Exploring Unity & Composition

Welcome to Exercises in Unity & Composition. Begin your journey by diving into the first modules: Proportion, A1 through A9, and then move on to any other modules in any sequence until you’ve completed the cycle. Once you’ve completed the cycle (or really at any time prior to that) dive right into Exercises in Rhythm and enjoy! These learning modules have been created solely to promote awareness of design principles and elements through commentary and critical analysis.

  • Introduction Exercise Completed

    Design Principles coordinate. Unity binds. If you’ve already reviewed the Design Principles Explained page, you’ve then seen that unity is one of the essential 11 Design Principles. Unity, however, plays a slightly different hand than do the Design Principles.

    Here’s the bottom line: Design Principles coordinate visual elements in a variety of ways; unity is all about  creating cohesion among those visual elements.

    Unity can be achieved by grouping, overlapping, closeness (aka, proximity), containment, closure, pattern, continuity/alignment, or by the use of a grid. Any of the modes of creating unity can be affected by any of the other Design Principles and vise-versa.

    The following exercises will serve as an introduction into how both Design Principles and unity happen. Start with Proportion. Each exercise can be fulfilled digitally or traditionally. Select Mark Exercise as Complete when you’ve completed each lesson (including this Introduction), then share your work on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram for feedback, accolades, perhaps even a dose of glory!

  • PROPORTION
    • A1 Proportion: Balance, Contrast & Weight Exercise Completed

      Study-in-Balance-Color2Proportion is all about the amounts used of anything. Balance is all about achieving an equilibrium. Three factors control balance: size, value (or color), and location. Some might add a fourth: shape, since some shapes are more
      attention-grabbing than others. Contrast is the most dynamic expression of proportion. Visual weight refers to the lightness or heaviness of an item as well as the item’s hierarchal or relative importance within a composition.

       

      Below are some examples of balanced contrasts found on Pinterest. Click through each image to read the relevant commentary. Check the Pinterest board on Proportion and find even more examples. Continue on to the next module and dive into the exercise.

      andrew-hill1laszlo-towerSamiarlles-y-ffynnon

       

       

      laszlo-circlesmondrian

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • A2 Proportion: Balance, Contrast & Weight Exercise Completed
      Exercise example. Create your own unique arrangement.

       

      Exercise: How to achieve balance by controlling proportion. Three factors control balance: size, surface condition (such as value, color or texture), and position. Some might add a fourth: shape, since some shapes are more attention-grabbing than others. All of these factors have a decided affect on the distribution of visual weight within a composition.

      The exercise goes like this: create a white square, any size, add three circles in three very different sizes, fill each circle in with a different value: light gray, medium gray, and black. (If you’re drawing digitally, the stokes should have no color. Using pencil and paper, use a compass to lightly draw your circles.) Finally, arrange your circles within the square or up to the edge. Make sure there’s no overlap and they’re not touching each other.

      Your goal is to create a sense of balance whereby all three items are seen at the same instance. No single circle dominates over the other two and no two circles dominate over the third. Each circle must be very different from the others in term of size, value and location (no overlapping or touching). Any of your circles can “bleed” over the edge, but the excess must be trimmed off.

      Prefer working in color? Each color has its own inherent intensities and values. Each quality could effect the overall balance of visual weight.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion.

      Good tip: If you’d like to test to see if you’ve achieved balance, hold a blank sheet of paper over your composition and stare at it for 30 seconds. Then quickly pull it away. Try the test on the two examples below. Balance or imbalance will reveal itself immediately.

      An alternative distribution of values. Try one without any bleeds!

      Do you see all three dots at the same instance or do you see one or two ahead of the other(s)? What adjustments would you make, if any at all?

      Do you see all three dots at the same instance or do you see one or two ahead of the other(s)? What adjustments would you make, if any at all?

      An example of Hierarchy. What adjustments would you make to achieve Balance?

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      study-in-balance-3-same-size

      This study shows three dots, all the same size. Balance has been achieved by varying values and positioning.

    • A3 Proportion: Balance, Contrast & Weight Exercise Completed
      martianchroniclesOne example of the exercise emphasizing contrast and balance.

