The Elements of Design: Part 1

As i mentioned in my previous post, there are following Elements of Design:

  • Primary Shapes (Square, Circle and Triangle)
  • Point, Line and Area
  • Color
  • Texture/Pattern
  • Form (in case of 3-Dimensional design)

Elements of Design are those basic units that make up a design. Elements are the actual things we add to our design. While the elements of design when joined together make a design, the application of principles to the design defines the design.

Primary Shapes

I believe all of us are familiar with the primary shapes: square, circle and triangle. These primary shapes and there 3 dimensional counterparts – cube, sphere and pyramid make up all the structures we see around us.

Square is a shape with no directional pull. By directional pull i mean it doesn’t force your eyes to move in a particular direction. It fits comfortably in  almost any arrangement of multiples. It can be used to define an area, a boundary or a frame, exclude, include and more. However when modified, it begins to direct the eye. Have a look at the examples below to understand what I mean.

Elements of Design - Square

Look at structure 4 & 5 and how they direct the eye to focus at the center (4th) and the negative space caused by the removal of a corner (5th).

Circles have the tendency to make the focus of the eye at a point or make them go round on a circular journey. Concentric arrangement of circles can play with your eye very well making them jump from one to the other, pace being defined by the size of the circles.

Elements of design - Circle

Look at the examples above and see how different arrangements of circles create different directional pull.

Triangle can be said to have a dynamic energy. It can altered easily into different forms without losing the basic conformation. Also, it is very hard for the eye to ignore the directional pull.

The above examples can help you see the strong directional pull exhibited by triangles on the eye.

Point, Line and Area

Point, line and area are used in all graphic designs and the way they are used along with the primary shapes represent how the design communicates. Follow the examples below to understand how different arrangement of these elements communicate with the eye.

  1. The single point represents a visual stop. As you can see, a rectangle is used to restrict the subject area. The point at center immediately takes focus of the eye.
  2. Two points represent a direction. It makes the eye move away from the border and move back and forth between those two points.
  3. Three points makes the eyes move in a closed path. They signify a shape.
  4. The unique arrangement of those dots creates a directional path for the eye to move on.
  5. The eye jumps from one part to the other because of the random arrangement of dots. However, the dense area is able to gain more attention than the rest.
  6. The line near the center of the bounding area immediately steals focus and makes the eye look at a certain area only.
  7. The alignment of those two lines creates a flow for the eye, it moves from the top to the bottom.
  8. The line is closer to one corner of the bounding area. Hence the eye has more focus near that corner than the others.
  9. The two lines give hint of an inner bounding area.
  10. The eye moves from one line to the other in a specific pattern represented by the height and horizontal alignment of the two lines.

We will discuss the remaining elements of design (i.e. color, texture/pattern and form) in the next article.

The aim behind this article was to teach you how these basic elements form the alphabets of graphical communication. A good graphic designer should be able to communicate almost any message through the audience with effective arrangement of these elements.

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