Skip to Main Content
* UC Irvine access only

Visual Literacy: Visual Grammar

Provides information on citing images, copyright, presentation best practices, design guidelines, and more

Elements & Principles of Design

Design elements and principles form the foundation of visual language.

 These elements and principles are used in all visual design fields and are the core concepts used to create meaning visually.

Visual Design is the organized arrangement of one or more elements and principles (e.g. line color or texture) to create a visual message.

Elements of Design


LINE:  the continuous movement of a point along a surface. The edges of shapes and forms also create lines.


SHAPE: an area enclosed by line. It is two-dimensional and can be geometric or organic.

 FORM: occupies space. The attributes of form are mass and volume


SIZE: the relationship of the area occupied by one shape to that of another



TEXTURE:  the surface quality of a shape such as rough, smooth, soft, hard, or glossy.


VALUE: the lightness or darkness of a color.


COLOR: is used to create illusion of depth

Principles of Design

RHYTHM: is created when one or more elements of design are used repeatedly to create a feeling of organized movement

CONTRAST: the juxtaposition of opposing elements


BALANCE: the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and the space.



EMPHASIS: Point of focus in a picture of area that draws attention.



VARIETY: Different elements are combined to create visual interest: notably use of contrast, emphasis, difference in size and color.


HARMONY: The quality of wholeness or oneness that is achieved through the effective use of the elements  and principles of art