Category Archives: Design Elements & Principles

Design Elements & Priciples

Design Elements & Principles: Activity 1


Just like the letters of the alphabet helps us put together and create words. The Design Elements & Principles are the ABC’s of design the formula in which desingers live by, when applied effectively the E+Ps are powerful tools that aid with the intended Purpose of a design. Different combinations of letters create different words likewise by using the E+P’s is various combination designers can purposely create designs and compositions that will capture the attention of the intended Audience.  

Your Task for today:

1. Organize yourself into groups of 4

2. Elect a team leader – Team leader job is to make sure today’s task is completed on time & to ensure each team member is participating and contributing to the task

3. Below are links of every Element & Principle of design. By clicking on them you’ll be taken to a page where all the information is located. Your job is to summarise each Element & Principle of design in a video clip format.

  • write down a short definition for each
  • include 6-8 short dot point which you think are the most important
  • Visual examples are a must
  • You can use paper or get creative

Here is an example of a video – it’s simple and raw. By then end of the double period you should have something similar – or better ; )

* My Advice – spend time in a group or in pairs summarizing the E+P’s, then make sure you have a concept & plan written on paper so that you have direction.  

Use Ipads and Flip camera to complete the task. Use any material you need from the store room. You will need to put things back neatly.


Start to summarize and create your own personal notes of the E+Ps. Don’t just copy and paste. These notes will be crucial for your exam revision.

Also from today you will need to keep a personal inspirational journal. Throughout the year you’ll be expected to collect images, articles, random objects/materials, practice your sketching and rendering. Have a section where you focus on collecting examples of the Elements and Principles of Design.

Design Elements


Design Principles

Figure-Ground | Balance | Contrast | Cropping | Scale | Hierarchy | REPETITION & PATTERN | PROPORTION


Principle of Repetition & Pattern

Principle of Repetition

The principle of repetition simply means the reusing of the same or similar elements throughout your design. Repetition of certain design elements in a design will bring a clear sense of unity, consistency,

and cohesiveness.

REPETITION is the use of similar or connected pictorial elements.  For example, similar shapes, colours or lines that are used more than once

REPETITION can be regular or irregular and even or uneven.

REPETITION can be in the form of RADIATION where the repeated elements spread out from a central point.

REPETITION may be in the form of GRADATION where the repeated elements slowly become smaller or larger.

Repetition works with pattern to make the artwork seem active. The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the artwork.

Patterns often occur in nature, and artists use similar repeated motifs to create pattern in their work. Pattern increases visual excitement by enriching surface interest.

Design examples:

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Principle of Proportion

Principle of Proportion

Proportion is the relationship of two or more elements in a design and how they compare with one another. Proportion is said to be harmonious when a correct relationship exists between the elements with respect to size or quantity.

Good proportion adds harmony, symmetry, or balance among the parts of a design.

The effective use of proportion in design is often referred to as harmony, a relationship in which the various elements of the composition appear as if they belong together in size and distribution.

For example, if one figure is made to look larger compared to other figures in a composition, it is said to be out of proportion and is given greater importance.

Proportion design examples:

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Principle of Hierarchy


The order in which the elements within a composition are viewed by the eye. We can called it the order of importance –

  • where does the eye look at First
  • where does the eye look at Second
  • Where does the eye look at Third  

*NOTE: keep in mind that visual hierarchy is evident in most VC’s the key is for you to be specific and able to describe the effect it has on the viewer.

How is visual hierarchy evident?

what elements & principles are creating the visual hierarchy? is it:

  • Contrast
  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Textures
  • ETC

Ask yourself is their a strategic reason to the in order given to the VC?

  1. Perhaps a website address is made the focal point so that consumers can visit 
  2. A fashion dress in a magazine so that viewers can be enticed to make a purchase
  3. A Real-estate sign promoting the sale of a property – photographs are purposely made the focal point to showcase property & entice potential buyers 

The elements within a composition can be ordered according to their importance.

A hierarchy may be determined by the scale, colour or placement and arrangement of elements in a composition.

bright-red colour may be used in a primarily black and- white design to create a focal point.

A poster that promotes a new movie may use imagery to attract a target audience and the text may be designated according to visual importance (what the target audience needs to interpret first).

