Being familiar with the elements and principles of design will empower you to create more effective visual messages whether you are a designer, a photographer or an artist.

In this post, I’ll be discussing about the elements of design.


When we discuss space we usually make the separation and describe it either as negative or positive space. Positive is the space filled with elements, whereas negative is the empty space. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart. Especially in optical illusions. But both of them are crucial for effective visual communication.

Common design mistakes:

  • Ignoring the negative space and filling up everything.
  • Trapping the negative space in the center of the layout thus leaving holes in the composition.

Remember that our purpose in any form of art is to communicate a message and not fill the canvas or page with clutter.


Line is our most essential tool in filling up the negative space. They come in many variations. They can be straight, angular or curvy. And also thick, thin, dashed, dotted, etc. Negative space itself can form lines. In example the lines of the margins in a page, or even our computer screen edge.

Lines are used to construct boxes and borders,but also even more sophisticated things like typography. Additionally they can be used to align, or arrange items in a layout. And control the viewer’s eye’s movement through our composition.


Shapes or form if you like, can either be organic or inorganic. Inorganic shapes and forms are precisely geometric, such as perfect squares, or circles, polygons etc. We call them so because they rarely appear in nature. Organic shapes and forms on the other hand are more easily found in nature. Both can trigger instant recognition, and evoke emotions.


Size of elements can be used to emphasize or make less prominent the items in a layout.  Size can either be relatively measured or of exact size.


Like shapes patterns too can either be organic or inorganic. But unlike shapes patterns are categorized according their repetition. Inorganic patterns are repeated without variation. Organic patterns are looking more “random” and natural. But still the same elements are getting repeated over and over, in different sizes or in varying distances.

Patterns create order and familiarity in layouts, and depending their usage can communicate a tactile quality.


Mixed media art, acrylic paint, thickly applied oil; the paper we use to print or draw all can provide texture. Texture makes things appear more organic and natural. Designers and artists have some times to create the illusion of a texture to make things more realistic either on screen or on paper.

Textures are also very often misused and overused in the design world. For example while adding a bevel or emboss might seem a good idea for a digital mockup, considering it for a print solution is not the best way to go. There are special techniques to achieve this effect in post-production.


Value refers to the tones of light and dark. Unlike most people opinions there isn’t just black and white. In between there is a spectacular range of varying shades of gray. And not just 50 mind you! In black and white photography, pictures with very little gray value, lack in variation and seem flat. The same is true in color compositions as well. There tonal values range from light to dark colors.

Value can create the sense of depth, and also create variation and visual interest. It can be used to emphasize, highlight things and de-emphasize others.

So next time you check a painting or a design try to spot and identify those elements. And maybe progressively start implementing them in your own designs, paintings and photographs.

Featured Image by Antranias (Pixabay)

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