The design elements are the visual tools available to the designer. These are the building blocks used to make two-dimensional images. The design elements are:

Value Color Line Shape Space Texture


The design elements are description of the types of marks that can be made on a two-dimensional surface. They are the visual tools available to the designer. These tools are organized using the design principles to make images.

Space is not strictly speaking a design element. It is included here because the illusion of space is a visual characteristic that a designer must learn how to use.

Value and color are listed separately in spite of value being a part of color. This is because it is possible to use value independently from color. You have already studied value and color in part II.


A shape is an area that is separate from other areas and/or its background.
You have already been introduced to the element shape in the section on figure/ground. There are many different kinds of shapes. Two general categories for shape are: mechanical and organic.


Mechanical shapes are those made with straight lines, circles and/or parts of circles -- the shapes you can make with a ruler and a compass. These are man made shapes sometimes called geometric shapes.

They can be simple or complex. Think of the inside of a clock or other piece of machinery. The feeling mechanical shapes give is of control and order.



Organic shapes are shapes found in nature -- the shapes you draw freehand. They are generally complex and have a natural, spontaneous feel to them. Think of the enormous variety and complexity of plant and animal life.

The lessons about figure/ground and balance investigated simple shapes. Actual or implied shapes are the basis for all art. All objects have shapes and most of the marks that an artist can make are a form of shape. A line is a long thin shape. Texture is a series of shapes on a shaped ground. Color is applied in a shape.

In that way shape is related to all of the other design elements.


© 2006 James T. Saw
Do not copy or reuse these materials without permission.