Design Elements and Principles

Design Elements
Design elements are the basic units of a visual piece that make up a painting, drawing, design, etc.
These elements include:

A fundamental mark or stroke used in drawing in which the length is longer than the width. Two connected points form a line and every line has a length, width, and direction.

This image contains contour lines (the outline of the birds) and decoration lines (hatching).
Uses for lines in design
·        Contour line: A line that defines or bounds an edge, but not always the outside edge, could represent a fold or color change.
·        Divide space: A line that defines the edge of space can also be created by a gap of negative space. Many uses include to separate columns, rows of type, or to show a change in document type.
·        Decoration: Lines are used in linear shapes and patterns to decorate many different substrates, and can be used to create shadows representing tonal value, called hatching.

Easily misunderstood, color plays a huge role in the elements of design. Good color can be used to create drastic contrasts just as hierarchy, size, scale, and dominance..

Color star containing primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Types of color (general)
·        Primary color: The three colors that are equal distant on the color wheel and used to make up all other colors; red, yellow, and blue.
·        Secondary color: A mixture of two primary colors including green, violet, and orange. Secondary colors are a way to have more vibrant colors.
·        Tertiary color: Colors formed from a primary and a secondary color like yellow-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.
Perceptual attributes of color
·        Hue: The redness, blueness, and greenness of a color.
·        Value (lightness): Tints and shades of colors that are created by adding black to a color for a shade and white for a tint. Creating a tint or shade of a color reduces the saturation.
·        Saturation: Give a color brightness or dullness.
Ways color can guide the reader
·        Aids organization: Develop a color strategy and stay consistent with those colors.
·        Gives emphasis: Create a hierarchy or color that leads the reader to the important information. An example of perceptional emphasis though color is highlighting important text in red
·        Provides direction: Using warm and cool colors to relate parts with each other. Warm colors move elements forward and cool colors move them back. Display text using warm colors behind a cool color background will stand out and direct the readers eye.
For more in-depth information on color see Color theory and the Color wheel.

A shape is defined as an area that stands out from the space next to or around it due to a defined or implied boundary, or because of differences of value, color, or texture.  All objects are composed of shapes and all other 'Elements of Design' are shapes in some way.
General Categories of Shapes
·        Mechanical Shapes (Geometric Shapes): These are the shapes that can be drawn using a ruler or compass. Mechanical shapes, wether simple or complex, produce a feeling of control or order.
·        Organic Shapes: Freehand drawn shapes that are complex and normally found in nature. Organic shapes produce a natural feel.

The tree's visual texture is represented here in this 2-D image.
Meaning the way a surface feels or is perceived to feel. Texture can be added to attract or repel interest to an element, depending on the pleasantness of the texture.
Types of texture
·        Tactile texture: The actual three-dimension feel of a surface that can be touched. Painter can use impasto to build peaks and create texture.
·        Visual texture: The illusion of the surfaces peaks and valleys, like the tree pictured. Any texture shown in a photo is a visual texture, meaning the paper is smooth no matter how rough the image perceives it to be.
Most textures have a natural feel but still seem to repeat a motif in some way. Regularly repeating a motif will result in a texture appearing as a pattern.

In design, space is concerned with the area the design will take place on. For a two-dimensional design space concerns creating the illusion of a third dimension on a flat surface.
Major Methods of Controlling the Illusion of Space
·        Overlap: Where objects appear to be on top of each other. This illusion makes the top element look closer to the observer. There is no way to determine the depth of the space, only the order of closeness.
·        Shading: Adding gradation marks to make an object of a two-dimensional surface seem three-dimensional.
·        Five Kinds of Shading Light: Together these shadows and highlights give an object a three-dimensional look.
1.      Highlight
2.      Transitional Light
3.      Core of the Shadow
4.      Reflected Light
5.      Cast Shadow
·        Linear Perspective: A concept relating to how an object seems smaller the farther away it gets.
·        Atmospheric Perspective: Based on how air acts as a filter to change the appearance of distance objects.

Form is any three dimensional object. Form can be measured, from top to bottom (height), side to side (width), and from back to front (depth). Form is also defined by light and dark. There are two types of form, geometric (man-made) and natural (organic form). Form may be created by the combining of two or more shapes. It may be enhanced by tone, texture and color. It can be illustrated or constructed.
The 3 F's
"Form follows function" is known as the 3 F's of Design. Form refers to what something looks like, and function refers to how it works.

