Resources on Elements of Design

SAQA Seminar (Article)

Welcome to the first unit of SAQA Seminar: Visual Design! Get yourself familiar with the basic elements of design (form, shape, line, color, value, space and texture) and how they play a role in the design process.

There is so much to think about as we create our artwork - what colors to use, which shapes, placement of the shapes, size variation, space.  Knowing more about the Elements gives us the necessary tools to improve our art and to analyze where things go wrong.


Resources and other inspiring links

simple visual representation of Design Basics and Design Elements.

Great article highlighting the 10 basic elements of design including great graphics and links to additional resources. The article leans toward graphic design applications, but could be insightful for artists as well.

John Lovett offers a comprehensive Design Overview - click through on the element titles to view more details.

From the SAQA Journal archives, here's a great article by Brett Barker on Demystifying Composition (Part 1).

Of all the elements of design, color may be the most obvious. The Munsell color system is a fascinating way to understand the three properties of color : hue, value, and chroma. 

Learn more about how artist Elizabeth Murray used bold colors and shapes in her artwork in this snippet from PBS's American Masters. The full film is available for streaming (US audiences only).

Creating texture and pattern with stitch from including beautiful detail images from several artists.

Here’s a play list of seven short videos produced by KQED Art School about each of the Elements of Art.

The ThoughtCo. offers some great explanations about about the use of formshape, and space. Check out their related links at the end of each article - there's a lot more to explore!

While mostly geared to other mediums, the Virtual Instructor does a great job of explaining design fundamentals. If you are interested in delving deeper into their resources, they do offer a $1 trial.

Artists whose work focuses on the Elements of Design


Book Recommendations


The Quilter's Book of Design
by Ann Johnston *

Ann Johnston uses all of her dyed fabric in her work and presents her art using Visual Design elements and principles. This book is thorough, readable and beautiful to view. Johnston is also the author of the well known books Color by Accident and Color by Design.

Intuitive Color & Design: Adventures in Art Quilting
by Jean Wells*

Jean Wells' workshop assignments get your creative juices flowing, giving you challenges to expand your quilting horizons. Start by learning to see line and color; study the nuts and bolts of design; develop your color work and composition; and when you get stuck, there's expert advice on problem solving.


Design!: A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists & Craftspeople
by Steven Aimone

An interesting book that explains the foundation of good design. By using examples from a wide range of disciplines (even sushi!), it is a fun and informative way to learn about design.

Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers
by David Hornung

David Hornung has been teaching art students about color theory for decades. His exercises and examples are thoughtful ways to learn about colors and how they interact with each other. The book to refer to over and over again when you’re stumped about color!