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Elements of Design ?

Elements of Design

Design elements have an impact on how a piece of work is perceived, executed, and used—and are present in design regardless of skill, taste, or style. Line, color, shape, form, value, space, and texture are the seven core elements of art and they often overlap and inform one another. Whether talking about drawing, painting, sculpture, or design, these components of art all need to be taken into consideration.

  1. Form– Forms are three dimensional, and there are two types: geometric (man-made) and natural (organic). A digital or physical form can be measured by height, width, and depth. A form can be created by combining shapes, and it can be enhanced by color or texture. Depending on their usage, they can also be ornate or utilitarian.

Types of Shapes-

  • Geometric Forms- As with geometric shapes.geometric forms are based on mathematical descriptions. Since they are three dimensional (3D) instead of two dimensional, they are objects such as cubes, cylinders, cones and spheres. They are often the type of form that man made objects are constructed with.
  • Three Dimensional (3D) Media – Three-dimensional media occupies space defined through the dimensions of height, width and depth. It includes sculpture, installation and performance art, craft and product design.
  • Free-form or Organic Forms – Organic forms are irregular and are the type of forms that most things in nature are. Cloud formations, mountains, trees and bushes are all relatively free- form. Animals and even humans tend to be more free- form too, as they are ever changing forms.

2. Shape

A shape is a two- or three-dimensional object that stands out from the space next to it because of a defined or implied boundary. A shape can live in different areas in space, and have other elements like line, color, texture, or movement. Like forms, shapes come in two different types: geometric and organic.

Geometric shapes can be drawn using a ruler, compass, or digital instrument. They feel very precise, like an architecture rendering. They’re created in CAD or by hand, and are controlled and orderly. Organic shapes are found in nature or drawn by hand. They’re the opposite of geometric, and often feel natural or smooth. That’s not to say that because they’re natural, they’re less complex. Think of the grain on a stump of wood: It’s complex, but not geometrically precise.

Types of Shapes

A) Geometric Shapes-

  • Can be described using mathematical terms.
  • They are very regular or precise.
  • They are more often found in man-made things because they are easier to reproduce and make things with.
  • Examples of geometric shapes are: squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, oval, pentagons and so on.

B) Free-form or Organic Shapes

  • are difficult to describe using definitons
  • are irregular or uneven
  • are more often found in nature
  • examplecoule include the shape of clouds, puddles, trees, leaves, rocks and so on.

C) Abstract shapes– Abstract shapes are created by abstracting the most basic and recognizable aspects of a real-life shape and creating a simplified representation of it. Abstract shapes are heavily used in graphic design because they hold meaning, just like the stylized people on bathroom signs. For example, abstractshapes are heavily used in logos. Logos create a simple visual representation to help people identify a company and remember the reference easily. Abstract shapes are the large, basic shapes that provide the building blocks for virtually any painting in any style. For example, in Still Life with Three Pears the primary abstract shapes include the basic masses of the pears and the long, thin rectangle that forms the front edge of the table top.

D) Positive and Negative Shapes– In most forms of art shapes may be considered positive or negative depending on how they are used. Positive shapes are usually those which are the subject matter withing a work of art. Negative shapes (or space) are those in the background or around the positive shapes. By viewing images as silhouettes, it is easier to understand what the positve shapes and the negative shapes are. See if you can identify the positive and negative shapes (space) in the silhouette images below.

3. Line-Points create lines and lines create shapes. A line can have other elements like color, texture, and movement applied to it. Though basic in appearance, lines can control the viewer’s thoughts and emotions, and lead a viewer’s eye through space.

Types of Lines

  • Vertical lines: are straight up and down and perpendicular to horizontal lines
  • Horizontal lines: are straight up and down and perpendicular to vertical lines
  • Diagonal lines: are lines that straight in any direction except vertical or horizontal
  • Zigzag lines: are a series of diagonal lines joined end to end
  • Curved lines: are lines that bend in any amount of degree; they may be gently wavy to tightly wound spirals

4. Texture

Texture is the way a surface feels, or the way it’s perceived to feel. It has the power to attract or detract a viewer’s eyes, and can be applied to lines, shapes, and forms.

There are two types of texture: tactile and visual. Tactile textures are three-dimensional and can be touched. The easiest example is tree bark. When you touch bark, you can feel all the bumps and ridges, the roughness and smoothness. A photo of the same bark would be a visual texture. You can see it, not feel it.

Types of Lines

A) Real Texture– Visual texture is the real thing. Real texture cannot be represented here because computer screens, even with the highest quality photographs can only create simulate textures. However for the purpose of providing examples assume that these images are real.

