Combining Elements and Principles of Design in the Art Design Matrix

The Art Design Matrix

The art design matrix is a great way for students to learn about combining elements and principles of design. The students will fill in the boxes with a drawing that represents both an element of art and a principle of design.

A website needs to be both clean and personable. It also needs to have a distinctive voice and warm color palette.

Elements of Art

The seven art elements of line, shape, color, value, texture, space, and form are tools artists use to make a painting or other type of artwork. Each of these elements can be used to create various effects in a work of art, and how they are arranged is what defines a composition.

Line is the fundamental structure of most works of art. It can be short, long, vertical, diagonal, curved, zig zag or straight and provides many different effects like movement and rhythm.

Shape refers to two-dimensional flat shapes that can be geometric or organic/natural. The application of almost all other art elements can influence or inform shape. For example, shading can transform a circle from a geometric to spherical shape. Likewise, the use of outlines or what is known as contour lines can emphasize an object’s shape.

Principles of Design

Regardless of whether an artist creates two-dimensional or three-dimensional art, works with traditional materials like paint or uses the latest technology, artists use the same basic visual building blocks of form (elements) and strategies of visual organization (principles) to achieve visual unity. This concept is known as formalism.

One of the principles is balance. Balance can be achieved by arranging elements so that they counterbalance each other or by using different sizes of element to attract the viewer’s attention. It can also be accomplished by using repetition, color or value.

Another principle is emphasis. By using contrast, for example, a piece of text can be highlighted to draw the reader’s eye. Proportion can also be used to create emphasis by making something larger than its surrounding elements.


Contrast is one of the most powerful design elements for drawing attention to specific visual elements or a key message. However, there’s a fine line between applying contrast effectively and overwhelming or diluting your composition.

Color is perhaps the simplest way to use contrast in art: matching complementary colors or choosing colors on opposite sides of the color wheel can create dramatic impact. Size is another common way to incorporate contrast in designs: opposing large and small shapes, illustrations, text or other design elements can add drama. Size also ties in closely with visual hierarchy, or the relative scale of different elements.

There is a second, statistical usage of the term “contrast matrix” that has nothing to do with the coding scheme and is based on linear combinations of model parameters (see for example this answer by @Gus_est or Rutherford Introducing ANOVA and ANCOVA; GLM Approach). The makeContrasts function in R supports this usage and produces matrices that can be readily interpreted as contrast matrices.


An art pattern is a repeating element that organizes surfaces or structures in a consistent and organized way. When used with other art elements and design principles, patterns add depth, symbolism and communication to a work of art.

Pattern can also be used to create a sense of movement, balance, rhythm or harmony in a piece of art. For example, if an artist uses a repeated line pattern in a painting it will create the sense that the paint is flowing or moving across the canvas.

In this assignment students will complete a matrix that demonstrates through illustration the relationship between an art element and its portrayal of a design principle. Each box on the grid should have an image that reflects BOTH the art element and design principle.


Whether they are living spaces, offices, clubs or sales centers, Oliver Vogt and Hermann Weizenegger’s projects have earned them international renown and recognition. Their ideas, functional design and construction technology are unsurpassed.

This matrix assignment invites artists to think about the elements and principles of design in relation to one another. It is the arrangement of these elements and principles that creates harmony and unity in a work of art. The use of space is especially interesting when working with prints, because the image exists in multiples. This differs from other disciplines such as painting or drawing, where a single result is the end point of the artist’s labor. The multiples created in the printmaking process also allow for the examination of repetition as a way to add emphasis and meaning to a visual expression.

Return to the home screen

Leave a Comment