Dimension and the “Lingering Look”

Dimension plays a crucial role in design composition. Adding dimension to a design creates what I like to call “the lingering look.” This means when you view a design that has dimension, it will naturally take longer to absorb the full composition. Our minds are instinctually curious about the way objects in space relate to one another, therefore we view our surroundings in an integrated and holistic way. Dimension adds another layer to this connected viewing. When a composition lacks dimension, viewing it requires only a quick glance, which causes it to ultimately be deemed uninteresting by our brains.

Our goal is to make our designs stimulating to look at, and encourage our eyes to “linger.”

A great example of the use of dimension in design can be found in landscaping:

Look outside at a beautiful landscape. Really focus on the relationships amongst the foliage you are seeing. The most beautiful landscape (natural or created) is full of dimension in its color, selection, and placement. For instance, the hedge of boxwood lining a sidewalk, while pretty on its own, is made much more intriguing by its relationship to the other foliage. The variety of heights, colors, textures, shapes, and placement of the surrounding foliage, once again, encourages that lingering look.

This idea of dimension in design seems so basic! Yet, unless we consciously work to achieve it when we are creating compositions, it is often left out.

There are four basic ways to achieve dimension:

  1. Color:  The use of contrasting and varying shades of colors
  2. Texture:  The use of contrasting materials and textures
  3. Shapes/Sizes:  Using a variety of shapes and sizes
  4. Placement:  varying placement up and down, in and out


So next time you are working on and area in your home, think dimension!