       

      It’s your turn! Create your own version of Proportion: Balance Contrast and Weight through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Check the Pinterest board on Proportion and find even more examples.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion. When you’re done, post your exercises to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

    • A4 Proportion: Contrast & Scale Exercise Completed

      LeninContrast of Scale – another form of Proportion – is all about comparing varied size relationships. It could be a simple, everyday contrast of scale such as toy car placed upon the hood of a real one, or perhaps a reversal of expectation such as in a surreal environment.

      Contrast of Scale plays its strongest role when an artist or designer wishes to heighten tension or extend a sense of depth…or even reverse one.

      Exercise in Scale: Find an image of something normally small, like a bee, and enlarge it dramatically to present a very bold perspective. Make the size 5″x8″. Now find something normally large and related to your first image. Reduce its size dramatically and cut it out. On a white 8½”x11″ format, integrate one image with the other by trying to express an ironic pairing. Change the opacity of the enlarged image if desired to achieve balance.

      batherjust-say-no-2andrew-hill1a-t-s-copyfuji2Sam

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • A5 Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal Point Exercise Completed

      Clouds-FocalPoint-small

      Hierarchy aids in the exploration of any composition. Its helps identify which areas have greater importance over others. It helps the viewer identify which areas will likely be taken in fist, second and so on.

      A focal point is the most active area in a composition. Some prefer calling it an entry point. Not every composition requires one, depending, of course on the nature of the composition and frequently if there is an idea or concept to express. (Side note: two focal points may invoke confusion or confrontation. Three focal points could make things even more chaotic. On the other hand three focal points could promote an interesting pattern, but typically among beginning students, multiple focal points contribute mightily to chaos.)

      Focal points lead the viewer typically into secondary areas of interest and thus into the heart of creating hierarchy. (Hierarchy and focal point are also covered under the Active/Passive definition, listed in later exercises.)

      Below are examples of hierarchal compositions and hierarchal compositions with focal points. How is the artist controlling what we see first, second and so on?

      Truman's45Coney Islandhiroshige-semicirclevermeer-artistgirlwine-label1

      Train ridePicasso

    • A6 Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal Point Exercise Completed
      The automobile ad is typical of consumer advertising from the 1950's. This one has all the cliches, including the notion: "Everything's of equal importance". Contemporary design typifies the notion that immediacy and resonance are the holy grail.

      The automobile ad is typical of consumer advertising from the 1950’s. This one has all the cliches, including the notion: “Everything’s of equal importance”.

      Exercise: Find a vintage magazine or newspaper ad with multiple focal points. Deconstruct the entire ad and reassemble it into a composition with a visual hierarchy starting from a single focal point. The composition should contain a rhythmical sequence of your choosing, based upon ideas based on the Exercises in Rhythm section.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • A7 Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal Point Exercise Completed

      2-StepRose collageOne example of the exercise, emphasizing visual hierarchy.66 Sebring

       

      It’s your turn! Create your own version of Hierarchy through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Create a focal point to see what the affect would be. Check the Pinterest board on Proportion and find even more examples.

      When you’re done, post your exercises to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

    • A8 Proportion: Symmetrical & Asymmetrical Balance Exercise Completed

      Balance can be proportionally affected by visual weight and also by structure. In general terms, the most frequently used means of establishing structural balance involve symmetry and asymmetry.

      Symmetry involves mirroring an image along an imaginary axis. The compositions below demonstrate symmetrical balance. In each case there’s an imaginary axis that gives each composition either vertical symmetry (Polaroid ad; Puelles wine bottle), horizontal symmetry (Queen of Hearts), diagonal symmetry (2010 poster) or radial symmetry (Cinzano logo).

      poster-rorsach-test wine-label2QueenOfHearts-cropped2solar-systemradial-balance-logo2

      Text

      Asymmetrical balance does not involve a mirrored structure or axis, but rather a felt sense of balance. The sense of structure is typically more fluid and possesses more random qualities. The compositions below demonstrate asymmetrical balance. In each case there’s a felt sense of balance borne out of proportional considerations (size, weight and placement).

      Text

      prouve Bressonchairmans-letterThe typographic arrangements mimic the arrangement of other torn shapes.

