Archive for the 'Principles & Elements' Category

von Restorff Effect

A phenomenon of memory in which noticeably different things are more likely to be recalled than common things.1

The von Restorff effect is the increased likelihood of remembering unique or distinctive events or objects versus those that are common. The von Restorff effect is primarily the result of the increased attention given to the distinctive items in a set, where a set may be a list of words, a number of objects, a sequence of events, or the names and faces of people. The von Restorff effect occurs when there is a difference in context (i.e., a stimulus is different from surrounding stimuli) or a difference in experience (i.e., a stimulus is different from experiences in memory).

Take advantage of the von Restorff effect by highlighting key elements in a presentation or design (e.g., bold text). If everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted, so apply the technique sparingly. Since recall for the middle items in a list or sequence is weaker than items at the beginning or end of a list, consider using the von Restorff effect to boost recall for the middle items. Unusual words, sentence constructions, and images are better remembered than their more typical counterparts, and should be considered to improve interactiveness and recall.

This distinctiveness may also come in the form of humor, in which case the humor effect occurs. Similarly, specific examples include the bizarreness effect and the serial position effect.2

See also cognitive biases and memory biases.


eat mor chikin billboard

The Chick-fil-A billboards use a combination of dimensionality and humor to attract attention and increase memorability. The billboards effectively command attention in visually noisy environments, clearly and intelligently promote the Chick-fil-A brand, and are quickly read and understood. As billboard design goes, it does not get much better.

Cadbury’s commercials seem incredibly random and without a point to most people. But it has been discussed that these adverts feed you with something completely (seemingly) irrelevant, and then flash you with their brand. Memorable, no?

  1. Also known as the isolation effect and novelty effect.

Notes on Colour

What is Colour?

Colour vision by most people is taken for granted. We are not aware of the process, which occurs to let us experience colour. To understand colour, we have to understand some basic principles such as: what is light and what are it’s characteristics? How does it behave with different types of materials, and how do we receive this information and transform it into a form that we can perceive?

Light is a form of energy, which is called radiant energy, such as heat. Light can be more precisely defined as an electromagnetic energy. Light has one special property: it travels at a constant speed. In a vacuum light travels at 186,000 miles per second or more precisely, 299,792,456.2 metres per second.

Visible Spectrum

Further reading: Colour (wikipedia), Light (wikipedia), Visible Spectrum (wikipedia), Human Eye (wikipedia).

Continue reading ‘Notes on Colour’

Hierarchy of Needs

In order for a design to be successful, it must meet people’s basic needs before it can attempt to satisfy higher-level needs.

Hierarchy of Needs

The hierarchy of needs principle specifies that a design must serve low-level needs (e.g., it must function),  before the higher-level needs, such as creativity, can begin to be addressed.

  1. Functionality
  2. Reliability
  3. Usability
  4. Proficiency
  5. Creativity

Info taken from Universal Principles of Design. A little more reading material: 1, 2, 3.


Texture: a personal interest (obsession) as of late.

Texture can be real or simulated, can form a surface, can be natural or man-made, can achieve emphasis, can be affected by lighting conditions.

See the elements of design examples.

So, here are some recent photos of mine (courtesy of Richard‘s camera!):

Texture 01

Texture 02

Texture 03

Texture 04

Texture 05

Continue reading ‘Texture’

The Principles of Design

Here are the principles of design and examples of each. Please feel free to use this as a reference.


Balance is the weighted relationship between the visual elements.

Principle of Design: Balance

Balance: Principle of Design


Composition is the organization of the elements of design into a unified whole.

Still-Life by Vincent van Gogh

Emphasis or Dominance

Emphasis is the focus of attention in a composition.

Principle of Design: Emphasis

Harmony in Photography

Emphasis in Photography


Harmony is the unity of all the visual elements in a composition.

Principle of Design: Harmony

West Seattle Fishing Pier at Sunset


Proportion is the ratio of one part of the composition to another.

Principle of Design: Proportion

Golden Section Within


Repetition is the use of an element or elements more than one time in a single composition.

Piet Mondrian

Repetition Principle of Design


Rhythm is the repetition of an element to achieve movement in a composition.

Principle of Design: Rhythm

Rhythm in Nature


Unity is the organization of elements and principles into a whole.

Unity in Design: Gestalt


Variety is the differences among and between elements in a composition.

Principle of Design: Variety


Contrast where there is distinguishable difference between objects. This may be in shape such as the letter “s” and the letter “l”. Or it may be in contrast in tone, colour, mass etc.

Principle of Design: Contrast

Examples of Contrast

Contrast in Type


Economy is the intentional removal of elaboration. Only the elements that have a purpose remain.

Economy in Practise: Principle of Design

You can witness economy being practised in an advert when the product is the only item shown, with a very minimal (or plain) background.

Don’t offer more than is needed, but be sure to include all that is needed to create an intelligent and economical design.

See the Elements of Design.

The Elements of Design

My collection of the elements of design, with examples of each. Please feel free to use this as an example or reference if you need.


Element of Design - Line

Drawing Vancouver - Bernie Lyon and Lee Bacchus

Line varies in direction, defines contour or the edge of an object, creates the illusion of space and form, and creates a pattern when repeated. Line has varying characteristics, e.g., thick and thin, long and short, and curved and straight.


Element of Design - Shape

Element of Design - Shape

Shape creates pattern when repeated, can be organic or geometric, can be positive or negative, creates rhythm when repeated, creates emphasis when varied in size, creates balance when varied in placement, can be objective or non-objective, can be distorted or extended.


Element of Design - Form

Element of Design - Form

Form in Nature

Form is shape with dimension, can be balanced symmetrically or asymmetrically, can be open or closed, when repeated creates pattern, can be organic and/or geometric, can be studied for its historical and cultural significance.


Element of Design - Colour

Colour Wheel

The Visible Spectrum

Colour can be mixed from red, yellow, and blue, can be combined to make new colours, can be mixed for intensity and value, can express moods and feelings, can be warm or cool, can give the illusion of distance.


Element of Design - Space

Element of Design - Space

Shape can be displayed by overlapping spaces, can be displayed by color, can be two or three-dimensional, can be distorted, can be positive and negative, can be shown by proposition.


Element of Design - Texture

Element of Design - Texture

Texture can be real or simulated, can form a surface, can be natural or man-made, can achieve emphasis, can be affected by lighting conditions.


Element of Design - Value

Element of Design - Value

Value can be created by the manipulation of media, can be expressed through a variety of media, can create movement, can separate a surface, can create an illusion of depth, can be the lightness or darkness of media.

Also see the Principles of Design.