Your guide for Visual Design

December 11, 2017Uncategorized


What’s Visual Design?

Visual design is the use of imagery, color, shapes, typography, and form to enhance usability and improve the user experience. Visual design as a field has grown out of both User interface (UI) design and graphic design.

User interface design (UI); is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing usability and the user experience.

Graphic design; is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form it takes can be physical or virtual and can include images, words, or graphics. The experience can take place in an instant or over a long period of time. The work can happen at any scale, from the design of a single postage stamp to a national postal signage system. It can be intended for a small number of people, such as a one-off or limited-edition book or exhibition design, or can be seen by millionsshutterstock_301869413, as with the interlinked digital and physical content of an international news organization. It can also be for any purpose, whether commercial, educational, cultural, or political.

Visual design elements & Principles:


The elements of art are the building blocks of all art. Every piece of art ever created includes one or more of these elements.

  1. Line; is an element of art. It is a mark made upon a surface. In order to be a line, the mark’s length must be longer than its width. There are many different types of lines, including horizontal, vertical, wavy, diagonal, and more.

You might decide you want to continue working on your drawing and enclose some of those lines. The enclosed lines are then transformed into another element of art called shape.

  1. Color; is what we see when light reflects off an object, this reflection turns into a range of colors
  2. Shape; Are areas of enclosed space that are two-dimensional. Shapes are flat, and can only have height and width. The two different categories of shapes are: geometric and organic. Geometric shapes are mathematical, like circles and squares. Organic shapes come from nature, like clouds and leaves. This collage by Henri Matisse uses a collection of organic shapes.

If you decide to vary the size and placement of your lines and shapes, you will use another element. This is the element called space.

  1. Form; is the three-dimensional version of a shape. An artwork that has the art element of form can be viewed from different angles, and is not flat. Forms have height and width, but they also have depth. Forms can be hard-edged like a cube or more free-flowing.

As you continue working on your drawing or sculpture, you decide to add some more flavor, much like the chef decides a certain recipe needs a bit more seasoning.

  1. Value; refers to the lightness and darkness of areas in an artwork. White is the lightest value, while black is the darkest. A value scale shows a range of lights and darks.
  2. Space; Deals with the illusion of depth on a flat surface. You might overlap shapes to make some look closer, or make objects in the distance smaller to look like they are farther away. The element of space can be used in three-dimensional art as well.
  3. Texture; is the way something feels, or look like it might feel, in an art work. Texture can be real or implied. Real texture is something you can actually feel with your fingers if you touch the art. Implied texture only visually looks like it feels a certain way; you will not feel any different if you ran your fingers over.


The principles of art represent how the artist uses the elements of art to create an effect and to help convey the artist’s intent. The principles of art and design are: balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and unity/variety. The use of these principles can help determine whether a painting is successful, and whether or not the painting is finished.

The artist decides what principles of art he or she wants to use in a painting. While an artist might not use all the principles of design in one piece, the principles are intertwined and the use of one will often depend on another.

  1. Balance;refers to the visual weight of the elements of the composition. It is a sense that the painting feels stable and “feels right.” Imbalance causes a feeling of discomfort in the viewer.

Balance can be achieved in 3 different ways:

  • Symmetry, in which both sides of a composition have the same elements in the same position, as in a mirror-image, or the two sides of a face.
  • Asymmetry, in which the composition is balanced due to the contrast of any of the elements of art. For example, a large circle on one side of a composition might be balanced by a small square on the other side
  • Radial symmetry, in which elements are equally spaced around a central point, as in the spokes coming out of the hub of a bicycle tire.
  1. Contrast;is the difference between elements of art in a composition, such that each element is made stronger in relation to the other. When placed next to each other, contrasting elements command the viewer’s attention. Areas of contrast are among the first places that a viewer’s eye is drawn. Contrast can be achieved by juxtapositions of any of the elements of art. Negative/Positive space is an example of contrast. Complementary colors placed side by side are an example of contrast.  Notan is an example of contrast.
  2. Emphasisis when the artist creates an area of the composition that is visually dominant and commands the viewer’s attention. This is often achieved by contrast.
  3. Movementis the result of using the elements of art such that they move the viewer’s eye around and within the image. A sense of movement can be created by diagonal or curvy lines, either real or implied, by edges, by the illusion of space, by repetition, by energetic mark-making.
  4. Patternis the uniform repetition of any of the elements of art or any combination thereof. Anything can be turned into a pattern through repetition. Some classic patterns are spirals, grids, weaves.
  5. Rhythmis created by movement implied through the repetition of elements of art in a non-uniform but organized way. It is related to rhythm in music. Unlike pattern, which demands consistency, rhythm relies on variety.
  6. Unity/VarietyYou want your painting to feel unified such that all the elements fit together comfortably. Too much unity creates monotony, too much variety creates chaos. You need both.