Principles of Design

The following information comes from Illustrated Elements of Art and Principles of Design, by Brommer ISBN: 978-1-56290-665-8

Principles of Design are balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity.  They help artists organize artwork so it feels comfortable to viewers and creates a composition with a good design.

Composition is arranging the elements of art into a unified whole.

Balance is the comfortable or pleasing arrangement of things in art.

As you walk, a sense of balance keeps you from falling over. In a work of art, balance refers to the arrangement of elements on either side of a center line.  Shapes, colors, and values can be arranged to create a sense of comfort and balance.

Types of Balance:

Symmetrical balance occurs when two sides are visually equal.  Things on either side of a center line are almost alike.

Radial balance occurs when all lines and shapes lead to a focal point in the center of the work.

Asymmetrical balance occurs when a larger shape is balanced by a smaller shape.

Contrast refers to differences in values, colors, or other art elements in an artwork. It makes art exciting.

Types of Contrast:

Size contrast can provide drama in art. 

Temperature contrast is the difference between warm and cool colors. 
 Warm-colored flowers contrast with cool-colored statues and walls. 

 Strong Value contrast is easy to see when the painting is almost black and white. 
 Subtle value contrast (little difference between light and dark) can show softness, fog, or rain.

Intensity contrast can be seen when a pure color (fully intense red) is placed next to a muted hue of the same color (green mixed with red). The pure color seems to glow.

Emphasis is the focal area of an artwork. 

When something in your life is exciting, you will tell others and emphasize the most important facts. 
In works of art, visual emphasis is placed on the most important parts of the work—the focal area.  Other things in the artwork may be important, but we look in the focal area to see what the artist emphasized.

A focal area is often a place of contrast, where something different is featured. 

Movement is an artwork means the artist is taking viewers on a trip through the work by means of lines, edges, shapes, and colors often leading to the focal area.

Movement to the focal area is felt when the outer shapes of a painting are simple and large, and the focal area is detailed and busy.  Our eye naturally moves from simple to complex areas.

Painters often direct movement in their work by making paths of similar values or colors leading to the focus.

Light often emphasizes the edges and forms of a sculpture. 

A road map helps us find our way to our destination.
In art, lines, edges, shapes, and colors help us move from outer edges to the focus of our work – just like a road map.

Pattern uses the elements of art in planned or random repetitions to enhance surfaces of paintings or sculptures.

Pattern is everywhere you look – in clothes, buildings, carpets, animals, trees, and manufactured thing.  Patterns are made in art when the same shapes or elements are repeated again and again.  Pattern makes art more exciting by decorating the surfaces of paintings, sculptures, crafts, or architecture.

Types of Pattern:

Patterns surround us in nature – leaf patterns, flowers, shells, and so on.  The radial pattern in many fruits and vegetables can be seen when they are cut in half.

The surface of a Victorian house is interesting because of the colors and many regular patterns—on the roof, shingles, siding, boards, and trim above the windows.

Pattern is often used to decorate ceramic ware.  Very accurate brush work is necessary to create this regular repeat pattern.

  In nature, most patterns are irregular.  Even if flower shapes are repeated, their arrangement will probably not appear planned or regular.


Rhythm is the repetition of shapes, lines, and forms.

Rhythm is a part of life.  Think of heartbeats, music, walking, dancing, or breathing. Rhythm as a design principle is based on repetition of colors, shapes, forms, lines, or value contrasts.  Developing rhythm in a work of art will help unify the surface and create a feeling of organization.

Rhythm in art, as in music, may change from one work to another.  Staccato repetitions are like quick bursts of energy over a regular horizontal pattern.

Irregular rhythms are often seen in nature because trees and plants are not planned.

Irregular or unplanned rhythms are formed by waves and sloshing water.  

 Regular rhythm is planned by an artist, craftsperson, or builder.  The vertical boards in picket fences create regular rhythm because the boards and spaces are the same.

Planned repetition produces visual rhythm.  Ceramic artists often decorate their pieces with regularly repeated elements to create rhythm.

Regular rhythms may have variety and need not be repeated exactly.  Variety provides interest.

Unity means that all elements in an artwork are in harmony.

Unity makes a work of art feel complete and finished because everything (such as color, texture repetition, and movement, and the subject) seem to be in harmony and work together. Variety creates visual excitement.  If everything looks too much alike, the work may appear dull.  Unity with variety is much more pleasing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.