Businessman with creative ideas. Source: alphaspirit/
Businessman with creative ideas. Source: alphaspirit/

Greeks defined beauty as order, symmetry, and harmony, using the Golden Ratio as the standard for beauty.  Michelangelo took a cue from the Greeks and became an expert by copying Greek statues and paintings.  He succeeded in fooling art historians of the day by using the same ink and material used by the Greeks and even burying his art to give it an aged look.

Consider taking a leaf from Michelangelo’s book and copy other artists to generate ideas and learn techniques. By copying other designs, we learn how people think. Also consider collaborating with other designers as a way to generate new ideas and combine designs for a stronger, more unique design. We will discuss some techniques to consider while designing. There are five basic steps.

1.      Unity: A circle represents perfection and unity. When thinking about your design, think about the message you want to convey. What is the purpose of the piece? What do you want viewers to think or feel? There is a conversation, or exchange, between the piece and the viewer. Engage the viewer with the design.

2.      Opposition: There is a hierarchy in design; the major theme and the minor theme. The major theme is the purpose or message of the piece, the minor theme creates tension and opposition to create interest in the piece.

3.      Harmony: Triangles and hexagons are the strongest shapes. These shapes add direction, stability, and structure to a piece. 

4.      Precedent: What’s been done before? Try copying other artists to see what they see and learn technique. Then take what you’ve learned and apply it in new, never-been-done ways.

5.      Focal Point: The main point of interest, or the purpose, of a piece. 

Document Design Principles

Along with design tips, some tips from The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams may be helpful to consider while you’re designing. Williams has four principles: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity. All of these concepts can be used in art and design.

1.      Contrast: The use of contrasting colors, shapes, fonts etc. By using contrast, you can highlight certain areas of interest. For example, Rembrandt’s use of darkness and light highlights the subject-matter of his works.

2.      Repetition: Repeating designs, symbols, or logos. Use repetition for symmetry and harmony. It’s also useful for branding by repeating a logo (or part of logo) in more than one place.

3.      Alignment: Aligning elements in a design so that everything lines up and corresponds with another element. This creates cohesion and harmony. This is particularly useful for website and documents that use both text and pictures. The pictures should be aligned with text (or other elements), which creates order.

4.      Proximity: Grouping related information together. For example, on a website, the contact information should be grouped together, which would be separate from other blocks of text. In design, use proximity to group together related subject matter to guide the eye across the piece.

The Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo

The Libyan Sibyl, Phemonoe, was the prophetic priestess in charge of the Zeus Ammon Oracle at Siwa Oasis in the Libyan Desert.

Notice the tension caused by the pose she’s in. Her twisting torso and legs create energy and contrast.

The Libyan Sibyl by Michelangelo. Source: Wikimedia Commons