Fundamental Elements Of Design

Do you like design? Want to know how to design? Then you should learn the basics of design.

The basic elements of design includes color, line, shape, scale, space, value and texture and these are the fundamental pieces that makes up any piece of work.


Color is powerful because it can change our mood – the mood of potential customers. Finding the right choice of colors is an art because everyone interpret colors differently. Therefore, the trick is about an entire selection. No color scheme is ideal or universal. There is no best palette for a specific social or cultural group. We have to understand the meaning of colors so that they can support our message. A predominantly red colour usually represents strong emotions—love, anger, passion—while blue can make the design feel calm, cool and peaceful.


Line has a huge impact on designs. A line could be– horizontal, vertical, curving, diagonal. Each has an impact on how you perceive space. Lines can also be combined to create shapes and planes.

  • Lines applied horizontally often evoke feelings of stability, grounding, emphasis and direction.
  • Vertical lines are often associated with strength (think pillar of strength), stability, balance, and elevation.
  • Diagonal lines typically connote a sense of dynamic movement, transformation, and freedom.
  • Curving lines whether freeform, arcing, circular, or elliptical often feel natural, organic, playful, and soothing.


Using shapes properly is one of the keys to successful graphic design. The color, size and other characteristics for the shapes in a layout can determine its mood and message.

Soft, curved and rounded shapes are perceived differently than sharp, angled shapes. For instance, a company who’s primary customer base is women, may use circles and curves in their logo. Likewise, a business in the sports industry will want shapes with sharp lines that portray movement and action like the Nike logo.


Bring balance, proportion and contrast to your designs with scale and size. Just for reference, size is the actual dimensions of an element on the page, scale is the element’s relation to its original and proportion is the relation of all the elements on the page in terms of size and scale. Use scale and proportion to indicate the actual size of an object or to emphasize the difference in the sizes of two objects.


Just a physical space can make you feel a certain way and create a mood, so can design space. And the concept parallels physical space in that generally open spaces are more positive and inviting while closed or tight spaces are more negative in association.

Space is the connecting element in a design project that gives users a visual break. Space creates a flow from element to element, telling people where to look, what to read first and what’s important in the information they are processing. Space can also make you feel at home in the design or lost in the chaos of it.


Value can really add unity to your designs if you pay attention to this neglected element. It is also a great way to create a focal point and guide the viewer’s eye through the layout. This little element can bring together parts of the design to make them balanced. Using values on either extreme of the spectrum has a very dramatic effect.

  • Using elements similar in a high intensity value (light, towards the white end of the spectrum) can create a subdued tone.
  • Using values lower in intensity (darker, towards black) can be ominous and foreboding.


Every surface has a texture whether it be smooth or rough, bumpy or flat. Our perception of texture is also influenced by the textures of adjacent surfaces, our viewing distance, as well as the lighting applied.

Additionally, texture can be described as either tactile or visual. Tactile texture relates to the actual feeling of a surface – smooth, rough, soft, hard, etc. Visual texture is our perception of what a texture might feel like. In other words, we often make assumptions about the texture of a material based on our memory of touching similar surfaces.


As you go through each stage of your design process, ask yourself how you are using each of these elements of design to enhance the delivery of the message, affect the mood of the piece and relate the product or message to the target audience.

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