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[Design] Line

category: Design | course: Graphic Design | difficulty:

In a mathematical sense, a line is an infinite series of points next to each other. In the case of design, however, many more variations count as lines. A line can be the path between a start and end point. A line can curve, change thickness, and even have gaps.

Geometrically, this means that lines have length, but no breadth. A line is the path created by a moving point.

DesignLinesOverview

Individual Lines

Lines, on their own, can fulfil many functions. The most important are:

  • Connect: When a line is smooth and easy, the eye follows it subconsciously. We can group multiple elements together by drawing smooth and natural lines between them.
  • Separate: On the other hand, when a line is rough and irregular, it impedes movement. By adding rough lines (or line that go against the general direction) between multiple elements we can show there is no connection. This way, lines create boundaries and edges between multiple shapes.
  • Direct: Because lines are automatically followed by viewers, they are the easiest way to direct attention to something or establish an order in which a design should be observed.

DesignLinesFunctionality

Additionally, each line brings a certain amount of energy and emotion with it, whether you want it or not. The feeling lines convey is mostly dependant on direction, thickness and path.

Direction

Horizontal Lines are stable, calm, and serene. They rest on the paper, balanced.

Vertical Lines are more exciting, active, and powerful. They are defying the earth’s gravity, and imply energy or reaching towards heights or heavens.

Diagonal Lines are even more dynamic, and imply motion or tension. Because of this, they also give a feeling of depth.

As you can see, as opposed to static points, lines are inherently dynamic gestures.

DesignLinesDirection

Thickness

Thin Lines are soft and restrained. They are subtle and seem to recede in the distance.

Bold Lines communicate strength and power. They grab attention and seem to come forward in space.

Lines with varying thickness (such as drawn with a brush) convey more fluid and undisciplined messages, as opposed to perfect or mechanical lines that convey precision and disciplined messages.

DesignLinesThickness

Path

Straight Lines are mechanical, formal and cold. They are simple, effective and efficient, but have more negative or unnatural feelings associated with them.

Curvilinear Lines are natural, approachable and comforting. They are harder to incorporate without creating total chaos, but you get more warmth and likeability in return.

Path is the most important factor in determining the quality and character of a line.

DesignLinesPath

Combining Lines

On top of their own functions and properties, lines are the fundamental element of visual geometry. Without it, the triangle, square and circle wouldn’t exist. When lines multiply, they can describe planes, shapes, volumes, and textures.

Because of this quality, lines also serve as the edges of objects, as the contours of elements, and can leave positive marks or negative gaps.

DesignMultiplyingLines

Implying Lines

Lines are perhaps at their strongest when they’re invisible. By aligning and shaping elements in a certain way, we imply a line, which not only creates unity and cohesion, but also engages the viewer with the design and makes them more interested. Because things line up, it’s easier to find relationships between elements and understand the groups of information. On the other hand, the viewer has to explore and find these implied lines himself, making the design come to life. For example, in typography, characters group into lines of text, and columns align into text blocks. You can clearly see the lines, even though they aren’t explicitly drawn.

DesignLinesImplied

This is a very important topic, and will be elaborated on further in later chapters.

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