the language of design is built on a framework of rules to give it order and purpose. Two fundamental and interdependent systems define the visual world; the elements and principles of design. Elements can be thought of as the mechanical properties of design, the parts we understand in the physical world. I will discuss the principles in a later post.
The nature of art and design is subjective and as a result the definitions and lists for design elements change from source to source. Understanding the core set of components and a simple definition of the elements of design is the first step in learning the language of design. As you develop your understanding of the visual dialogue you will be better equipped to make good decisions about furniture buying, home and office design, architecture, fashion, etc. Please keep in mind these are merely baby steps in learning the visual language, so don’t be discouraged if these seem difficult to understand at first – I will expand on them in greater detail as I continue to help you understand the visual world. I applaud you for taking this step in learning a new language and welcome your questions and comments.
I define the elements of design as the mechanical aspects of design that make up the visual world.
- line – there are two common manners to describe this. The first is to think about it as the visual pathway of a point in space. This is useful when thinking about how a two dimensional line functions, as it does in drawings. The second way to understand line is to think about it as the barrier that describes a shape in space. A 3-dimensional example of line as a barrier can be thought of as the corner of a building, the edge of a table, or separation of masses in sculpture.
- color – what we see in the visible light spectrum. True white is the presence of all color. White is produced by light, which is separated by refraction which our eyes interpret as color. True black is the absence of color. Without light there is no refraction, and therefore no color spectrum.
- value – can be applied to all colors and the entire range of grays that exist between true white and true black. Value describes the amount of lightness and darkness perceived in a color or gray within the visible spectrum
- shape – the implication of form. Shape can exist in either the 2 dimensional or the 3 dimensional world. It is best understood as a mass, or the indication of mass, in space.
- texture – this is how the eye interprets the tactile or physical attributes of a surface.
- space – this can be the area around or inside an object.