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# Design Elements: Form and Space

I am a math major without any design background. I often find things I make overwhelming in a haphazard way. By reading this book, I hope to understand the basic visual language design principle that will hopefully provide my work with a sense of visual stabilization and unity.

I also tried taking notes along the way, and hope it could serve as a quick and dirty guide for people who wish to express their ideas in a more visually mature manner.

*****Implied forces

five stratal forces govern an image area: x, y, diagonal axis + center of rectangle.
literal division along the five forces suggests unity.
division off of the five forces suggests movement and can provide visual stimulation.
size, shape, color, layering, transparency, overlapping in 2D dimension communicates 3D effect.
Tension is created when attracting forces are pulled in opposite direction.
*****Spatial order

When a point is placed in the center, the surrounding area is equally divided and is visually stable.
when a point is placed off center, it is visually dynamic and activates newly formed, proportional division of the space.
when an object is places along the tangent line of a circle it creates a deliberate interaction between the two.
Placing a number of points close in proximity implies a line and creates eye movements.
A regular curved arc pushes a straight line outward and pulls a point inward.
Irregular shapes among regular shapes placed along the five forces will serve as focal points of a composition.
keeping consistent visual scale of line and shape is a method of representing figures.
shape, layer, transparency creates 3D effects in 2D dimension.

*****volume

When shapes occupy positive volume, they also create negative volume around them.
small shapes placed close to each other is a technique of creating a new light, airy virtual volume.
changes in size, orientation communicates spacial volume.
layering and transparency produce the illusion of light and volume.
touching is as important as looking. depth and thickness creates volume as well.
packaging by nature is volumetric.
*****space attributes

space attributes are shape, color, texture and size.
The equilateral triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon, and octagon are regular polygons having equal sides and angels.
Regular polygons form tile tessellations consisting of two or more types of regular polygons.
balance geometric and organic shapes in a design.
symbols are deliberately constrained geometric shapes, intended to be legible in small or large format.

*****color
hue is the general family name of color
value = light/dark = tints/shades = with white/with black
saturation = brightness of color = bright/dull
saturation can be manipulated by adding neutral grey
hue can be manipulated by changing background color
color structure: primary, secondary, tertiary, analog, complimentary, split complimentary
any color harmonies can work well if the right hue, value and saturation are applied
When value and saturation are the same, no one color is more important than the other

*****Texture and size
texture can be created by varying the density of dots and lines
sequential variation of size provides eye movements and spatial depth – ie., the motion of waves
size creates illusion of weights
color creates illusion of size
*****perceptual structure
color is a powerful tool of grouping different sizes
a different shape among similar shapes creates a focal point for the eye
translation symmetry is a movement without rotating or reflecting – implies direction and distance
bilateral symmetry – same heights, weights, general proportions
dynamic symmetry – golden ratio, Fibonacci sequences, golden ratio, Le Modulor system, rule of thirds etc.

*****typography
shape, form consistency, legibility within a typeface
typography can be used as line and shape
directional up/down, horizontally left/right creates balance between the practical and poetic.

*****ordering system
all parts on 2D space must contributes to the development of the whole image

### 4 comments to Design Elements: Form and Space

• Jorge

A couple of these points stuck out to me, since we learned about a lot of these elements in our Visual Language class. I’m a newbie myself to the world of design and visual communication, so as I learned about these concepts it literally opened up a new “window” through which I could view and perceive the world.

“When a point is placed off center, it is visually dynamic and activates newly formed, proportional division of the space.” This sounds like composition to me. We learned about how, when placing something off-center in an image, you create something more visually interesting than if it were centered. Think of any great photograph you’ve recently seen or are particularly fond of. It’s most likely that a great deal of care & thought went into the composition of that photograph so that is captivates the viewer and maintains your visual interest.

“Placing a number of points close in proximity implies a line and creates eye movements.” This reminds me of a crucial element we learned when we talked about signage. We see signage everywhere and use it every day – from street signs to subway maps, restaurant menus and instructions on how to build our brand new IKEA sofa. We take most of it for granted, and often don’t realize how terrible some signage can really be. Personally, I have a keener eye for signage now and am more aware of good vs. bad signage. For example, when buying MetroCards, it’s actually pretty easy and intuitive to make your choice and pay for it. This is mostly thanks to the effective signage that’s built into the monitors where you buy MetroCards. Certain visual elements create eye movements and point to the “Start” button so you know where exactly to begin the transaction. If you’ve been to D.C. and tried to buy a metro ticket there, you’ve experience what might be some of the worst signage and UX. Compare it to what you experience in NYC and you’ll be thankful that you can buy a new MetroCard in less than 30 seconds, right when the train is approaching.

• gj lee

hi zhenzhen, thank you for jotting down these important design points.

i am sorry if i am misunderstanding you but it seems like you are overwhelmed about design due to your mathematics background. i think you are selling yourself (very very) short if you are. design at it’s core is heavily based on math; to mention the basics, which you have mentioned already, you have the ubiquitous ‘rule of thirds’ and rabatment of the rectangle. (you have probably realized some parallels and shared theories between the two by now since this response was made at the beginning of this semester. i apologize if i mention things that you already are aware of and have been taught by now.) a lot of these theories use more simple applications of mathematics but nonetheless equally important and a lot of these ideas and principles are reflected everywhere from the natural to the man made. i am curious as to how you feel about design now that some time has passed since you last wrote this entry. how is your approach to creating things now compared to before? has anything changed and are you noticing design/math correlations more?

this is just a question out of curiosity but did you study anything specific like physics based math or abstract theories? i also have a math background but my school’s curriculum was set up a little differently so my background is not very specialized in one area. i did develop a strong affinity towards number theory though.

i came across this article some time ago. when you have the time (i know everyone is very busy due to finals being due in the coming days and weeks) glance through this short essay (it’s only a page and should be a quick read):
http://www.ams.org/staff/jackson/fea-atiyah.pdf

ah, and because it’s finals time here is some related music that i hope you find pleasant:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7bKe_Zgk4o

:]

• gj lee

hi zhenzhen, thank you for jotting down these important design points.

i am sorry if i am misunderstanding you but it seems like you are overwhelmed about design due to your mathematics background. i think you are selling yourself (very very) short if you are. design at it’s core is heavily based on math; to mention the basics, which you have mentioned already, you have the ubiquitous ‘rule of thirds’ and rabatment of the rectangle. (you have probably realized some parallels and shared theories between the two by now since this response was made at the beginning of this semester. i apologize if i mention things that you already are aware of and have been taught by now.) a lot of these theories use more simple applications of mathematics but nonetheless equally important and a lot of these ideas and principles are reflected everywhere from the natural to the man made. i am curious as to how you feel about design now that some time has passed since you last wrote this entry. how is your approach to creating things now compared to before? has anything changed and are you noticing design/math correlations more?

this is just a question out of curiosity but did you study anything specific like physics based math or abstract theories? i also have a math background but my school’s curriculum was set up a little differently so my background is not very specialized in one area. i did develop a strong affinity towards number theory though.

i came across this article some time ago. when you have the time (i know everyone is very busy due to finals being due in the coming days and weeks) glance through this short essay (it’s only a page and should be a quick read):
www___ams___org/staff/jackson/fea-atiyah.pdf

ah, and because it’s finals time here is some related music that i hope you find pleasant:
www___youtube___com/watch?v=F7bKe_Zgk4o

edit: (please replace “____” with “.” … i think my comment originally didn’t go through due to having links)