Seven Elements of Design

design elements - illustration image by Vania from

Design is a method of organization and the elements of design are the means by which that organization is applied. According to the Cyber Oregon Online COOL School website, the elements of design serve as the language of art; they offer key words that help translate a work of art into components that you can evaluate, compare and discuss.


Color (also known as hue) is a wavelength of light. Considering a piece of art, the observer may note the range of colors used or avoided. Color can evoke emotion or symbolically represent aspects of culture or society. Complimentary colors may create contrast, while analogous colors create harmony. Monochromatic colors demonstrate variations of a single color using various tints and shades. Colors may be cool or warm.


Value (also known as tone) encompasses the light or dark aspects of color. Value also covers the contrast between light and dark on a scale from white to black. Value may demonstrate depth.


The simple line offers great variety. Lines have a position, a direction in space and a single dimension represented by their length. Lines may run horizontally, vertically or on a diagonal. Lines may be straight, curved, dotted, wavy, thick or thin. They subtly organize and direct the eye of the observer, leading him through the piece of art as if on a tour, giving direction and communicating movement. Lines can show texture and emotion.


A shape is a closed line forming geometric or free-form/natural areas in space. Shapes may be two- or three-dimensional. Shapes have length and width and may show perspective. Shape as a closed line may also perform some of the duties of lines, giving direction and leading the observer visually. Circles and rectangles are examples of shapes.


Form encompasses three dimensions, adding depth to the length and width of shape. A pyramid, cylinder, box or ball represents a form. Both manmade forms and organic/natural forms exist. Shading may add the illusion of form.


Texture translates the quality of a surface, representing its look and feel. The qualities of texture may range from soft to hard, smooth to rough, wet to dry. The look (or implied texture) does not have to match the feel (the tactile or real texture).


Space represents the area around an object, within an object or between objects. Space may give the illusion or effect of depth. Positive space represents the subject of a piece. The area around objects may be referred to as negative space and acts as more than emptiness. Negative space serves to balance and to highlight positive shapes.