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Elements and Principles of Graphic Design Part 1

By: Nathan Pope at Nathan Pope Designs

Submitted on Fri, Mar 6th, 2009 5:48 am

The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create every design. The elements of design are the parts that make every piece of visual art. No matter whether or not it is viewed as ugly or beautiful, every type of design will contain most of, if not all of, the elements and principles of design.

In part one of this article I explain the basic elements of graphic design; line, form, shape, texture, color, value, and size.


Elements of design line
The most basic element of design is line. Line can create form and can be used to enhance certain aspects of a design. The edges of shapes, forms and colors can be used to create line. Line can be used to imitate textures or to define density. Line also is used to define perspective, directional cues are created with line to enhance a sense of spatiality in a design.

Elements of design shape

The terms form and shape are often mistakenly used synonymously. The simplest definition of shape is a closed contour, an element defined by its perimeter. Three basic examples of shapes are: circles, rectangles/squares, and triangles. Shape is always two dimensional.


Elements of design form

Form is different from shape in that it can be either two or three dimensional, while shape can only be two dimensional. You can hold a form; walk around a form and in some cases walk inside a form. Value is usually used to define form. Form is normally affected by light where shape is hardly ever. For example, a circle when shaded in a certain manner, becomes a sphere.


Elements of design texture

Texture is the surface quality of an object. A rock may be rough and jagged. A piece of silk may be soft and smooth and your desk may feel hard and smooth. Texture also refers to the way a picture is made to look rough or smooth.


Elements of design color

Color is the most expressive element of art and is seen by the way light reflects off a surface. Color is used to create illusion of depth, red hues seem to come forward and blue seems to recede into the distance. Color, and particularly contrasting color, can also used to draw attention to a particular part of an image.


Elements of design value

Value is the range of lightness and darkness within a picture. Value is created by a light source that shines on an object creating highlights and shadows. It also illuminates the local or actual color of the subject. Value creates depth within a picture making an object look three dimensional with highlights and cast shadows, or in a landscape where it gets lighter in value as it recedes to the background giving the illusion of depth.


Elements of design size

When you are designing a piece, size plays an important role in making a layout functional, attractive and organized. Size of the total piece is a huge consideration for obvious reasons. Size can be used to attract your audience by contrasting smaller objects with larger objects. Another thing that size is used for is to organize design. For instance, Headers in a book are usually larger than the text of the body.

Stay tuned and catch the second part of this article Principles of graphic design.

About the Author

Nathan Pope
Nathan Pope Designs
Experienced graphic designer with a passion for great design. I have an eye for great design and am always updating my knowledge about design trends.

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