Design Strategies:
Thinking Ahead

copyright by Nita Leland

When using design strategies you must remember that the design of your art or craft is every bit as important as your skill or technique.

Taking time to plan assures that your design will work. This may take some effort at first, but if you're faithful in your practice, the process will soon become second nature to you.

  1. Explore the design in your sketchbook.Does it need a delicate touch or an explosion? Look for a subject's gestures, the descriptive contours. Note important details.

  2. Identify your concept, theme or idea. Every composition should have a strong design emphasis based on this. The decisions you make from here on out will depend on it.

  3. Determine design dominance to reinforce your concept. Do you want; cool colors, restful horizontals? Curving lines, Hot colors? Dynamic angles and oblique lines? Large shapes or intricate patterns? Sensitive colors or strong values?

  4. Chose a format that enhances your expressive idea. Use creative variations of design formats. Make distinctive choice in your layout. Have your design interact with the edges, forming interesting negative areas.

  5. Develop a design plan. Make big shapes by combing several small shapes. Arrange lights and darks in an effective value pattern. Use your sketchbook to try different plans.

  6. Determine the focal point. Place it a different distance from each edge. Plan rhythm, repetition, color and pattern to direct the eye to your focal point. Arrange your greatest contrasts of color and value here.

  7. Plan a distinctive color scheme. Use the expressive quality of color and count on dominance to support your concept.

  8. Decide on the medium and technique that will pull everything together.


Give the Rules a Rest

Don't be intimidated by rules.

Give your plan a twist or an element of surprise. Matisse said, "Great art makes its own rules." Every rule is waiting to be broken. Just remember the two rules for breaking a rule: one is to fully understand it; the other is to know why you want to break it.

Your creativity is an expression of your uniqueness. Be yourself. Value your individuality. Creativity is finding different ways of doing things.

Look beyond what others see. Reveal the truth of the subject as you--and only you--perceive it.

Search for your reality in the rhythms and patterns of nature.

Discover the symbolism of shapes lines and colors. The symbols you select and the way you organize them convey your insights to your viewer.


Nita Leland author of The New Creative Artist: A Guide to Developing Your Creative Spirit, page 100 & 101, Design Strategies: Thinking Ahead. Reprinted with permission. Check out Nita's inspirational website Exploring Color & Creativity. "Tap into your creative process and renew your creative spirit."




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