Principles of design are the rules and guidelines that govern how the elements of design should be organized. They are the fundamental guiding principles for a good composition of the individual elements of design. The principles of design are balance, variety, harmony, emphasis, proportion, movement, unity, and contrast.
This is the arrangement of the elements of design so that no one part of the work overpowers or seems heavier than any other part. It is a feeling of harmony in the composition of colour and space. It is a state of equalized tension and equilibrium in space, shape and weight. In the real world, balance can be measured on a scale. If two objects weigh the same, the two sides of the scale will balance. In art, balance can be seen and felt by the viewer.
There are three types of balance. These are formal balance, informal balance, and radial balance.
Formal balance is achieved when one half of a work is a mirror image of the other half or a situation when both halves of a work are the same. It is also referred to as Symmetrical Balance. Owing to the fact that formal balance can easily be noticed, some are of the view that when used in a work it makes the work seems less interesting.
Informal balance is when two unlike objects are made to seem to have equal weight but in actual sense they are not. Informal balance is also referred to as Asymmetrical balance. It is achieved by the use of hues, values, intensities, shapes and spaces in the picture plane. For instance, in a painted work, a small shape painted with a warm colour like red will balance with several large shapes painted in dull or cool colours. In a drawing, the large shape may be drawn closer to the central point while the small shape can be moved farther away from the fulcrum or a central point in order to achieve informal balance. This type of balance is complex and difficult to recognize in a work.
Radial balance happens when the elements or objects in a work are positioned around a central point or fulcrum. A flower with its petals spreading outward from the centre is an example of radial balance in nature. The elements placed in a radial balance seem to ‘radiate’ out from a central point in a circular fashion.
This refers to combining one or more elements to create interest or hold attention. It is the opposite of monotony. It is the variation in the elements of design in a composition to break monotony and to increase the attraction. Variety heightens or increases the visual appeal of artworks. There are various ways of showing variety in an artwork. These include using light values of a colour in breaking most dark values of the same colour in the work. Straight lines can be used in breaking the monotony of several curved lines in a picture
This refers to the blending of elements in a pleasing way. It is a design principle that involves composing design elements that share common or similar interest. For instance, rectangle and square are harmonious because each of the elements is constructed by the use of parallel lines. In colour work, paints or colours are said to harmonise if they would form a pleasant combination. Most skilled artists use the principles of harmony and variety together in different amounts to bind the parts of a work to the whole.
This is the making of an element or object in a work to stand out from the other objects or elements used in the work. This principle helps the artist to control the part of a work that the viewer looks at first. It also helps the artist to control how long the viewer will spend looking at each of the different parts of the same work.
This is a design principle that ensures that one element in a composition domineers over the other elements. Dominance resolves conflict and helps in regaining unity in an artwork. The traditional and simplest way of achieving dominance is by repetition of the dominant element. In numbers, the dominant element is greater than the others in the composition.
This refers to how parts of a work relate to each other and the whole. It is the comparative relationship of dimensions and shapes. An artist may point out the main figures in a work by making them larger than the rest. Proportion in art is not limited to only sizes of objects, but also in colours. A key colour can be used in differing proportions in a work.
This is the principle of art that leads the viewer to sense action in a work. It can also be the path that leads the viewers’ eyes throughout a work. Artists create movement through a careful blending of elements like lines and shapes. Movement between colours and textures are created by relating their values to one another. Movement can be created by placing elements close to each other (Rhythmic movement) in an orderly manner.
This is the systematic repetition of an element to make a work seem active and stimulate a sense of movement. It is a timed movement through space in a work of art. Sometimes, to create rhythm, artists repeat not just elements, but the exact objects, shapes, lines, texture or colour in a work over and over again to create a patterned picture.
This is the arrangement of elements to create a feeling of completeness. It is achieved by the careful placement of the elements of design to give a sense of oneness. Unity helps in holding attention. When the objects or individual items seem to go their own way in a picture then unity is missing.
Contrast is very similar to variety. However, the varying element is usually opposite to the other element used. For instance, when circles are used, its varying element that will best help in creating contrast is square. Contrast is sometimes referred to as Opposition or Conflict.
This is using the relative sizes of elements against each other to attract attention to a focal point. When elements are designed larger than life, scale is being used to show drama, animation and cartooning.