The Elements of Design

The elements of design are the basic building blocks that artists and designers use to make art or design anything from a web page to a car. We are influenced by the elements; whether choosing what to wear, what model and color of car we buy, or how we landscape our yards. Not all of the elements need to be used at once on the same piece. They can be used to represent something or can be used non objectively to express an idea or emotion using the principles of design which will be discussed in a later post.

Here are the elements with brief explanations of each one:

Line – a moving point, can be actual or implied; it is a long, narrow band or series of marks.  Line is the most basic visual element and can be used to define shapes but also indicate motion.  Used expressively, line can imply emotion and other ideas.

Shape –  a space surrounded by line is an enclosed, bounded two-dimensional component that has both length and width but not depth.  Shapes can be geometric or organic.

Form – a shape with actual or implied depth or dimension connotes something that is three-dimensional and encloses volume, having length, width, and height.   A form is a shape in three dimensions, and, like shapes, can be geometric or organic.

Space – the distances or areas around, between, and within components of a piece. Space can be positive or negative, open or closed, shallow or deep, and two-dimensional or three-dimensional.

Texture – the tactile quality of a surface.  The way an object feels or the way it looks like it would feel.

Tone – the lightness or darkness of a color is also called value.  Humans perceive tone before color and artists have used tonal values to guide a viewer through a painting and also to create mood.

Color – the perception of  hue when light strikes an object.  Color can be used to represent the actual perceived hues of an object or expressively to impart emotion or mood.

In art, the elements of design are tools to make better compositions, and to help make meaning.   In advertising, the elements can also be used to attract our attention and appeal to our emotions.

Can you think of ways you use the elements of design, in your own art or life?

Happy creating,



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