Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Starting with the Basics

Every designer uses the principles and elements of design to create a piece of work.

         “The Principles of Design are the abstract concepts that constitute the theory, bylaws, or governing ideas that determine the success of a design. Each element in a design can be evaluated according to these principles.” -Nielson

There are six principles of design. The first principle is scale. Scale refers to the size of an object. Objects, or furnishings, should be in relation to one another. When furnishings are out of scale to other furnishings in an area, the space lacks harmony. It’s pretty common sense. Large objects belong in large spaces, and small objects belong in small spaces. This rule, however, can be broken to create excitement or drama (Nielson, 54). Large furnishings in a small space will make the space feel smaller, and small furnishings in a larger area will make the area feel more spacious.

      This large man in this small car demonstrates poor scale. (Picture from

The second principle of design is proportion. Proportion is closely related to scale, dealing with shapes, forms, and their dimensions. An example of proportion would be the relationship between a tabletop and its legs. There has to be a “sense of rightness” and visual pleasure from looking at the chair. Many designers use the “golden mean” to achieve this feeling. The golden mean is a visual line dividing an object into two equal, but harmonious parts. Between one half and one third would be considered “visual pleasing” (Nielson, 55).

The next principle is balance, which is the arrangement of objects physically or visually to reach a state of equilibrium. Balance of a space is important because the need of balance in our lives is a natural human need. There are three different types of balance. Symmetrical balance creates a mirror image by placing identical objects on both sides of the focal point. A great example of symmetrical balance would be a butterfly. Asymmetrical balance can be achieved by placing objects that are not alike at various distances from the focal point. To achieve a state of equilibrium based on the circle would be the use of radical balance (Neilson, 56).     

Example of radical balance (picture from

Rhythm is another principle of design, referring to the flow of elements. The rhythm of a design can be compared to the rhythm in a song. The “beat”, or rhythm, carries the viewer’s eye along a path at a certain pace that is determined by the elements that illustrate it. 

Demonstrates gradation or progression rhythm (picture from

The principle emphasis is used to create a point of interest. Designers use various tricks to draw attention to a particular area, giving it greater emphasis. You can make anything in a room your focal point. Popular areas of focus include a beautiful fireplace, a magnificent piece of art work, or even a piece of furniture. Directing lines to your focal point, using more dramatic colors at the area of your focal point, and facing furniture toward your focal point, are all ways to emphasis an object in your space (Nielson, 59).

Demonstrates emphasis through the use of color (picture from

The last principle that ties all the other principles together is harmony. “Harmony is the combination of design elements, architecture, and furnishings into a pleasing or orderly whole.” (Nielson, 60). Each element and object within the space should all come together as one. Color schemes, furnishings, fabrics, materials, and accessories selected should all be cohesive with each other. They should all have a similar feeling of “consistency in character” (Nielson, 60). It’s always nice to spark a little interest or diversity by the lack of sameness. Variety is seen through the selection of different colors, textures, furniture, and contrast of materials, but without some order, variety can be confusing and ineffective (Nielson, 60).

Demonstrates harmony within a space (picture from

Work Cited

Nielsen, Karla, and David Taylor. Interiors: An Introduction. 5th ed. New York: Mc-Graw Hill, 2011. 54-60. Print.

1 comment:

  1. This is another excellent post. You do a lot to define terms and concepts that I'm sure you'll rely on in later posts. Your definitions are clear, and I really like your supporting images. Nicely done!

    One note: add Nielson as either a hyperlink or as a works cited entry. Readers at the moment don't know who this source is, the title of the work, etc. Always give us access!