In art, visual economy, also known as simplicity, is the removal of all non-essential or unimportant elements and details that do not contribute to the essence of the overall composition. Its purpose is to allow what is most important to be the main focal point.
The concept of simplicity is that a good composition is the most simple or straightforward solution to the design problem. Much of the beauty and skill in good design is found in what is left out rather than attempting to include everything possible. The key to creating a great composition is knowing when to stop, when to put down the brush, step back, and say, “That’s about right.”
Keeping it Simple is a Key to Good Design
Visual Economy means as little design as possible. It entails minimizing the number of elements needed to achieve the desired effect. A good design necessitates the use of restraint and simplicity. There are no rules for using visual economy; if an element works in the composition in relation to the overall design, it should be kept. If it detracts from the desired effect, it should be reconsidered for its intended purpose and if necessary removed. Never use anything for its own sake; always consider and justify its inclusion in terms of its contribution to the overall design effect.
Examples of the effective use of Visual Economy
Simplicity is suggested in the painting of the cowboy by zooming in, removing extraneous surrounding elements that would otherwise detract from the main focus of the painting.
There is simplicity in the design of the buildings in the painting. Detail has been left out to call your attention to the unique architecture.
In the painting of Egypt, detail has been deliberately left out, so the shapes rather than the features become the areas of interest.
In the painting above, the background and clothing are done in a very simplistic manner so that the viewer’s attention is drawn to Mary’s face and that of baby Jesus. More detail would have been a distraction.
Questions About Visual Economy
- Why is visual economy in art so important to a great composition?
- In what situations would an artist want to use this principle of good design?
Your Next Art Lesson
If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.
Principles of Good Design: Visual Economy — You are here.
Want More Art Lessons?
After you’ve finished the lessons on the Principles of Good Design, why not move on to the Basic Art Elements? To begin, go to The Basic Elements of Art — (An Introduction)
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UPDATED: 07 April 2023