Principles of design Component Characteristics and Repetition Rhythm

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The Principles are concepts used to organize or arrange the elements within a work of art.

Components of Principle of Design

  • Axis
  • Symmetry
  • Hierarchy
  • Rhythm
  • Datum
  • Transformation


  • It is a line established by two points about which forms and spaces can be arranged in a regular or irregular manner.
  • Imaginary and not visible except to the mind’s eye.
  • An axis is essentially a linear condition.
  • It has qualities of length and direction.

Characteristics of axis:

  • Induces movement and promotes views along its path.
  • An axis must be terminated at both of its ends by a significant form and space.
  • The notion of an axis can be reinforced by defining edges along its length.
  • An axis can also be established simply by a symmetrical arrangement of forms and spaces.
An axis serves to:
  • Points in space established by vertical, linear elements or centralized building forms.
Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
  • Vertical planes, such as symmetrical building facades or fronts, preceded by a forecourt or similar open space.
Central Secretariat, New Delhi, Herbert Baker
  • Well-defined spaces, generally centralized or regular in form
Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas
  • Gateways that open outward toward a view or vista beyond.
 India Gate, New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens

Examples of Axis:

In Everyday Life:

Railway Track
Axis Illustration

In Architecture:

Axis Illustrated through water feature


  • The balanced distribution and arrangement of equivalent forms and spaces about a common line (axis) or Point (center)

Types of Symmetry:

i. Bilateral symmetry
  • Refers to the balanced arrangement of similar or equivalent elements on opposite sides of a median axis.
  • One plane divides the whole into essentially identical halves.
Laal qila, Delhi
ii. Radial symmetry
  • The balanced arrangement of similar, radiating elements.
  • The composition can be divided into similar halves by passing a plane at any angle around a center point or along a central axis.

Examples of Symmetry:

In Nature:

Symmetry Illustration

In Architecture:

Symmetry Illustrated through Structure


  • The articulation of a form or space by its size, shape, or placement relative to the other forms and spaces of the organization.

Types of Hierarchy:

i. Hierarchy by Size
  • A form or space may dominate a composition by being significantly different in size from all the other elements in the composition.
  • Dominance is made visible by the size of an element.
Taj Hotel, Mumbai, D.N. Mirza and S.K. Vaidya
ii. Hierarchy by Shape
  • A form or space which is visually dominant.
  • By clearly differentiating its shape from that of the other elements in the composition.
  • The differentiation is based on a change in geometry or regularity.
Legislative Assembly Building, Chandigarh, Capitol Complex of Punjab, Le Corbusier
iii. Hierarchy by Placement
  • A form or space may be strategically placed as the most important element in a composition.
  • The centerpiece of a symmetrical organization.
  • The focus of a or radial organization.
  • Being offset above, below, or in foreground.
Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, Mario Botta

Examples of Hierarchy:

In Nature:

In Architecture:

Hierarchy Illustrated through Roof


  • A datum refers to a line, plane, or volume of reference to which other elements in a composition can relate.
  • It organizes a random pattern of elements through its regularity, continuity, and constant presence.

Datum can organize the elements in the following ways:

i. Line
  • A line can cut through or form a common edge for the pattern
  • Grid of lines can form a neutral, unifying field for the pattern.
Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal (Plan)
ii. Plane
  • A plane can gather the pattern of elements beneath it or serve as an encompassing background for the elements and frame them in its field.
Salvation Army Hostel, Paris, France (Plan)
iii. Volume
  • A volume can collect the pattern of elements within its boundaries or organize them along its perimeter.
Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy (Plan)

Examples of Datum:

In Nature:

In Architecture:

Datum illustrated through roof


  • Rhythm incorporates the fundamental notion of repetition as a device to organize forms and spaces in architecture.

We tend to group elements in a random composition according to:

  • Their closeness or proximity to one another.
  • The visual characteristics they share in common.

Repetition can organize the elements in the following ways:

i. Size
ii. Shape
iii. Detail characteristics
  • Rhythm refers to any movement characterized by a patterned recurrence (Repetitions) of elements or motifs at regular or irregular intervals.

Rhythm can be organized in the following ways:

i. In a radial or concentric manner about a point
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, Jorn Utzon
ii. Sequentially according to size in a linear fashion
Culture Center, Wolfsburg, Germany, Alvar Alto
iii. Randomly but related by proximity and similarity of form
Culture Center, Wolfsburg, Germany, Alvar Alto

Examples of Rhythm:

In Nature:

In Architecture:


  • The principle that an architectural concept, structure, or organization can be altered through a series of discrete manipulations and permutations.
  • In response to a specific context or set of conditions without a loss of identity or concept.

Examples of Transformation:

In Nature:

In Architecture:


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