Composite Design Pattern

When we want to represent part-whole hierarchy, use tree structure and compose objects. We know tree structure what a tree structure is and some of us don’t know what a part-whole hierarchy is. A system consists of subsystems or components. Components can further be divided into smaller components. Further smaller components can be divided into smaller elements. This is a part-whole hierarchy.

Everything around us can be a candidate for part-whole hierarchy. Human body, a car, a computer, lego structure, etc. A car is made up of engine, tyre, … Engine is made up of electrical components, valves, … Electrical components is made up of chips, transistor, … Like this a component is part of a whole system. This hierarchy can be represented as a tree structure using composite design pattern.

“Compose objects into tree structures to represent part-whole hierarchies. Composite lets clients treat individual objects and compositions of objects uniformly.” is the intent by GoF.

Real World Example

In this article, let us take a real world example of part-whole hierarchy and use composite design pattern using java. As a kid, I have spent huge amount of time with lego building blocks. Last week I bought my son an assorted kit lego and we spent the whole weekend together building structures.

Let us consider the game of building blocks to practice composite pattern. Assume that our kit has only three unique pieces ( 1, 2 and 4 blocks) and let us call these as primitive blocks as they will be the end nodes in the tree structure. Objective is to build a house and it will be a step by step process. First using primitive blocks, we should construct multiple windows, doors, walls, floor and let us call these structures. Then use all these structure to create a house.

Primitive blocks combined together gives a structure. Multiple structures assembled together gives a house.

Important Points

Tree for Composite

When we get a recursive structure the obvious choice for implementation is a tree. In composite design pattern, the part-whole hierarchy can be represented as a tree. Leaves (end nodes) of a tree being the primitive elements and the tree being the composite structure.

Uml Design for Composite Pattern

Component: (structure)

  1. Component is at the top of hierarchy. It is an abstraction for the composite.
  2. It declares the interface for objects in composition.
  3. (optional) defines an interface for accessing a component’s parent in the recursive structure, and implements it if that’s appropriate.

Leaf: (primitive blocks)

  1. The end nodes of the tree and will not have any child.
  2. Defines the behaviour for single objects in the composition

Composite: (group)

  1. Consists of child components and defines behaviour for them
  2. Implements the child related operations.

Composite Pattern Implementation

package com.javapapers.designpattern.composite;

public class Block implements Group {

    public void assemble() {

package com.javapapers.designpattern.composite;

public interface Group {
    public void assemble();

package com.javapapers.designpattern.composite;

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

public class Structure implements Group {
	// Collection of child groups.
	private List groups = new ArrayList();

	public void assemble() {
		for (Group group : groups) {

	// Adds the group to the structure.
	public void add(Group group) {

	// Removes the group from the structure.
	public void remove(Group group) {

package com.javapapers.designpattern.composite;

public class ImplementComposite {
	 public static void main(String[] args) {
	        //Initialize three blocks
	        Block block1 = new Block();
	        Block block2 = new Block();
	        Block block3 = new Block();

	        //Initialize three structure
	        Structure structure = new Structure();
	        Structure structure1 = new Structure();
	        Structure structure2 = new Structure();

	        //Composes the groups




Usage of Composite Design Pattern in Sun/Oracle JDK

This Design Patterns tutorial was added on 13/05/2012.

Comments on "Composite Design Pattern" Tutorial:

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks joe..

  2. vikas says:

    really great explanation.

  3. rao says:

    can you specify when to use this pattern?

  4. krishnamurthy says:

    super Joe……Excelent

  5. Farrukh says:

    Can you, if sometime, to apply this pattern to JTree in next your post, or I did not understand the essence of this pattern.Thanks Joe.

  6. Sandeep Singh says:

    Thanks Joe

  7. kartheek says:

    excellent information for a genuine java developers….thanks mate and pls carry on and give some more information….good night buddy….

  8. Harpreet says:

    Keep up the good work joe

  9. Lalit says:

    Awesome ………. great explanation

  10. Jayaraman palani says:

    hi joe its good articles and also I am expecting scenarios like where we can implent this type of Design pattern

  11. Pradeepan says:

    Hi Joe, Great Explanation and good Presentation.Keep it up Excellent…Thank a lot Joe

  12. Anonymous says:

    Awesome example & explanation. Thanks Joe i m a regular reader of your blogs and every time i came to know a new thing even though i m familiar with it.

