By Jennifer Farley

The Primary Design Elements: A New Series

By Jennifer Farley

design-starToday, I’m posting an overview of a series that will appear here on Sitepoint called “Primary Design Elements.” It’s aimed at new designers or anyone who’s working in design and might find a brief refresher helpful.

Whether you’re working in web or print design, there are some basic guidelines which when applied can elevate your design from amateur to well, “much, much better.” I’m not going to pretend that five posts will give you a complete design education but I hope it will help to lay a small foundation.

Breaking the Rules

Often people will ask, will my designs be boring if I follow rules? The answer is no.  Unless of course you want it to look boring. When you know and understand rules, then you can break them and manipulate them. So don’t worry, you can still be a design rebel while taking advantage of good principles.

Starting next week, we’ll look at each of the following design elements in more depth:

  • Line
  • Type
  • Shape
  • Texture

These are some of the ingredients you can use to communicate your message, because that’s what design is about. Visual communication. It’s not about making things pretty for the sake of it.

The line is one of the simplest and most versatile design elements. It can be used for organization, for connection, for division and for decoration.

Man with blank placard

Image copyright Mike Sullivan

Type is of course an obvious tool for communication and often a crucial element. It can work as text to be read, as a purely visual element and as a shape.


Art Of Elan

When we talk about shape, we’re talking about blocks of color or value, artwork, photographs and even blocks of text.


Sarajo Frieden

Texture is particularly relevant for print work where a designer can choose the type of materials they are working with. However, on the web we can convey texture and give an electronic image a tactile feeling by using background images.


Swap A Frock

I’ll be posting on this particular series every Wednesday for the next four weeks.

  • jacob

    This will be a good series. I’m looking forward to it!

  • Paul

    Really looking forward to this too, always wanted to not totally SUCK at design so perhaps I can pick up enough guidelines here to make something that sucks less :)

  • DDA

    Often people will ask, will my design’s be boring if I follow rules?

    If your design’s what will be boring? It is a bad sign to start out with such an obvious apostrophe mistake.

  • Ketira

    DDA: Maybe she’s like my next eldest brother – he’s a great programmer, but not quite so well with grammar. ;) But he’s getting better – see for what he’s up to.

    So Jennifer could be good at doing/teaching Design, but…. Besides, I’m looking forward to it. I picked up a little in college, but had to drop the class. :(

  • dckirba

    I’m really looking forward to this series. I enjoyed your lines article :)

  • peter from iprogress

    Thanks for posting we are the web design company based in liverpool who designed and developed the site

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