    • A9 Proportion: Balance & Hierarchy Exercise Completed

      de8hismastersvoice

       

      It’s your turn! Create your own version of Proportion: Balance & Hierarchy through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Check the Pinterest board on Proportion and find even more examples.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Proportion.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • DIRECTION & MOVEMENT
    • B1 Direction & Movement Exercise Completed

      miroDirection & Movement: There’s a difference. In the Pinterest-based example on the left, Spanish painter Joan Miro shaped a pattern of black dots into a line with a decidedly horizontal direction. This line also has a sense of movement. It is a bit bumpy and fairly active in addition to flowing horizontally.

      The horizontal direction being expressed by the dots is entirely the result of alignment and of the dots being close enough (tension) for a sense of unity to take place. This same line of dots reinforces the overall direction (or orientation) of the canvas which is horizontal.

      Movement is reflected by internal forces within the line contributing to a felt sense of advancement or progression. There is also a counterpoint or balance: a red line which acts as a diagonal yet subordinate source of direction.

      Below are some examples of direction and movement found on Pinterest. Click through each image to read the Pinterest commentary. Check the Pinterest board on Direction and Movement and find even more examples. Continue on to the next module and dive into the exercise.

      hismastersvoiceBressonandrew-hill1The typographic arrangements mimic the arrangement of other torn shapes.

       

      Think Bigprouveexpermntl-jetsetAn example of notan, movement and direction by Katsushika Hokusai.

       

       

       

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click on the images to view specific examples on Pinterest and on the link at the bottom for YouTube:

    • B2 Direction by Alignment Exercise Completed
      mirowine-label12-Stepgin-label

      Alignment provides one of the simplest and most direct means for conveying direction and creating unity in a composition. Edge-to-edge contact and overlapping creates a continuous mass of shape. On the other hand, alignment implies a direct link from one independent object to another independent object. For example, the text on this page runs in a tight sequence of letters and words on an imaginary horizontal path. This text also happens to be aligned on the left edge (“flush left”).

      The wine label’s red components (clock hand and the name of the grape) align on a centered axis.

      Alignments require a certain degree of tension or closeness from one object to the next and an imaginary path, otherwise the connections tend to weaken.

    • B3 Direction by Alignment Exercise Completed

      bilateral-master-layout-smallerDirection by Alignment Exercise. Empty out your pockets or your backpack onto a table top. Arrange everything along an imaginary center axis, either vertically or horizontally. Overlap a few items to create some variety. Take a few pics, overhead, including a variety of angles and closeups. Save for the exercise in B5.

       

       

       

      flush-alignNext, rearrange your items along an imaginary line. Take a few pics, overhead, including a variety of angles and closeups. Save for the exercise in B5.

    • B4 Direction by Orientation Exercise Completed

      The examples shown features one dominant direction based on overall orientation. From left to right: spiral (or radial), vertical, diagonal, and horizontal. Check the Pinterest board on Direction and Movement and find even more examples. Continue on to the next module and dive into the exercise.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click on the images to view specific examples on Pinterest and on the link at the bottom for YouTube.

      spiral-staircaseUnknown student, Santa Ana Community College, Design Principles 101 workshop.   An example of notan, movement and direction by Katsushika Hokusai. laszlo-tower

    • B5 Direction by Orientation Exercise Completed

      Direction by Orientation Exercise. Reformat your pics from the B3 exercise by enlarging and cropping into each image. Crop into, enlarge and rotate the images as desired to change the overall orientation of each image. Create at least three variations for each of the best center alignment image and three for the best common edge alignment image.

      Direction by Orientation, left to right: (1) strongly vertical orientation and direction countered by the horizontal direction of the bottom-edge alignment; (2) centered horizontal alignment created by the coins, countered by the stronger vertical direction of the pen: (3) center-aligned, strongly diagonal orientation of the objects, countered by the same objects creating an opposing diagonal direction.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      cropped-vertical-flush-bottomclose-up-pencoinsclose-up-w-wallet
    • B6 Direction by Alignment & Orientation Exercise Completed

      It’s your turn! Create your own composition that expresses alignment and orientation through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Check the Pinterest board on Direction and Movement to find even more examples.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      diamond-lawnred-avalanchegrayred-fielddef r designgene-ammonsscreen-shot-2016-11-11-at-11-22-21-ampneumatic
    • B7 Movement by Fragmenting Exercise Completed

      Fragmented space can express Movement. Anytime you watch a movie, a TV show or most any video, something about what you’re watching has likely been edited, spliced, trimmed or reconfigured. This is fragmentation at its core and at it’s most everyday. It’s not a natural occurrence by any stretch and is more of an enhancement to the way things normally are, just like the fast forward on a remote control.

      Train rideFeist fragDutch frag3-musicians10,000

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • B8 Movement by Fragmenting Exercise Completed

      Exercise in fragmenting and creating movement: Find a simple yet strongly graphic page from a magazine. The least amount of clutter, the better. Subdivide the imagery with scissors or digitally into a pattern of 2 inch squares. Subdivide one or two squares into 1 squares for variety.

      Rearrange your squares in a way that hints at the original layout but creates a more rhythmical and dynamic composition than the original. It’s all about how you arrange the squares continuously and non-continuously. No overlapping; no gaps.

      Image by Aziz Alakar.

      Image by Aziz Alakar.

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • B9 Movement by Gesture Exercise Completed

      Movement can be expressed by the wave of a hand or the bounce of a ball. All motion produces a trail. Point A to point B has an “in between” stage. Motion has a path, whether it’s straight and simple or convoluted and complex; continuous or interrupted.

      Laszlo Maholy-Nagy’s racing poster confronts the viewer with the promise of speed and reverberation. Marcel Duchamp’s groundbreaking “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” expresses through gesture the complex, dynamic movement of an everyday act. Kurt Schwitters’ simple collage of tickets and torn papers affect a different form of gestured movement than that expressed by Duchamp, as does Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters’ cascading DADA collage, Francis Picabia’s layout of gears and edges, David Carson’s photo of an ascending collage of type and shapes, Alberto Morales’ construct of the color yellow, and Jean Arp’s running, twisting torso.

      nude-descendingschwitters2dada-soirredada2image.png

      girdcollageTorso Preadamite by Jean Arp

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • B10 Movement by Gesture Exercise Completed

      jean-arpExercise: Movement by gesture and by chance. Find three sheets of paper: whitish, darkish and grayish. Place the grayish sheet on a table. Create several cuts from the whitish and darkish papers. Allow them to float downward upon the gray sheet. Wherever the shapes land, let them stay there…largely. Make one or two modest adjustments at the most, scan or photograph and then post your result. Movement by gesture is considered a visual expression that is subject to (or mimics) the whims of nature.

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Direction & Movement. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • POSITIVE/NEGATIVE SPACE
    • C1 Positive/Negative Space Exercise Completed

      Pentagram arrowsNegative Space: so misunderstood. The empty space that surrounds physical objects is generally ignored. Many of us see empty space as “background”; a harmless void, generally considered not too important unless you enjoy things like deep fried doughnut holes. And there’s the hook. Negative space is generally ignored until it provides some sort of reward or feedback.

      In this demonstration, you’ll see how negative space works as an invisible force, building tension, pattern and rhythm just like positive shapes (aka “objects”) do.

       

       

       

      C1-PosNeg-1Let’s create a square, any size. We’ll add one simple shape like a smallish circle and position the shape in the mathematical center. It will likely appear static, showing no likelihood of moving and giving the background no vitality.

       

       

       

      C1-PosNeg-2Now, move the shape left about half way towards the outside edge. Notice how the static, idle nature of your initial composition has changed.

       

       

       

       

      C1-PosNeg-3Make a copy of the shape and place it just to the right of the shape you just moved. Notice now that the space between your objects and the outside edge has compressed. The objects are moving towards something, in this case towards an outer edge and towards each other, and by doing so, they have gained tons of momentum. The space surrounding the object(s) has more variety now than it did before.

       

      n

      n

      C1-PosNeg-4C1-PosNeg-7This latter point is quite important. Negative space, instead of being “just the background”, has shape. And tension. And rhythm. A hole in the ground has a shape. Some varieties of swiss cheese are virtually defined by their holes.

