Unit 1: Intro to Design
Unit 2: Figma Fundamentals
Unit 3: The Creative Process
Unit 4: Color Theory
Unit 5: Introduction to Illustrator
Unit 6: Typography
Unit 7: Layout
Unit 8: Typesetting
Unit 9: User Interface Design
Unit 10: Design Systems
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Rhythm

Rhythm can be a powerful design tool. In this lesson, we will talk about different kinds of rhythms and how they are applied in design.

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, effectively making these “silent” gaps play off the notes. Designers insert spacing between elements to make rhythm. There are, broadly speaking, 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.

It’s also worth noting that a rhythm may appear random if you examine a small section of the rhythm.

However, if you step back and examine a larger section, it may be that there is a regular but complex rhythm applied to the design. Remember that you have positive and negative images, which you can use so that both the elements and the spaces between them make your design hard to “predict”. By using a larger series of elements, you’ll have virtually limitless possibilities to play with. The artist René Magritte made particularly interesting use of random rhythm.

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. Therefore, there is a risk that when you’re using a regular rhythm in a design that it can become monotonous (like the dripping of a tap).

Alternating rhythm
You can repeat more than one element in a design. In an alternating design, you use a 1-2-1-2-1-2 pattern. Think of the black and white squares on a chessboard: that’s an alternating rhythm in play. An alternating rhythm is, in fact, a regular rhythm with more complexity.

It could be as straightforward as our chessboard, or we could envision something more intricate. Some fantastic alternating rhythms include rows of fish, birds, or other animals. Taking fish as an example, we can see that each identical fish is following another.

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. Do you see how the largest one at the bottom looks like it’s closest to you? 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.

Progressive rhythms surround us. If you were to video someone dancing and then examine that video frame-by-frame, you would have a progressive rhythm.

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