Squares are prolific rarely used in ornamentation. Vertical rectangles are more prevalent. A square rotated 45-degrees is often seen. When used, squares are usually smaller. To understand this, recall that most buildings are required to contain windows, so the vertical rectangle and the square dominate even before design begins. To work with this necessity, Art Deco is attracted to lines, rotated square, or exaggerated rectangles to override the dominant squares and establish the rhythm of a building.
Circles are strong and rarely used. When used, especially while large, they are used with the greatest care. Smaller circles are favored over larger circles.
Parts of circles are often used. An arc of any size is preferable to an entire circle.
Vertical ellipses and parabolas predominate curves, although these two prefer arcs, even long arcs. Arches and peaked arches are frequently seen.
Spirals in the form of waves, wind, and other shapes are often seen. While spirals can be too much, a mixture of spiral sizes is quite appealing to the eye. Likewise, a linear selection of spirals also is also appealing to the eye.
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.