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Of Design

What are the Principles of Design?

Contrast, Harmony, Balance, Repetition, Dominance, Gradation, Unity
If the elements of design are the raw materials or building blocks for any form of visual expression, then the Principles of design are a list of things we can do to those elements.



How do we use the Principles of Design?

When considering any form of visual art we can analyse each design element in terms of the individual principles.

Egon Schiele (1890–1918) Schieles Room In Neulengbach, 1911

For example, if we look at the painting above, we can take the element color and ask ourselves a series of questions based on the various principles.


  • Is there a contrast of color?

  • Is there color harmony?

  • Is the color balanced (warm/cool, saturated/compound?)

  • Is there a repetition of color?

  • Is there a color gradation?

  • Is there a dominance of one color (or color temperature?)

Similar questions can be asked using all the other elements (line, shape, tone, texture, direction, size.)

By analysing an artwork in this way we gain a much better understanding of its structure. The success or failure of a work of art still comes down to individual preference, but armed with the knowledge gained from asking these design related questions, we are better able to make such judgments.

Asking these same questions during the progress of our own work will help clarify what is happening and force us to consider options that may have otherwise eluded us.

Author: John Lovett

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