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Elements and Principles of Design in Art

Elements of Design refer to what is available for the artist/ designer or any person
willing to communicate visually, while Principles of Design describe how the
elements could be used (e.g. is the line (that falls into elements category) repeated,
with the use of symmetry, if yes, is it spiral, or radial, is the line black or other color,
close to which color) etc, etc..

Elements of Design

Color, Values, forms and Shapes, space lines, and textures are called the elements of
design. These elements are known as the fundamentals for all works of art. Without
these elements art could not be created. All of these elements exist in the world around
us in nature and in the environments we create for ourselves.

1. Color and value

Color exist in all things In 1704 Sir Isaac Newton discovered the all the colors of the
rainbow exist in light. The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue and the three
secondary colors are orange, green, and violet. Black is the sum of all of these colors.
All of the colors that fall between the primary and secondary colors are known as
intermediate colors. All of the intermediate colors can produced by mixing a primary
and secondary color together.

2. Value of color
The value of color is lightness and darkness. Colors are made lighter and darker by
adding either black or white. A color plus white is called a tint. A color plus black is a
shade. A color plus gray is called a tone. In both cases the darker color is added to the
lighter color. The particular quality of color tint, tone, or shade is called a hue.

3. Form Shape
A form is the three dimensional feel and look of an object. A shape looks flat and two
dimensional. All objects have shape or form. Shapes and forms are both geometric.
Geometric shapes such as triangles, squares, circles have no volume and are two
dimensional. Geometric forms have volume a word that describes the weight density
and thickness of an object.

4. Space
Space is the void between solid objects and shapes. It is everywhere and all around us.
Everything takes up space in one form or another whether it’s two dimensional like

drawing and painting, three dimensional like Sculpture and architecture.

5. Line
Lines define and enclosed space. In drawing and painting a line represents many
things such as and actual line, a person or a building. A line can be thick or thin; wavy,
curved, or angular: continuous or broken; dotted dashed, or a combination of any of

6. Texture
Texture is a general characteristic for a substance or a material. Texture exist all
around us. It can be natural, invented, or manufactured. It can also be simulated or
made to look and or feel rough, smooth, hard, or soft natural or artificial. Simulated
textures such as a rough stone wall or a fluffy cloud are made to look and feel like real

Principles of Design

The principles of design are the rules by which an artist uses the elements of design.
The most often used principles in visual art are: balance, emphasis, movement,
variety, proportion and unity. These principles may vary slightly according to the
person using them.

7. Balance
Balance is the arrangement of lines, colors, values, textures, forms, and space. their
are three types of balance: formal or symmetrical or informal or asymmetrical and
radial balance. Formal or symmetrical balance has equal weight on both sides.
Informal or asymmetrical balance has a different weight on on each side to maintain
balance. Radial balance is a circular balance moving out from a central object to
maintain balance.

8. Emphasis
Emphasis is way of bring a dominance and subordination into a design or painting.
Major objects, shapes, or colors may dominate a picture by taking up more space or
by being heavier in volume or by being darker in color than the subordinate objects,
shapes and colors. There must be balance between the dominant and subordinate

9. Movement
The use of lines, colors, values, textures, forms and space to carry or direct the eye of

the viewer from one part of the design or picture to other is called movement.
Movement is created in art by the way the artist uses the elements of design.
Movement is generally created by the arrangement of shapes.

10. Variety and contrast

An artist uses elements of art to create diversity and differences in design. Contrasting
colors, textures, and patterns all add interest to the art work. Highlights of color to the
corners or edges of some shapes maybe used to add contrast.

11. Proportion
The size of one part of artwork to its other parts is called proportion. Artists use
proportion to show emphasis, distance and use of space, and balance.

12. Unity
Unity is the result of how all element and principles work together. All parts must
have some relation to each other. They must fit together to create the over all message
and effect.

Elements and principles of design in various disciplines of art and science


are all various forms of art, use a lot of the same principles of design.
Concepts like talent, creativity, thought, formulas, abstract symbols, design – are
common to all those areas. All they take a creative mind to be good at it, to see the
spaces in between and all the cool things that come out of them.
Both in art and music, we use metaphoric representation to tell a story or create
emotional response. Both art and music follow a preset line but can be distorted and
abstracted earlier. We can find symbolizing numbers in math or science and
symbolizing notes in music.
There is order in most of disciplines of art and science.
Visual art and mathematics, especially geometry, are more spatial, while music is time
based. Most of them hold a rhythm.
There are many common elements in art and architecture, for example, form, shape,

color, repetition, composition, pattern. Contrast is common – evokes excitement and
emotion. Music has form and composition that can be symmetrical or asymmetrical
(like art), and they usually have balance.
Different terms have similar outcomes. One may see a difference in the use of unity
and variety: in music, variety is offered by the use of altered rhythms, melody, and
color. In visual arts, variety is offered by placement, theme and color. Visual
representations of concepts in science and mathematics are better understood with
In art, visual, societal and life oriented messages are communicated with beauty.
There is common need of simplifying their meaning in visual display.
Music involves science (physics of sound waves), math (metered beats and measures,
theories of music).
Many of the techniques of visualization are common.
Principles of art can be used to teach math and science visually.
Aesthetic dimensions of science ...