Principles of Design
Principles applied to the elements of design that bring them together into one design. How one applies these principles determines how successful a design may be.
According to Alex White, author of The Element of Graphic Design, to achieve visual unity is a main goal of graphic design. When all elements are in agreement, a design is considered unified. No individual part is viewed as more important than the whole design. A good balance between unity and variety must be established to avoid a chaotic or a lifeless design.
Ways to achieve unity
·        Proximity: Elements that are physically close, are considered related.
·        Similarity: Elements that are related should share similar position, size, color, shape, or texture.
·        Repetition and Rhythm: Recurring position, size, color, and use of a graphic element shows unity. When the repetition has a focal point interruption it is considered rhythm.
·        Theme with variation: Altering the basic theme achieves unity and helps keep interest.

Point, Line, and Plane (PLP)
PLP are the three most basic shapes in visual design and a good design contains all three. The key to using PLP is making the shapes overlap and share elements.
·        Point: In design, a point can be the smallest unit of marking not simply a dot. Additionally, a point can be a small plane or a short line.
·        Line: The trace of a point in motion, a thin stroke, or even a narrow plane can be considered a line. Typed text automatically creates visual lines.
·        Plane: A plane can be perceived as a trace of a line in motion like dragging a piece of chalk across a blackboard sideways (long side down). Wide lines and large points may also create a plane.

It is a state of equalized tension and equilibrium, which may not always be calm. A unified design is also visually balanced so that no space takes away from the whole.
There are four types of balance

The top image has symmetrical balance and the bottom image has asymmetrical balance
·        Symmetrical: A formal balance is a mirror image of one half of the picture. It is vertically centered, static, and evokes a feeling of class or formality. The objects in each half of the mirror image may not be identical, but may be mirror images in sense of color, number of objects or any other element of design.
·        Asymmetrical: An informal balance that is attention attracting and dynamic. It balances a number of items of smaller size on one side with a larger one on the other. The modern feel an asymmetrical design is complex to create as it takes skills to distribute the blank space.
·        Radial: Balance arranged around a central element. The elements placed in a radial balance seem to 'radiate' out from a central point in a circular fashion.
·        Overall: This mosaic form of balance normally arises from too many elements being put on a page. Due to the lack of hierarchy and contrast, this form of balance can look noisy.

A good design contains elements that lead the reader through each element in order of its significance. The type and images should be expressed starting from most important to the least.

Using the relative size of elements against each other can attract attention to a focal point. When elements are designed larger than life, scale is being used to show drama. [5]

Dominance is created by contrasting size, positioning, color, style, or shape. The focal point should dominate the design with scale and contrast without sacrificing the unity of the whole. [5]

Similarity and Contrast
Some key aspects of a well designed document include dramatic contrasts, scrupulous similarity, and active white space. Planning a consistent and similar design is an important aspect of a designers work to make their focal point visible. Too much similarity is boring but without similarity important elements will not exist. Also, without contrast an image is uneventful so the key is to find the balance between similarity and contrast.
Ways to Develop a Similar Environment
·        Keep it simple and eliminate clutter. Do not fill white spaces with garbage.
·        Build a unique internal organization structure.
·        Manipulate shapes of images and text to correlate together.
·        Express continuity from page to page (in publications). Items to watch include headers, themes, borders, and spaces.
·        Develop a style manual and stick with the format.
Ways to Create Contrast
·        Space
o   Filled vs Empty
o   Near vs Far
o   2-D vs 3-D
·        Position
o   Top vs Bottom
o   Isolated vs Grouped
o   Centered vs Off Center
·        Form
o   Simple vs Complex
o   Beauty vs Ugly
o   Whole vs Broken
·        Direction
o   Vertical vs Horizontal
o   Stability vs Movement
o   Convex vs Concave
·        Structure
o   Organized vs Chaotic
o   Serif vs Sans Serif
o   Mechanical vs Hand Drawn
·        Size
o   Big vs Little
o   Long vs Short
o   Deep vs. Shallow
·        Color
o   Grayscale vs Color
o   Light vs Dark
o   Warm vs Cool
·        Texture
o   Fine vs Coarse
o   Smooth vs Rough
o   Sharp vs Dull
·        Density
o   Transparent vs Opaque
o   Thick vs Thin
o   Liquid vs Solid
·        Gravity
o   Light vs Heavy
o   Stable vs Unstable
Implying that an object is moving in a direction through space (of the page). This principle suggest speed, instability, or a passing event. Movement seems more dynamic when depth is implied.

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