       

      n

      66 SebringRose collageIf variety makes things interesting, shouldn’t that also apply to the shape and proportion of negative space? Why not give the surrounding space a little attention? You’ll soon begin to see that negative space has presence and pattern, factors that you now can begin to control. You’ll begin to see that “empty” space is indeed a powerful asset in coordinating your compositions.

       

       

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Positive/Negative Space. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

      Save

    • C2 Positive/Negative Space Exercise Completed

      Exercise goal: Positive/Negative space as an expression of shape and rhythm. Create a composition made out of a series of identical objects like pencils or spoons, arranged on a simple background. Arrange these objects so that the proportion of spacing between the objects repeats.

      Next, create a second composition from the same objects but vary the space between the objects. Make note of the importance that the background takes on when you start to control the size and shape of both positive and negative shapes.

      n

      PencilsPencils2

       

       

       

       

      n

      It’s your turn! Create your own applied example of positive/negative relationships through the vehicle of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc.

      n

      gene-ammonsneutral-housewhite-boatsmonet1

       

      n

      n

      n

      n

      n

      n

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Positive/Negative Space.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • C3 Positive/Negative Space Exercise Completed

      cat-n-mouseThis exercise in Positive/Negative Space deals with the integration of two individual figures and the creation of a larger idea as a result.

      Using very simple silhouettes and positive/negative space, create a fusion between an animal and its ___________ (fill in the blank as to what the other half of the pairing is: Food? Prey? Habitat? Offspring? Friend?). One silhouette must be a positive shape and the other a negative shape.

      When you’re done, post to the Exercise Blog and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Positive/Negative Space. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • C4 Positive/Negative; Figure/Ground relationships Exercise Completed
      cool-ceilinglamb-and-stormfried-talapia

       

       

       

       

       

      This exercise in Positive/Negative Space deals with how positive/negative shapes (aka, figure and background) can be discovered nearly anywhere. Welcome to the world of figure/ground.

      Figure/ground relationships are similar to positive/negative relationships but allow for more involved variations in which multiple layers of relationships can occur. For example, the above “fish on the dish” image begins with the olive and lime slice combo forming an eye (positive) which rests upon the body of the fish (negative). In turn, the fish (plus side greens) becomes a positive that rests upon a dish which is a negative. In turn, now the entire dish (a positive) rests upon a table spread with the background tablecloth forming the negative. Just like positive/negative, figure/ground relationships form patterns and shapes.

      Exercise: Find several images that were unintentionally taken or were just poorly composed to begin with. Crop (meaning to trim or zoom into and trim) your photos as needed so as to reveal a balance between positive and negative shapes. This may involve losing your photo’s meaning or importance, but not to worry. We’re just dealing with space and shape at this time.

      Crop even further if necessary. Rotate the image if need be. Try to end up with a composition where positive and negative forces feel equally balanced.

      There’s a traditional Japanese concept called notan which refers to space as not being a mere accident or byproduct, but something that actually has a pattern or shape to it. See if you can discover that way of thinking through this exercise.

      fuji2 boatsunset-jog forrest japonesque-vignette

       

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, post to the Exercise Blog and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Positive/Negative Space. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • CONTINUITY
    • D1 Continuity Exercise Completed

      lipslipsContinuity is all about visual flow: the means of leading one’s eye through a composition. There are two types of continuity: Visual and Physical. Visual continuity is about alignment, basically. Physical continuity is about physically connecting. An image of a clothesline with the line removed exhibits both types. In the end, it’s about how the eye navigates.

      n

      clothesline-no-line 

       

       

       

      Exercise in Visual Continuity: Find or create an image of a crowded jam. It could be cars at rush hour, an ant colony, a crowded herd of cattle, etc. Enlarge to 11″x17″. Divide it up into a series of 1″ squares as you can get out of the image.

