Of all the principles of design, unity can be a little hard to wrap your head around. That’s probably because it’s more of a concept to keep in mind when using the other principles of design in your artwork.
As such, we’ve decided to make this guide to explain how one of the essential principles of design can help you produce more appealing artwork. So keep reading to give your designs a sense of harmony.
What Is Unity in Design?
Unity is a principle of design that acts as a metaphorical glue for the other principles of design, unifying them together into a cohesive whole. So in a sense, unity is an omnipotent principle because it’s something you have to actively keep in mind as you work.
When an artwork or design is said to have unity, it means all the other design principles work together harmoniously to create a final piece that’s aesthetically pleasing. In addition, unity makes an artist feel like their piece is complete, often after extensive trial and error.
Additionally, there are two types of unity, visual and conceptual. Visual unity may involve arranging elements in a design in a unified manner (for example, on the same axis). Meanwhile, conceptual unity involves including related elements that represent the same idea in a work.
Why Is Unity Important?
You could say that unity keeps the elements of a design in check, ensuring that no one element overpowers the others or distracts by standing out (unless that’s your intention).
Without it, a design or work of art can confuse the final viewer and send the wrong message than what you intended. In other words, you may end up with an eyesore if the elements in your design don’t blend well together into a unified whole.
Achieving Unity in Your Design
Now that we understand just how essential unity is, let’s look at some of the things we can do to achieve it in our designs.
1. Make a Checklist
It helps to make a checklist (whether physical or mental) of all the principles of design (explained below) and see which ones you’ve used in your composition and which ones you’ve neglected to incorporate.
Note that you might not use every single design principle in your work (the most obvious example being pattern), and the work may not necessarily suffer for it.
2. Step Back and Examine
Additionally, you can achieve unity in your design by assessing every element to see how well they work together, identify the potential relationships between them or lack thereof, and make adjustments where necessary.
You’ll have to take a step back and examine your design, often while you’re in the middle of composing it. Moreover, before adding a new element to your design, consider how it’ll affect the other elements on the canvas or page.
3. Seek a Second Opinion
You could also get a second opinion to see whether your design communicates your message as intended. Note that you don’t have to seek the opinion of a fellow artist. Almost anyone with even the barest appreciation of design or art will do.
For example, asking a colleague to identify the element in your design that draws their attention the most will help determine whether you’ve used emphasis correctly. Just be careful not to ask leading questions, so you extract an unbiased opinion.
What Are the Other Principles of Design?
Let’s briefly revisit the other design principles to better understand how they can be used together to achieve unity in a work.
Every composition has an X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) axis. Awareness of both axes will help you place your elements on a page to give each element a unique visual weight.
Additionally, you’ll also need to maintain equilibrium between elements in your work, and arranging your elements symmetrically or asymmetrically along either axis is how you’ll do that.
Your design is going to have a lot of different elements, and some of them will contrast with or oppose others. For example, you may use both light and dark hues in a design piece, curved and straight lines, or make subjects large or small.
Therefore, knowing how to use different elements to communicate visually to your audience will result in a more pleasing design.
Repeating an element or multiple elements in a design creates a pattern that you can use to make a stunning effect. In addition, patterns can help to convey movement and communicate subliminally with your audience.
Meanwhile, seamless patterns appear predominantly on tiles in interior design and can be used to give the walls of a room an interesting-looking texture.
It may be your intent that one of the elements in a composition draws the viewer’s eye and monopolizes their focus. That’s what the principle of emphasis is all about when done right.
Meanwhile, a design with too many focal points can seem cluttered and confusing, repelling the viewer.
Proportion refers to the size of one element in a design in comparison to another or others. When you adjust the scale of one element, you can convey its relationship to other elements, establish a hierarchy of importance among your elements, or even create the illusion of space.
For example, making one subject small and the other large may be used to communicate how close or far they’re intended to be from the observer.
The way you arrange your design elements may give the still work a sense of movement and speed through implied lines. Additionally, you can use element arrangement to guide your viewer’s eye in a specific direction, creating more engagement with a piece.
Essentially, the principles of design help you to organize all the seven elements of art (line, shape, form, texture, color, value, and space) in your artwork.
See also: How to Draw a Shoe
Unity is integral to making impressive artwork and designs. It brings all the other principles of design together into a cohesive whole, making sure the individual elements in the design work together instead of competing against one another.
To achieve unity, try making a checklist of the design principles to see which ones you’re using and which ones you could add. Stepping back from your work and examining how your elements work together also helps, as does seeking a second opinion.