Look at everything around you – magazines, packaging, billboards, web pages, stores, books, signage, newspapers, buildings, nature. Visit museums, gardens, cites, a farmer’s market, a gallery, the theatre, a theme park. Be a sponge – absorb it all. And look at it differently – look at from the perspective of a designer.


  • What lines do I see? Are they curved or straight, thin or thick, loose or precise, delicate or bold, expressive or controlled? Are they horizontal, vertical or diagonal? What feelings do they evoke? Are there any implied lines or psychic lines?
  • What shapes do I see? What kinds of shapes are they – geometric, natural, abstract, nonrepresentational?
  • What colors do I see? Is it additive or subtractive color? What hues are there? Values? Temperatures? Are the colors saturated? Are there color schemes? What kinds – monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, triadic?
  • What values do I see? Is it high key or low key? How strong is the value contrast? Do the values add volume, create the illusion of space or add emphasis? What kinds of feelings or moods are evoked by the values?
  • What textures do I see? Are they actual or visual? How are the textures created?
  • Do I see unity? How is the unity created? Is unity achieved through proximity, repetition, continuation or alignment? Or more than one of these principles?
  • Do I see variety? What elements are varied? How are they varied?
  • Do I see emphasis? What elements are emphasized? How are they emphasized? Are the right elements emphasized?
  • Do I see balance? What kind of balance – symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial or crystallographic? How is the visual weight created? Which elements are visually heavier? Why? Which elements are visually lighter? Why?
  • Do I see the illusion of space? How is it created – through size, overlapping, location, atmospheric perspective or linear perspective?


Put the elements and principles to work. Use a computer,  a sketchbook, watercolor paper, a scrapbook, felt pens, crayons, pixels,  rock, sticks, paint, glue, calligraphy pens, cut paper, anything you can get your hands on. Play with the elements.

  • Create lines and shapes. See what happens when you change their sizes, colors, values.
  • Use a color scheme. Use the same color scheme with different colors. Use a different color scheme. How does that change things?
  • Change the values. Make your design high key. Make it low key. Increase the value contrast. Decrease the value contrast. How do these changes in value change the feel of the design?
  • Add textures – actual and visual. What does that do?
  • Use proximity, repetition, continuation or alignment to unify your design. What is enough unity? What happens with too much unity?
  • Add variety. What will you vary? When is there enough variety? What happens with too much variety?
  • Is your design balanced? How? Which elements have the most visual weight and why? Change their visual weight? How does the design change?
  • Create the illusion of space. Use one technique. Add another. Does that strengthen the illusion?