Principles of Good Design: Movement

Principles of Good Design: MovementMovement is one of the principles of good design, which gives the artist control over what the viewer sees next. Using this principle, the artist can create the path our eyes will travel as we look at art. For example, our attention is first captured by the main focal point, and then it proceeds to move around the composition as one element after another catches our attention.

Defining Movement in Art

Movement shows action and creates a feeling of motion within a composition. It also serves as a guide to direct the eye from one element to the next. An artist controls and forces the progression of the viewer’s eyes in and around the composition of the painting using eye travel. For instance, the eye will travel along an actual path, such as a solid or dotted line. It will move along more subtle paths such as from large to smaller elements, from dark to lighter elements, from color to non-color unusual color to usual shapes.

Repetition and Rhythm

Movement also contributes to the overall unity in a piece by creating a relationship between various artwork components. This relationship can be developed in a variety of ways, including through repetition and rhythm.

Good Design MovementThe use of repetition to create movement occurs when elements with something in common are repeated regularly or irregularly, creating a visual rhythm. Repetition doesn’t always have to mean exact duplication, either. However, it does require similarity or near-likeness. Slight variations to a simple repetition are good, as this will add interest. Repetition tends to relate elements together, whether they are touching or not.

Rhythm is the product of repetition, which guides the eye in a direct, flowing, or staccato movement from one place to another. It can be made using continuous repetition, periodic repetition, or a regular alternation of one or more shapes or lines. A single form can be slightly different each time it is repeated, or it can be repeated with periodic changes in size, color, texture, or value. A line’s length, weight, or direction may change on a regular basis. Color may also be repeated in various parts of the composition to unify the multiple areas of the painting.

Movement Through Action

implied movement in artMovement can also be created by action. In two-dimensional works of art, action must be implied. Implied action in a painting creates life and activity. This is best illustrated by the direction the eye takes along an invisible path created by an arrow, a gaze, or a pointing finger. The “freeze-frame” effect of a moving item, such as a bouncing ball poised in mid-air, a jogger poised to take the next step, or a swimmer plunging, can also imply action. You get the idea.

Examples of the Effective Use of Movement


Movement is created in several ways. You see it as your eye travels from the little girl on the blanket and moves up the stairs. You will also see repetition in color. The color of the building is very similar to the covering the child is sitting on. In addition, the stairs create a repetition effect.

repetition in design


Repetition also creates movement. The color of the gowns is repeated, leading the eye into the painting. The pattern on the floor also creates repetition. You also get the feeling of movement created by implied action.


  1. What are some specific ways movement can be created in a composition?
  2. In what way does movement create unity in a work of art?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement — You are here

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

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UPDATED: 26 October 2020

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