Elements of Design

  1. Point
  • A point of orientation the mind uses to find meaning and relationship to order
  • Multiple points force the brain to witness connections either as lines or shapes.
  • The compulsion to connect parts is called grouping or gestalt
  • Gestalt Theory:
    • Closure: where the mind completes the image by inserting missing pieces
    • Continuity: inclination to “connect the dots” or see separate parts/points as a part of a contour or form
    • Similarity: inclination to group objects of similar shape or color
    • Proximity: inclination to group points or objects that are close to one another relative to less proximate in the visual field.
      • Alignment, either along edges of the objects or points or through their centers, will persuade us see them as a contour or a line.
  1. Line
  • A mark made by “a moving point and having psychological impact according to its direction, weight, and the variations in its direction and weight.”
  • Has both verbal and visual functionality through symbolism and direct communication of emotion/s.
  • Created by an artist or naturally occurring in nature
  • Able to function independently allowing for forms to be recognized even when the line/s are limited.
  • Can be combined with other lines in order to create textures and patterns. When used in combination form and value are developed.
  • Lines can be implied. This can happen through a change in color (ex horizon line)
  • Expressive qualities of a line
    • Representation of words such as calligraphy, which serves as a “code” of unknown language.
    • Representation of symbols of place such as a map which serves to present the relationship of “here” to “there”
    • Floor plans
    • Representative of information such as a graph
    • Communicate emotion and states of mind through character and direction.
      • Horizontal: feelings of rest or response
      • Vertical: feelings of loftiness and spirituality. Suggest an “overpowering grandeur, beyond ordinary human measure”.
      • Diagonal: feeling of movement or direction.
      • Horizontal and Vertical in combination: communicate stability and solidity. Suggests “permanence, reliability, safety”.
      • Deep, acute curves: communicate confusion, turbulence, even frenzy
      • Curved lines: varied meaning. Soft, shallow curves suggest comfort, safety, familiarity, relaxation, and sensuality.
  • Quality of a line: fundamental visual language as it contributes to the mood and style of the work.
  1. Form
  • Form and shape are areas of masses, which define objects in space.
  • Imply space
  • Two dimensional form has width and height. It can also create the illusion of three dimension objects.
  • Three dimensional shape has depth as well as width and height.
  • Organic shape/form are irregular in outline. Thought of as naturally occurring.
  • Geometric correspond to named shapes. Thought of as constructed or made.
  • Description of the composition of form/shape:
    • Realistic or naturalist: easy to identity, regular day objects
    • Abstract: difficult to identity in terms of normal daily visuals
  • Abstract images are derived fro realistic ones
    • Objective: derived from an actual object
    • Non-objective: based on a pure study of form, line, and color, and do not refer to any real-world object or scene
    • Charicature: where realistic images are distorted to make a statement about the people, places, or objects portrayed
  • Perception:
    • Viewpoint: emphasizes or obscures certain features.
    • Space around the object can distract, focus, or alter our impression.
    • Character and source of light (ex make things look older/ younger
  • Two dimensional form
    • Foundation of pictorial organization or composition in painting, photography, and many other media.
    • Created by:
      • Line provides the contour of forms
      • Value (the relative lightness or darkness of a color). Strong contrasts in value within a composition may define the boundaries of forms. Gradations of value, or shading, can also create the illusion of contour and volume.
      • Hue contrasts and graduations can also define form
      • Change in texture
      • Most commonly, form is defined by a combination of these factors
    • Forms and shapes can be thought of as positive r negative. In two-dimensional composition the objects constitute the positive forms, while the background is the negative space.
  • Two dimensional illusion of three dimensional form
    • When we look at a flat surface and assume it is either space or and object with depth
    • Tools for creating the illusion: tools for creating illusions of three dimensional space are
      • Overlapping: allowing contour of one form to be interrupted by the contour of another in such a way that one dominates the other.
      • Changing size and placement
      • Linear perspective: the illusion that objects appear to grow smaller and converge toward a “vanishing point” at the horizon line.
