Last edited 01 Apr 2019

Design and its visual elements


[edit] Introduction

Design is the process of formulating, creating and planning a functional object such as a building to achieve certain purposes, for example, to create homes, offices and commercial buildings.

Design can be defined as a plan produced to show the look, function or workings of a building or other object before it is made.

[edit] Design stages

Design in architectural projects involves three basic stages

  1. Conceptual stage: the project definition, setting up of design criteria and constraints, site study and envisaging the design concept.
  2. Preliminary design stage: this consists of preparing sketches, concept development, and preparation of outline proposal, conceptual models and spatial organisation.
  3. Final or scheme design stage: this involves the preparation of architectural drawings, such as floor plans, elevations, site plans, sections, 3D drawings and final models.

[edit] Visual elements of design


This is a mark between two points. Lines can be straight, squiggly or curved. A line serves to:

  • Connect and support other visual elements.
  • Helps to emphasise plane edges and give shape.
  • Helps to manipulate the surface appearance of planes.


Colour creates emotions and feelings that can define a space. For instance, red excites and stimulates but when very deep can be disturbing, heavy, aggressive and alerting. Orange stimulates and creates attention, warms, is luminous, activating and like red is also motion oriented. Yellow elevates, but can be irritating particularly when highly saturated. Green can be relaxing, natural, soft and passive.


Shape is the two-dimensional profile of an object. Shapes are made when lines joining points enclose to form areas. Shapes are of two types: geometric and free-form or organic shapes. Geometric shapes can easily be defined using mathematical procedures, they are regular and precise, include squares, rectangles, triangles, oval, pentagons etc. Free-form or organic shapes are complex to define using mathematical formulas, they are irregular, uneven and come out of nature. Examples are puddles, trees, animals, leaves and rocks.


Texture refers to properties relating to smoothness, softness or coarseness of a surface. In a design, texture helps to create visual interest or focal point, contrast and balance. There are two types of texture, real and implied.


Size refers to degrees of smallness or largeness. Size can be used to describe importance, creating both visual interest and hierarchy among a series of design elements.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki