Principles of Design

The job of the principles is to arrange and organize the elements (line, shape, space, texture, form, color) into aesthetically pleasing compositions. Or as Wendy Capo says in her blog:

Another way to think of these is as ingredients and the recipe.  In this case a sandwich

The Elements of Art are the ingredients or individual parts (bread, meat, cheese, peanut butter, mustard) We don’t use all the ingredients in one sandwich but they are available to use.

The Principals of Design is the sandwich.  Before we make a sandwich we decide what kind it will be.  This helps us select the ingredients and allows us to shape the finished look and taste of the sandwich.

Balance – The sense of equilibrium, no parts overpower or seem out of place. The comfortable arrangement of things in art. Radial, Asymmetrical, symmetrical
Unity – the elements work together to create a sense of completeness & order.Nothing looks out of place and all parts are resolved. Unity means all is in Harmony. Variety adds interest.
Contrast – the juxtaposition of opposing elements. When two things are placed together to create visual interest. The difference between elements in a work of art.
Emphasis Allows special importance to a particular part. The creation of a focal area in an artwork.
Pattern repetition of the elements of art. Decorates the surface with repeated visual units/motifs.
Rhythm The visual beat. The movement of the viewers eyes through a piece of artwork.  The repetition of shapes, lines and forms.
Movement – The way the eye travels through a piece of work. How we get around in a work of art.

Part of these definitions taken from Dan Haycock’s blog

Principles of Design paired with an artist/art history time period
By: Victoria Smith

  1. Balance: Dale Chihuly(type:glassblowing),  Jacques Louis David (neoclassicism)
  2. Unity: Gustave Courbet (Realism)
  3. Rhythm: Jackson Pollack, Holten Rower
  4. Contrast: Bridget Riley (Op Art)
  5. Pattern: M.C. Escher, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol (pop art)
  6. Emphasis: Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Matisse ( Fauvism)
  7. Movement: Alexander Calder, Theo Jansen, George Rickey
Related Videos
  • Emphasis
  • Balance
  • My YouTube Playlist
  • Composition by Louise Kane (discusses figure ground,negative space & rule of thirds) password composition
Related SmartBoard Links
Principles of Art Graphic Organizers
Apples to Apples Style Review Game

“Apple to Apples” style review game courtesy of Box Artist:
Students get in groups of 4, each group gets an identifying number, (example: 1 through 6). Each group gets a set of index cards or cut copy paper. They all put their group number on the back of all the papers. I write a principle on the board, and they each write it small on the front of their papers and each student does an illustration of their most advanced understanding of the art principles. (I do this with elements too) They have 1 minute to draw, and 1 more minute to judge at their group which sample at their group is the most advanced. I turn my back and each group places their best selection on my desk/teaching area. I turn around and say 1 good thing about each, and then explain why some are less or more advanced. I get to a single choice and that group wins a point to be added to the next exam/test/assessment. We do this through all the principles and they ALL improve. Elements too. It’s fun, and they learn. Steal it! Please. If you like this idea, please buy their book Art Assessments from Firehouse Publications.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.