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The Principles of Design. Principles of Design. The Rules that govern how the artists organize the elements of Art. The Principles are Balance, Rhythm, Repetition, Pattern, Movement, Proportion, Emphasis and Variety or Contrast. Balance.

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The Principles of Design

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The principles of design l.jpg

The Principles of Design

Principles of design l.jpg

Principles of Design

  • The Rules that govern how the artists organize the elements of Art.

  • The Principles are Balance, Rhythm, Repetition, Pattern, Movement, Proportion, Emphasis and Variety or Contrast.

Balance l.jpg


  • Principle of design concerned with equalizing the visual forces or elements in the work of art.

  • The types of balance are:

    • Symmetry or Formal Balance

    • Asymmetry or Informal Balance

    • Radial Balance

Symmetry l.jpg


  • Also called Formal Balance

  • Occurs when equal or very similar, elements are placed on opposite sides of a central axis.

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Examples of Symmetry or Formal Balance

Asymmetry l.jpg


  • Also called Informal Balance

  • Occurs when there is a balance of unlike objects.

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Examples of

Informal Balance

or Asymetry

Baby at Play

by Thomas Eakins

The Great Wave off Kanagawa


Katsushika Hokusai

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Radial Balance

  • Type of Balance in which forces or elements of a design come out or radiate from a central point.

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Examples of

Radial Balance

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  • Principles of Design that indicates movement by the repetition of elements.

  • There are four types of Rhythm

    • Random

    • Regular

    • Alternating

    • Progressive


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Progressive Rhythm



M C Escher

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  • Technique for creating rhythm and unity in which a single element is appears again and again.

  • Repetition is very similar to Rhythm and they are usually used together by sometimes you can have Rhythm without Repetition (example, Progressive Rhythm)

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Progressive Rhythm



M C Escher

This work uses

Rhythm but

not Repetition

Pattern l.jpg


  • A Two-dimensional, visual repetition

  • Examples of Pattern are fabric, wallpaper, bed spreads.

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Work by Henri Matisse that uses a lot of pattern

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  • Principle of design that deals with creating the illusion of action or physical change in position.

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Dynamism of a

Dog on a Leash


Giacomo Balla


Oil on Canvas

The many repetitions of the legs, feet, tail,

and chain in this work give it the appearance

of actual movement.

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Nude Descending a Staircase

by Marcel Duchamp

Captures the feeling

of movement that occurs

when someone

is walking down the


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Mobile from National Gallery of Art

Lobster Trap and Fish Tail

Most art does not really move

but there are some

examples of mobiles by

Alexander Calder that

do move.

Proportion l.jpg


  • The principle of art concerned with the size relationship of one part to another.

  • If you have ever tried to draw a human figure and realized that the head was too big or small compared to the rest of the body, you were already using the principle of proportion.

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Facial Proportions

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Body Proportion

  • The basic rule of

    thumb is that

    the body is 71/2 or

    8 times the size of

    the head.

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Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), Study of proportions, from Vitruvius's De Architectura, pen and ink

Leonardo, inspired by the mathematician Vitruvius (Roman, 1st century BCE), drew this famous picture of Vitruvian Man -- a sort of idealfigure -- whose arm span is equal to his height -- a ratio of one, or 1:1.

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Artist can change

the actual proportion

at any time. In this

work by Michelangelo,

he made Mary much larger

than the body of Jesus.

If Mary could stand up, she

would be about nine feet

tall! He did this so that

she wouldn’t look crushed by

the weight of the body.

The Pieta by Michelangelo

Examples of contemporary artists who distort proportion l.jpg

Examples of Contemporary Artists who distort proportion.

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The principle of design that makes one part of a work dominant over the other parts.

That dominant part is called the

“Focal Point”.

The Focal Point is the first part of the work to attract the viewers attention.

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Emphasis by Location

In the Dining Room

by Berthe Morisot

The young woman appears

to be in the center of

this painting.

A lot of times, we

naturally look in the

center of the picture

first like we would with

a photo or camera.

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Emphasis byContrast

Rembrandt.Self-Portrait. c. 1629. Oil on canvas.

Rembrandt uses value

contrast to create a

focal point in this work.

Only the head and the

area immediately around

it are painted in light

values. The background

sinks into darkness.

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Emphasis by Convergence

Baptism in Kansas


John Steuart Curry

In this painting all

the people are

staring at the preacher

and the girl. The

viewer becomes one

of the crowd and

stares too.

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Emphasizing with theUnususal

Time Transfixed, 1939

Artist: Rene Magritte



By placing very

unusual objects or

impossible activities in a

work, an artist can also

create a focal point.

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Contrast or Variety

  • Principle of Design concerned with difference or contrast.

An artwork which makes use of many differenthues, values, lines, textures, and shapes would reflect the artist's use of variety.

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This Art work




shapes, and

vegetables to

make the

picture more


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Exit Ticket

  • Draw examples of the following:

    • 1. Symmetry (formal Balance)

    • 2. Asymmetry (informal balance)

    • 3. Radial Balance

    • 4. Any Type of Rhythm

    • 5. Pattern

    • 6. Realistic Proportion

    • 7. Unrealistic Proportion

    • 8. Variety

    • 9. Emphasis

By mary ann dyer feb 2005 l.jpg

byMary Ann DyerFeb. 2005

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