A shape that is derived from a visual source, but is so transformed that it bears little visual resemblance to that source
Lines that are physically present in a design
A visual phenomenon in which the atmospheric density gradually increases, hazing over the perceived world as one looks into its depth. Overall definition lessens, details fade, contrasts become muted and, in a landscape, a blue mist descends
A shadow that directly defines a form
Derived from the Greek words for beautiful and writing, a flowing, and expressive line that is as personal as handwriting. They generally vary in thickness and velocity
A dark shape that results from placement of an opaque object in the path of a light source
From Italian meaning “light-dark”; the gradual transition of values to create the illusion of light and shadow on a three-dimensional form.
The mind’s inclination to connect fragmentary formation to produce a completed form. It is an essential aspect of Gestalt psychology.
An image constructed from visual or verbal fragments initially designed for another purpose
Degree of connection or flow among compositional parts
A line that describes the edges of a form and suggest three-dimensional volume
The degree of difference between compositional parts or between one image and another. It is created when two or more forces operate in opposition
Multiple lines running over the surface of an object horizontally and/or vertically that describes its surface configuration topographically, as in mapping.
A technique used in drawing and printmaking to shade an object using two or more networks of parallel lines. Darker values are created as the number of networks increases.
A shape whose contour is dominated by curves and flowing lines
(1) The degree to which a shape is distinguished from both the ground area and from other shapes within the design. (2) the degree of resolution or focus of an entire image.
Actual or implied movement of an element within a design
Basic building blocks from which designs are made.
An arrangement in which positive and negative shapes alternatively command attention.
A shape derived from or suggestive of geometry. They are characterized by crisp, precise edges and mathematically consistent curves.
A vigorous drawing that captures the action, structure, and overall orientation of an object rather than describing specific details.
Any gradual transition from one color to another or from one shape or volume to another. It can be used to suggest three-dimensional form.
A gray underpainting, often used by Renaissance artists, to increase the illusion of space.
A technique used in drawing and printmaking to create a range of gray tomes using multiple parallel lines.
Sharply focused visual information that is easily readable. It creates strong contrast between shapes and tends to increase clarity and immediacy of communication.
(1) A line that is suggested by the positions of shapes or objects within a design. (2) a line that is suggested by movement or by a gesture rather than being physically drawn or constructed
A form of visual texture that has been created without reference to perceptual reality
(1) A point in motion. (2) a series of adjacent points. (3) a connection between points. (4) an implied connection between points. Line is one of the basic elements of design.
Blurred or ambiguous visual information.
Negative Shape (Ground)
(1) A clearly defined area around a positive shape or form. (2) a shape created through the absence of an object rather than through the presence of an object
Shapes created without reference to specific visual subject matter
A shape that visually suggests nature or natural forces. Also known as biomorphic shape
Lines used to create the loose linear “skeleton” on which a compositional can be built.
The horizontal, vertical, or diagonal position of composition or design element
Positive Shape (Figure)
The principle or foreground shape in a design and the dominant shape or figure in a figure-ground relationship
Circles, spheres, triangles, cubes, and other forms created without reference to specific subject matter
A shape composed from straight lines and angular corners
A shape derived from specific subject matter and strongly based on visual observation
A flat, enclosed area created when a line connects to enclose an area, an area is surrounded by other ones, or an area is filled with color or texture
The visual or tactile quality of a form. It can be created visually using multiple marks, physically, through surface variation, or through the inherent property of a specific material, such as sand as opposed to smooth porcelain
A flat illusion that is so convincing the viewer believes the image is real. From a French term meaning “to fool the eye.”
The relative lightness or darkness of a surface
The proportion and arrangement of lights and darks in a composition.
A range of grays that are presented in a consistent sequence, creating a gradual transition from white to black.
Texture created using multiple marks or through a descriptive simulation of physical texture.
(1) An empty three-dimensional form (2) in two-dimensional design, a three-dimensional from that has been represented using the illusion of space.
A drawing that communicates visual information reductively, using basic volumes, such as sphere, cubes, and cylinders, to indicate the major components of a figure or object.
Three-dimensional in nature
The exaggerated use of linear perspective to achieve a dramatic and engaging presentation of the subject. It often creates using an unusual viewing position, such as a bird’s eye view, or some form of distortion.
An obvious break from the norm in a design
A form of balance that occurs when roughly similar imagery appears on either side of a central axis
Equilibrium among visual elements that do not mirror each other on wither side of an axis
The equal distribution of weight or force among visual units.
As identified by Rudolph Arnheim, a compressive compositional force
The mind’s inclination to connect fragmentary information to produce a completed form. It is an essential aspect of Gestalt psychology.
The combination of multiple parts into a unified or harmonious whole.
A unifying force created by the outer edge of a composition or by a boundary within a composition.
Degree of connection or flow among compositional parts.
The degree of difference between compositional parts or between one image and another. It is created when two or more forces operate in opposition.
As identified by Rudolph Arnheim, an expansive compositional force.
Special attention given to some aspect of a composition to increase its prominence.
Eye level (horizon line)
In linear perspective, it is determined by the physical position of the artist. All vanishing points in one- and two-point perspective are positioned on this.
Primary point of interest in a composition. It is often used to emphasize an area of particular importance or to provide a strong sense of compositional direction.
The combination of shapes or volumes along a common edge.
A theory of visual perception that emphasizes the importance of holistic composition. According to this theory, grouping, containment, repetition, proximity, continuity, and closure are essential aspects of visual unity.
A visual or physical structure created from intersecting parallel lines
Visual organization based on similarity in location, orientation, shape, color, and so on.
The absence of balance.
Compositional space that has been deliberately separated into foreground, middle ground, and background.
A mathematical system for projecting the apparent dimensions of a three-dimensional object onto a flat surface. It is one strategy for creating the illusion of space.
In design, the use of deliberate visual pathways to help direct the viewer’s attention to areas of particular interest.
A design created through systematic repetition. Many are based on a module, or repeated visual unit.
The relative size of visual elements within an image
The distance between visual or structural elements or between an object and the audience.
A form of balance that is created when shapes or volumes are mirrored both vertically and horizontally, with the center of the composition acting as a focal point.
The use of the same visual element or effect a number of times in the same composition
The presentation of multiple units in a deliberate pattern.
A size relationship between two separate objects.
A form of balance that is created when shapes are mirrored on either side of a central axis, as in a composition that is vertically divided down the center.
Compositional similarity, oneness, togetherness, or cohesion.
In linear perspective, the point or points in the eye line at which parallel lines appear to converge.
The differences that give a design visual and conceptual interest; notable, use of contrast, emphasis, differences in size, and so forth.
(1) The inclination of shapes to float or sink compositionally. (2) The relative importance of a visual element within a design.
A color (such as black and white) that has no hue
A color scheme based on hues that are adjacent on a color wheel, such as red, red-orange
The name of a color (such as red or yellow) that distinguishes it from others and assigns it a position in the visual spectrum
The purity, saturation, or chroma of a color.
A color scheme based on variations in a single hue. For example, a light, pastel blue, a medium navy blue and a dark blue-black may be used in a room interior
Hues mixed from adjacent primaries. In paint, they are violet, green, and orange.
A complementary color plus the two colors on either side of its complement on the color wheel.
A color scheme based on three colors that are equidistant on a color wheel
A hue that is mixed from a primary color and an adjacent secondary color
A hue that has been mixed with white