      Arrange the squares into a grid formation that repeats the original image except that this version has at least 1″ of space all around each square.

      n

      At this point, you’ll notice two forms of visual continuity. The first form is seen from square to square to square along each square’s outside edge or contour both vertically and horizontally. The second is seen across the field of squares that make up the overall image. Each square’s image is an extension of all the other adjacent square images. The eyes see the physical separation created by the squares but the mind still perceives the image as a whole, continuous thing. Are you done? Take a photo.

      n

      vignelli-bienalle2pinterest-proportion-page-snippetJimmy Smithsolar-system

      n

      n
      n

      n

       

      When you’re done, post to the Exercise Blog and share: Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Continuity.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • D2 Continuity Exercise Completed

      Exercise in Physical Continuity: Now let’s rearrange your squares from the previous exercise in a way that reflects the type of crowd pattern suggested in your original image. The squares must overlap and must do so only in a way that suggests – even exaggerates – the nature of the crowded jam-up. This arrangement will suggest a physical continuity; another form of visual flow. Are you done? Take a photo.

      n

      lipslipsIt’s your turn! Create your own composition that expresses Physical Continuity through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Check the Pinterest board on Continuity to find even more examples.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      n

      ngrey face-compromisedwhite-boats  3-musicians

       

       

       

       

      Click here to again view the definitions for Continuity.

      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • REPETITION, VARIATION & RHYTHM
    • E1 Repetition, Variation & Rhythm Exercise Completed
      monk001-alt46bravo-bike

       

      Repetition is perhaps the most ubiquitous form of unity in the visible world. Repeat something and you’ve created that something’s twin. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

      Three hundred identical gray dots could become a bit predictable especially if identically spaced. Change just one of those gray dots to red and you’ve created a dynamic event called variety. Change the spacing of, say 10 of these dots and you’ve created a more dynamic form of rhythm than was previously – though perhaps benignly – there.

      andrew-hill1Tall grasses swaying with the wind. A line of dominoes standing on end, lined up in a long row. Now imagine a few words comprised of large, thick lower case letter forms. You might have to make a couple of adjustments in their spacing, but generally speaking, each system of items has their own sense of unity (based on repetition) and rhythm (based on variation). Now imagine all three images integrated into one overall image. Now we have a design issue. How would you integrate all three?

       

      1974grotesk-loveRauschenbergChegrayred-field

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Repetition & Variation. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • E2 Repetition, Variation & Rhythm Exercise Completed

      mask1mask2mask3Exercise goals: repetition as a means of creating unity, variation as a means to elevate interest, and the combined results expressing a rhythm.

      Create a mask, flat or dimensional, any medium, based on two or three simple shapes that are repeated and varied. The variation between shapes could be expressed through the use of size; proportion; similarity (as in, something being nearly the same but still showing a difference); pattern; texture; color or by any combination.

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Repetition & Variation. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • E3 Repetition, Variation & Rhythm Exercise Completed

      leaves4Exercise goals: Repetition and variation combining to create a unified and rhythmical statement.

      Produce a item found in nature that contains lines such as an orange slice; a leaf, a tree branch, etc. On a separate layer, duplicate this item and enlarge it. On another layer, duplicate the item again but this time, reduce it. Take either the enlargement or the reduction and change something about it to make it appear somewhat different from the original.

      Next, create a few words and arrange them in a way that repeats something about the shape or structure of the original item.

      In the above example, both the typography and the leaves share a similarity due to the use of a central axis. Repetition and variation are on display on multiple levels.

      white-boatswhite-birdde8couceiro footballlipslips

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Repetition & Variation. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • E4 Repetition, Variation & Rhythm Exercise Completed

      leaves5Exercise goal: Repetition, Variation with Rhythm from an additional view.

      Take your original image from the previous exercise. Repeat it multiple times. Transform at least one of the repeated images into something very different from the original image but maintain a visual thread so that the repeated item(s) shares the same “visual DNA” with the original.

       

      zeiss-kamera1974rauschenberg_4bananas

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, share on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Repetition & Variation. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • DOMINANT/SUBORDINATE
    • F1 Dominant/Subordinate Exercise Completed

      red-avalancheThelonious Monk with Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster Prestige 7053.fuji

      Dominant and subordinate  qualities create various levels of interest and emphasis among all visual elements. Think of dominant meaning the same as primary and subordinate meaning the same as secondaryThis sensibility can apply to all of the design elements. How much movement vs. how much stability. How much order vs. how much randomness. How much muted color vs. bright color vs. white. And there certainly could be multiple subordinate elements. For example, color-wise, this page may be seen as dominantly white and subordinately black, subordinately red. 

