Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Theory a Reality

For those following, last week  I explained what the Principles of Design were and their importance to a potential space. This week I will talk about the Elements of the Design, which “embodies the Principles of Design and transforms theory into reality.” (Nielson, 55) Without the Elements of Design, it would be impossible to execute the six Principles of Design (scale, proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis, and harmony).

Space can be positive (filled) or negative (open). Different spaces give us different feelings. Small spaces, for instance, make us feel protected and secure, while large spaces give us the feeling of freedom.

Notice the open space in this room. This is a great example of negative space.
Picture from here.

A triangle, rectangle, and a hexagon are all examples of  Shape. Shape is two dimensional, “often seen as a geometric figure” (Nielson, 64). Form is a three dimensional shape, such as a cube, sphere, or cone.

                “The key to selecting  forms is to balance them against the proportion and  scale of the    architecture for the desired psychological effect or feeling and to select each form to complement     other near by forms.” -Nielson
2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes. Picture from here. 

 Mass is the “relative solidity of a form”. For example, lets say you  have a couch and a futon with the same dimensions. The couch is old and sturdy , but very comfortable because of the thick cushioning.  The futon is the same length and width, but has a metal frame, with metal arms and a removable cushion. Even though both pieces have the same dimensions, the couch has greater visual mass. Many designers use the technique of “massing” to balance out larger pieces of furniture or “architectural components,“ such as a window or a fireplace, with another part of the room. This creates unification, or harmony (Nielson, 64).

Notice the use of massing, or grouping, to create balance in this space.
Picture from here.

Lines are important for creating a particular mood in a room. They also create effects such as increased height, width, or impression of movement. Lines can be straight, angular, or curved.

                “The Psychology Effects of  Straight Lines…..
                -Horizontal: weighty, secure, restful, repose
                -Vertical: imposing, lofty, solid, formal, restrained

                The Psychology Effects of Angular Lines…..
                -Diagonal: action, movement, interest, angular stability
                -Zigzag: exciting, lively, rhythmic movement

                The Psychology Effects of Curved Lines…
                -Curved or Circular: soft, humanizing, repetitive tempo, graceful
                -Flowing: gentle movement , growth, linear development
                -Tightly Curved or Busy: playful activity, zest, lively visual stimulation” (Nielson, 66)

Architect Frank Llyod Wright used horizontal lines to make this house appear larger than what it really is.
Picture found here. 

Texture can be smooth (formal) or rough (casual). A smooth surface reads “cold and unwelcoming”, and a rough surface reads as “harsh and irritating”. Pattern can be read as “visual” texture.

                “A balance and variety of texture is necessary within a unified theme in order to achieve harmony.” (Nielson, 67)

This sample of wood grain is an example of a pattern that can also be view as visual texture or actual texture.
Picture from here.

Light is probably the most important elements of design because it affects all the other elements. It can affect the appearance of a space, making it look larger or smaller. It can affect the form or shape of furnishings in a room. It can alter the way we read patterns and texture, as well as the identity of  a color of the wall. Light can be natural (from the sun) or artificial (from a lamp).
This room uses the natural light from the sun.
Picture from here.

Color is probably the most emotional and personal element of design. Colors, or hues, give us different emotions. Warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellow) are stimulating. They read as friendly, cozy, and inviting, while cool colors (blues, greens, and violets) are calming and give us the feeling of restraint, dignity, and formality. The value of a hue refers to it’s lightness or darkness. The color pink is just a lighter version of red, and burgundy is a darker version of red. Lighter colors open up a space, while darker colors make a space feel smaller.
This hot pink kitchen is bright, bubbly, and fun. This space looks very welcoming and exciting all because of the paint choice. Picture from here.

Now that we got through the basic language of design, we can get rolling into the good stuff.  I can talk about the emphasis of a vase full of roses on a dining room table or Frank Llyod Wright’s use of  horizontal lines to make a space appear larger and know that you will understand what I am talking about.  There is a lot to take in consideration when creating a space for someone. I hope you have realized that after learning the principles and elements of design. Until next time folks! Happy Designing!

Work Cited

Nielsen, Karla, and David Taylor. Interiors: An Introduction. 5th ed. New York: Mc-Graw Hill, 2011. 55-67. Print.


  1. You have explained the elements of design here in a very clear and concise way. This post can easily explain the basics of design to someone who may have never heard of any of these terms. The photos you selected also help to further explain the definition of each element. It was also an excellent idea to make a post about concepts that will be used throughout the rest of your blog.

  2. I think this was a great post, another in the "definition" column, and a good one to explain to your readers what terms and concepts you're going to use. This is perfect as an archival post as well. I was excited to see you say that you're ready to start writing on your impressions and beliefs about particular interior design. Can you, for example, evaluate/review some HGTV design shows and the works the designers complete? Let's see where your stylistic interest is. You can also design a room and show us how you did that and connect it with these terms. Or you can find samples of spaces that appeal to you and explain how the space works/doesn't work. There are so many ways to go here!