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1.3: Principles of Design

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    The Principles of Design

    by Jon McCallum

    If the Elements (Line, Shape, Value, etc) are the "building blocks" of art, the Principles of Design regard HOW those elements are handled. The Principles give us language for better understanding and discussing the dynamic effects of how the Elements interact with each other and with the work of art as a whole.

    Similar to the Elements of Art, not all Principles will be active in every work of art. Often a few of them will stand out as being more significant than the others.

    The Principles of Design will often intermingle with each other in a given work of art. For instance, the same element, such as a particular circle in the midst of a drawing, may contribute to a sense of Unity or Variety, while also showing Contrast from its surroundings, while also being a point of Emphasis.

    Notice that some of the principles are named as pairs, such as Unity and Variety. Each of these are really just one principle. A common mistake in this course is to discuss one half of the principle — Unity, for instance — and forget to include the other half — Variety. Be sure to explore the principle as a whole and be prepared to describe both halves.

    As noted for the Elements of Art, different courses and textbooks may or may not include some of these principles or they may use different terms for some of them. But for this course, we will feature the following seven Principles of Design:

    • Unity and Variety
    • Balance
    • Emphasis and Subordination
    • Directional Forces
    • Contrast
    • Repetition and Rhythm
    • Scale and Proportion

    Now let's take a peek at each one of them!


    1.3: Principles of Design is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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