      Balanced compositions typically have one clearly dominant direction (or sense of movement) while also having at least one clearlsubordinate direction (or movement). This page can be dominantly vertical in it’s direction and subordinately horizontal (depending on how your browser window is set). Chaotic compositions typically have multiple dominant directions or movements. 

      Exercise: view the examples on this page and ask yourself how each image exhibits either one form of dominant/subordinate relationships. (For instance: Monk has dominantly geometric lines and subordinately organic lines; dominantly black vs subordinately blue color palette; dominantly random or diagonal movement vs. subordinately vertical direction.)

      neutral-housechairmans-letterhepburn-in-redClick here to again view the definitions for Dominant/Subordinate. Click below to view more examples on Pinterest and YouTube. How many other examples can you identify?

       

  • ACTIVE/PASSIVE
    • G1 Active/Passive Exercise Completed
      neutral-house1974vermeer-artistgirl

       

       

       

       

       

      Active/Passive relationships are relative. If a composition has a singularly powerful area of attention, it is typically considered a focal point. A single focal point provides a single entry point and a means to help navigate a composition. Active/passive relationships, on the other hand, may either begin with a single focal point or with a much broader visual zone.

      An image with a short depth of field in which the background is entirely out of focus and the foreground remains sharp may be another example.

      Active/Passive relationships involve dynamic vs. far less dynamic elements in a composition. A bright red square against a neutral, pink background evokes a dynamic contrast of active vs. passive. A white square, depending on size and location, that’s set against a neutral, pink background may end up being passive compared to the larger and more stimulating field of color.

      Active-passive study2Exercise series: Recreate the grayscale study shown here. This design depicts a single, active dot surrounded by a cluster of larger, passive circles. Create a second study using the same design but now reverse the active/passive roles where the smaller dot becomes passive and the larger dots become the active component. Finally, create a third study using the same design but this time around, the negative space becomes the active component, the large circles serve as the passive component and the small dot as an in-between component.

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      SamClouds-FocalPoint-small

      Click here to again view the definitions for Active/Passive.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • ADVANCING/RECEDING
    • H1 Advancing/Receding Exercise Completed

      Monet sunsetVignelli-BienalleHiroshige landscapeDutch fragThink Big

      Advancing/Receding qualities add depth and feed the illusion of three-dimension.

      Advancing/Receding qualities add depth and feed the illusion of three-dimension. There exists a variety of modes for expressing this quality, include color temperature and saturation; atmospheric perspective; fore-, middle- and background delineation; size and location; physical perspective; overlapping; 3D vs. flat; and transparency.

      Beginning in the first image, top row, ■ Claude Monet’s rapidly visualized sunset reinforces the notion that warm and brighter colors advance while cooler and muted colors recede. ■ Massimo Vignelli’s poster plays with contradiction as the only spot of color is printed and flat, while the white cut-out letters are dimensional. Color truly advances and subtlety truly recedes. ■ Hiroshige’s landscape reverses the scale of objects while using the atmospheric perspective of a faded mountain to reinforce a greater distance. ■ Katherine Bush’s poster expresses three planes of depth through overlapping a white foreground, with a black middle ground, upon a gray background. ■ Michael Bierut/Pentagram’s symposium poster expresses depth through diminishing sizes of text in hierarchical positions. ■ Laszlo Maholy-Nagy’s iconic Pneumatik poster expresses depth by mimicking the curved, single-point perspective line of a race track.

      Below, ■  Jared Millar’s image of a fish-on-a-bike is overlapped by a white tear of paper as if the medium of print is attempting to reclaim its very soul. ■ A pint of Truman’s brew advances toward the thirsty viewer by color and value contrast and a glowing gradient of beverage. ■ The Flatiron building advances behind an in-your-face but modestly apparent title. Ambiguity is nicely expressed by the foreground continually alternating with the background for hierarchy.

