Design elements and principles

Applying design principles to the design elements - lines and shapes


Lines and shapes are essential in any design. By combining them in any specific way you can create a complex and interesting image. Incorporating lines and shapes into any project you can create any design such as as a background or a pattern for a bigger design piece, illustration, packaging, book covers, clothing, or the whole brand.
See the real examples at the end of this text

Of course each type of lines and shapes can express different feeling or emotions, or even have some meaning, but it is not what you have in mind for this project. The purpose of this project is to learn how to work with lines and shapes to produce a beautiful, interesting and harmonic design.
The importance of this project is also clearly explained in this short article:
Enhancing Your Project Design With Lines and Shapes

The difference between lines and shapes
Working on this project you have to clearly understand the difference between lines and shapes.
Line is a continuous mark (with a greater length than width) where two opposite ends are not connected

To avoid any confusion, working on lines design, do not bring the line ends very close, because by Gestalt principle – closure, our brave will perceive it as a shape
When the ends of line are completely connected, it becomes a shape
Shapes are created when the ends of lines are joined to enclose areas.

When incorporating lines and shapes into any project design you have to know and work with design principles.

Lines and shapes can be used to:
- create texture
- define space
- separate/emphasize
- indicate motion
- show perspective
- produce a mood
- etc.


How to achieve that?
By wisely using the design principles.
For example:
- Repetition strengthens the design by connecting individual elements together. It creates consistency and a feeling of organized movement.
- You can create unity among variety with the lines direction, weight, and character
- Direction creates the illusion that there is movement within the design.
- Contrast, proportions and similarity need to be present in each design; they put emphasis on particular elements and make it interesting
- And much more


For this project you will apply the following design principles:
- Repetition
Repetition is a great way to unify design that brings together several different elements. Repetition can be done in a number of ways including repeating elements of a design.
- Pattern
Pattern is a repetition of multiple design elements working together.
- Rhythm
The spaces between repeating elements can cause a sense of rhythm to form, similar to the way the space between notes in a musical composition create a rhythm.
- Space
White space—also referred to as “negative space”— is the areas of a design that do not include any design elements.
It can also make elements of a design easier to perceive and recognize
- Proximity
Proximity in design means that objects near each other are seen as a unit. Using the principle of proximity, you group those items that have something in common, and separate those items that don’t.
- Unity among variety:
- Variety in design is used to create visual interest. Without variety, a design can very quickly become monotonous, causing the user to lose interest. Variety can be created in a variety of ways, including altering any other design element. Variety should reinforce the other elements of a design and be used alongside them to create a more interesting and aesthetically pleasing composition.
- Unity refers to similarity or the resemblance of design elements. Visual elements should have clear relationships with each other in a design. Designs with good unity also appear to be more organized and of higher quality

- And more ...


Note: use only black color.



First, you will make several thumbnail sketches in your sketchbook
Do not make your design overcomplicated, but not very simple either
Thumbnails examples:
1 - Several examples of thumbnail design with lines only:

2 - Several examples of thumbnail design with lines and shapes:
Shapes Thumbnails Example 1
Shapes Thumbnails Example 2


You will work with Adobe Illustrator
Work with such palettes, tools and features as the Blend tool, Pen tool, Pathfinder, Layers, Transform and Transform again will be very helpful. (I will show these techniques I class, and you can find the tutorials on the internet)

1. Create the new document in Adobe Illustrator, letter size
2. Make a template of 4 squares or rectangle with 3 inches width: two above and two below. Align and distribute them nicely
The upper two rectangles for designs with lines only; the lower two rectangles for designs with lines and shapes
Layout example
3. Save (and keep saving) your Illustrator file into the dropbox folder.
Note: it is very important to save your work frequently, literally every 1-2 minutes – the program can crash any time and you may lose hours of work

1. Designs with lines only
In each of the upper two squares/rectangles you will create compositions with lines, which would create rhythm and an illusion of three – dimensional space. It can be achieved through the use of linear elements and varying their width, sizes and proximity. The lines can be straight or curved, or both. The variety of lines depends of their amount, combinations and interrelations.


Several examples of design with lines only:

2. Designs with lines and shapes
In each of the lower two squares/rectangles you will create compositions with lines and shapes of different configurations: squares, rectangles or/and circles.
This composition can be static or dynamic.
You have to establish contrast of forms, sizes and directions. You should apply such design elements and principles, as unity and variety, repetition, proximity, scale, value, etc.

Several examples of design with lines and shapes:

More examples with shape design

Here are student computer examples:
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
More student examples

Examples of abstract minimalist design from lines and shapes

Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4
Example 5 The Walk, movie
Example 6 Dylan by Milton Glaser, Columbia Records
Example 7 Film festival poster by Milton Glaser 
Example 8 Inflatable Sculptures poster
Example 9 Dan Stiles - Feist poster
Example 10 Swiss style poster
Example 11
Example 12


Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4
Example 5
Example 6  
Example 7
More Examples


Example 1
Example 2

In combination with photo:
Example 3
Example 4


Book cover
Example 1
Example 2


Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Example 4
Example 5
Example 6


Business cards
Example 1
Example 2


Example 1
Example 2
Example 3


Background design

More geometric patterns in graphic design