B) Visual or Implied Texture– Visual or implied texture can be simulated or invented. Simulated texture is the type that is created to look like something it is not. For example, in drawing or painting of a cat where its fur is made to look like real fur. Invert texture, on the other hand may look rough, smooth or any other feel but is purely made up by the artist. It does look like “real” texture.

5. Space

Every shape or form has a place in space. As an element of design, space refers to the area around, above, below, or behind an object. Objects in space can occur in both two and three dimensions. In a two-dimensional setting, space is about creating the illusion of a third dimension on a flat surface. Shadows, shading, overlap, and sizing can help define an object’s place in space. For example, a button could have a shadow that makes it feel like its closer to the user.

Negative Space- It is all too easy just to concentrate on the shapes (images, text, graphics) we place on a page when generating a design and forgetting about the negative space that surrounds them. Even something as simple as page margins needs careful consideration to ensure this negative space is used to its full potential. Negative space gives the eyes a place to rest, which in turn helps the reader to consider and absorb the other elements on the page. As a result, the underlying message of the design is better communicated.

6. Value

The term value is used in the language of Art to refer to the “value” of light. The more light, the higher the value. White is the highest or lightest value.On the other hand, black is the lowest or darkest value. Colors have value as well. Yellow for example has a relatively high (light) value, while violet has a relatively low value (dark).

Value Scales– Values scales are charts that demonstrate the changing values of a tone. A typical value scale has incremental steps running from dark to light or vice versa. A scale may also be a continuous gradient of tones; where the change is blended and tonal steps are not visible. Here are examples of both types.

7. Color

Color is one of the hardest elements to harness, and probably one of the most challenging to understand. The basics, however, are relatively easy.

Color can help the organization of a design, and give emphasis to specific areas or actions. Like other elements, it has a few different properties: hue, saturation, and lightness. Unlike other elements, it does not always have to be used. A design can have the absence of color (yes, black and white are still colors, but you get the point). Color can be used sparingly or in a rainbow of hues, but tends to work best when there’s both a dominant color and a supporting color.

Hue typically references a wavelength of light in the color spectrum, which is blended from the primary colors of red, green, and blue (commonly referred to as RGB). A specific hue can have a vibrant or dull saturation. Cyan, baby blue, navy blue, and royal blue are blue hues that are more or less intense. A color can also be on the light or dark end of the spectrum.

It’s important to note that while color is global, different cultures have different connotations for colors. For example, in some cultures, white is associated with purity; in others, it’s associated with death.

Colors play a huge role in the way we perceive the world. Without even realizing it, colors have the ability to evoke emotions and trigger certain reactions. Colors can even go as far as subliminally communicating an idea or brand message. 

The color wheel is the best representation of all the colors.

If color theory is simplified, it can be broken down into 3 parts- The color wheel, color value, and color schemes. Each part of color theory builds on the previous. Understanding each section of color theory fully, will help you better understand its importance in the creation of art.

The color wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton by taking the color spectrum and bending it into a circle. If you follow around the color wheel, you will find the same order of the color spectrum- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo(blue-violet), and violet.  Some remember it by the acronym ROY G. BIV.

The color wheel is made up of three different types of colors – Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.  They are called primary for a couple of reasons.  First, no two colors can be mixed to create a primary color. In other words, primary colors can only be created through the use of natural pigments.  Secondly, all other colors found on the color wheel can be created by mixing primary colors together.

The secondary colors are orange, green, and purple.  Secondary colors are created by mixing equal parts of any two primary colors.  Yellow and blue will give you green.  Red and blue will create purple(violet). Red and yellow will give you orange.

Tertiary colors are created by mixing equal parts of a secondary color and a primary color together.  There are six tertiary colors- red-purple, red-orange, blue-green, yellow-green, blue-purple, and yellow-orange.  Notice that the proper way to refer to tertiary colors is by listing the primary color first and the secondary color, second.

A) Primary colors are the most basic colors

B) Secondary colorsare made by combining two primary colors

C) Tertiary colorsare also called intermediate colors.

Color Schemes

Color schemes are ways colors are put together in an intelligent way

A) Analogous colors-

Colors located near each other on the color wheel are known as analogous colors.

Analogous colors flatter each other when used together because they are so close to each other on the color wheel. When using analogous colors, painters make sure they have enough contrast, often choosing one dominant color, a second supporting color, and a third color that acts as an accent.
When used as a color scheme, analogous colors can be dramatic. Ex. Blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green; red, red-purple, purple, blue-purple

B) Monochromatic- colors are really just a variety of one color-

Monochromatic – literally means one (Mono) color (Chroma).  So a monochromatic
color scheme is made up of one color and its shades and tints.

A monochromatic color scheme uses variations of a single hue to create a clean, elegant, and single-colored work of art. Using this type of color scheme will establish one overall mood and can be visually appealing.