  13. Ashish says:

    Awesome example & explanation. Thanks Joe i m a regular reader of your blogs and every time i came to know a new thing even though i m familiar with it.

  14. Ashish says:

    Thanks Joe…

  15. manoj says:

    I really did not understand what flaw are we trying to eradicate here. Don’t we do coding like this even if we are not aware of this design pattern. I mean why do we call it a pattern and not just a requirement that anyhow will be done that way . What was the repeated mistake that this particular approach has been suggested ,documented and recommended for?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the article, but does your structure diagram and the implementation of the code match?

  17. Forouz Parsi says:

    Thanks Joe ,
    You are really good in explanation . Using simple language and good examples …
    Helped me a lot for tomorrow’s exam.
    Keep it up

  18. goutham says:

    hai joe…
    what is the difference between POJO and java bean… i know some what basic difference but i am not satisfied with that please explain briefly…..
    thank you….

  19. Anandan says:

    its really nice explanation to understand the pattern

  20. Pallavi says:

    Thanks Joe :)

  21. vishal says:

    Thankx joe

  22. haranath says:

    Nice one.. :)

  23. Paramesh says:

    Wonderful blog. Thanks Joe !!

  24. Tatyana says:

    Hi Joe,
    if you run your example, what do you excpect to have in output?

  25. Tatyana says:

    Joe, what do you expect to have in output after you run ImplementComposit example?

  26. Dharshan says:

    Nice article

  27. Anonymous says:

    Good one !!

  28. saurabh banerjee says:

    nice one

  29. michael says:

    I have a question. We are creating a beverage vending machine as an assignment. In this, there might be 2 different kinds of coffees. Each one , I would think would be a composite, whose leafs might be a cup, sugar, cream etc. So you might have a regular coffee with sugar cream and a decaf composite coffee with sugar and cream but in a tree, that would be duplicating sugar units, for example, several times over, which I would think is not what you would want. Can the same leaf branch off of different components?

  30. soothing says:

    really nice explanation

  31. Neha says:

    Clear and concise. :-)

  32. Kathy says:

    Thanks. It helps to see different applications for these design patterns.

  33. Anonymous says:

    can you pls give some couple of scenarios where exactly this can be implemented.You have been silent for the above comments, can I expect your response soon? it would be helpful to us

  34. Said Naeem Shah says:

    Nice but example chosen is not so good and practical with composite

  35. Hamdi Mohamed Baligh says:

    Great Job :)

  36. Anonymous says:

    I can’t quite get what’s happening in the definition of the Structure class where you make a list of “Group” items¬†¬†“private List groups = new ArrayList();”?

    Could you please explain what’s happening and if it is fine to define a list of an interface type without specifying which implementation to use?

  37. Anonymous says:

    you said in the beginning that Component is the structure and Composite is the group, but I think in the example you do it the otherway round, when you write the group is the interface?

  38. Sinss says:

    nice blog..
    waiting for behavioral patterns..

  39. Samruddhi says:


  40. Anonymous says:

    Very Nice explanation indeed !.
    I have a question with regards to the UML diagram show,if you inherit the Composite from a Component ,then why has the sign of aggregation(diamond)been put next to “Composite”.
    Ideally the sign of aggregation comes next to the parent class and in this case Component being the parent class .
    Please explain.

  41. Eswar says:

    Nice example,But As per GOF., Component class (in our case Group interface ) should have methods add() and remove(). If not client can not access add or remove methods. In the above example Client can access only operation () method. Let me know if I misunderstand it.

  42. Eswar1221 says:

    Nice example,But As per GOF., Component class (in our case Group interface ) should have methods add() and remove(). If not client can not access add or remove methods. In the above example Client can access only operation () method. Let me know if I misunderstand it.

  43. Peter says:

    Will it be recursive if
    structure s = new structure();
    s.add(s); ?

  44. Lingareddy says:

    Thanks Joe

  45. rajeesh says:

    Simple and clear. thank you.

  46. rajmohan says:

    Thanks joe,for clear understanding of composite view….

  47. Vishnu says:

    Excellent ! Very well explined in layman terms.

Comments are closed for this "Composite Design Pattern" tutorial.