      Now it’s your turn! Create an applied example of advancing and receding through the vehicle of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. It could be something you’ve already created, just newly realized!

      When you’re done, post to the Exercise Blog and share: Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, or Instagram.

      ex4-0-jared-millarTruman'sFlatiron Building

      Click here to again view the definitions for Advancing/Receding. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • Transition
    • I1 Transition Exercise Completed
      zeiss-kameraMohawk logonude-descendingPushPin1-croppedChe Nuclear tree

      “Transitions and transformations allow the flow from one idea to another in an interesting but natural fashion” according to designer Leo Monahan. Transitions appear in a variety of modes and forms: linking; incremental change; overlapping; fragmentation; transparency; in-between stages, just to name few. It might help to think of transition as an in-between stage. Gray is the transition from white to black; medium is the transition between small and large; a continuing edge may link disparate images and so on.

      Exercise #1: Create a transition among these three components in any medium or program:

      A bar code | a fabric pattern | a large (in physical size) number.

      The fabric pattern should appear quite different from the bar code pattern. The number’s font selection is up to you and will likely be influenced by both patterns. Arrange in these three elements in a pleasing way that creates a transition from the bar code to the necktie pattern by way of the numeral. The number will serve as the agent of transition. You may enlarge, reduce or repeat any item, bleed over the edge (but trim), rotate, modify, make transparent (traditional media people think: tracing paper), color or value modifications, etc.

      Exercise #2: Create a transition where the subject matter and medium are up to you: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Use any of the following transitional/transformational techniques: linking; incremental change; in-between stages; fragmentation; overlapping or transparency.

      Clouds-FocalPoint-smallPlum Garden at Kamata-HiroshigeJimmy Smith

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, post to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Transition.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

  • UNITY
    • J1 Unity Exercise Completed

      lipslipsUnity-boxer-target10,0001974grotesk-lovemonet1Unity is an essential sensibility for any designer. Unity helps to create order. Typical modes of unity include: proximity; grouping; alignment; repetition; alignment; closure, containment; overlapping and grids.

      From the upper left, ■ lips in close proximity (barely touching in fact) align with flush left type; ■ a boxer is contained and overlapped; ■ portions of numerals are absent yet closure permits their understanding while proximity and overlapping permit bonding; ■ four letterforms are unified by proximity and by the same kind of lines (type) repeating; ■ a grid controls type placement through employing a series of regular intervals; ■ a line of trees repeat their forms thus unifying the group. On the bottom left, ■ the color black and the color white overlap the red bands of color; ■ colors and shapes and repeat and vary; the figures repeat (and vary) while the horizontal lines repeat vertically; ■ lastly, a comprehensive diagram depicting nine modes of unity.

      Exercise: Retrieve an old design, photo or artwork you’ve long forgotten about. Copy it for comparison’s sake. Modify at least one thing in that image to employ greater unity using any of the means of creating unity listed above. Now make a second version whereby you employ at least three of the means of creating unity listed above. Compare both to the original.

      andrew-hill13-musiciansConey Island

       

       

       

       

       

       

      When you’re done, post to: Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. Click here to again view the definitions for Unity. Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube:

    • J2 Unity Exercise Completed

      speckled-ostrich-egg-tighter2Unity can be created any number of ways. In this culminating exercise, experiment with the various means for creating unity in a composition.

      Exercise: Create a composition from the following visual items:

      a bird | an egg | hurricane fencing or chicken wire | a drawn line | a number or a word | a texture

      Your theme is: Good morning! Working either digitally or traditionally (or both), create a composition (any size) in which you repeat any of these objects. However when you repeat an object, vary something about it such as changing its size, its texture, opacity, the amount of it , its location. its integrity, etc.

      Color palette is limited to red, orange, yellow, white, and black or any combination. Composition can be representational or highly abstract or somewhere in between. Use any one form of unity or a combination of several modes: proximity; grouping; alignment; repetition; alignment; closure, containment; overlapping and grids.

      At any time, view some examples of this exercise applied:
      https://www.pinterest.com/thisisdesign101/unity-the-overall-view/

      When you’re done, post and share: Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

      Click here to again view the definitions for Unity.
      Click below to view specific examples on Pinterest and YouTube: