Nutritional irony: a pattern of holes for breakfast.

Design is the structure of art. Art is more about the dynamic, creative response to the condition of living. Not all art requires structure though it’s hard to find an artistic expression that does not involve structure even at a minimum. Even the sky is a stage.

Now let’s switch from design as a docile noun to design as a dynamic verb. Here’s a definition you might find helpful as you use the exercises and resources in this site:

Design is the logical selection and arrangement of visual elements for order with interest.

Design involves logic and intuition, though necessarily not in that order. Design is not merely the result of knowing a program or mastering a technique, but it does rely on tools. The visual arts landscape is comprised of two primary sets of tools: Design Elements and Design Principles.

Design Elements are the more tangible of the two. They are comprised of:

Dots | Lines | Shapes | Volume | Value | Color | Texture | Space

Design Principles however are a different animal. They are all about coordinating any of the Design Elements with each other. Design Elements by comparison are pretty easy to recognize. Design Principles on the other hand feel more elusive; more abstract. A comb is a comb. A “passive area” is a what?

Each of the Design Principles listed below contains examples of how each principle functions in art, design or photography. The goal here is not to be consumed by these principles, but to become increasingly comfortable in using them. After a while, these principles will become a set of tools readily available at your whim and service.

Back to: Exercises in Unity & Composition