      • Relative hue and value: warm hues are recognized as closer. Colors close in value appear close to each other in space, the opposite is true for drastically varying color. e. Close objects tend to exhibit stronger, more saturated hues, and/or more contrasting values, including extremes of dark and light
      • Atmospheric perspective: objects placed in the upper half of the page, and understood to be far away, lack contrast, detail, and texture.
  • Three dimensional form
    • Three dimensional shape and space is the basis of architecture and most designed objects
    • Architecture: the design of the shape is almost secondary to the design of the space it contains, since the end use mainly involves the space which will be occupied.
    • Sculpture: the space defined by the shape of the sculpture may be an important aspect of the total design.
    • Expression:
      • Rectilinear shapes suggest stability
      • Angular shapes placed diagonally in relation to gravity suggest instability
      • Softly curving surfaces suggest quiet, comfort, and sensuality
  1. Movement
  • Operates in the dimension of time
  • Relocation of objects in space over time
  • Literal movement: physical fact of movement
    • Can be implied through diagonal (off-balance) use of line and positioning of images in the composition.
  • Compositional movement: not concerned with the presenve (or lack of) implied motion in the image. We are concerned instead with how the viewer perceives the composition– how the components relate and lead the viewer’s attention.
    • Static: movement of the eye that jumps and hops between separate components of the image, attracted by similarities and simply shifting to shapes with related shape or color. Repetition of closed, isolated shapes and contracts of color and/or value.
    • Dynamic: movement of the eye that flows smoothly from one area of the composition to another, guided by continuations of line or form, and by gradations of color or form. Characterized by opens shapes or shapes that closely relate to adjacent shapes.
    • Always some form of compositional movement
  1. Color/color psychology:
  • Color is the term referring to the whole subject- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, black and white and all possible combinations thereof.
  • Hue is the term referring to only the spectrum colors.
  • Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color
  • Contrast of value separates objects in space
  • Gradation of values suggest mass and contour of a contiguous surface
  • If values are close, shapes will seem to flatten out, and seem closely connected in space; none will stand out from the others. If values contrast, shapes will appear to separate in space and some will stand out from the others. This works whether the colors are just black, white and gray, or whether hues are involved.
  • All hues can be mixed from three basic hues known as primaries. When pigment primaries are mixed black is created. Therefore pigment mixture is sometimes referred to as subtractive mixture.
  • Painter’s primaries: red, blue, yellow.
  • Printers primaries: magenta, cyan (turquoise), yellow.
  • When mixing colors hues can be desaturated (reduced in purity, weakened) in three ways: mix with white lighten the value (tint), mix with black to darken the value (shade), or mix with gray or the complement to either lighten or darken the value (tone).
  • Light primarie: red, blue, green
  • Complements: are colors that are opposite one another on the hue circle. When complements are mixed with one another in paint, the resuting muted tones desaturate or dull the hues. Such opposite pairs can also be compared in terms of their relative warmth and coolness. Warm-cool contrast of hue can cause images to appear to advance or recede.
  • Afterimage is another, more specific definition of complements consisting of a stimulus color and its physical opposite generated in the eye by exposure to the stimulus color.
  • Color illusions:
    • Color proportion refers to the impact of the relative quantity of a given hue or value used in color compositions.
    • Simultaneous contrast is the phenomenon which occurs when a color appears to change when seen against a different background. Changes in the hue, value, saturation (purity of hue), and area of a background color will alter the appearance of the selected color.
    • Optical mixture is the phenomenon which occurs when small particles of different colors are mixed in the eye; this type of mixture differs from pigment mixture in that it is based on light primaries. In optical mixture there is an averaging of hue and value, resulting in grey.
    • Psychological implications of color:
      • Red is associated with blood, and with feelings that are energetic, exciting, passionate or erotic. Most colors carry both positive and negative implications. The downside of red evokes aggressive feelings, suggesting anger or violence.
      • Orange is the color of flesh, or the friendly warmth of the hearth fire. The positive implications of this color suggest approachability, informality. The negative side might imply accessibility to the point of suggesting that anyone can approach– a lack of discrimination or quality.
      • Yellow is the color of sunshine. This color is optimistic, upbeat, modern. The energy of yellow can become overwhelming. Therefore yellow is not a color that tends to dominate fashion for long periods of time.
