The Elements & Principles of Design in Art

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There are a set of elements and principles that appear in all genres of art and design.
There are a set of elements and principles that appear in all genres of art and design. (Image: gallery image by MATTHIEU FABISIAK from Fotolia.com)

Art and design are seen as distinct disciplines, but there are natural similarities between them, and many of the key elements are the same. The elements and principles are often thought of as belonging to a set of clear categories, and these apply to works of any purpose. The elements in works of art and design are a reflection of the principles used to create them.

Color

Color is an essential element in design and art, expressing basic human emotions. Color has a number of properties affecting its appearance, including hue (the specific color), intensity (how strong or pure the color is) and value (how light the color is). Significant use of color in art and design often involves contrasting colors as well as individual color elements.

Shape or Form

Shapes in an artwork or design are defined areas, sometimes delineated or indicated by the other elements present. Shape is typically thought of as two dimensional, and form as three dimensional. Shapes in a specific work may have an impact in their own right or in terms of how they fit within the design as a whole.

Line

In design, a line can be a visible, physical mark connecting two or more points or an implied line, drawing the viewer's eye in a particular direction. A line may be defined by surrounding objects or a clearly signified outline to a shape. Line affects the arrangement and appearance of the objects in an artwork or design object.

Space

Space is typically thought of in two senses. It can be an indicator of physical dimensions or depth and also of empty areas inside or outside an object. Space can be a factor in both two- and three-dimensional designs, indicating how elements are situated in relation to one another.

Texture

Texture is an indicator of the touch quality of an element in an artwork or design. Texture implies that an element has some quality such as roughness, smoothness, heat, cold, softness or hardness. Texture can have a significant impact on how a piece of work is perceived.

Balance

Balance refers to the way in which the elements in an artwork or design are weighed up against one another horizontally, vertically or on any other axis. Balance in art can be achieved using symmetry or asymmetry, both of which create significantly different effects on the viewer's eye.

Proportion

Proportion is a measure of the sizes and areas occupied by elements in a design or artwork, relative to one another. Proportion therefore indicates something about how the individual parts in an artwork relate to each other and will often involve scaling or distortion to create different visual effects.

Emphasis

Emphasis is used in designs and compositions to imply a sense of relative importance for elements, some having more or less dominance than others. An effective use of emphasis in an artwork can affect the way in which the viewer's eye is drawn towards certain areas as well as how the objects within them are perceived.

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