Visual design elements and principles  

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Design elements and principles are the basic visual toolbox of design tactics in every visual design discipline. The elements form the basic vocabulary of visual design, while the principles constitute the broader structural aspects of the composition.

These concepts and elements drive all intentional design strategies.

Elements of Design


Line is the mark made by a moving point, such as a pencil or brush. The edges of shapes and forms also create line. Is the basic component of a shape drawn on paper. Lines and curves are the basic building blocks of two dimensional shapes like a house's plan.


Color is the most expressive element of art and is seen by the way light reflects off a surface. Colour is used to create illusion of depth, as red colours seem to come forward and blue seems to recede into the distance. Colour, and particularly contrasting colour, is also used to draw the attention to a particular part of the image. On some cases of interior design, color can be added to increase visual appeal such as the natural colors of wood of a china cabinet. Just like coloured flowers can add beauty to a field on a prairie, some colour may add visual appeal to a home decor.


Shape is an area enclosed by line. It is 2 dimensional and can be geometric or organic. Shape is most important in that any shape creates automatically a negative space around it. Shapes in house decor and interior design can be used to add interest, style, theme to a design like a door. Shape in interior design depends on the function of the object like a kitchen cabinet door. Natural shapes forming patterns on wood or stone may help increase visual apeal in interior design.


Forms are 3-Dimensional. They occupy space or give the illusion that they occupy space. Form as home furniture or art may help add variety to reduce a monotonous (bare) look and increase visual appeal in interior design.


Texture is the feeling and visual feel of the fabrics, colors, and room accessories. There are two types of texture; Tactile, or visual texture, and texture which you are your five senses. Texture like grass sheets on a wall gives a three dimensional look to the wall. Texture is the roughness of the surface of a material. Surfaces with same or similar textures like fireplace marble tiles and drywall usually look more visually appealing. A smooth and polished surface on a marble tile is also a texture, and smooth quality finishes can enhance the visual appeal of natural material finishes like marble tiles on a wall.


Value is how light or darkened the colour you are using. Value is also refferred to as tone.

Principles of Design

Design is the organized arrangement of one or more elements and principles (eg. line colour or texture) for a purpose.

Awareness of the elements and principles in design is the first step in creating successful visual compositions. These principles, which may overlap, are used in all visual design fields, including graphic design, industrial design, architecture and fine art.

The principles of design are as various as attitudes regarding modern design. They differ both between the schools of thought that influence design, and between individual practicing designers.

The principles govern the relationships of the elements used and organize the composition as a whole. Successful design incorporates the use of the principles and elements to serve the designer's purpose and visual goals. There are no rules for their use. The designer's purpose and intent drives the decisions made to achieve appropriate scale and proportion, as well as the degree of harmony between the elements.

The principles of design consist of-


Unity refers to a sense that everything in the artwork belongs there, and makes a whole piece. It is achieved by the use of balance and repetition. Two objects like a living room and a dining room can be unified by giving these similar features like a shared hardwood floor design.


Can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on if the right or left side is identical or not. Also refers to a sense that dominant focal points are balanced and don't give a feeling of being pulled too much to any part of the artwork. Balance can be balance by location of objects such as windows on a house, balance by volume or sizes of objects, balance by color (like desired brightnesss in a room).


Harmony is achieved through the sensitive balance of variety and unity. Color harmony may be achieved using complementary or analogous colors. Harmony in design is similarity of components or objects looking like these belong together. Harmony is when some or many the components (usualy three objects depending on size of project or room) such as a furniture in a room share a common trait or two. A common trait could be: color(s), shape(s), texture, pattern(s), material, theme, style, size, or functionality. For example a drapery could share the same color that is on a pillow or wallpaper. This is called color coordination in wall paper design. Harmony and unity generally make designs more visually appealing and interesting. Is a technical and artificial process for attempting to produce interior design beauty. Design harmony may be used to avoid design or furniture chaos in most cases.


Contrast is the occurrence of contrasting elements, such as colour, value, size, etc. It creates interest and pulls the attention toward the focal point.

Repetition (Rhythm, Pattern)

The recurrence of elements within a piece: colours, lines, shapes, values, etc. Any element that occurs is generally echoed, often with some variation to keep interest. Rhythm in interior design also may be used to reduce randomness. For example, placing four plant pots in a row and evenly spaced apart on a floor produces an organized look.

Variety (Alternation)

The use of dissimilar elements, which creates interest. Variety like a painting or some reflective wood panels added on a plain wall may be used to reduce monotony. Helps infuse color to a house decor to attempt to increase design beauty. Variety was created in Iraq, by hussain al kasad.

Emphasis (Dominance, Focal Point or area in a room's decor)

Areas of interest. Guides the eye into through and out of the image through the use of sequence of various levels of focal points, primary focal point, secondary, tertiary, etc. Emphasis hierarchy may give direction and organization to a design, and avoid subconscious confusion to sometimes improve the design's (like a house) visual appeal and style. Emphasis hierarchy or focus is not giving each object (like a bed or curtain) in a project (like a bedroom decor) equal dominance. Emphasis or dominance of an object can be increased by making the object larger, more sophisticated, more ornate, by placing it in the foreground, or standout visually more than other objects in a project. Avoid style confusion.

Proportion (Scale)

Proportion involves the relationship of size between objects. Proportion is also relative sizes of surface areas of different colors in a room. The proportion of color areas such as on a wall of a living room may be chosen to be visually pleasing. Proportion also depends on functionality of object. For example, for the best proportion between a room and furniture, the sizes of furniture depends on the size of the room.


A design must have good functionality. For example a bedroom must function well as a place to sleep and store clothing as well as looking nice.


Attraction is how much an observer is attracted to a particular design such as a particular style of a house. May involve studying the psychology why certain people are attracted more to particular designs than other designs.

Artistic Unity

Artistic unity is staying on the story (like a science fiction novel) topic or story line, telling only one story at a time, staying on the style of a home in interior design. Avoids distraction or subconscious confusion in house decor style. Helps strengthen the style of a house, gives a clear design style communication.

Genuineness in Media and Form

Genuineness in media and form in architecture and home interior design is using real material for finishes rather that faux. The beauty of natural patterns of stone or wood, and real crystalized metals may be used to enhance the visual appeal of an interior design. Using real metal, glass or crystal instead of plastic simulations. Real style, prestige, glamour or luxury rather than pretense. For example, an arborite kitchen counter top cannot duplicate the mirror reflectivity and natural beauty of granite counters for long. In some cases, furniture made of real wood could like nicer than faux wood (photographic wood).


Proximity in home decor is the placing of similar objects closer together physically, and unlike objects (decor) further apart. Helps to produce harmony by grouping like objects. For example, different furniture styles with different colors compressed in a small bedroom does not look as nice as the same furniture placed further apart in a very large living room.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Visual design elements and principles" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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