      • Green In its positive mode, green suggests nature (plant life, forests), life, stability, restfulness, naturalness. On the other hand, green in some tones or certain contexts (such as green skin) might instead suggest decay (fungus, mold), toxicity, artificiality.
      • Blue suggests coolness, distance, spirituality, or perhaps reserved elegance. Some shade of blue is flattering to almost anyone. In its negative mode, we can think of the “blues”-the implication being one of sadness, passivity, alienation, or depression.
      • Violet is the color of fantasy, playfulness, impulsiveness, and dream states. In its negative mode, it can suggest nightmares, or madness.
  1. Pattern:
  • Underlying structure that organizes surfaces or structures in a consistent, regular manner. Pattern can be described as a repeating unit of shape or form, but it can also be thought of as the “skeleton” that organizes the parts of a composition.
  • Peter S. Stevens: a grid as the foundation for any structure or image. He presents a set of ways in which the points of a grid can be connected. These modes of connection become classes of pattern, which he claims can be seen in any situation, in nature and in made images, and from the microscopic to the cosmic scale.
    • Flow: things follow the path of least resistance: Meander patterning is related to the idea of flow and is built on the repetition of the undulating line.
    • Spiral
    • Packing and cracking refers to the way in which compacted cells define each others shape.
  1. Texture:
  • the quality of an object which we sense through touch
  • Texture can be any tactile sensation we can imagine: bristly, rough, hard; smooth, cold and hard; smooth soft and warm.

Principles of Design

  1. Balance
  • Concept of visual equilibrium, and relates to our physical sense of balance.
  • Balance is achieved
    • Symmetrically
      • Equal “weight” on equal sides of a centrally placed fulcrum
      • Formal balance
      • Elements arranged equally on either side of a central axis, the result is bilateral symmetry (axis can be horizontal or vertical)
      • Radial symmetrical: arranged equally around a point
      • Approximate symmetry: equivalent but not identical forms are arranged around the fulcrum line
    • asymmetrically
      • informal balance
      • placement of objects in a way that will allow objects of varying visual weight to balance one another around a fulcrum point
  1. Proportion
  • Relative size and scale of the various elements in a design.
  • Issue is the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole.
  1. Rhythm
  • timed movement through space; an easy, connected path along which the eye follows a regular arrangement of motifs
  • creates predictability and order in a composition
  • Linear rhythm refers to the characteristic flow of the individual line. Linear rhythm is not as dependent on pattern, but is more dependent on timed movement of the viewer’s eye
  • Repetition involves the use of patterning to achieve timed movement and a visual “beat”. This repetition may be a clear repetition of elements in a composition, or it may be a more subtle kind of repetition that can be observed in the underlying structure of the image.
  • alternation is a specific instance of patterning in which a sequence of repeating motifs are presented in turn; (short/long; fat/thin; round/square; dark/light).
  • Gradation employs a series of motifs patterned to relate to one another through a regular progression of steps. This may be a gradation of shape or color. Some shape gradations may in fact create a sequence of events, not unlike a series of images in a comic
  1. Emphasis
  • Point of focus or interruption
  • Location within a composition that most strongly draw the viewers attention
  • The emphasis is usually an interruption in the fundamental pattern of movement of the viewers eye through the composition, or a break in the rhythm.
  • Repetition creates emphasis by calling attention to the repeated element through sheer force of numbers.
  • Contrast achieves emphasis by setting the point of emphasis apart from the rest of its background
    • Use of a neutral background
    • Contrast of color, texture, or shape
    • Contrast of size or scale
  • Strategic placement
  • Prolonged visual involvement through intricacy (contrast or detail)
  1. Unity
  • Coherence of the whole, the sense that all of the parts are working together to achieve a common result; a harmony of all the parts
  • Most fundamental element for a strong sense of unity is structure
  • Consistency of form and color are also powerful tools that can pull a composition together
  • Unity also exists in variety
  • Master of concept- The elements and principles can be selected to support the intended function of the designed object; the purpose of the object unifies the design.