Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Elements and Principles of Design

There really is no mystery involved in making a space beautiful - only simple, universal rules. No matter what your budget or style, by familiarizing yourself with these basic concepts of design, you can make any space appealing.

D E S I G N E L E M E N T S :
The fundamental components of design.


In regards to interior design, your space is your canvas and is often defined by a room with three dimensions (length, width, and height). Space includes the background, foreground and middle ground. Space refers to the distances or areas around, between, or within the components of an object.

(Positive space = goblet, negative space = 2 profiles of human faces)

There are two types of space: positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the space of a shape representing the subject matter. Negative space refers to the open space around the subject matter. (examples: rooms, walls, floors, etc)

2. LINE:

A continuous extent of length. Every line has length, thickness, and direction. There are curved, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zig-zag, wavy, parallel, dashed, and dotted lines. The edges of shapes and forms are created by lines. (examples of lines in home decor: architectural features (ie: the built-in component of a space such as windows, staircases, fireplaces, etc), furniture, drapery, lighting fixtures, artwork, etc - lines are everywhere!)


An area enclosed by lines. Shapes are two dimensional and can be geometric (square, triangle, circle, etc), or organic (irregular). Shapes in house decor and interior design can be used to add interest, style, and theme to a design. (examples of shape in home decor: architectural features, artwork, pillows, etc)

4. FORM:

Any three dimensional object. Form can be measured, from top to bottom (height), side to side (width), and from back to front (depth). There are two types of form: geometric (man-made) and natural (organic). Form may be created by the combining of two or more shapes. It may be enhanced by tone, texture and colour. (examples of form in home decor: furniture, cabinetry, etc)


Colour is perhaps the most expressive element of design. Colour, and particularly contrasting color is used to draw attention to particular objects in a space. Colour adds interest, and visual appeal to a home's decor. Colour can affect the mood, atmosphere, and feeling of a space, and can hold symbollic meaning. There are primary colours, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. Primary colours consist of red, blue, and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing primary colours on either sides of the colour wheel and consist of orange, purple (violet), and green. Tertiary colours are made by mixing a primary and secondary color. Tertiary colours consist of red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, yellow-orange, and yellow-green. Complimentary colours are colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel. Complimentary colours are used to create contrast. Analogous colours are colours that are found side by side on the colour wheel and analogous colours can be used to create colour harmony. A Monochromaticcolour scheme is composed of tints and shades of one colour. A tint of a colour means white is added to the colour, and a shade of a colour means black is added to the colour. Warm colours are a group of colours that remind us of warm places and things such as red, yellow, and orange. Cool colours are colours that remind us of cool places and things such as purple, green, and blue. Neutral colours often refer to colours commonly found in nature such as brown, beige, grey, etc. (examples of colour in home decor: everything!)


The tactile quality of a surface. There are two types of texture: tactile and implied. Tactile texture is the way the surface of an object actually feels when touched (rough, fluffy, bumpy, smooth, etc). Implied texture is the way the surface on an object looks like it feels (often found in photographs, or artwork). Texture adds interest and variety to a space. (examples of texture in home decor: carpets, baskets, blinds, plants, textiles, etc)

D E S I G N P R I N C I P L E S :
Principles which govern how design elements are used, and organize the composition as a whole.


The recurrence of elements within a space (ex: colours, lines, shapes, values, etc.) Any element that occurs in the space is generally echoed, often with some variation to keep interest. Rhythm involves repetition which creates a pattern.


The use of different design elements, which creates interest and reduces monotony. Successful designs seek variety by incorporating all design elements into a space.


Achieved through a successful balance of repetition and variety. When some, or many of the components in a space (usually three or four objects depending on the size of the space) such as a furniture, drapes, pillows, etc share one or more common traits (ex: colour, shape, texture, pattern, material, theme, style, size, etc).


The occurrence of contrasting elements, such as big/small, light/dark, etc. Contrast creates interest and draws attention.


Can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical designs involve placing design elements in identical "mirror-image" left and right arrangements. Asymmetrical designs are not identical left and right arrangements, but are nevertheless balanced by one or more shared elements in the components (height, volume, colour, etc)


(an example of inappropriate scale: the picture on the wall is much too small for the size of the wall)

Proportion involves the relationship of size between objects. (Large objects look best when placed in large spaces, narrow objects look best in narrow spaces, etc).


Should be placed on areas of interest (focal points) in the space such as architectural features, or points of functionality. Emphasis hierarchy (primary, secondary, and tertiary) give direction and organization to a design, and avoid confusion in a space (the primary focus point or area receives the largest emphasis). Emphasis or dominance of an object can be increased by making the object larger, more colourful, sophisticated, or by placing it in the foreground if possible.


  1. Awesome simple explanation of a rather complicated subject! Thanks!!!

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  3. Great post. Beautiful pictures...Like home furnishing items very much :)

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