Rhythm: The principle of Design

Rhythm in art refers to the arrangement of shapes in a way which creates an underlying beat. It is like the rhythm of music, however rather than notes and sounds, we use colors and shapes.

When you repeat elements, the intervals between those repetitions can create a sense of rhythm in the viewer and a sense of movement. Musicians create rhythm in the spacing between notes, viably making these “silent” gaps play off the notes. Designers insert spacing between elements to make rhythm.

Five types of visual rhythm.

Random rhythm – Repeating elements with no specific regular interval creates random rhythms. The spacing could be a millimeter here, a centimeter there, while the elements could be all over the place. Think of falling snow, pebbles on a beach, traffic movements: they are all examples of random rhythms in action.

Regular rhythm – Like the beating of a heart, the regular rhythm follows the same intervals over and over again. You can easily make a regular rhythm just by creating a grid or a series of vertical lines. The user’s eye will instantly recognize a regular rhythm, scanning it for any irregularities in the process. Remember, the eye “likes” to be drawn to outstanding elements.

Alternating rhythm – In an alternating design, you use a 1-2-1-2-1-2 pattern. An alternating rhythm is, in fact, a regular rhythm with more complexity. As simple or complex as we want to make an alternating rhythm, it can be an easy way to break up the monotony of a regular rhythm.

Flowing rhythm – A flowing rhythm shows the repeated elements following bends, curves, and undulations. In nature, you can see this in the waves on a beach or sand dunes. As designers, we can mimic nature by making wonderful patterns of elements with flowing rhythm. We can show clumps of seaweed underwater, their strands gently facing in a series of directions. The user imagines them washing against each other.

Progressive rhythm – We can make a progressive rhythm simply by changing one characteristic of a motif as we repeat it. We could draw a series of circles, one above the other, making each lower one larger. We can make a progressive rhythm change subtly or dramatically. You could add shade to the smaller circles progressively so that the smallest one at the top is dark, the middle one in partial shade, and the biggest one only slightly shaded.


To sum up — we build rhythm due to rotation of shape, size, color, texture, tone, etc. Also, you can create it by building headlines and subtitles hierarchy along with highlighting parts of the text. Well-built rhythm enhances the navigation, helps in digesting information and brings aesthetic pleasure.