This section breaks down concepts and basic terminology used in art and design to formally describe and address artwork in an educated way. These concepts help us fundamentally understand the “what, where, how, and why” of artwork in universally accepted terms in the art and design community.

First, the “Elements of Design”

The elements of design are fundamental building blocks that can be used to objectively identify and define formal aspects of the design process. They are used to achieve overall unity in compositions. They can be broken down into two categories: 2-D and 3-D elements:

Two Dimensional Design Elements

2D design is visual only, and it is produced on a flat plane whose space is defined by length and width, assuming no real volume. It uses spacial illusion to depict visual information.

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Space
  • Texture
  • Value
  • Color

Three-Dimensional Design Elements

3D design occupies real space and has volume. It has length, width and depth, and it obeys laws of physics.

  • Form

Next, the “Principles of Design”

The “principles of design” are mechanisms of arrangement and organization for the various elements of design in artwork. Please note that different sources might list slightly different versions of the “Principles of Design,” but the core fundamentals are essentially the same.

  • Harmony
  • Balance
  • Proportion
  • Dominance/Emphasis
  • Variety
  • Movement
  • Rhythm


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