Lately I’ve been reading up on the elements of design. My interest has always been with words and writing and language rather than on the visual arts, so this is rather new territory for me. In other words, I have a whole new world of learning waiting for me, which is a glorious feeling indeed.
My first introduction to the elements of design came from Bryan Peterson’s Learning to See Creatively. He distinguishes between six elements: line, form, shape, texture, pattern and colour (others would name other elements). At the moment, these six elements seem to make so much sense to me; the more I look, the more I realise that most of the visual input from the world around me can be broken down into these six pieces.
So far, my understanding of each element is something like this: Line is the most basic. Form is two-dimensional, typically silhouettes. Shape is a form with three dimensions (i.e. the form of a square vs. the shape of a cube). Texture covers shapes and forms; lines, shapes and forms are furthermore repeated in patterns. Colour is everywhere.
And then of course, last but not least, I would include light. Light ties everything together and brings out the visual interest in each of the elements.
I have recently noticed that many of the images that I consider to be my strongest, are photographs that focus on one or only some of the elements of design. As a consequence I plan to continue focusing on specific elements when I shoot. Fence Friday, for instance, is all about lines and patterns. Still lifes are all about forms. Lights out of focus make for gorgeous patterns of circular shapes. And so on.
Some examples of my own favourite photos using (a) specific element(s):