Basics of Ornamental Design

ornament above the gate

Ornamental design is a time-honored art, architecture, and interior design tradition. This design helps to make things look beautiful and exciting. The use of ornament can be traced back thousands of years and is present in every culture on earth. In this article, we will take a look at the basics of ornamental design and how it works.

The Importance of Ornament

Ornament is a way of expressing yourself. It’s a way of communicating with others in person and through your work. Ornament reflects who you know yourself to be; it tells us about your personality, where you come from, what matters to you and why.

You can also use the ornament to show a culture’s values, beliefs, and stories (sometimes even through the absence of ornamentation). Let’s look at traditional Chinese architecture, for example. We see that their structures are very simple but still have an air of elegance because they’ve been decorated with beautiful patterns made of different materials such as metal or stone. This decoration has been passed down over many generations because it represents something important: how each householder wants people visiting their home or business premises to feel upon leaving – tranquility or excitement!

Elements of Ornamental Design

When you think of ornament, your mind likely returns to the intricate carvings and paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of cathedrals or perhaps grand chandeliers in palatial ballrooms. Ornament is a part of every aspect of our lives. Even the most minor accessories can be decorated. A simple wooden spoon can be fashioned into an elegant piece by simply adding some carving or painting.

The elements of ornament are:

  • Line (straight and curved)
  • Form (geometric shapes)
  • Mass (three-dimensional structures)

The ornament can be used in any situation where you want to add a decorative element to something that already exists. It provides texture and contrast; it adds visual interest or acts as an accent piece.

mosque wall with ornaments and windows
Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

Principles of Ornamental Design

The principles of ornamental design are:

  • Balance—the parts are in equilibrium and not over or under-weighted.
  • Proportion—the size of each part is proportional to other elements in the design.
  • Rhythm—the repetition of a pattern, a unit, or an element creates movement through time (repetition of rhythms) within the space.
  • Unity—all elements should be related to each other and unified by one or more features such as color, texture, or form. This principle may be expressed formally as repetition, contrast, proportion, or unity; informally as balance, variety, or emphasis; abstractly as rhythm and line; figuratively as massing and scale; symbolically through symbols such as animals, flowers, etc.).
  • Emphasis—to create interest through color contrast between light and dark values within one large area so that it stands out from its surroundings rather than being lost among them (for example, when painting the trim on top of wallpaper). You can achieve this with surface textures like walls made from rough materials such as brickwork instead of smooth ones like plasterboard panels.

The principles of design are not mutually exclusive. The principles of design can be used together to create a visual effect. For example, balance and scale can be combined in a painting to create an illusion of depth by having objects appear smaller as they recede into the background (scale). The relationships between these elements determine how each relates to any other part of that work. A principle is generally considered an organized approach towards achieving some goal.

The Use of Ornamental Design

Ornamentation is used in many different industries – in architecture, interior design, industrial design, graphic design, and product design. It can be seen in fashion designs and jewelry designs as well.

For example, ornamental designs are often seen on buildings and in gardens. They can also be found on jewelry such as rings, bracelets, or watches.


The main takeaway from this article is that an ornament is an art form with rich history and meaning. Artists and designers have used it for centuries, but it’s not just something reserved for those who can afford elaborate pieces of furniture or clothing. Anyone can incorporate simple design elements into their everyday lives to make things more exciting and beautiful!