Lines do more than connect the dots in a design

Striped Made From Adhesive Tape On Wall
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Lines are the most basic of all the elements of design. Lines can be long or short, straight or curved. Lines can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Lines can be solid, dashed, thick, thin or of variable width. The endings of lines can be ragged, blunt or curved.

As an element of design, lines can stand alone or be part of another graphic element. They are one of the building blocks of graphic design.

Lines are versatile. They can communicate emotion and information.

The Uses of Lines in Design

  • Organize by separating or grouping text elements on the page
  • Texturize by using specific types of lines to suggest or simulate a rough or smooth texture
  • Guide the eye by using lines as arrows or in other ways that lead the eye to certain parts of the page
  • Provide movement with wavy lines that suggest moving water or vary line thickness to create an illusion of shape and movement
  • Make a statement by using lines with different sizes and contrast
  • Convey universal meanings by using dashed lines to suggest coupons or wavy lines to suggest water or spirals to suggest a whirlwind of activity

Used alone, lines can be rules or leaders used to separate, organize, emphasize or provide a framework for the page. Alone or as part of another graphic element, lines can create patterns, set a mood, provide visual texture, create movement and define shapes.

Characteristics of Lines

Whether they are drawn or appear in nature, lines have come to represent various states of mind.

  • Horizontal lines indicate rest and peace.
  • Vertical lines represent grandeur.
  • Horizontal and verticle lines used together in a square or rectangular shape represent stability.
  • Diagonal lines move the eye in a direction and indicate movement.
  • Shallow curves are relaxing, while deep curves represent violence.
  • A series of diagonal lines with abrupt changes of direction give a design energy.

Lines That Express Information

Some specific arrangements of lines are widely recognized as suppliers of information. Among them are:

  • Maps
  • Graphs
  • Floorplans
  • Calligraphy

Lines in Nature

Your design may make use of lines that appear in images. The vertical lines of a skyscraper or the horizontal lines of a low building both direct the eye. Lines exist in nature as tree branches and in zebra or tiger stripes. They can be implied by children standing in a row. 

Types of Line Drawings

In contour drawings, lines can be used to trace the outline of an object. This type of drawing is called a contour drawing. Gesture drawings do more than following an outline. They depict movement as well.

The value of lines in graphic design cannot be understated. However you choose to combine them, lines tell a story and give a design its personality.


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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Lines." ThoughtCo, Aug. 30, 2017, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2017, August 30). Lines. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Lines." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 24, 2018).