Message Board Chat Bookstore My Delphi Polymer Clay Central

Design Principles

Before you pick up your tools to begin making the bangle, I suggest you lay out a white cloth/towel on your work surface and  play with possible bead combinations. A little planning will go a long way to achieving a beautiful design. Wire techniques are only half the picture of a visually pleasing result. So. please resist the temptation to dive into the wire.

Four design principles are covered in this lesson: 

1) Emphasis
2) Symmetrical Balance and Color Balance
3) Color Saturation
4) Dominant vs. Subordinate Color. 

Most of you have experience making jewelry and are already using, consciously or unconsciously,  the design principle listed above. The object of this lesson is to see if you can actualize these principles with deliberation as you design your bangle. With increasing practice you will be able to use these principles at your command, and be able to look at a piece of jewelry and assess why it works or why it doesn't.



Every piece of jewelry you create has a feature that draws the eye to it. Sometimes it is a single bead that stands out by virtue of its size, color, or pattern. Other times an element has been repeated and thus draws attention. Or a particular feature because of its placement in the piece commands the eye to focus on it. Utilizing the design strategy of emphasis allows you to communicate the message of your piece to the viewer. The Garden Bangle's emphasis is clearly the floral disk shaped bead in the center. It achieves emphasis due to its central placement, its intricate pattern, and because of its larger size. 


Symmetrical Balance/Color Balance

Balance involves creating visual stimulation through the use of asymmetry or symmetry. When your design is balanced you will achieve unity. In the bangle pictured above I have used symmetrical balance, that is one side is a mirror image of the other. Symmetry creates a more classical and almost serene appearance. Balance is also created by distributing color evenly throughout the piece. Notice in the bangle how the color yellow-green is the center of attention and flows right around the circle.


Color Saturation

Saturation refers to the purity or brilliance of a color. Desaturation refers to the "grayness" of a color. Chartreuse is more saturated (purer) than pea green. The most desaturated color is gray. In the Garden Bangle, the dominant yellow-green and and the subordinate red-violent have  similar desaturated attributes. That is, they both have about the same "grayish"  tone. This makes for a relatively restful, "easy to get along with" color theme.


Dominant Versus Subordinate Color 

When using contrasting colors it is generally more pleasing to the eye to have one color that stands out creating the overall mood of your piece. In the case of the Garden Bangle yellow-green is the dominate color. To increase interest, a subordinate color appears on the scene and often you will see more than one subordinate color. In the bangle red-violet is the subordinate color; we might call this the primary subordinate color and a secondary subordinate color is blue-violet. A secondary subordinate color is used even less than the primary subordinate color. 

If there is too little distinction between dominate and subordinate colors the result can be an overall gray effect. Or, kind of a confused mix that your eye wants to turn away from.

The palate of dominate and subordinate colors can be used in different saturations (some pure, some more grayed) and varying values (the darkness or lightness of a color).


Other Design Principles?
What other design principles are at work in this bangle? Click here if you want to find out what they are


Design Instructions

With your white cloth/towel in place, begin by playing with your beads. Select a bead that is will be your emphasis, in other words, the focal bead. To achieve balance, select smaller beads that will repeat this theme or color and urge the eye to travel around the circle of your bangle. I suggest you start with a symmetrical arrangement  whereby the right side will be a mirror image of the left. While you are playing with your; design consider if you are choosing beads that are saturated or desaturated colors. Now choose beads that will be subordinate colors. Be deliberate in your selection and know that all these choices will communicate, just like words, a message to the viewer.  Hint: I often place the smallest beads next to the clasp which creates a tapered effect. 

Next Page - Wire Techniques 1

Polymer Clay Central Home Page