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The latest news and trends from the wonderful world of visual merchandising. Jano Dawes and her team share their passion for VM.

Elements and Principles of Design for Visual Merchandising


Have you ever wondered why one visual merchandising display just seems to ‘pop’ visually, as if the designer has waved a magic wand?

And yet another can be a total flop visually – no matter how many different ways you try it?

Welcome to the Part 1 in our 14 part series that will introduce you to the theory at play behind the magic that is visual merchandising.

We are specifically referring to the Elements and Principles of Design aka the building blocks that make up an overall design composition.

A good visual merchandiser has a strong knowledge of the Elements and Principles of Design and a firm grasp of how to apply them in a visual merchandising display to set their design apart from the rest.

An “element” is one of those most basic visible things that are used in a composition. In much the same way as the chemicals of the periodic table, these elements cannot be broken down into any simpler or more basic definition. In practice the elements are commonly seen in combination with each other.

The Elements of Design we will discuss in Parts 2-8 are:

  • Line

  • Shape/Form

  • Space

  • Light

  • Colour

  • Texture

  • Scale

The “principles of design” are what we do with the elements and how well we apply them determines how successful the design will be. The simplest way to think of it is ‘something that can be done with the elements to achieve a visual effect’. Another way to think about it is that we can make a personal judgement of a design composition based on the principles, we can say a design has a sense of “harmony” and this refers to the overall affect, whereas stating that it has “colour” (an element) would be to state the obvious. It is the use OF colour in the design, that has created the effect of “harmony”.

The Principles of Design we will be covering in Parts 9-14 are:

  • Balance

  • Dominance/Emphasis

  • Contrast

  • Harmony/Unity

  • Repetition

  • Pattern

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series where we will discuss ‘Line’, how to understand and apply it when creating a display and explore examples of its use in real life.

Keen to learn more about Visual Merchandising?

Check out our Visual Merchandising Training Courses.




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