Art and Design

Abstract design

The Dutch artist Piet Mondrian made paintings that were all about coloured squares and rectangles. He measured the shapes that were in proportion to one another in the way that was the most attractive.

He used black and white and a few plain colours, especially red, blue and yellow. Many people find these paintings peaceful and beautiful. They influenced lots of artists and designers. His ideas were copied in posters and book covers, in architecture, and in fashion. The rock group The White Stripes used similar images for an album cover in 2000.


Look at Composition en rouge, jaune, bleu et noir (composition in red, yellow, blue and black). If you measure the shapes you will find interesting proportions.

  • The big red square is half the height and width of the square of the picture frame.
  • The black square is half the height and width of the red square.
  • The white rectangles next to the black square are half its height and are like two squares put together.

The bottom and right sides of the red square are on the golden ratio of the painting (see Golden Ratio).