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Principles of Design for VM Part 12: Harmony/Unity

Welcome to Part 12 of our Elements and Principles of Design for Visual Merchandising series where we will discuss the design principle ‘Harmony or Unity’.

There’s design, and there’s art. Good design is total harmony. There’s no better designer than nature – if you look at a branch or a leaf, it’s perfect. It’s all function. Art is different. It’s about emotion. It’s about suffering and beauty – but mostly suffering!

– Diane von Furstenberg

About Harmony/Unity:

Harmony is defined as a consistent, orderly or pleasurable arrangement of parts. It is acheived when all the elements of a design work well together and the outcome is a pleasing visual agreement between the parts. Colour harmony for example, is the outcome of a colour combination that is balanced rather than garish. Similarly, unity is a key goal for the designer and is achieved when all of the disparate aspects are integrated into a cohesive whole. A balance between unity and variety must be established otherwise the composition may become bland or static, thus not sparking interest in the viewer.

How we use Harmony/Unity:

To achieve a satisfying relationship between all elements in the design the number of elements can be limited, or grouped, overlapped, framed, or enclosed in someway. Relating the design elements to the the idea being expressed reinforces the principal of harmony/unity. For example a window trying to create an ‘active’ emotion or feeling for a product would work better with a dominant direction, course, rough texture, angular lines etc. Likewise, a window trying to display a ‘passive’ emotion or product would benefit from horizontal lines, soft texture and less tonal contrast.

1. Here all the colours on display achieve harmony by being matched with soft textures and detailed patterning, all in tones of white, orange, yellow and brown.

2. A harmonious display is soothing to the eye with delicate paper skirts in soft forms with trailing paper roses and a hint of pink connecting visually to the soft pink of the perfume bottle and its round stopper.

3. A mishmash of objects, animals and symbols are linked into a harmonious display by the icy blue and white colour palette with a hint of contrasting soft apricot to ensure the display doesn’t become bland.

4. Here an unusual collection of objects have been grouped by colour, with the round forms of the plant pots mimicking the organic curves of the pumpkins for cohesion.

5. The neon pops of colour and repeated motif of rows of people in the framed paintings links these disparate elements together into a quirky, eye catching display.

6. The black and white stripes on the wall, matched with the black and white picture frames and the stripes on the skirt unify the backdrop and mannequins together in this window.


Stay tuned for Part 13 of our Elements and Principles of Design series where we will learn about design principle ‘Repetition’.


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

Part 11: Principles of Design: Contrast

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