Principles of Design

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unity
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variety
Principles of Design
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harmony
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The effects that result when the elements of art are
structured to achieve a successful composition.
emphasis
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rhythm
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movement
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balance
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pattern
Janet Fish
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Cut Peach,
proportion
Blue Vase
Balance
The arrangement of the elements to create a feeling of stability in an
artwork.
Types:
• Formal = equal for very similar elements are mirrored along
a vertical or horizontal axis or many radiating axis
• Informal = artist considers the visual weight of all the
elements and places them accordingly, with no consideration
of an axis
Sometimes an artist will purposely strive for imbalance in
their work.
Informal balance in Joan Miró’s
Landscape (The Hare). The large
but thin curvilinear object on the
left is balanced by the smaller
but heavier shapes on the right.
Formal balance
along a central
vertical axis in
Diego Rivera’s
Flower Day and
radiating from
the top center of
Dorothy
Torivio’s Vase.
Proportion
Refers to the size relationships of parts to one another and to the
whole.
The Golden Mean
A shape divided into two parts so that the ratio of the smaller
part to the larger part is the same ratio of the larger part to the
whole.
Exaggeration and distortion are deviations from expected or
normal proportions.
Realistic proportion in
Marisol’s The Family
and in Duane Hanson’s
Tourists II.
Disproportion and
exaggeration in Amedeo
Modigliani’s Head and in
Pablo Picasso’s Three
Dancers.
Variety
The inclusion of differences among the elements in a composition to
offset unity and add interest to a work.
Gustav Klimt Tree of Life
Emphasis
There is an element or combination of elements that create(s) a focal
point for the viewer.
Emphasis can be created through contrast, isolation, location,
convergence/lead lines or the unusual.
Contrast refers to the degree of
difference between elements, most
commonly value, color and texture.
Contrast is the key to a welldefined artwork such as The Girl
with a Pearl Earring by Jan
Vermeer.
Isolation means putting
one object alone, apart
from all the others as in
Andrew Wyeth’s
Christina’s World.
Location refers to placing
objects near the center of
the space, causing them to
be noticed first as in
Odilon Redon’s Red Boat
with a Blue Sail. Watch
out though; this can be too
predictable.
Convergence / Lead lines are
implied or actual lines that draw
your eye to a specific area or the
composition as in Vincent Van
Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night.
The unusual refers to placing
something unexpected in the
composition to capture and hold the
viewer’s attention as in David
Alfero Siqueiros’ Echo of a Scream.
Unity
The sense of wholeness that results from the successful combination
of elements in an artwork.
Harmony creates unity by stressing the similarities of
separate but related parts of the composition.
Jasper Johns
Numbers
Elizabeth Catlett
Sharecropper
Robert Gwathmey
Sunday Morning
Rhythm
A way of combining elements to produce the appearance of
movement, usually through repetition.
Movement
Refers to the arrangement of parts in an artwork to create a sense of
motion, or in some case, actual movement.
Marcel
Duchamp
Nude
Descending
Staircase
Alexander Calder The Star
Pattern
Concerned with decorative surface decoration in a repetitive and
recognizable organization.
A motif is the unit that is repeated, sometimes with variations.
Types of rhythm and pattern include random, regular,
alternating, flowing and progressive.
M. C.
Escher