Hierarchy by Placement

An object placed in the center will often be perceived as a focal point. If all eyes in the painting look at one object, or if an object is placed at the center of the lines of perspective, that object will be perceived as the focus of the work.

Hierarchy by Isolation

If most of the elements in a work of art are grouped closely together, an object by itself stands out as a focal point

Hierarchy by Contrast

Emphasis can be created by contrast. An element in contrast with something else is more easily seen and understood; something different attracts the eye.

Any of the elements can be contrasted:

  • line (a curve in the midst of straight lines), shape (a circle in a field of squares)
  • color (one red dot on a background of grays and blacks)
  • Tone (a light or dark area in the middle of its opposite)
  • texture (rough vs. smooth)
  • Contrast can also be created by contrasting orientation in space (horizontal, vertical, diagonal)
  • Shape (a geometric shape in an otherwise naturalistic image) and size.
  • An anomaly, or something that departs from the norm, will also stand out and grab our attention, for example a person wearing a snowsuit on a tropical beach.

Hierarchy design examples: CokeRedD18_18_830x544 contrast Desire Me dontdrivesleepy_crash1_PExdv_28802 dubbed hungerad1 images (1) images Iron man 2 next_best_bison p067_the_polyphonic_spree poster_design sound_small ben_nov_runningmanshadow 23862e0f3132425ci3.jpg beckan

Principle of Scale


Scale is the size you may choose to draw or place an object in relation to the ground it is placed upon. The ground can be a business card, flyer, poster, website, fashion dress or building.

Scale is used to assist in drawing large objects such as houses and furniture and is used to describe the dimensions of these drawn objects.

Scale can be used to create visual impact by creating a sense of depth and the feeling of tension.

Scale can attract in different ways.  It can be use to draw attention, change the size of an object in an unexpected or exaggerated way – this is often the case in advertising.

Scale can:

  • create contrast
  • add emphasis 
  • provide proportion
  • create visual hierarchy
  • create structure and order
  • create tension through the exaggerated & unexpected size of an object   

Scale design examples:

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Principle of Cropping


CROPPING an image is the act of cutting away and discarding the unnecessary portions of the image.

Cropping an image can change the emphasis or direction of a design. An image may be cropped to emphasise one particular aspect of a design or to present information more clearly. Clever and deliberate cropping of shapes, form and letterform can make a design more visually dominating.

Why should you use cropping?  

  •      To emphasize the centre of interest  
  •      To eliminate an unwanted portion
  •      To adjust the shape to fit a given layout
  •      To enlarge small portions  


Cropping an image can: 

• change the direction and balance of a composition

• change the focus

• remove unnecessary information or parts of a ground that simply don’t work within the composition

• create greater emphasis

• help resolve background issues and can assist in placing the figure on the ground more effectively.

Be careful not to crop too much of an image so that it can no longer be understood. Use cropping to create an open composition.

Cropping can:

  •  create an open composition
  •  create a closed composition
  •  focus on a detail
  •  enlarge an image
  •  suggest an image
  • add intrigue & curiosity
  • emphasize on a particular area  

Cropping design Examples:

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Principle of Contrast


Contrast is where two or more elements that have opposite qualities are placed together.

We can think about contrast in terms of the tension created between opposites: such as

  • black versus white
  • fine lines versus solid shapes
  • thick and thin lines
  • organic and geometric shapes

Using any of the elements of design we can create a dynamic composition through using contrast.

Contrast is a useful design principle that can make a visual communication more effective. Contrast can assist in attracting the target audience and can lead their eye through a visual communication.

  • Contrasting fonts may be used in the one presentation to assist in separating information
  • a contrasting colour scheme may be used to make something stand out.
  • Fine, tightly drawn vertical lines may be used with a smooth white shape or colourful circles tightly packed together with a white square.

Contrast can be:
• strong versus weak
• bright versus dull.
Serif versus sans serif:
• big versus small
• light versus dark
• organic versus geometric
• feminine versus masculine

Contrast Design Examples:

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The Principle of Figure-Ground


Figure-ground refers to the shapes, space or forms within a composition. In simplest terms the figure is what you notice and the ground is everything else.



The figure also known as the positive space, refers to the image(s) that are visually dominant on the ground.

The ground, sometimes referred to as the ‘negative’ space or the background, is the surrounding area that the figure is placed upon.

