Elements of Design Paola Mejia

Line: a mark made by a tool as it is drawn across a surface. The tool can be almost anything - a pencil, a pointed brush, a computer and mouse, even a cotton swab. Also, a line is defined as a moving dot or point, or can be called an open path.

  • Line can describe shape, so we can recognize objects.
  • Implied Lines are created by positioning a series of points so that your eye automatically connects them.
  • Psychic Lines create a mental connection between two elements. There is NO REAL LINE.
  • Lines have direction.
  • Horizontal Lines imply quiet, and repose or tranquility.
  • Vertical Lines have potential for activity or movement, but also represent strength and nobility.
  • Diagonal Lines suggest motion.
  • Contour Lines follow the edges of forms to describe outlines.
  • Gesture Lines show action or dynamics of a pose like actions lines in a comic book.

Shape: a visually perceived area created either by an enclosing line, or color or value changes defining the outer edge.

  • Shapes can show “realism” or images as they are seen.
  • Shapes can show “distortion” or have a purposeful exaggeration of what is seen.
  • Shapes can show “idealism” or represent something as it “should” be in an ideal world.
  • Shapes can show “abstraction” or a simplification of natural shapes to essential basic shapes

Value: the description of lightness or darkness of a visual element

  • Value Contrast is the relationship of one element to another in respect to lightness and darkness
  • Value Contrast helps identify the separate elements of a design.
  • Low Contrast uses a narrow range of values meaning there is not much difference in the lightness and darkness
  • High Contrast uses a wide range of values or a huge difference in the lightness and darkness in a design.

Texture: is the tactile quality of a surface or the representations of surface quality.

  • Tactile Textures are real. We can actually feel them.
  • Visual Textures are illusionary. They give the impression of real textures.
  • Pattern or the repetitive arrangement of elements can create texture.


  • Hue is the name of the color. Example: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black
  • Value is the range of lightness or darkness of a hue. Example: Light Blue, Dark Blue
  • Saturation is the brightness or dullness of a color.
  • RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue which are the three primary colors when working with light. All colors seen on a monitor or screen are created using the RGB model.
  • Red, Green, and Blue are additive primaries because when you mix equal amounts of Red, Green, and Blue you create white light.
  • CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black which is used for offset printing or four-color process printing.
  • Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are subtractive primaries because when these are mixed they create black.
  • Subtractive Primaries deal with ink or pigment while Additive Primaries deals with light.

Format: the substrate or support for a graphic design.

  • Format deals with size, shape, material, and purpose.
  • Contextual Constraints can be where and how the designs will be seen.
  • Magazines are seen up close
  • Billboards are seen while driving and at a distance
  • Budget is also a contextual format

Contrast is created when two elements are very different.

  • Size - Use various sized elements to create contrast
  • Color - Complementary colors are easy ways to create contrast. Use colors that are very different from each other.
  • Shape - Use different shapes to create contrast

Repetition is created when you repeat some aspect of the design throughout the entire piece.

  • Any element can be repeated.
  • Font
  • Line
  • Bullet
  • Color
  • Design Element
  • Format
  • Spatial Relationships
  • Anything the reader will visually recognize

Alignment is placing items on a page so they have a visual connection with something else on the page.

  • When items are aligned it creates a stronger, cohesive unit.
  • Even when elements are physically separated from each other, if they are aligned there is an invisible line that connects them.
  • Alignment tells the reader that different elements belong together.

Proximity is when you group related items together.

  • Group related items so the viewer sees them as one cohesive unit.
  • Items that are NOT related should not be close to other elements.

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