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  • Sara Nordling

Principles of Design: Unity

Close up of woven scarf of unified design.

Unity in design is where everything in the design is working together. No element is too dominant; none are distracting from the purpose of the weaving. No element feels out of place. All elements feel right and correct and give the feeling that if you removed one thing the design just wouldn’t be right.

Unity is rather an overarching principle. It is one that applies to all designs. Other principles can compete with each other, not all work as well together as others, yet the overall goal of good design is to have a unified design. You can use some principles at times and ignore others as well. You can have repetition and rhythm but perhaps not also emphasis. However, if you leave out unity, the design does not work.

Graphic of green square with purple and dark green squares.

This graphic is unified. It is symmetrical, but it's more than that, the smaller purple squares

are equally dispersed as are the larger green ones and form an accent color to the general

green tones. Even taking a half or a quarter of this design makes it unified even if not symmetrical

due to the way the shapes work together.

How do you know when your design is unified? Try eliminating or changing something, be it a weave structure, hue, line, shape or texture. Even if you can’t do this to a finished item, you can use your imagination to visualize what that would look like. You can do this with your design on paper or computer screen as well. At this stage you can also make those corrections visually so you can see what altering the design would do. When it all hangs together, when nothing more needs to be added or subtracted, you have unified your design.

Close up of garment using both sides of a false double weave.

In this garment detail you can see the use of both fabric faces of a deflected double weave.

Even though both faces look very different the overall design becomes unified as the same

hues show on both sides as well as repetition of shapes.

Unity does not mean that everything in the design needs to be identical or even very similar. It does mean that all the elements need to work together, not fighting the other elements or feeling odd in the work. Even if an element is repeated, it does not mean that the design will automatically be unified, as seen in the graphic below.

Graphic of unified design, repeated lines, shapes but they aren't unified

Even though elements repeat here, the zig-zag, straight lines, rectangles, squiggles, they aren't unified as there is feel as if they are just randomly placed and have no reason to be together in this design.

Challenge: Create a design. Then make various changes to the design until you find it has become unified. Use as many of the other principles and elements as you like.

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