Creating a complete and aesthetically pleasing 3d scene relies primarily on good knowledge and use of the elements and principles of design. The elements provide the visual tools to create a design from scratch, whereas design principles can be thought of as the visual grammar applied to the elements, a way to manipulate and arrange them, in order to build around the subject matter of our intended image.
It’s generally accepted that there are eight elements most commonly used in design of any type. These are line, space, form, shape, texture, colour, light and time. Of those we will focus on line, shape & form, space, colour, light and texture.
"The element of line is of fundamental importance to architecture. In this building rendered by Juan Carlos Ramos, diagonal lines spreading to every direction create an energetic and pulsating composition which challenges the stability and logic of the horizontal and vertical axes."
Line is a fundamental concept, and although it may seem quite abstract in its definition, it becomes very real visually when one starts creating a 3d scene.
Lines can be actual or implied, the latter being formed by the arrangement of the various objects put together in a 3d scene. Their intended-or sometimes unintended- directions lead the eyes through the scene. Lines are pretty capable of evoking different psychological feelings and we need to be well aware of the impact the lines we designed have on the viewer of an image. For example, horizontal lines convey a more relaxed feeling, can elongate a space, and may tend to be more reassuring. Vertical lines, on the other hand, may evoke a feeling of more formality, height, and grandeur. Angled lines can represent energy, while curved lines may illustrate more natural or freer spaces.
1. A Storm on the Mediterranean Coast, Claude-Joseph Vernet, 1767. The angled lines of the sky, the ship and the rocks on the shore convey a feeling of movement, agitation and speed in this stormy harbour scene.
Image Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum
Shape and form are often thought of as interchangeable, but this is not the case. They’re two distinct elements with individual characteristics. Shape is a two-dimensional element that has only length and width and occurs on one plane. It is a closed contour, defined by its perimeter. Shapes can be abstract, natural or geometrical. Form, on the other hand, is a threedimensional element that has length, width and depth. Probably the most common form 3d designers work with is the rectangular box, especially in architectural visualisation. Obviously 3d design is all about form, but we must never forget that 3 dimensional objects emerge from 2d shapes and can be deconstructed into those flat shapes again. In fine art for example, Picasso, in cubism, disassembled forms and made them into shapes. He took orthographic views of a subject and put them together to make a composition. His pictures don’t have depth in them initially, but the human eye is capable of putting all those combined shapes into perspective. In architectural visualisation, working the other way round from Picasso, when we design a wall, we must always treat it as an elevation and what is on it as 2d shapes which must be combined in an effective and pleasing way. This is very important when, for example, we are called to create a wall of paintings, or shelves, or when we need to accessorize a surface with different decorative objects. The same holds when designing floor plans and deciding on furniture arrangements. It is always important to remember that creating more original forms for our enclosed rooms can help to convey different psychological messages to the clients and the users of the spaces we design.
2. In this Art Deco Interior, circular shapes and forms lend the room a distinct character
Image Source: Art Deco Interiors Gallery
Space is probably the most important element to discuss in architectural visualisation, since it is actually what we are manipulating to form our designs. Space is three-dimensional, and is defined by either physical or visual boundaries. In 3d design the illusion of the 3 dimensional space is of extreme importance. Major considerations in achieving a successful illusion of 3d space are
3. Positive and Negative space are addressed here in a playful and bold, contemporary manner.
Image Source: FILL IN THE CAT Oscar Nunez
Colour and Light are interdependent, and of course vast topics to be covered in an introductory article. Changes in one will create changes in the other. Colours viewed under different light sources will change, so all colours must be chosen under the light sources with which they will be displayed in the scene. Colour is a very conscious choice made by a designer and can dictate feelings, trends and underlying messages. Light, on the other hand, is a very important component of material aesthetics, able to transform and manipulate space, colour and texture. Lighting is an often neglected aspect of interior design, yet it is one of the most important considerations. It enhances colour, accentuates the architecture, and highlights art and accessories. Proper lighting takes an interior beyond the ordinary to create the exceptional.
4. Accent Lighting helps redefine space
Image Source: Coral Reef Lamp Qis Design
5. Accent Colours add character and identity and provide a visual balance with the dominant view
Image Source: Garrison Hullinger Interiors
Texture can only be visual/perceived in a 3d image. In other words, viewers cannot touch it. Nonetheless, it must create the intended feeling for the viewers, as if they were capable of touching and feeling the materials presented in the image. Sometimes the visual message of a texture is actually different from the tactile message, and it’s important that we, as designers, try to maintain a strong relationship between the two to reinforce the integrity of the materials and the design. Using texture allows us to add another whole dimension to a space. No longer confined to visual elements such as line and colour, now we can actually determine the way the space will feel to the viewers, thus making our artistic design much richer and more meaningful. One common function of texture is to add interest to a space which has “boring”, monochrome colours. As a rule, all interior design styles come with their accompanying textures, which identify and characterise them.
Finally, don’t forget that in design, rules are made to be broken!
6. Layering different textures lends a space vitality and interest.
Image Source: Melanie Turner Interiors