ArtsAlive.ca – Persuading Presence

Elements and Principles of Design

The Elements of Design

The Elements of Design refer to the visible things we see in a design:

Line

A linear mark on a page or screen, made with an instrument like a brush, pencil, pen, or mouse; or, the line created by the meeting of two shapes.

About line

  • Lines have direction: vertical, horizontal, oblique
  • Direction evokes emotion: oblique lines and zigzags connote action, danger, suddenness.
  • Line creates Shape.

o Refer to the poster for La Celestine for examples of the effective use of Line.


Shape

Any self-contained area with defined form or outline.

About shape

  • Shape has size, which may connote significance or insignificance, strength or weakness.
  • A coloured shape on a white back-ground is itself a positive shape creating a negative shape (the background).

o Refer to the poster for Don Juan for an example of the effective use of shape.


Colour

The phenomenon created when the human eye reacts to the energy and frequency of light. The ability of our brains to sort this information delivers the colours we live with and enjoy.

About colour

  • If you look through a prism (or see a rainbow) you see the main colours of the spectrum: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, red, orange.
  • Colour is said to have value, which refers to the lightness or darkness of the colour (hue).
  • Tint (colour plus white) is high-value colour, whereas shade (colour plus black) is low value colour.
  • Hue, intense or saturated colour, has nothing added.
  • Colour may connote emotion (excitement, rage, peace) and stimulate brain activity (action, relaxation, concentration).

Refer to the poster for Petit Monstre for an example of the effective use of colour.


Texture

The apparent or actual quality of the surface: grainy furry, bumpy.

About texture

  • Texture can be either felt (tactile), seen (visual) or both felt and seen.
  • In a drawing, texture can be created by varying light and dark strokes or lines which can also imply depth.

Refer to the poster for L'Oiseau vert for an effective example of the use of texture.


Space

The distance between objects, or the dimensions of length, width and depth.

About space

  • A shape on a page is positive space and it creates negative space around it, which also needs to be considered in design.

For an example of the effective use of shape refer to the poster for Woyzeck.