some related tasks, such as using style sheets to aid repetition and consistency or using leading and other spacing features to improve proximity, unity, and distribution of white space.
Graphic Design Basics
The elements and principles of graphic design used in desktop publishing By Jacci Howard Bear, About.com Get a better understanding of the basics of graphic design by studying the elements and principles of graphic design that govern effective design and page layout. Graphic design is the process and art of combining text and graphics and communicating an effective message in the design of logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signs, and any other type of visual communication. Designers achieve their goals by utilizing the elements and principles of graphic design. By following each of two learning paths on these concepts of graphic design basics and their application in modern desktop publishing, those with no formal graphic design training can improve their page layout and text compositions. Although individual lessons within these two Graphic Design Basics classes can be taken out of order, I recommend following the lessons sequentially to get the full benefit. 1. Elements of Graphic Design Basics Classes The building blocks of design are defined and illustrated in these lessons and exercises - including lines, shapes, and texture. Explore each element individually and as a part of the whole. 2. Principles of Graphic Design Basics Classes Learn how to use alignment, contrast, white space, and other principles of graphic design to create effective page compositions through these graphic design lessons and exercises.
Although individual lessons can be taken out of order, I recommend following the Graphic Design Basics course and these lessons on the elements of design sequentially to get the full benefit. 1.1 Building Blocks of Design The first class describes the 5 elements of design: lines, shapes, mass, texture, and color. Also describes other elements sometimes included as basic building blocks. 1.2 An Introduction to the Elements of Design 1.2 Lines Everyone knows what a line is, right? Look more closely at the great variety
of lines, straight, curved, thick, thin, solid, and not-solid. 1.2 Lines 1.3 Shapes Squares (and rectangles), triangles, and circles are the three basic shapes. Examine their role in design including the psychology of shapes in logo design. Class also touches on freeform shapes. 1.3 Shapes 1.4 Mass How big is it? Take a look at mass or visual weight of graphic and text elements. This class includes a large section on size and measurements for type and paper and images. 1.4 Mass 1.5 Texture In addition to the actual texture of the paper we print on, look at the textures we create through techniques such as embossing and the visual texture created with certain graphics techniques. 1.5 Texture 1.6 Color What is the meaning of red? Which colors go well together? Color symbolism and association is the primary focus of this class. It also touches briefly on the mechanics of color reproduction on the Web and in print. 1.6 Color Although individual lessons can be taken out of order, I recommend following these Graphic Design Basics lessons on the Principles of Design sequentially to get the full benefit. 2.1 The Big Picture Different instructors or designers have their own idea about the basic principles of design but most are encompassed in the 6 principles of balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast, and white space. Learn the definitions of each principle. 2.1 An Introduction to the Principles of Design 2.2 Balance Symetrical, radial, formal, and informal ways of arranging elements on a page to achieve visual balance is the focus of this class. Also covers the 'rule of thirds' and other structural elements. 2.2 Balance 2.3 Proximity/Unity Learn how to arrange elements on the page through proximity -- keeping like items together and creating unity by how close or far apart elements are from each other. Lessons not yet online [See these self-study resources on Proximity]
2.4 Alignment While centered text has its place it is often the mark of a novice designer. Learn how to align text and graphics to create more interesting, dynamic, or appropriate layouts. Lessons not yet online [See these self-study resources on Alignment] 2.5 Repetition/Consistency Get an understanding of the importance of consistency for the reader and ways to create a consistent and balanced look through different types of repetition. Lessons not yet online [See these self-study resources on Consistency] 2.6 Contrast Big vs. small, black vs. white. These are some ways to create contrast and visual interest. Learn a variety of ways to use contrast. Lessons not yet online [See these self-study resources on Contrast] 2.7 White Space The art of nothing is another description for this principle. View examples of good and bad use of white space and how to avoid trapped white space. Lessons not yet online [See these self-study resources on White Space]
ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN
What do you list as the elements of design? What do you list as the principles of design? Think you have it all figured out? Even textbooks do not agree - web sites do not agree. What I would recommend is get together as a staff in your district and come up with a vocabulary that you all agree to use. The less we "confuse" the students the better. I tried to give the students other words they might hear that meant the same thing - although I don't recall giving them tertiary colors (I know I used Intermediate
colors). The textbook I used with students did list Triadic colors - but they got that from me. This topic does come up on the Art Education list serves. Marvin Bartel has shared this wonderful explanation. While you are "drilling" the Principles - Be sure to introduce the Percy Principles of Composition. Read and enjoy.
ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN CONFUSION
From Marvin Bartel - Ceramic artist and retired professor of art at Goshen College. ... I will give you my current take on what is an element and why principles cause so much confusion. Space as a visual element is difficult to conceptualize and hard to explain. Is it worth it? Who needs to know it? I find it easier if we put some time into ways artists create an Illusion of Space (depth) (a visual effect). I have added a category. 1. Visual Elements (the basic things that can be seen) 2. Design and Composition Principles (arranging the basic things better) 3. Visual Effects (ways to fool the eye - make an impression) An element is one of those most basic visible things. In science, the elements are on the periodic chart (hydrogen, iron, oxygen, gold, sulfur, etc.). All the complex chemicals are simply combinations of these (H2O). In art, it is an element if it is visible and there is nothing more simple or basic to define it. It cannot be a combination of more than one thing and still be an element. In practice, the elements are commonly seen in combination with each other. For example, color and value are very different elements, but they always exist in combination with each other. For that matter, color always exist in combination with "saturation", but nobody includes "saturation" in their list of elements, but value is one every list. Go figure. This stuff is not logically consistent. Saturation (intensity) sometimes shows up in the description of a principle, but generally saturation is neither an element or a principle. Principles are are even more confusing than elements. There are at least two very different but correct ways of thinking about principles. On the one hand, a principle can be used to describe an operational cause and effect such as "bright things come forward and dull things recede". On the other hand, a principle can describe a high quality standard to strive for such as "unity is better than chaos" or "variation beats boredom" in a painting. So, the same word, "principle" can be used for very different purposes. The first way to think about a principle is that a principle is something that can be repeatedly and dependably done with elements to produce some sort of visual effect in a composition. I am not confident that any list of these principles is comprehensive, but there are some that are more commonly
used (theme with variation to give interesting unity, simultaneous repetition with change to create unity and interest, devices to create depth illusion, devices to create motion effects, etc). Another way to think about a principle is that it is a way to express a value judgment about a composition. I am not confident that any list of these effects is comprehensive, but there are some that are more commonly used (unity, balance, etc). When we say a painting has UNITY and DEPTH we are making a value judgments. Too much unity without variety is boring and too much variation without unity is chaotic. Unity and depth are examples of visual effects produced by the first definition of principle. On the web page that I published for my elementary education majors I include elements, principles, and effects in my attempt to be slightly more logical. This is the URL for it http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/Compose.htm. It is a fairly interesting and attractive page and quite a few teachers have requested permission to make handouts from it for their students. If you want to, feel free to make a link to it on your sites http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/Compose.htm (This essay may not be copied or reprinted without written permission from Marvin Bartel) As an artist, these are the principles that I actually use. Percy Principles of Art and Composition http://www.goshen.edu/art/ed/percy1.html See more of Marvin Bartel's work on his personal site. See his links pages too.
ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN
THESE DEFINITIONS BRING SUCCESS TO KEN SCHWAB
An orderly arrangement of elements using the principles of design The principles of design help you to carefully plan and organize the elements of art so that you will hold interest and command attention. This is sometimes referred to as visual impact. In any work of art there is a thought process for the arrangement and use of the elements of design. The artist who works with the principles of good composition will create a more interesting piece of art it will be arranged to show a pleasing rhythm and movement. The center of interest will be strong
and the viewers will not look away, instead, they will be drawn into the work. A good knowledge of composition is essential in producing good artwork. Some artists today like to bend or ignore these rules and therefore are experimenting with different forms of expression. We think that composition is very important. The following will assist you in understanding the basics of a good composition:
Elements of Design
Line - is a mark on a surface that describes a shape or outline. It can create texture and can be thick and thin. Types of line can include actual, implied, vertical, horizontal, diagonal and contour lines. (note: Ken does not list "psychic line" - that was "new term" to me) Color - refers to specific hues and has 3 properties, Chroma, Intensity and Value. The color wheel is a way of showing the chromatic scale in a circle using all the colors made with the primary triad. Complimentary pairs can produce dull and neutral color. Black and white can be added to produce tints (add white), shades (add black) and tones (add gray). Texture - is about surface quality either tactile or visual. Texture can be real or implied by different uses of media. It is the degree of roughness or smoothness in objects. Shape - is a 2-dimensional line with no form or thickness. Shapes are flat and can be grouped into two categories, geometric and organic. Form - is a 3-dimensional object having volume and thickness. It is the illusion of a 3-D effect that can be implied with the use of light and shading techniques. Form can be viewed from many angles. Value - is the degree of light and dark in a design. It is the contrast between black and white and all the tones in between. Value can be used with color as well as black and white. Contrast is the extreme changes between values. Size - refers to variations in the proportions of objects, lines or shapes. There is a variation of sizes in objects either real or imagined. (some sources list Proportion/Scale as a Principle of Design) These elements are used to create the Principles of Design. Principles are the results of using the Elements. When you are working in a particular format (size and shape of the work surface) the principles are used to create interest, harmony and unity to the elements that you are using. You can use the Principles of design to check your composition to see if it has good
Principles of Compositional Design
The principles of design are the recipe for a good work of art. The principles combine the elements to create an aesthetic placement of things that will produce a good design. Center of interest - is an area that first attracts attention in a composition. This area is more important when compared to the other objects or elements in a composition. This can be by contrast of values, more colors, and placement in the format. Balance - is a feeling of visual equality in shape, form, value, color, etc. Balance can be symmetrical or evenly balanced or asymmetrical and unevenly balanced. Objects, values, colors, textures, shapes, forms, etc., can be used in creating a balance in a composition. Harmony - brings together a composition with similar units. If your composition was using wavy lines and organic shapes you would stay with those types of lines and not put in just one geometric shape. (Notice how similar Harmony is to Unity - some sources list both terms) Contrast - offers some change in value creating a visual discord in a composition. Contrast shows the difference between shapes and can be used as a background to bring objects out and forward in a design. It can also be used to create an area of emphasis. Directional Movement - is a visual flow through the composition. It can be the suggestion of motion in a design as you move from object to object by way of placement and position. Directional movement can be created with a value pattern. It is with the placement of dark and light areas that you can move your attention through the format. Rhythm - is a movement in which some elements recurs regularly. Like a dance it will have a flow of objects that will seem to be like the beat of music. The Principles of design are the results of your working with the elements of art. Use them in every piece of art you do and you will be happy with the results. These are the things I teach for the elements and principles of design.
Here is a list and definitions for Elements and Principles of Design. Include the Percy Principles of Composition. To me, these are more valuable. From Ann Heineman: I'd like to add "symbolic meaning" to the list of extended principles. Without our knowing the cultural/historical roots of a work of art, a composition can still "work" aesthetically but it may lack heart and soul because we don't know the artist's cultural/historical background. The artists of religious works of arts in the Renaissance, for example, had a wealth of narratives and symbols (compositions in triangular form to represent the Holy Trinity for example) upon which to draw inspiration. I think it is important that the students know that they can use these tools of their time to express an idea which is uniquely theirs. The fuel for these "motors" must come from the minds of the artists. Thoughts to ponder from Peter London from NO MORE SECONDHAND ART (Shambalah 1989 P. 9-17) "For the primal image-maker, craft was in the service of power. The more carefully wrought the object was, the more powerfully the object would serve as an instrument of transformation and the more likely the gods would be inclined to honor the supplication." "Beauty was not the intended outcome. Beauty was a natural by-product of craft diligently applied to serious things." "...the root and full practice of the arts lies in the recognition that art is power, an instrument of communion between the self and all that is important, all that is sacred." "The solutions to the problems posed in art do not lie outside in the realms of technique and formula; they reside in the realm of fresh thinking about perennial issues, in honest feelings and awakened spirit....All creative journeys begin with a challenge to introspection, to fathom not only 'what's out there,' but 'what's in here." London's book is available in paperback on Amazon.com very inexpensively, and is a great read. There is a lot of information there on "what is the point" of all of the work we attempt to do. ~ posted by Kathy Douglas.