An image can be figure dominant or ground dominant.

Using Figure Ground in Design

The mind tends to seek distinctions between the figure (the subject of the design or image) and the ground (the background).

A designer typically wants the figure to demand attention; the ground should support the figure and not distract the viewer.

(1) A good design creates a balance in that the ground helps define the figure – whether through creating lines that define the shape of the figure, adding color that creates a mood, or establishing a reference point like place – but the figure is what the viewer notices and processes.

Distinctions between figure and ground can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  • Contrast of color
  • Blurred or out of focus background
  • Placement of the figure in the image
  •  Magnifying the figure so that the ground is virtually non-existent
  • Minimizing the figure so that the figure appears to be isolated or insignificant

Letterform Abstraction – Design Exercise 

1. Working within a 8-x-8-cm square, create compositions using a single leterform. Examine the forms and counterforms of the letter.

2. Isolate just enough of each letter to hint at its identity. Strike a balance between positive and negative space.

3. Create six or more compositions.


Figure-Ground Design Examples:

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The Principle of Balance


Balance is the even (though not necessarily equal) distribution of the design elements to create harmony within a composition.

Balance keywords (descriptive)

  • • Symmetrical
  • • Asymmetrical
  • • Radial
  • • Dynamic
  • • Stable
  • • Formal
  • • Traditional
  • • Horizontally balanced
  • • Vertically balanced
  • • Centred
  • • Justified to the left
  • • Justified to the right

Symmetrical Balance

A composition can be symmetrically or asymmetrically balanced. Imagine placing an imaginary line down the middle of a composition.

If the elements are of equal weight and value on either side we refer to this as symmetrically balanced. Usually when one or more elements are mirrored on either side we refer to this as a stable or more formal composition.

Symmetrical-balance images



Symmetrical Balance add a sense of order, rest & calmness to a composition


Asymmetrical Balance

When the imagery is not mirrored we can describe the composition as being dynamic or informal. If the elements are not mirrored this is referred to as asymmetrically balanced.

Asymmetrical Balance adds a sense of tension, dynamics and emphasis to a composition


An asymmetrical composition can be balanced as seen in this movie poster for the Green Lantern. There is an uneven distribution of elements on either side of the page, creating an asymmetrical balance. The overall effect is a strong, dynamic and effective composition.



In graphic design, balance is considered when making decisions about layout and the arrangement of text and images. A bad design can be eye catching. So when describing or discussing a visual communication, try not to use the descriptor ‘eye catching’. Instead use a word like ‘effective’.


Balance design examples:

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Element of Colour


Colour is a visual sensation produced by light. Colour is usually identified by its name.

For example: • redgreenblue.

Colour keywords (descriptive)

  • Bold
  • Subdued
  • Vibrant
  • Bright
  • Subtle
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Tertiary
  • Contrasting
  • Complementary
  • Dominant
  • Dynamic
  • Calming
  • Emotive
  • Pastel
  • Restful
  • Energy
  • Loud

Colour can be used to create:

  • Contrast
  • Hierarchy
  • Mood
  • Convey Emotions
  • Define Space


Primary colours are:

Primary colours cannot be mixed from other colours


Secondary Colours

Two primary colours mixed together produce a secondary colour.

secondary colours
secondary colours

Adding black or white to a colour will produce a gradation of that colour

New Picture

Harmonious colour

Colours that are side by side on the colour wheel are described as harmonious. For example, orange is harmonious with red because orange has red in it.

Complementary colours

Are colours which are opposite each other on the colour yellow/violet, orange/blue, red/green

Tertiary colours

Are produced when primary and secondary colours are mixed together 


A Tint is sometimes called a Pastel. Basically it’s simply any color with white added.

A Shade is simply any color with black added.


Refers to the intensity and brightness of a colour

The Colour Wheel

Colour wheel
Colour wheel

Colour can suggest:
• emotions
• feelings
• ideas

Colours such as red, orange and yellow can create an illusion of warmth.

New Picture (1)

Colours such as blue, green and purple can create an illusion of coolness.

Pastel colours can suggest stillness, quietness, peace and calm.

New Picture (3) New Picture (2)

Bright complementary schemes can suggest energy, loudness, excitement and action.

New Picture (4)


Colour design examples:

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