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Principles of Design for VM Part 11: Contrast

Welcome to the latest instalment, Part 11 of our Elements and Principles of Design for Visual Merchandising series where we will introduce you to the design principle ‘Contrast’.

There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

– Charles Dickens

About Contrast:

Contrast relies on a relationship to exist. It occurs when two things are different in regard to a common principle or aspect such as size, colour, or length. The degree of contrast can vary from subtle differences to extreme differences. The resultant level of contrast will affect how the thing appears. In an overall composition, one aspect may be contrasted while others are not.

How we use Contrast:

When differences attain their maximum degree, we speak of diametrical or polar contrasts eg. large-small, white-black, cold-hot. High levels of contrast may appear aggressive, dynamic, energetic, bold, forthright or attention grabbing. Low level may have the opposite effect appearing more subdued, static or even bland although they may also be perceived as soothing or peaceful. The level of contrast that is appropriate depends on the desired effect and impact.

1. This window display cleverly uses a contrast of colours with the background of white purses making the colourful purses in front take centre stage.

2. This jewelry display also uses a white background to contrast with pops of colour, but the inclusion of the soft feathers adds an additional contrast of textures with the glossy jewels.

3. The array of bright colours and clashing patterns in this window actually creates the reverse effect of low contrast with the elements balancing each other rather than contrasting.

4. The simple white window is contrasted by the patterns and colours of the backdrop which in turn supports the brightly coloured outfit on the mannequin.

5. This window has a low level of contrast with all elements in tones of white, but interest is kept by contrasting the textures with smooth polished concrete and delicate lace.

6. These quirky paper dog sculptures contrast with the luxurious fabrics of the garments on the mannequins for a contemporary, attention-grabbing display.


Coming up next is Part 12 of our Design Principles series where we will learn about ‘Harmony and Unity’.

Catch up on our previous instalments:

Part 1: Introduction to the Elements and Principles of Design for VM

Part 2: Elements of Design: Line

Part 3: Elements of Design: Shape/Form

Part 4: Elements of Design: Space

Part 5: Elements of Design: Light

Part 6: Elements of Design: Colour

Part 7: Elements of Design: Texture

Part 8: Elements of Design: Scale

Part 9: Principles of Design: Balance

Part 10: Principles of Design: Dominance/Emphasis

Love to learn more about Visual Merchandising?

Check out our Visual Merchandising Training Courses.






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