Part I: Elements of Design

• The purpose of design
• Form and Balance
• Creating Contrast
• TRY IT: 10 minute Tangrams
Back to Contents

Explore the possibilities of creating balance and contrast with simple basic shapes, color, scale and form.

Goal: manipulate a square, triangle, circle, and wavy line to create a pleasing design in 10 minutes.

Note: These exercises may be done with computer graphics software such as FreeHand or Illustrator. If you don't have access to these programs, you might try creating basic shapes in a paint or other program. It also works great with pencil and paper, or by cutting the shapes out of colored paper.
  1. Create a new document and make 4 basic shapes. A square, circle, triangle and a wavy line.

  2. Don't even think about trying to make these shapes into a picture of "something." It's an abstract exercise. Try to think of them as simple shapes to make a pleasing pattern out of.

  3. Using your new knowledge of shape and form, decide which shape you'd like to be dominant. Use color, scale, position - the tools of contrast - to set that object apart from the others.

  4. Squint at it. Does the shape you picked stand out? If not, feel free to move the objects in front or in back of each other. Refine the color selections, resize the shapes.

  5. Squint again. Do you see any places where the shapes are uncomfortably close or where the colors appear to merge together? Move elements or edit colors as needed.

  6. Share with somebody. Ask them: Is it balanced? What shape is dominant? Look at the positive and negative spaces, contrasts. Is it pleasing?

  7. Here's a parlor trick that may surprise you! Look at your design and analyze this: the square is a symbol for home or security; the triangle for work or ambition; the wavy line for spirituality; and the circle is about sex. Which one did you make dominant??

next: Part II. Content: Words and Pictures