Fundamentals of Design: basic elements

Basic Elements:

The basic structure of graphic design consists of three basic elements:

  1. Dot
  2. Line
  3. Area

1. Dot – is the smallest element of graphic design. Depending on a distance points of various sizes can be perceived. Designing with dots or points can create a wide variety of visual effects. There are various associations that can be made with positioning a single dot in different areas of a page. Single point in a center of an area can convey calm.

But if you shift the point towards the edge of the paper it becomes tension.

Repetition can create textures and make stimulating and vivid effects through combining of different sizes.


2. Line – the arrangement of dots with a constant distance between them. “Every linear expression derives from a point set in motion” – Andrian Frutiger. Line is much more dynamic in character than a dot. The simplest form of a line is a straight line (—————–).

Vertical line makes an active, light effect:

Horizontal – passive and heavy:

 Diagonal lines can be read as ascending (bottom left to top right) or descending (top left to bottom right):

Lines can be bent, curved, connected and intersected, etc. thus bringing various suggestions of motion and creating different dynamics for a design:

3. Area – is an enclosed, two-dimensional figure inclosed by a homogeneous surface that is usually presented in two dimensions and formally limited by one or several linear segments. Such as circle, ellipse, square, rectangle, triangle.

Circle has no end-point and thus a symbol of infinity. It conveys less tension than any other areas and is not pulling in any direction. It’s static, balanced and harmonious. The eye is always drawn to the center.

Ellipse – more dynamic than circle. If placed upright it suggests movement upwards, but also instability. Placed horizontally it becomes more static and repose.

Square – a rectangle whose sides are parallel, the same length. When the square is on one of its sides – the perception is of calm, stability, functionality. When turned on its point, it becomes more dynamic and playful and unstable.

 Rectangle – is a four-sided figure with right angles; the lengths of rectangles must differ clearly to not be confused with square. It can be placed vertically or horizontally. Almost all paper formats are rectangular. It is more active than a square. When set horizontally it is more stable, secure, heavy, supporting, etc. When placed vertically – suggests more lightness, movement, activity and narrowness. When set on one of its points it tends to break composition apart and bring in a feeling of instability and tension.

Triangle – has the strongest directional component of all. When used in design or composition, it is always dynamic, with most acute angle as focal point and lesser angled base as a ground of composition/information. A triangle is used most widely in portraiture paintings.