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  • Level Design Using the Elements of Art and Principles of Design Part I

    - Wesley Rockholz
  • I'll start this post by saying that I'm not an artist, but it's important as a game designer to be well-rounded and understand both the technical and creative side of the development process. If you're a programmer, don't limit yourself because you're intimidated by the artistic part of game design. Understanding the core properties of art and design is a different thing than being able to draw or model or texture, and can be learned at a surface level in a short amount of time.

    In my Game Design and Development II class, another student asked how he could learn more about level design, which made me to realize that everything I know about level design I learned from the elements of art and principles of design. Everything in level design breaks down to the core techniques of design, and understanding them can shatter a lot of barriers in making your levels more fluid and engaging.

    The Elements of Art

    The elements of art contribute to the principles of design. In other words, you use elements of art to execute the principles of design. You use lines to create movement and use color to create contrast.


    A line as an element of art is defined as a mark between two points that takes any shape between them. The line is one of the best elements to create movement in your composition.


    Color is relatively self-explanatory, but is also one of the most important and complex art elements. Color refers to the hue, value, and saturation of a mark in a composition. Color theory is a separate but equally important discussion. Just understanding that complimentary colors are good tools for contrast is enough for this surface-level discussion. Observe the color wheel and how the colors compare and interact:


    Space is the allocation of area in a composition for a particular purpose. Space can include the background, middleground and foreground of the composition and can include the distances between around and inside of things in the composition. Space can be positive or negative depending on which areas of the empty canvas are filled with marks.


    Texture refers to the quality of a surface. It is the visual portrayal of the sense of touch.


    Shape is the use of area in 2D space, usually defined by an edge. This can mean using geometric shapes like circles or rectangles, or they could be organic shapes. Shape is defined by all the other elements of art.


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