Elements and Principles of Design - Balance

Definition


bal·ance
noun
a feeling of equality of weight, attention, or attraction of the various elements within the composition.


Definition


sym·met·ry
noun
the correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of an imaginary midline.


Definition


vi·gnette
noun
an engraving, drawing, photograph, or the like that is shaded off gradually at the edges so as to leave no definite line at the border.


Related Concepts


Balance refers to the distribution of visual weight in a work of art.

In painting, it is the visual equilibrium of the elements that causes the total image to appear balanced.

Balance can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical in a work of art.

Balance in Fine Art

Winslow Homer - Dressing for the Carnival
Winslow Homer - "Dressing for the Carnival", 1877

In Homer's painting, the artist tells a story of a performer putting on his costume while fascinated children watch. He uses very strong value contrast to emphasize intense sunlight and shadows. He balanced values, shapes, and colors to create a unified visual statement with the central carnival figure as the focal point.

Source: Elements and Principles of Design: Student Guide with Activities, published by Crystal Productions

Balance in Graphic Design

How to Be a Wicked Witch Book Cover by Dennis Clouse
How to Be a Wicked Witch Book Cover
Dennis Clouse
Cyclone Design and Illustration

At first glance, an observer may wonder how this cover could possibly represent a good example of balance. Think of this design not in terms of balancing two mirrored sides (symmetrical balance), but of two different elements—type and shape—offsetting each other. The illustration on the left side is basically built of shapes, while the right side of the design is primarily type. The two are placed in the format in such a way as to create a sense of near-perfect balance. The dark vignetted border and the tail of the cat coming up to the right edge of the cover do wonders to stabilize the design.

Source: Design Basics for Creative Results by Bryan L. Peterson

Further Definition

Balance is the attainment of optical and psychological equilibrium in a design.

What is it?

The visual weight of an image. Balance can relate to symmetry, asymmetry or radial balance.

Why is important?

People like balance; we are creatures of symmetry and appreciate it in everything. A design is like a real world building: it needs to be balanced or it doesn’t work.

How to achieve it

Notes