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Art Deco 101 - Symmetry and Asymmetry

Art Deco is always symmetrical. Always. I can't find any example of period Art Deco which doesn't use symmetry.

Most Art Deco is vertically symmetrical. Draw a line down the middle, and the right will be the same as the left. This symmetry may be direct, like two doors next to each other, or spaced, such as a three section work, where the ends are one symmetrical design, while the middle is a different symmetrical design.

Sometimes you see both horizontal and vertical symmetry, but not often. Even more rarely do you see diagonal symmetry. Rarely do you see circle bounded symmetry.

Infinitely symmetrical, circles were used with great care as they are such dominant design elements.

That Art Deco should be vertically symmetrical, but not generally horizontally symmetrical, fits in with the ideas and necessities of architecture. By structural and practical necessity, the top of a house could not be symmetrical with the bottom. It naturally follows that the top of Art Deco would not match the bottom.

While lacking vertical symmetry doesn't automatically make a design not Art Deco, it's a warning sign, and most likely, the design won't feel right. Where a design is asymmetrical, it will be executed with great consideration. The results will feel bold.

Asymmetry is almost always associated with necessity. (If you can't move a stairwell, then you must design around it.)

Return to: Art Deco 101

Douglas Milewski is a fantasy writer who liked drafting class too much. In his recent artistic struggles to produce art deco for his own covers, he found no internet sites dedicated to the technical underpinnings of the art. Seeing a niche that needed filling, he has documented his hard learned experiences. He doesn't claim that he's right, and would very much appreciate it if someone more competent would save him from his own folly.

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