15 Jun

Designing Better Websites – Chapter One – The Elements of Design

    In its true essence, the elements of design can be referred to as the basic constituents that you can use to create a design and the principles are then in fact the rules or restrictions that these elements will follow in order to form a composition that is visually appealing. Given the above structure, a designer needs elements and principles on their fingertips like a painter needs paint! This article will briefly explain the elements of design and how they can be used to create compositions that can be used as drivers for a message.

    The Ingredients of a Good Design

    When we talk about chemistry, the periodic table of elements that we took too long to understand during high school immediately pops up in our minds. Just like the elements we have in design, the periodic table is a breakdown of all known elements which can combine to form newer substances and compounds. The elements of design can be combined in a similar fashion to bring out an appealing design and visually lead your prospects in any direction you may please. The following are the basic ingredients of successful design; Visual Elements, Design and Combination Principles, and Visual Effects.

    The Meaning of a Composition

    A methodical arrangement of all the elements at your disposal, with the use and application of principles, is what we call a composition. The principles that will be discussed in the next article are basically catalysts for the creative process and will help you plan out and organize all the elements present in your design. These principles are used to hold and guide the viewer’s consideration in a certain way and also command a decent amount of attention.

    The thought process behind the artwork can be made simpler by executing it with the help of the principles to enhance a certain effect and impact the audience a certain way. Let us discuss the basic elements that you can use to create a design from scratch.

    The Elements of Design

    Good knowledge of what you can do with a specific composition will always lead to the creation of a successful design, and while you can bend or completely ignore these rules once you establish a style as a designer, they are very important for the initial construction of your perception of design elements. You need to know the rules front and back in order to break them.


    A line is the most basic constituent of any shape or form; that is where it all begins. Combining more than two straight lines will give a shape, and even a single rounded line can be used to create a cylindrical form. The line can be thick, thin, textured, vertical, diagonal, horizontal, and with many contour lines so that they can have a distinct character that makes their presence in the design unique. No matter how complex a design you set out to create, the first step that you will take will start with a simple line.


    This refers to a specific hue being incorporated within your design and is another distinctive factor that can help you create a unique design. The color theory can be studied to create newer and better combinations of hues to send out many kinds of messages. Colors are often associated with a great many things and they can also be treated as a design language to trigger response from your clients.


    A very specific trait of all the shapes and lines you use in the design will be their texture. This element can take your design from a flat 2D surface to a 3D looking, textured one. It can be implied through simple procedures and can also be referred to as the degree of smoothness of roughness of the shape.


    This can be termed as the amount of light and dark in your design; there can be a million tones and shades of grays between black and white and all of them are called ‘values’. A value is basically the amount of black that you have in any color, and they can be used to create a million variations of colors to add visual effects.


    The 2-dimentional adjoining lines with a visual or tactile appearance are what you call a shape in design language. They can either be geometric or organic and are always flat until a principle is applied on it to make it appear 3D.


    The form of your shape can only be determined once it has been changed from 2D to 3D. Your object will have a certain volume and thickness once it makes the 3D shift and this will define the ‘form’ of your shape and whether it complements the other elements in the design or not.


    Lastly, and most importantly, we have the space. The space is your field where you will add shapes, lines, forms and then colors and values to create a design. The two constituents of any space are the negative area, which is the unoccupied area of the design where no shapes or forms, and the positive area which is the occupied area.

    Space is a visual element; it can become tricky to be conceptualized and a whole lot trickier to explain. But the secret to making design work for you is having a good command over the elements and the principles of design that can guide you through the creative process.

    What you need to understand clearly is that the negative space is just as important as the positive space, and any design with a bad combination of both will fail.

    To Be Continued…

    In the next article, we will discuss what can be done with these elements and how.


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