C) Complementary- colors are more vivid when combined.

Complementary colors – are colors found directly across from each other on the color wheel.  Complementary color scheme provide strong contrast.  Ex. Blue and orange, red and green, yellow-green and red-purple.

Complementary colors are two hues found on opposite sides of each other on the color wheel. For example, red’s complementary color is green, and blue’s complementary color is orange. A painting or work of art that relies on complimentary colors will have the strongest contrast. This color palette will draw the most attention and is extremely pleasing to the eye.

D) Color triads

consist of three colors found on the color wheel that are equally spaced apart from each other. Ex. Red, blue and yellow or orange, green and purple.

E) Split complementary

color schemes are made up of a color and it’s complements closest analogous colors. Ex Blue, yellow-orange and red-orange. Red-orange, red-purple, green

Warm colors colors that are usually associated with warm things.  Ex. Red, yellow, orange.

Cool colors – colors that are usually associated with cool things.  Ex. Blue, purple, green

Neutral colors- are also known as earth tones.

Neutral colors don’t show up on a color wheel. They can be created by mixing two complimentary colors or combining a pure color with white, black, or gray. Pure neutral colors include black, white, and all grays while near neutrals include browns, tans, and darker colors.

Neutral Color Scheme

Neutral color palettes have recently gained momentum across all design disciplines. The popular color scheme typically consists of achromatic hues (white, grey, and black) along with near neutrals (beige, tan, brown, and other dark hues). All neutral colors have one thing in common: they are typically desaturated with the help of tints, tones, and shades.

Color Values

The second part of color theory deals with color values.  Value is the darkness or lightness of a color.  When dealing with pure color (hue), value can be affected by adding white or black to a color.  Adding white to a color produces a tint.


Tones are created when grey is added to a color. The final tone depends on the amount of black and white used, and tones may be lighter or darker than the original hue.

7.2) the painter’s color wheel is different from the Printer’s color wheel.

A printer’s color wheel works off of the same concept as a standard painter’s color wheel except the primary colors are different. Instead of red, yellow, and blue, the printer’s color wheel relies on magenta, cyan, and yellow, which are the ink colors used to print images. This results in different secondary and tertiary colors.

The CMYK color model (also known as process color, or four color) is a subtractive color model, based on the CMY color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four ink plates used in some color printing: cyanmagentayellow, and key (black).

The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” the colors red, green and blue from white light. White light minus red leaves cyan, white light minus green leaves magenta, and white light minus blue leaves yellow.

The main purpose of the RGB color model is for the sensing, representation, and display of images in electronic systems, such as televisions and computers, though it has also been used in conventional photography. Before the electronic age, the RGB color model already had a solid theory behind it, based in human perception of colors.

7.3) Properties of Color

1. Hue: Hue is the name of a pure color, such as red, blue, or yellow.
2. Value: Value is the lightness or darkness of a hue (color). The value of a hue can be changed by adding black or white. Light values of colors are called tints. Darker values of colors are called shades.
3. Intensity: Intensity is the brightness or dullness of a hue (color). Pure hues are high-intensity colors. Dull hues are low-intensity colors. Intensity of color is changed by adding varying amounts of its complimentary color. For example, to make a bright green duller a little bit of red could be added to it.

7.4) Color Symbolism Chart

  • Red: Passion, Love, Anger Excitement, energy, passion, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense and passionate, sincerity, happiness (Only in Japan)
  • Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.
  • Orange: Energy, Happiness, Vitality, balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention.
  • Yellow: Happiness, Hope, Deceit, signifies joy, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship.
  • Green: New Beginnings, Abundance, Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, service, inexperience, envy, misfortune, vigor.
  • Blue: Calm, Responsible, Sadness, Peace, tranquility, cold, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.
  • Dark Blue: Symbolizes integrity, knowledge, power, and seriousness.
  • Purple: Creativity, Royalty, Wealth, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, honor, arrogance, mourning, temperance.
  • Black: Mystery, Elegance, Evil, Power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, unhappiness, depth, style, sadness, remorse, anger, anonymity, underground, good technical color, mourning, death (Western cultures), austerity, detachment.
  • Gray: Moody, Conservative, Formality, Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring. Silver symbolizes calm.
  • White: Purity, Cleanliness, Virtue,  Reverence, purity, birth, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical.
  • Brown: Nature, Wholesomeness, Dependability, Earth, stability, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, and comfort.
  • Tan or Beige: Conservative, Piety, Dull
  • Cream or Ivory: Calm, Elegant, Purity, Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness.
  • Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity.
  • Turquoise symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal.
  • Lavender symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.

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