“Create with heart, build with the mind.” — Chris Jami, American poet, essayist, musician, singer, designer, lyricist, and existentialist philosopher
Why Learning the Art of Composition Matters
Our last series, Graphic Design Basic Elements, covered all the components for creating a painting, artwork, or graphic design.
Now, in this series, we cover the complete composite of options for compositional design by defining the image’s visual field and the container for any artwork.
The noun, device is the term used in design to describe the composition as a container.
The possibilities start with eight primary devices and expand to sixty-four variations.
The 64 Compositional Device Series helps an artist build a foundation for constructing a design and delivering their full intent for creating the artwork.
Every artwork’s composition uses one of the eight devices as the primary description for the compositional quality of the design. We will progress through this free online art lesson learning how the devices combine to include a secondary one.
How Do Devices Differ From Elements?
This post’s introduction graphic has a primary device of One Dominant. The globe is the one dominant device. However, it contains a secondary device. And that is the landscape scene with the birds lifting into the foreground with a fiery sun behind them (more on this in the next lesson). This one dominant focal point lies in the center of the image. It should never touch the edges of the artwork.
This device does not touch the edges but lies within the image. The artwork also contains another compositional quality as a secondary device termed structure.
The 8 Primary Compositional Devices
By the time we cover all 64 possibilities you will have examples for each one as a downloadable image.
Here is a list of the primary eight devices:
- One Dominant
- Two Dominant
- Negative Positive
Simple Examples of the 8 Compositional Devices
Here is a slide show of simple graphics for each of the 8 devices. All possibilities are a main foundation for all artwork.
Art Play Exercises
Grab your art journals from the previous series and it’s time to play! If you are new then grab a notebook, some art materials, and a bunch of old magazines.
- Look through old magazines that you don’t mind ripping out the pages. Identify at least three examples of each of the eight devices. Start a slush file which is a term used by artists. It’s a folder containing examples of visual ideas that you can categorize as examples. The contents serve as a reference to stimulate your imagination each time you begin a new creative project. Remember, conceptual time is also productive time. 🤔
- Play with your favorite art medium and illustrate an example of each of the eight devices. In this creative playtime, remember to keep it simple. This way you can breeze through all eight and get them in your etched into your memory. You’ll also have your notebook for future reference!
Our next tutorial will expand on the One-Dominate compositional device variations. Eventually your notebook will contain a total of 64 possible layout and design compositions.
Downloadable Tutorial Sheets
In case you are viewing a post in the middle of a series, click to view > Art & Illustration Series Table of Contents
Luise volta says
I’m totally fascinated by the way designs are organized. I had no idea it was so scientific. Thank you so much!
Sandy Breckenridge says
You are so welcome! I am so glad you enjoy following along. Design essentially is all redesign. Nature teaches us so much, too.