Variety means “to change the character” of an element, to make it different.

Variety is the complement to unity and is needed to create visual interest. Without unity, an image is chaotic and “unreadable;” without variety it is dull and uninteresting. Good design is achieved through the balance of unity and variety; the elements need to be alike enough so we perceive them as belonging together and different enough to be interesting.

Varying the elements creates variety. Ways to vary elements include:

  • Line – thinness, thickness, value, color, angle, length
  • Shape – size, color, orientation and texture, type
  • Color – hue, value, saturation
  • Value – darkness, lightness, high-key, low-key, value contrast
  • Texture – rough, smooth

An effective way to integrate unity and variety is by creating variations on a theme. Just as a composer can repeat and vary a musical theme throughout a composition, a designer can repeat and vary an element throughout a design.

Enclosed are some examples of variety through the use of line, shape, color, and texture in ceramics: