Principles and Elements of Design upSide oUT

Site Map | Quotes | Glossary | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa | Gallery
E-Mail Doug at mrdoug@aznet.net or Melissa at mmckinstry@sdja.com

Dusty Wood, a very creative and energetic colleague, came to me with a series of books by Keri Smith that caused him to think differently. We talked and then talked with students. The conversations yielded some powerful changes in how we approached the problem-solving process, also known as creativity. I have played with different ways to get out of my rut over the years. I have found a number of different tools [See: Creative Process, Brainstorm, and Synectics] that work and some that really did not. The exercises below are intended to get you to feel and see the principles and elements of design, compositional and design tools that make images more powerful.

Principles of Design

  1. Balance - Hop, using only your left leg for 10 feet. Then hop, using only your right leg for 10 feet.

    Walk on a curb without touching anything other than the curb.

    Stand on one foot, put your arms out to your sides, close your eyes, put your head back, then touch your nose.
  2. Contrast - Eat something: Sour, then sweet; sweet, then bitter; cold, then hot; dry, then wet; liquid, then solid. Which are your favorites? Make a recipe using your favorite foods and spices. Include the amounts of each ingredient.
  3. Emphasis - Talk to someone in a whisper, then, not moving, scream at the person. Please make sure your are not around others when you do this.
  4. Movement - Empty the contents of a three-hole punch into your hands and then throw it in the air. You can try it with dust, dirt, or any other light particle. Photograph the particles until they stop. Please make sure to clean up as necessary.

    Drop or throw a small object into a body of liquid, e.g., a glass, bathtub, hot tub, pool, pond, lake, ocean, etc. Photograph the ripples.
  5. Pattern - Cut or tear 15 or more shapes [all the same or different sizes and different colors] out of paper, newspaper, construction, lined, etc. Arrange them on a larger sheet of paper or board. Try different ways of putting them together, separate, touching, overlapping, aligned, randomly placed, etc. Photograph each composition.Try several different ways of putting them together. After you have shot all of the arrangements, select your favorite and glue the pieces into place.
  6. Rhythm - Listen to one of your favorite musical pieces several times. Listen to how the sounds change from fast to slow, loud to soft, smooth to harsh.
  7. Make up your own ways of experiencing different principles of design.

Elements of Design

  1. Color - Take 15 objects from your house and arrange them according to the color wheel, e.g., yellow, green, blue, purple, red, orange. Once you have them arranged shoot pictures using different lighting to see how the colors change. Try arranging the objects using different color schemes on the Color site, e.g., analogous, complementary, primary, etc. Play.
  2. Form - Close your eyes and move your hands over something three-dimensional, e.g., sculpture, flower pot, keyboard, etc. Try several objects. Sketch at least one of the objects. Don't worry, this is just to get you to see the object, this is not intending to yield a prefect drawing. Only a sketch. Then photograph the objects. Change the lighting, the angle, the placement, with other objects, etc.
  3. Line - Using a stick, write your name in sand or dirt. Then try writing your name with a flash light or other source of light. You will have better results if you do this in a dark place. Photograph the results.
  4. Shape - Cut rectangles, squares, circles, ellipses, triangles, rhomboids, and blobs out of paper. Cut out silhouettes of people, buildings, shoes, hats, trees, clouds, what ever. Use magazine images and put it over a piece of paper to make the silhouettes. Overlap, position, arrange and make different stories. Trace the edges of each shape in each composition.
  5. Space - Sit facing a wall for five minutes then turn away from the wall.

    Fill a small closet with stuff. Make sure it's full. If you would rather, use a desk drawer. Photograph all the stuff. Empty the "container". Photograph the emptiness. Put one small object in the "container". Photograph the object. Put one large object in the same "container". Photograph the object. Play with lighting, angles, and the placement of the objects.
  6. Texture - Put your hand in a bowl of warm popcorn, move your hand around to mix up the spices [ I love chipotle, salt, and vinegar], eat the popcorn. Yum.
  7. Value - Put one ounce of cranberry or other dark liquid in a glass. Shoot a picture of the glass. Add one ounce of water to the glass. Shoot a picture of the glass. Keep adding an ounce and shooting a picture until your glass is full or the value of the liquid is clear.

    Go into a smallish room that does not have any windows or it's dark out. Turn out all of the lights. Close your eyes for three minutes or more. Open your eyes and look around. Time [count] how long it takes you to see objects in the room.
  8. Make up your own ways of experiencing different elements of design.

Site Map | Quotes | Glossary | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa | Gallery | Top
E-Mail Doug at mrdoug@aznet.net or Melissa at mmckinstry@sdja.com

Melissa and I would like to
thank znet for
making a commitment to
education and WriteDesign