LauraCatudan1Design Defined

Let’s first define the term design. Design is one of those words that can be used either as a noun or a verb and has certainly been defined by numerous artists and designers in a variety of ways. Here’s the definition we’ll be using over the course:

Design is the logical selection and arrangement of visual elements for order with interest.

Yes, design is about order, but the wildcard here is “with interest”. What’s interesting? Variety is interesting. “Variety is the spice of life” as the saying goes. Without variety, life is only one color of gray without a chance of change. Art is the dynamic, creative extension of life itself. Design is the structure of art.

Design is not the result of taming a software program as a growing number of you have come to realize by now. “Thinking outside the box” begins by acknowledging that first there’s a box. Originally, it likely had a bar code on it.

Your Toolbox

The visual arts are comprised of two sets of tools:
(1) Design Elements
(2) Coordinating Principles

Design Elements

Two-dimensional Design Elements are relatively tangible tools:

  • Lines
  • Shapes
  • Volume
  • Value
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Space

Anyone who’s previously taken an art class has likely come across these terms and possibly seen them applied. But it’s not the Design Elements that cause the greatest confusion among creatives. It’s their intangible counterpart, the Coordinating Principles of Design, that will deservedly be addressed in this blog and site. Each of the 11 principles listed below is linked to an accompanying video that demonstrates how each principle functions in art, design and photography.

The goal here is not to be consumed by these principles, but to become increasingly comfortable in using them. After a while, these principles will become a set of visual tools readily available at your whim and service.

The Coordinating Principles of Design include:

Proportion:
> Proportion is the most important of all the coordinating principles.
> All of the coordinating principles and the design elements are affected by proportion.
> Here’s the skinny: Proportion is all about the amounts used…of anything.
> The amounts used of one or several elements (line, shape, color, etc.) in combination with other elements is always controlled by proportional considerations.
> Balance is about adjusting proportions to achieve equilibrium.
> Contrast is the most dynamic expression of comparison.

Direction and Movement:
> Either can provide the underlying dynamic in creating a visual flow.
> Major modes of direction: horizontal, vertical, diagonal, triangular, spiral, radiating,concentric, dilational…just for starters!
> Many shapes have direction: triangles, ovals, rectangles.
> All lines have direction or imply movement.

Positive/Negative:
> The space around an object in a composition is as important as the object itself. There are only proportional differences in their importance.
> Negative space has shape.
> The negative space around a positive object can be more interesting or more active than the object itself.
> Also referred to as Form and Space
> Confused with – but very similar to – Figure/Ground relationships.

Continuity:
> A very dynamic means for organizing design elements into a visual flow.
> Physical Continuity: touching of elements will lead the eye through a composition. Imagine a fallen line of domino pieces.
> Visual Continuity: the eye flows across an open area and connects two or more elements. Especially found when the contours of various objects share the same axis. Frequently called, alignment. Imagine the same line of domino pieces standing in line, before their collapse.

Dominant/Subordinant:
> Creates the relative level of interest and emphasis among all design elements and coordinating principles.
> Establishes a visual hierarchy: what will the viewer see 1st, 2nd, etc.
> Many great designs have one clearly dominant direction or movement.
> Many confusing designs have too many dominant directions or movements.
> Great designs not only have one dominant direction, they also have at least one subordinate direction.

Repetition:
> Creates a pattern of similarity that make the eye comfortable as it moves through the composition.
> Repetition can affect any of the design elements. Color, value, line, shape, etc.

Variation:
> Basically, a shift in similarities. For instance: three red 1″ circles and one gray 1″ circle.
> Adds visual dynamics.
> Keeps things interesting.
> Repetition and Variation work hand-in-hand like garlic and ginger, salt and pepper, etc.

Active/Passive:
> Establishes primary and secondary areas of interest.
> The most active element in a composition will usually be the Focal Point.
> Multiple focal points can cause confusion.

Advancing/Receding:
> Illusionary creation of three-dimensional space or Depth.
> Can be created by overlap, placement, value, color (warm colors advance, cool colors recede), active-passive (active things advance, passive things recede), bright vs. neutral (bright things advance, neutral or dull things recede).

Transition:
> A step in-between.
> Transparency is a dynamic example of transition.
> Elements that bleed are a transition from (or to) the edge of a working area.
> Medium is the transition between large and small.
> Gray is the transition between dark and light.
> Connects two or more elements in a natural fashion.

Unity:
> Similarity, oneness, togetherness, or cohesion.
> Diminishes chaos.
> Grouping, overlapping, containment, proximity, continuity,
closure, pattern, grids, are the primary ways of creating unity.

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