There are seven main principles of floral design: proportion, scale, harmony, rhythm, balance, unity and emphasis. When these basic flower arranging rules are understood and used correctly you can create gorgeous floral arrangements.
When I started my floral career over 10 years ago, I was transitioning from a primary school and visual arts teacher background to floral design. I wanted to be a florist. Even though I was a registered and working teacher, I had seen this amazing artistry up close, it had ignited a passion in me and knew that all things floral is where my future lied.
Basic Principles of Flower Arrangement
As I had an art background, I could have simply started working in a florist shop and gained on the job experience (which I did), but I also went to TAFE to learn the principles of floral design. Some may argue that they aren’t relevant anymore in today’s wedding world where garden picked posies and randomly gathered elements are the trend. But I still see these basic principles as the core to great floral design. They play an essential part in making a floral design either pleasing to the eye or a random mess. They are the difference between a professional floral designer and an amateur. They should, in my opinion, be valued, respected and used when creating floral designs. So whether you are studying floristry or just interested in the basic principles of floral design when arranging fresh market flowers at home, here is a wrap up of floral design principles.
Proportion and Scale
Proportion and scale in floral design are closely related. Proportion refers to the size relationship between the elements, such as, the flowers, foliage, container and accessories in a design. Scale refers to the size relationship between the overall finished floral design piece and its setting, for example, a table centrepiece for a wedding in relation to the size of the guest table or the overall venue space.
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Here’s another principle of flower arrangement: The sizes and quantities of elements should be proportioned to each other in a design. Each large item should balance with an equally large item or a grouping of small elements equal to the large. Pleasing proportions and groupings often include groups of 3 or 5 in floral design. Proportionally the floral design should be 1 ½ to 2 times the size of the container in height or width. The proper proportion will help with the overall physical balance of a design.
Harmony and Unity
Harmony and unity in floral designs are also closely related. Harmony refers to the pleasing combination of materials, colours and textures in a floral design. When all the elements of an arrangement, such as, the flowers, foliage, container and accessories blend well together and are suitable for the design’s intended purpose, harmony is achieved. For example, a wooden box table centrepiece consisting of mixed garden textured blooms would be perfect in a rustic barn setting for a wedding.
Unity is achieved in floral design when all the principles and elements of design are present and well executed. If this is achieved then the whole composition becomes more important than its parts and the floral design is seen as one complete piece, pleasing to the eye and enjoyable to look at.
In floral design, rhythm is the visual flow or movement within an arrangement, it allows your eye to move around and through an arrangement, from the focal point to the edges and back again.
Rhythm allows the design to appear with motion and holds the viewers’ attention. Rhythm is created by placements within the arrangement using colour, material, form, line, texture and space.
There are two types of balance in floral design, physical and visual balance.
Physical balance refers to the distribution of materials and, therefore, weight in an arrangement. It sounds simple in principle, but great care must be taken when working with some flowers and foliage that are particularly heavy. For example, tall stemmed flowers like ginger lilies, bird of paradise, gladioli, delphiniums, branches etc, they are all heavy and their weight needs to be counterbalanced and the right base must be used so when filled with water the arrangement simply stands upright and doesn’t fall over.
Visual balance refers to whether the design appears balanced to the eye. There are three types of visual balance, symmetrical, asymmetrical and open balance.
Symmetrical balance is when both sides of the arrangement have the same quantity of materials, like in a mirror, these designs are more formal and traditional.
Asymmetrical balance is when materials are distributed unequally on either side of the arrangement, these designs are more informal and modern.
Open balance is unique as it is neither symmetrical or asymmetrical, for example, designs that incorporate parallel or radial groupings of flowers.
Most floral designs have an area of emphasis or focal point which is the main feature in the design and draws the viewers eye to that point. Emphasis can be created with the placement of dominant or contrasting materials, singularly or in a grouping. The contrast of the focal point from the rest of the design can be created by form, size, colour or texture.
Have fun with floral design and keep these key principles in mind and you will create gorgeous pieces of floral artwork.