IDM elements+principles

theory topics


design elements

the building blocks of interactive digital media


Colour communicates both optically, and emotionally.


Identify primary or secondary, warm and cool colours, and harmonious or complementary colours. Discuss tonal values creation of depth.


Consider the symbolic meanings of colours and how they make us feel. Consider the role of colour in Hierarchy.



Shape refers to a two dimensional enclosure.


Identify organic, natural or biomorphic shapes that remind us of nature. Geometric, rectalinear, sharp, hard edged or man-made shapes remind us of mechanical things.

Shapes express different emotions, explain them.



Identify a kind of line. They can be organic or straight, natural geometric. They can also be light, thick, sensitive, textured, flowing, jiggered or regular. They can be make by a pen, brush or mechanical instrument.


Lines are used for outlines and lines of composition.



Tone usually emphasises form. Tone creates subtle or dramatic effects. When we shade a drawing to make it look three dimensional we are applying tone.

Tone also describes both light direction and style of light. We can create a harsh or soft light in renderings.



Texture represents the surface. Identify texture as rough and smooth.

We have real texture; that is texture that you would feel with your fingertips, and visual texture; like a lion's coat in a photo.



Identify forms such as a cube, a pyramid and a sphere. Form is created by design elements; shape, tone, line and point. In analysing visual communications we talk less about the role of form and more about the role of these other elements in creating form.


(Not classed as design element in this study)


Identify kind of typeface; Serif, Sans serif, decorative. Discuss type anatomy, type size, colour, case, alignment, typesetting adjustments; Leading, tracking, kerning. Serif typefaces can = authority, experience, wisdom and tradition. Sans- serif typefaces = newness, freshness and objectivity. Decorative, hand generated or manipulated type = different emotional efffects.


design principles

the strategies of interactive digital media


Balance refers to a relationship between two or more components on a vertical or horizontal axis. An axis can be created by lines, shapes, type or images.

Identify symmetrical balance; creating an orderd and stable composition or assymetrical balance; creating a vibrant, dynamic composition. Consider the purpose of VC in evaluating Balance.



A part of a visual communication that has been made more visible and consequently more important.

Identify the element, principle or strategy that has created the emphasis. For example; colour, scale, tone, size, contrast, proportion, position can all create emphasis.

focal point


Related to emphasis, a focal point is a point in a composition that has been emphasised. It can be an actual point made promiment by the use of colour, shape or contrast or an implied point in a composition emphasised by shape, or lines of axis.



Movement in a visual communication can be actual or implied.


Actual movement is created by sequence of frames in a movie or animation.


Implied movement is created by blur in a photo or horizontal 'speed' lines in an illustration.


Movement is expressive.



Scale refers to the relative sizes of similar or same objects in visual communications.


Using differently sized objects together helps create of depth in a composition.


Describe the size of relative components of a composition.



Proportion mean the ratio of relative dimensions of an image, shape or type. Compare the proportion of height, depth, width and/ or length of components.


Designers also change the proportion (and scale) or components to fit differently proportioned 'formats'.




Perspective is the creation of depth or 3d/ form in a picture. Describe the way form has been created in the picture. For example; perspective can be created by angled lines, shapes, graduated tone, overlapping components, scale - increasing and/ or decreasing the size of components.


Perspective makes a composition more dynamic.




Unity is a visual techniqe where strictly chosen desing elements and/ or components of an image, film, website or animation work together to create visual consistency and order within the composition.


The use of colour, shape, type, visual style can create unity.


A further group of design and communication principles that are based on psychological principles of perception.


Means the spatial arrangements of components of a visual communication. Proximity is related to balance and hierarchy.


Careless use of proximity can create the appearance of additional forms or components in the VC because they may unite to form unit.



Means the spatial arrangements of components of a visual communication. Proximity is related to balance and hierarchy.


Careless use of proximity can create the appearance of additional forms or components in the VC because they may unite to form unit.



A sequence of repeating elements or components (shapes, points, lines) act to lead a viewers eye to a focal point.



Refers to a 'shape' that seems to appear in the negative space between components as a result of gaps in the positive shapes that come together to create an implied shape.


They eye may want to complete lines into shapes in the case where there are short missing sections.