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The elements of design are the building blocks of what a visual artist or graphic designer uses to make a successful composition.

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What Are the Elements of Design?

The elements of design are the fundamental aspects of any visual design which include shape, color, space, form, line, value, and texture. Graphic designers use the elements of design to create an image that can convey a certain mood, draw the eye in a certain direction, or evoke a number of feelings. While the elements of design form the basics of any image, designers also lean on the principles of design, which are a set of practices of working with the elements of design that make a composition look pleasing to the eye.

The Elements of Design

There are a variety of graphic design elements to consider when creating any visual work of art, whether it be for interior design, a logo, an advertisement, or web design. The basic elements of design are:

  1. Color: Color helps establish a mood for your composition. When light waves strike an object and reflect back to the optic nerve in a human’s eyes, the sensation they perceive is called color. Artists and designers use color to depict and describe the subject. Color is used by designers to portray mood, light, depth, and point of view. Designers use the color wheel and the tenets of color theory—a set of guidelines for mixing, combining, and manipulating colors—to create color schemes.
  2. Line: Line refers to the way that two points in space are connected. Whether they’re horizontal lines, diagonal lines, or vertical lines, lines can help direct the eye toward a certain point in your composition. You can also create texture by incorporating different types of lines such as curved or patterned lines instead of just straight lines.
  3. Value: In design, value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. The values of a color are often visualized in a gradient, which displays a series of variations on one hue, arranged from the lightest to the darkest. Artists can use the various values of color to create the illusion of mass and volume in their work.
  4. Space: Making proper use of space can help others view your design as you intended. White space or negative space is the space between or around the focal point of an image. Positive space is the space that your subject matter takes up in your composition. The spacing of your design is important because a layout that’s too crowded can overwhelm the viewer’s eye.
  5. Shape: In its most basic form, a shape is a two-dimensional area that is surrounded by an outline. Graphic artists can use other elements including line, color, value, and shadow to give a shape the appearance of a three-dimensional shape. There are three types of shapes: organic shapes which occur naturally in the world, geometric shapes which are angular and mathematically consistent, and abstract shapes that represent things in nature but aren’t perfectly representative.
  6. Form: Form pertains to the way that a shape or physical configuration occupies space. Instead of creating form through three-dimensional physical shape, designers create the appearance of form on a flat surface by using light, shadow, the appearance of an object’s contours, negative space, and the surrounding objects around the subject matter.
  7. Texture: Texture is one of the elements of design that is used to represent how an object appears or feels. Tactile texture is a physical sense of touch, whether it’s rough, smooth, or ribbed. Visual texture, on the other hand, refers to the imagined feel of the illustrated texture, which can create more visual interest and a heightened sensory experience.
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What Are the Differences Between the Elements and Principles of Design?

The elements of design refer to the basic building blocks of any composition. The principles of design refer to how the elements are used, like the symmetrical and asymmetrical balance, pattern, emphasis, movement, and proportion. The principles of design are a set of cardinal rules and techniques for composing the various elements of design.

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