Floral Design Framework: 6 Principles
We have a passion for flower arranging and strive to make every arrangement radiate with beauty, personality and harmony (the desired “effect”). Therefore, we created the Petal+Eon Floral Design Framework to help our florists and guests achieve the desired effect with every arrangement. This framework consists of 6 principles: balance, dominance, contrast, rhythm, proportion and distinction. Each principle is a “lens” from which to view every floral arrangement in hopes of achieving the desired effect. We explain each principle below, but first we start with a review of the color wheel to help you choose the color of your arrangement.
Color wheel (a review)
As you may remember it from elementary school, here is the Color Wheel:
- Primary colors: red, blue and yellow (cannot be created by mixing other colors).
- Secondary colors: any combination of 2 primary colors: orange, green and purple.
- Tertiary colors: any combination of a secondary color with a primary color, such as yellow-green (mix of green (secondary) with yellow (primary).
- Advancing colors (or “warm” colors), yellow through orange-red/violet will hold the eye.
- Retreating colors (or “cool” colors), green through blue/violet do not hold the eye as forcefully and tend to retreat.
- Contrasting colors (“color complements”): color complements are located on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as purple and yellow.
- Adjacent colors: colors next to each other on the color wheel. Example: yellow, the yellow-green, then green or blue, then purple, and then violet.
Make the colors match the emotion - Floral Design Workshop
Once you’ve chosen the emotion you wish to convey, you need to choose your color theme. Here are some tips to consider:
- Yellow is bright and cheerful.
- Blue, green and violet are cool and soothing and appear to recede from the eye.
- Pink is feminine and lighthearted.
- Orange and gold are warm.
- Red is dynamic and exuberant.
After choosing the color theme of your arrangement, you need to determine your Artistic Concept. The goal is to make sure the arrangement fits its intended space, such as your bedroom, office desk, etc. Key things to consider:
- For one-sided arrangements meant to be placed against a wall or in a cabinet, add the tallest flowers to the back of the arrangement, so the Thrillers are not blocked.
- For “360 degree” arrangement meant to be placed on a table in the center of the room, sparingly surround the Thrillers with taller flowers that do not overshadow the Thrillers, which are the focal point.
Ok, now that we’ve chosen our color and our artistic concept, let’s return to the 5 Principles:
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): organize the flowers so the arrangement does not look disjointed or lopsided.
- Arrange the flowers around a single axis (“symmetrical balance”).
- Arrange the flowers asymmetrically and create balance by organizing the flowers in a way that looks natural – more challenging, but often more personally satisfying.
- Group similar flowers in clusters or patches of (usually) 3-5 flowers.
Interesting Fact: Ikebana theory is based on asymmetrical balance, which is considered subtle, informal, creative, emotional and stimulating.
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): repeat a dominant feature in your design to create harmony and unity. This dominant feature is present throughout the arrangement.
How to create dominance:
- Use one type of flower more than others.
- Use a dominant color (often 65% of the arrangement is the dominant color and the rest is split between a secondary color and accent colors).
- Point most of the flowers in the same direction.
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): add life to a floral design by including some components that contradict the dominant feature. Contrast will make your arrangement look more interesting by emphasizing differences. This contradiction can be subtle or strong, depending on your style.
How to create contrast:
- Do NOT use too many contrasts so that your arrangement becomes too busy or confusing.
- Use less contrast to create a restful arrangement.
- Use more contrast create an exciting or startling arrangement.
- Using contrasting colors (“color complements”).
- Use different types of flowers.
- Use different textures.
- Use a mix of round and elongated shapes.
- Cluster similar flowers together in patches.
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): make the eye move across the arrangement in a natural manner, creating a visual path and capturing the viewer’s attention. The overall design should first attract the eye, then the eye should focus on the focal point, then the eye should move from flower to flower and finally back to the focal point. Rhythm brings life and adds movement to your arrangement.
How to create rhythm:
- Overlap flowers in a sequence of heights (flowers all placed at the same level will look dull).
- Repeat a color so the eye moves from one area of the same color to another.
- Repeata color pattern.
- Repeat the form of a flower or leaf in varying colors or sizes.
- Repeat overlapping leaves to create a patchwork effect.
- Turn flowers or leaves at different angles, particularly at the sides of an arrangement to lead the eye around to the back of the design.
- Place adjacent colors in their correct sequence on the color wheel. Example: yellow, the yellow-green, then green or blue, then purple, and then violet.
- Graduate colors with darkest on the bottom, lighter colors on the perimeter, etc.
- Graduate color from dark to light.
- Graduate texture from rough to smooth.
- Graduate flower size from small to large.
- Graduate the direction of flower faces from front facing to sideways.
- Arrange the lines to point in a similar direction.
- Arrange the lines to converge in one place.
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): balance the sizes and quantities of the flowers so the relationship of one area of the arrangement remains in balance with other areas and with the design as a whole.
How to create proportion:
- Use more of the smaller flowers than the larger flowers.
- Group smaller flowers into tightly massed sprays (“patches”) when placed next to flowers more than twice their size because tiny flowers do not sit well next to large one. OR, place intermediate-sized flowers in between.
- Make the height of the flower arrangement at least as tall as the height of the vase of the vase.
- Do not use flowers wider than the vase.
Interesting fact: The Chinese often arrange their flowers so that the container is more dominant than the plant material.
Interesting fact: Most experienced designers instinctively use the naturally occurring golden ratio proposed by Euclid around 300 B.C. This ratio is 1 to 1.618 (approximately a 3 to 5 ratio) and has been considered the most aesthetically pleasing proportion in art, architecture and human form since the time of the Greeks. It is the division of a line or area in such a way that the small part is in the same proportion to the greater part as the greater part is to the whole.
Goal for floral design workshops (and online floral design classes): “express your personality with flowers.” Anyone can replicate a template, but we recommend shooting for the thrill of releasing your inhibitions and going with the flow to create something that speaks to you in a meaningful way. Distinction implies an arrangement looks unique and/or matches the personality of the person who created it. But how do you “express your personality with flowers”? There are infinite ways to do so (and no way to measure it), but here are some trends we have noticed:
- Risk takers stick in the flowers further away from the base. Their arrangements sometimes look chaotic, dynamic, vibrant, interesting and exciting. They try to “wow.”
- Organized people keep the flowers closer to the base and use fewer colors. Their arrangements often look “clean,” symmetrical, professional and premeditated. Their arrangements usually match the décor.
- Outgoing people use many colors and a broad selection of the flowers.
- Artistic people find novel ways to organize the flowers and use an unusual selection of the flowers.
- Judith Blacklock, The Judith Blacklock Encyclopedia of Flower Design (Bournemouth, UK; The Flower Press Ltd., 2006)
- Katherine Kear, editor, Elements and Principles of Design (Cheltenham, UK; Quorum Print Services, Ltd, 2007
- GCV Flower Shows Handbook (revised 2002)