Elements of Design
Most of the elements of visual art design apply equally well to music. Some of them
apply on more than one level, as discussed below.

1. Color
Just as the visual artist has a palette of colors to work with when creating a work of
art, the musical composer's palette consists of tone colors, also called timbres (TAM-
bers). The timbre is defined by the type of waveform created by a particular
instrument and the harmonics present in that sound. The basic waveform or timbre is
often considered to be the sine wave, whose graph of pitch vs. time equals that of
y=sin x. The description of a timbre as simple-sounding as that of a clarinet is actually
enormously complex. Because of this, synthesized sounds are often rather different
than acoustic sounds they attempt to emulate. Recent synthesizers use sampling, a
method of recording real-life sounds and using them as a basis for synthesis. This
allows modern synthesizers to create more authentic sounds.

2. Value of color
The variable of sound which corresponds best (in my opinion) to the value of color is
that of volume. Volume is represented by the amplitude of the sound wave; louder
sounds require more energy. If two exactly equal tones sound at once, the result is a
sound twice the volume of the original. However, this rarely occurs in reality; it is
practically impossible for two human musicians to produce exactly identical sounds.

In fact, if two waveforms are out of phase by 180 degrees, they will cancel each other
out and no sound will be created.

The other variable of a single sound is pitch, which is a result of changing the
frequency of a waveform. If the waveform of a sound is represented by a vibrating
string (which is actually the case in string-based instruments such as violins, guitars,
harps and pianos), one can change the pitch of a note by reducing the length of the
string. When the length of the string is reduced by half, the resulting note is an octave
higher than the note produced by the whole string. Different cultures divide the octave
into different numbers of segments to create a musical scale--modern western music
uses a twelve-tone octave.

3. Form and Shape

Form and Shape occur on many different levels in music. At the most basic level, each
note has a shape, commonly called an envelope. The envelope is usually divided into
four parts:

- Attack, which is the speed at which the volume increases from silence to full volume
("tah" has a short attack; "lah" has a long attack);

- Decay, which is the speed at which the volume decreases from the initial burst of
sound to the sustaining volume;

- Sustain, which is the volume level at which the sound settles after the initial attack;

- Release, which is the speed at which the volume discourses from the sustaining
volume to silence.

The envelope is often considered to be part of the timbre of a particular sound. Much
like tone color, envelopes can be extremely complex; many sounds actually consist of
several envelopes sounding at once or in succession.

Another, more obvious instance of form and shape in music is the form of a musical
piece as a whole. Some of the more popular forms in western history include binary
form (AABB), sonata form (ABCAB'), rondo form (ABACADA), and modern song
form (ABABCBB). Form can exist on larger levels, such as the overall form of
multimovement works, operas or cyclic works. This aspect of form, however, might
be better listed as a Principle of Design.

4. Space
Space exists in music as silence. In a work for a large group, the composer may
instruct certain instruments to not play during specific passages to create different
timbres of sound. Complete silence is often used for varying effects; In Mahler's third
symphony the composer instructed the orchestra to maintain a silence of at least ten
minutes between two movements to create a perceptual separation. John Cage wrote a
piece called _4'33"_ which involves a pianist to sit silently at the piano for more than
four and a half minutes. (It should be noted, however, that Cage was not actually
writing complete silence; he intended that the music consist of the background noises
of the performing area.)

5. Line
Line exists in music as melody. This is defined as the connection of notes through
time. Melodic shape is one of the most important factors in the character of any
musical piece. The most common melodic shape starts low in pitch, increases slowly
to a climax and returns to the low starting level. The climax is usually not at the center
of the piece; it is usually closer to the end, and often occurs at the ratio of the golden

6. Texture
The musical counterpart of texture is harmony. Harmony is the sounding of more than
one note at an instant of time. The harmonic series, which is the set of pitches created
by continuously dividing a vibrating string in half, is the basis for harmony in all
cultures. The concepts of consonance and dissonance are based on the perception of
different harmonies and are grounded in the harmonic series.

Principles of Design
7. Balance
In visual art, balance is the arrangement of the elements of design in space; in music,
it is the arrangement of the elements of design in time. The composer can use
repetition, melodic transformation, and other techniques to give a piece a sense of

8. Emphasis
Emphasis in music most often occurs through the use of orchestration. An excellent
example of this is the concerto genre; a single instrument maintains dominance over

the other instruments by the use of solo melodies and increased volume. Of course,
the composer must also maintain balance between the soloist and the group.

9. Movement
Movement in music is usually carried by the progression of overall chords in the
piece. If there are several chord changes in a measure, the harmonic motion is said to
be fast; if there are few chord changes in a measure or group of measures, the
harmonic motion is considered to be slow.

10. Variety and Contrast

11. Proportion
Proportion appears in many places in music; chords sound full when they are
constructed using the template of the harmonic series; in other words, using larger
intervals for lower pitches and smaller intervals for higher pitches. Proportion also
exists in forms; the size of each section must relate to the size of other sections in
order to maintain balance and unity

12. Unity
One of the universal criteria of music is how well it balances unity and variety.
Because it is based in time, a work must maintain unity--usually through repetition--in
order to create a definite identity. However, it must also contain variety to prevent the
listener from becoming tired or bored.