What is the Master Principle of Landscape Design?

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landscape design

The master principle of landscape design is to create an integrated and harmonious composition. This is achieved through the principles of proportion, order, repetition, and unity.

These design principles have been used throughout history to create beautiful and enduring works of art. Frederick Law Olmsted, for example, was one of the early masters of this art.


Lines are visual and physical tools that create a flow or movement in a design. They can be vertical, horizontal, or curvilinear. A strongly curved line creates a focal point that draws the eye toward it. Straight lines also help lead the eye toward important features.

Landscapes that are well-balanced use this principle. A composition is considered balanced when the visual weight, quantity, mass, and color are distributed relatively equally on both sides of a view axis.

Balance is an essential part of any landscape design and comes in two forms: symmetrical and asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is most often used in formal landscapes, where one side of the design is a mirror image of the other.


The form is the shape, outline, or configuration of something. Whether you’re talking about plant material, hardscape features, or garden structures, form is a powerful design principle that makes a landscape more visually appealing and enjoyable.

Proximal/distal balance and relative proportion are two facets of form that delineate the importance of areas within a landscape. Areas closer to the viewer have greater visual weight than those further from the viewer.

Lines in the landscape can be straight, curved, or horizontal. Straight lines are more formal, create a sense of force, and direct the eye to a focal point. Curved lines have a more relaxed and natural character, and they can add interest to a design by creating hidden views.


Color is a central element in landscape design, but it also has a broad range of applications. It can be used to express mood, contrast, or create movement.

It is a form of visual organization, helping to define spaces and creating the illusion of depth and can also be used to accentuate focal points.

Whether painted in the form of plants, hardscapes or architectural elements, color can add interest and variety to a design. The addition of color can also enhance the sense of space in a landscape by drawing the viewer’s eye through the design.

The word “landscape” emerged around the 16th century to refer to a painting that focused on scenery as opposed to the more traditional subjects of history, portraiture or still life. It has a variety of origins including German (landschaft) and Old Norse (landscape).


Landscapes are characterized by various combinations of form, color, and texture. These aesthetic qualities are created from the plants and hardscape materials used in a landscape design.

Texture refers to the surface characteristics and appearance of an object given by its size, shape, density, arrangement, and proportion. It is the physical quality of an item that contributes to its visual weight and evokes emotion in the viewer.

Plants and hardscape materials vary in their textures, ranging from rough to smooth, soft to hard. These differences affect the perception of distance and scale in a landscape.

Repetition is a design principle that involves the repeated use of similar features throughout a landscape composition. This can create a rhythmic effect and enhance the overall look of the landscape.


Repetition is the use of elements or features to create a pattern or sequence in a landscape design. It can be achieved through line, form, color, and texture.

Repetitive use of landscape elements creates a sense of order and helps build unity in a design. However, repetition must be used with care–too much can lead to monotony and confusion, while too little may cause a landscape to appear sterile.

Repetition can be applied to landscape design in many ways, but it is most often seen through the repeating use of plant groupings or hardscape materials throughout a yard. It can also be accomplished by slightly varying the size, texture or color of hardscape material to create interest.