Elements and Principles of Design

The Elements and Principles of Design can be considered building blocks for composition. Elements are basic words to understand and then combine to achieve a Principle or make a story.

Elements and Principles of Design ExcerptDesign Basics for Rug Hookers by Susan L. Feller, Stackpole Books 2011 Click title to purchase.

Elements: Line, Shape, Form, Space, Value, Color, Texture

Line is a joining of points. Thickness, direction, and length are variables.
Shapes are created by joining lines. They are 2-dimensional: height and width.

Form is any 3-dimensional object. Form can be measured, from top to bottom (height), side to side (width), and from back to front (depth). Form is also defined by light and dark. A source of light on the object will convey form with the shadow or highlight associated with the exposure of light on the motif.

Space is the area provided for a particular purpose. It may have two dimensions (length and width), such as a floor, or it may have three dimensions (length, width, and height). Space includes the background, fore, and middle ground.

Value refers to the relationship between light and dark on a surface or object and also helps create form. A value scale in fabric has 1 assigned to the lightest piece. Using a range of values in a work evokes a mood: middle values feel like a gray, rainy day; light values are cheery; and dark work is somber.

Color is a combination of light rays reflected from a surface. To see color a light source is necessary. Notice the lessening of discernable color when a light is dimmed and then turned off. Color has three characteristics: hue, value, and intensity.

Texture is the quality of a surface. In visual art, there are two types of texture: tactile and implied. In textile art, there is texture in the materials used such as checks, plaids, and tweeds.

Principles: Contrast, Emphasis, Rhythm, Movement, Pattern, Balance, Unity

Contrast is a design principle that provides visual interest. This can be accomplished using changes in scale, color, value, and shape.

Emphasis refers to areas of interest that guide the eye into and out of the image through the use of sequence, various levels of focal points, and a change of value or intensity of color.

Rhythm as a principle is used to organize a composition and create interest, unity, or emphasis. Visual rhythm is achieved by the same effort- repeating a shape, color, or line in a regular pattern.

Movement can be achieved with a consistent directional line, or group of lines, or by arranging shapes along an imaginary line.

Pattern is defined as a single unit of design used in repetition.

Balance – The eye perceives weights as being equal and balanced when they have the same value, or intensity of color creating harmony. A design with equal shapes on either side of the imaginary dividing center line has symmetrical balance and is boring. Changing a motif or color on one side puts interest into the work.

Unity refers to the sense that everything in a piece of work belongs there. It is achieved by the use of balance, repetition, and/or design harmony.

To have a successful design three parts must work together:
Materials, Techniques, and Composition