January 18, 2024 – Apprentice

Writing Assignment

Fill out the other three 4-square sheets (on Asia, lines & your ancestor) just like you did last week by taking the subtopics and details and putting one in each of the first 3 boxes. When you come to class this week you will have 4 separate sheets that look like the one in the picture.

DESIGN BASICS PART III – Composition and Balance

Welcome back to our little design class.  We have covered in our past lessons the building blocks of art and design. We’ve talked about the ELEMENTS that are used to create a design. This week we will start talking about the PRINCIPLES of art and design. 

What is a principle? A principle is (according to the interwebs) “1.a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning, 2. a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field.” In simple terms- A principle is a kind of rule, belief, or idea that guides you. 

So this time we will explore the first of our principles of design – BALANCE. But first- let’s take a quick look at soup.

Before we get into the principle of balance – we are going to look into some concepts that will play into everything we do from here on out. These are important concepts that exist within every design, every artwork, every doodle. WE are talking about the FORMAT and the COMPOSITION

FORMAT:  Format defines the physical proportions of an artwork. It can be a tall rectangle, square, wide rectangle, triangle, circle, etc. The format is how we describe what the art is on or what shape it is viewed in. Includes paper, canvas, television, movie screen, picture books, stone, marble, concrete, etc. How the art is displayed for all viewers. 

Formats can be small




Even fill a wall.

You are not limited to which format you use but your format will greatly affect your design.

COMPOSITION:  Composition literally means how things are put together. In design terms it is the same. Your composition is how you put together the different parts of your design. Composition can help tell a story, create a mood, draw the viewer’s eye right where you want it. Composition can create wonder and awe for the viewer, or make them very uncomfortable. 

Compositions can be open– meaning some of the elements of the design are not contained in the format- they either break out of the format or they are cropped by the frame (see image below with pitcher and grapes). Others can be closed – meaning all the elements of the design are contained within the format (see image below with pears).


These videos covered much of what we will explore through the rest of the year. Today- we focus on BALANCE.




  1. Balance in art is defined as the equal distribution of visual weight in a composition. All the elements (line, shape, color, etc) in that composition look stable or have a feeling of balance (like one side is not heavier than the other).
  2. Balance is one of the principles of design. Understanding and applying knowledge of balance methods are  important parts of creating a good composition. In 2D art, balance refers to how an artist develops a composition through the arrangement or placement of objects or elements on the picture plane. The artist places the elements or objects in a such way to create either a sense of equilibrium. He may intentionally create an unbalanced piece to send a certain message as well.
  3. A Central Axis Line is an imaginary line that divides the composition in half either vertically or horizontally. Objects placed on either side of the axis line can either be repeated exactly the same (Symmetry, Radial) or unequally but with equal visual weight (Asymmetrical). 
  4. The artist can create interest in a composition depending on how they choose to use balance. Remembering always to incorporate or include the other principles of design (Emphasis, Harmony, Variety, Rhythm, etc) is the key to a successful composition.
  5. There are 3 main types balance:
    1. Symmetrical or Formal Balance: the elements (line, shape, color, etc.) are identical or almost identical on both sides of the axis (easiest balance to achieve and generally feels calmer and more stable)
    2. Asymmetrical or Informal Balance: the elements are not identical on either side of the axis line, yet the overall feeling is still stable (harder to achieve, but visually more interesting)
    3. Radial Balance: the elements radiate out from a central point. Elements are repeated evenly both vertically and horizontally from the axis lines.
    4. a fourth type pf balance: Crystallographic balance does not have any symmetrical characteristics, which the others have. It may look disordered and cluttered, but it still has a calm vibe, and thus it’s known as organized chaos.

Elements of Art Influence on Balance

How do some of the elements of art effect visual balance? When developing your composition, it is VERY important to remember the weight attributes of each element and how they influence weight in visual balance.

  1. Color:
    1. Light colors appear lighter in weight than dark colors. Black and white are the strongest contrast you can have-Black is the heaviest color & white is the lightest color.
    2. Bright colors are visually heavier than dull colors.
    3. Warm colors (Yellow, Orange, Red) visually expand an area in size, whereas cool colors (Blue, Green Purple) tend to contract an area.
    4. Transparent areas visually weigh less than opaque areas.
  2. Shape: Shape size is VERY important to balance…
    1. Individually-small shapes are light, larger shapes are heavier.
    2. A small shape next to a large shape will weigh less than the larger shape.
    3. Grouping a few small shapes together can have equal weight with one larger shape.
    4. Complex geometric shapes (hexagons, trapezoids, etc) weigh more than simple geometric shapes (circle, square, etc)
  3. Line: Light thin lines are lighter, rough thick lines are heavier
  4. Texture: light smooth textures weigh less than dark jagged (lots of pattern) textures
  5. Value: lighter values weigh less than darker values on the value scale

Other things that effect balance weight are: location on the picture plane, contrasting colors together, & line direction

FIND: Look for examples of design that utilize Bilateral Symmetry, Asymmetry, & Radial Symmetry

  1. Bring 3 examples to class with you. Be prepared to explain what kind of balance the designs utilize. Also how the design uses the basic elements of design to achieve that balance. 
  2. Optional – You are always encouraged to find any examples of Design that you like. They need not be directly related to the subject at hand. Bring it with you to class and be prepared to tell us why you like it.
  3. Another Optional – Look for an example of bad Design. Something that just doesn’t work well. The message isn’t clear. You may start noticing some things. Bring it with you to class and be prepared to tell us why you don’t like it.

CREATE: Do some designs. You don’t need to do them all. But do some. Choose 2. Or do a few of one…

  1. Make some snowflakes (Radial symmetry) Make them cool and interesting(coolest snowflake will be rewarded!). https://onelittleproject.com/how-to-make-paper-snowflakes/ (make your own. Don’t just print these and make them)
  2. Take some photos incorporating the different types of balance. Try to create interesting compositions. (Remember the rule of thirds.)
  3. Eat a well Balanced Meal – (DESIGN not nutrition) Be creative. Photograph it. Tell us about it.


  HAVE FUN!! Design is fun. 

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