Homework Help: Art: Visual Arts: Principles & Elements of Design
Principles and Elements of Design is what this page will focus on. What exactly does "Principles and Elements of Design" mean? Principles of design are the laws of designing anything! In other words, to have a good design, you should consider these principles for the best design possible. Elements of design on the other hand are things that are involved within making a design. The major difference between principles and elements is that principles are rules you have to follow and elements are things that will help you complete those rules for the best project outcome. Principles of Design, as said before, are the laws of designing anything! When making a design the seven principles are contrast, emphasis, balance, unity, pattern, movement, and rhythm. Consider each of these carefully for any design and you'll be a guaranteed a great project! Contrast means showing differences in two different sections of the design or showing somehow that the design being created is very different from other designs because of its contrast. Contrast can also be used to show emphasis in any part of the design. Emphasis is given to an area within the design because that area is meant to be seen or is more important to be noticed when compared to other places of the design. For example, your design might be to have white parallel lines going up and down. In the center of this design, you could have a circle. This circle would be a part on the design that is emphasized. Balance means keeping your design like a pattern. A balanced pattern would be if you had a border on your pattern in black. Unbalanced would be if approximately one-third of the border was orange and the other two-thirds in pink. To keep your design balanced, make your measurements as accurate as possible. Keeping your design symmetric is a good technique for good balance, but not necessarily the best for all types of designs. Unity means keeping your design in a sort of harmony in which all sections of the pattern make other sections feel complete. Unity helps the design to be seen as one design instead of randomness all around your design. Pattern is simply keeping your design in a certain format. For example, you could plan to have wavey lines all around your design as a pattern, but then you must continue those wavey lines throughout the design for good patterns. It wouldn't look good if suddenly you stopped all the wavey lines and drew a picture of a dog.
Movement is the suggestion or illusion of motion in a painting, sculpture, or design. For example, circles going diagonally up and down from right to left could show that the design moves up and to the right or down and to the left. Rhythm is the movement or variation characterized by the regular recurrence or alternation of different quantities or conditions. In simpler words, it's just like pattern and shows that the desing has a 'beat' or 'flow' going with it. A plain white box has almost no rhythm what so ever. Elements of Design, as said before, are things that are involved within making a design. The seven elements of design are color, value, texture, shape, form, space, and line. Elements of design will help your design look a lot more unique from other designs, and can help make the design symbolize anything! Color is an easy one. Just make sure your design's color is right for the mood! Also make sure that each section's color matches another section's color. Colors is probably the biggest element to pay attention to. Value is the relative darkness or lightness of a color. Just as said in the paragraph above, make sure the colors you put on your design are dark or light enough for the proper mood. If you want to show a sad figure in your design, most people would give the design a darker value. On the other hand to show happy children playing around most people would recommend lighter colors. Texture helps your design to be distinctive or have identifying character and characteristics. With the proper texture, your design will look more fascinating than the average design. Shape is something distinguished from its surroundings by its outline within your design. You can make your whole work a certain shape besides the common square, and then have shapes within the design shape. This makes the design more complex. Form is similar to the idea of shape. Form is the structure of your design and how everything in the design looks like it's meant to go together. If the form is well planned and then carried out, it almost guarantees your design in black and white will be a success. Space has to be included in your design. Space means leaving some blank areas. Why would you wanna leave parts of the design blank? Sometimes a human's eye needs space to feel confortable, and space will let the human's eye distinguish the part that's meant to be noticed compared to just the background. Sometimes not including space in your design is ok, but make sure it doesn't make it look messy.
Line defines the position and direction of the design. If you have lines or shapes that seem to be running horizontally, then the design would seem like it's running in a left and right line. Make sure your design identifies some sort of line so that the human eye can recognize which side is the top of the design or on which side the design is suppose to start with interest.