Design Elements
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Basic elements of design.

The design elements are the basic building blocks of visual communication. Design principles are the way in which the design elements are put together in the design, be it a graphic or object.


A mark or stroke used in drawing, Two connected points form a line. Lines can be described by refering to their length, width, style and direction. Lines can be used to draw attention to a section of the image, they can be used to add balance and to contribute to the mood, the style or even the feel of the picture or art piece.

For example consider three basic types of line. Horizontal, curved and sloping.

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Horizontal lines have a relaxing feeling. The horizontal lines in this image add to the calm effect. Curved lines have a seductive feeling, as in this picture of a room. Diagonal lines give the impression of movement, as this graphics shows. We can sense something speeding down this tunnel

Other attribtes of line can have an equally powerful effect on the message conveyed.


A designer needs to understand the aesthetics of colour as well as colour systems. When discussing colour as a design element the focus is on the aesthetics or imact of colour on the viewer rather than the theory on how colour is constructed and printed.

Color is an important element of any graphic design. Colour is a powerful way to add to the message of a design. Designers organize colour using colour wheels, which show the relationship between colours.


A traditional colour wheel containing primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.
The primary colours are yellow, blue and red. Secondary colours are created by mixing 2 primary colours. The secondary colours on this wheel are orange, green and violet. Tertairy colours are created by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. In this example they are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet. (There are various colour wheels for the various colour systems, such as RGB and HSV.)

Association Between Colours and Emotions

did you know that colours can trigger different emotional responses in the brain? Each colour is associated with a different emotion in terms of using it to convey a message. Companies use specific colourations in advertising their product to inspire a certain feeling in the consumers. A good example of this is Coca-Cola using the colour red to inspire excitement and happiness. Another good example of this is Cadbury chocolate using purple to inspire creativeness.

FUN FACT: Cadbury tried to copyright a certain shade of purple dubbed "Cadbury Purple". They failed to receive the copyright however.

Harmonious vs complementary colour

On the colour wheel harmonious colours refers to colours that appear side by side on the colour wheel. They can be used together in a design to create subtle variations. Harmonious colours, as the name suggests, produce a deisgn where the colours don not clash or contrast. The effect can be calm and dignified. Complementary colours are opposite one another on the colour wheel. These colours create contrast and drama within a design and can be used to draw the viewer's eye to key information. Complementary colours can be used to create deliberate tension within a composition.

In this illustration from Guthrie 1 we see how colour can be used to change the effect communicated by a design.


(Copyright Kirsten Guthrie 1. Used by permission.)

Warm and cold colours

Colour can also be described as warm and cold. Reds, oranges and yellows look warm to the eye, while blue and grey appear cold. This graphic from Guthrie 1 illustrates the effect.

(Copyright Kirsten Guthrie 1. Used by permission.)

Cultural considerations

There are many things to consider when using colour. Generally in western culture primary colours are bright, uplifting and familiar, while secondary and tertairy colours produce more subtle impressions. Designers need to be aware of their audience and in different cultures colors can have very different meanings. In western culture white is accociated with purity and brides are traditionally dressed in white. In chinese culture, however, white is associated with death and is worn at funerals, so a designer attempting to convey purity and cleanliness to a Chinese audience would need to be aware of that cultural difference. Red is a lucky colour in china and is used a lot in new year celebrations, so Chinese brides are traditionally dressed in red. 1 These are just a couple of examples to illustrate the point that communicating messages across cultures poses particular problems.


A shape is an area that stands out from the space next to due to a defined or implemented boundry or becasue of differences of value colour or texture.
Shapes can vary in size shape and colour, a shape is formend when a line encloses an area. Obviously simple shapes are easier to remeber than more complex shapes.


Geometric Shapes
•Can be described using mathematical terms
•They are very regular or precise
•They are more often found in man-made things because they are easier to reproduce and make things with
•Examples of geometric shapes are: squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, oval, pentagons and so on.

Free-form or Organic Shapes
•are difficult to describe using definitons
•are irregular or uneven
•are more often found in nature
•example coule include the shape of clouds, puddles, trees, leaves, rocks and so on.


Texture is defined as the surface characteristics of a material that can be experienced through the sense of touch or the illusion of touch.
In visual images, actual textures can be used, such as cloth, boxes, small objects,
and natural items, texture can be used to accent an area so that it becomes more dominant than another.

There is also the texture which you can touch (In real life) such as the surface of a rock has a texture, a tree, a cloth. Everything in the world has a texture.

1. Guthrie, Kristen 2012, Nelson visual communication and design: VCE units 1-4, 3rd edn, Cengage Learning, South Melbourne/AU, pp. 64-65.
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