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The role of lines in graphic design

Sometimes something simple is better than something complicated.

'A line is a dot that went for a walk'. Paul Klee


Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), Joan Miró.
Personnage Oiseau (Figure, Bird), Joan Miro

The world’s best-known artists, such as: Leonardo da Vinci, experimented with anatomy lines and produced beautiful figures, a German artist Albrecht Durer was a master at using line to create great works of art, and Picasso used lines for minimalist compositions such as some of the one-line drawings.

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), Joan Miró.
Femme, Oiseaux (Woman, Birds), Joan Miro



Despite the lack of tone and detail Aaron Earley's cross-contour line drawings convey emotion.


These elements, with a wide range of variations, appear regularly in Joan Miró’s work and Wassily Kandinsky's line drawings.




Public domain, Wassily Kandinsky
Squares with Concentric Circles, Wassily Kandinsky

Public domain, Wassily Kandinsky
Molle rudesse, Wassily Kandinsky

Lines are the most basic visual element.


In graphic design lines are used as a design element to be decorative or serve a specific purpose, such as the organization of page elements. They can be used to define shapes and figures, but also to indicate motion, emotion, and other elements. Lines are everywhere in design, they direct the user's eye, they create flow, they organize all design elements and create emphasis.


There are curved, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and zigzag lines. We use lines to create mood and meaning.


  • Curved lines express fluid movement. They can be calm or dynamic depending on how much they curve. They are very easy on the eyes and are interesting to follow.

  • Horizontal lines indicate a sense of motionless rest and peace. They create relaxation or a calming mood.

  • Vertical lines are seen as tall and represent grandeur and spirituality.

  • Diagonal lines are more dramatic than either horizontal or vertical lines. They move the eye in a direction and indicate movement and fluidity.

  • Zigzag lines are a combination of diagonal lines that connect at points. They create excitement and intense movement. They convey confusion and nervousness as they change direction quickly and frequently.


Lines that work together:

  • Intersecting - cross each other at a point,

  • Perpendicular lines - meet at right angles and

  • Parallel lines - never intersect.


One of the most basic visual elements of design is the line and it should not be underestimated. We use lines to create forms, add style, and divide space. They give important clues about the emotion the designer is trying to convey.


We use them alone or in combination with other graphic design elements to set moods, create textures, define shapes, and build patterns.


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