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“Beauty is due more to the harmonious relationships among the elements of a composition than to the elements themselves.” – Matthew Frederick, “101 Things I learned in Architecture School”.

When I taught design students, I often said, “Don’t tell me that you’ve chosen something because you love it, or because it is so beautiful, or because you think it is interesting. Tell me why you’ve chosen it specifically for this project. What does it add, how does it fit, and what is its purpose?” Every object is enhanced or diminished by the objects and the space surrounding it. The composition will change the elements themselves, because they can become something else entirely in relationship with another. Just like us.

The best way to illustrate the relationship between objects, patterns, colors, shapes, textures and styles, is to put them together visually for the client. This can be done in a presentation where photos and samples are arranged on a table, on a physical foam board, or digitally by showing the relationships on a page.

Checking the relationships is one of the many benefits of using a designer’s expertise and training. Put on your favorite pants, your coolest shirt, your sexiest shoes, and your favorite jewelry with no regard to the composition, and you’ll likely be a walking hot mess. By the same token, if you fill a room with everything you love, with no regard to the relationship between the elements, you may well end up with something that looks like your favorite consignment store.

A design board brings the elements together, and is a great way to illustrate, and then evaluate and edit your ideas. Some examples follow.

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