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01. Relationship of dot, line and plane
02. Dot
03. Constellations
04. Line
05. Grids & Patterns
06. Shapes
07. Openings (shapes within shapes)
08. Colour
09. The colour wheel & natural order of colours
10. Color Harmony
11. Texture
12. Light & Shade, Shadows
13. Three-dimensional form
14. Voids
15. Space
16. Composition
17. Principles of basic design
18. Proportion and Scale


17. Principles of basic design


When various elements and their perceptual forces are organized within a pre-determined area, the design becomes a composition. This pre-determined area reveals its own intangible, invisible system of dynamic tensions, depending on its shape and size.

The square and the rectangle are the central favourite formats, as their tensions do not overpower the drama of points, lines, shapes and colours that is to take place within their boundaries. Circles, triangle and rhomboids are difficult formats, because they are commanding in their own right as shapes.

The perceptual forces in the neutral shapes like the square and the rectangle run from top to bottom and from side to side at right angles to each other, and from corner to corner diagonally through the centre of the format, where all tensions cross. However, our eye tends to seek an area just above this actual centre, and this is the visual centre or focal point of the format.

Other natural focal points are those located in the four perceptual zones (created by the intersection of the X- and the Y- axis through the exact centre), about one-third distance away from the edges, or two-thirds from the axial co-ordinates.

The pictorial elements superimposed on the format govern the focal point of the overall composition, and this often overpowers the inherent focal point of the format.


A single point tends to be static; but a series of points, a broken line or a line is perceived (by the eye) as a movement in a particular direction. Since we are psychologically tuned from the left to right trajectory, even a straight line drawn on a paper is perceived as going from left to right probably because most people also write and draw in the same fashion. It would be interesting to observe the drawing instinct of people who, as children, have first learnt such languages as Urdu or Chinese, which are not written in the standard left to right pattern.

In a composition, direction and focal point are seen in conjunction with each other, and enhancing each other. In architecture too, some elements are used to give a sense of direction. While friezes, bands and borders lend horizontality; minarets, cones and pyramids lead the eye upwards, highlighting verticality.


Even a simple composition comprising points and lines would reflect the fundamental considerations in design: position and repetition. Position is relative - points and lines must relate to other points and lines, and to other elements (if any), and more importantly, to the intervals of space between and around them.

The arrangement of points and lines in variously related positions gives rise to some kind of repetition. The simplest type of repetition is a Sequence, in which points, lines, shapes or forms are repeated at regular intervals, as in a row of buttons on a shirt. Designers of printed fabric, wallpaper, wrapping paper, tile or mosaic figurations have to decide on a different, more continuous scheme of repetition. The popular polka-dot field is the simplest way of organizing an allover repeat pattern. Complex patterns use motifs, the complexity increasing as we use two or more motifs, or invert alternate motifs. Intricate motifs or interlocking geometric motifs make it necessary to explore other plane-filling systems.

Motifs are simple, individual units that do not resist repetition. They are self-contained units of definite measure or extension; of unique structure. Nothing can be added or subtracted without changing them.

The concept of repetition in design can be thus classified as: Planar (infinite patterns), Linear (frieze or border), and Centred (finite).


A dense repetition of any visual element in a two- or three-dimensional composition will lead to the phenomenon of crystallization. This could be the repetition of dots, lines and shapes in a two-dimensional composition or that of solid and semi-solid forms in a three-dimensional composition.


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For more details contact - Ar. Shirish Sukhatme
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