Understanding Design Principles is the key to developing a sense for how composition and specifically rhythm work. At that point, the creative individual has a lot of options from which to choose, including when to adopt these principles and when not to adopt.
Prefer knowledge over romancing the void? Maybe a little bit of both? Towards either goal, the following series of videos have been developed. They’re designed to complement the lesson modules found under Unity & Composition and under Rhythm.
So welcome to the third set of your educational journey (a work-in-development). Keep in mind, education is a non-stop activity especially when your passion gets involved. Enjoy!
© Copyright 2023 Howard Schneider, all rights reserved.
- Proportion: It affects everything Exercise Completed
Proportion 1: It’s all about the amounts used – of anything.
■ Proportion affects all the design elements.
■ Proportion is all about the amounts used – of anything.
■ Balance, contrast and visual weight are affected by it.
■ If you can control balance with it, you can control hierarchy with it.
■ Created in coordination with A1 Proportion: > Harmony, Balance, Contrast & Weight.
Proportion 3: Contrast of Scale
■ Exploring dramatically varied size relationships.
■ Very effective means for hightening tension or extending a sense of depth…or even reverse one.
■ Helps in creating a reversal of expectations.
Proportion 4: Hierarchy & Focal Point
■ Hierarchy helps identify which areas have greater importance over other areas, thus helping the viewer to navigate.
■ Focal point; also referred to as an entry point.
Proportion 6: Notan, Balance & Harmony
■ One of the most engaging sensibilities in art and design.
■ An infinitely expansive way of seeing.
■ Balance and harmony are major drivers behind aesthetics and the bond between art and design.
■ Created in coordination with A_Proportion > A9 Proportion: Notan, Balance & Harmony
- Direction & Movement Exercise Completed
■ Movement is reflected by internal forces within the line contributing to a felt sense of advancement or progression.
■ Direction appears in arrangement of shapes and lines that decidedly form visual pathways or an overall orientation.
Direction & Movement 2, Direction by Alignment
■ All lines have direction or orientation. Some lines are bold and demanding; some are quiet and implied. Some lines soothe, some agitate; all assume some kind of force.
■ Alignment provides one of the simplest and most direct means for conveying direction and creating unity in a composition.
■ Overlapping creates a continuous mass of shape. On the other hand, alignment implies a direct link from one independent object to another independent object.
Direction & Movement 3, Affected by Orientation
■ Orientation affects direction and movement.
■ Orientation can be affected by those areas the designer chooses to emphasize.
■ Orientation can support or contradict the overall working format.
Direction & Movement 4, Fracturing & Fragmentation
■ Fractured space can express movement or even shape a story.
■ Fragmented space reflects interruptions and reconnections and expresses movement as well.
Direction & Movement 5, Movement by Gesture
■ Gesture is a movement that expresses an idea or emotion
■ Through gesture, movement can be expressed by the wave of a hand, the bounce of a ball, or the path of line.
- Positive/Negative & Notan Exercise Completed
■ The space within and around an object (“negative”) can be as interesting as the object (“positive”) itself.
■ Negative space has shape such as the arrow inside the FedEx logo and the other spacial areas within and in-between the other letters. So, it can also display pattern.
■ Also referred to as Figure/Ground. The latter term is more applicable to compositions with more complex layering.
■ Related to the Japanese-based notion of space and pattern, dark and light, harmony and balance: Notan.
- Continuity Exercise Completed
■ Organizing design elements into a visual flow of connections.
■ Physical Continuity: physically connected elements will lead the eye through a composition. Imagine a fallen line of domino pieces.
■ Visual Continuity: the eye flows across an open area and connects two or more elements. Especially found when the contours of various objects share the same axis. Frequently called alignment. Imagine the same line of domino pieces standing in line, before their collapse.
- Repetition & Variation Exercise Completed
■ Creates a pattern of similarity that moves the viewer’s eye comfortably through a composition.
■ It is the most logical of all the Design Principles and the easiest to implement.
■ Repetition can affect and magnify any of the design elements; color, value, dot, line, shape, volume, texture, space.
■ Too much Repetition can invite tedium. Too little can result in chaos and perhaps another form of tedium.
■ The opposite of similarity. For example: three red 1″ circles and one gray 1″ circle. The gray color adds variety and interest.
■ Adds visual dynamics.
■ Keeps things interesting.
■ Repetition and Variation work hand-in-hand, and are chiefly responsible for producing rhythm.
■ How much Variation or variety becomes a significant question: a lot of Variation can produce highly energetic results but it could also lead to chaos and confusion; no variation can make things boring and predictable.
■ A non-formulaic balance between the two extremes runs the spectrum of creative possibilities and is where the main body of art and design today exists.
- Dominant/Subordinate Exercise Completed
■ Creates a relative level of interest and emphasis among all design elements and principles.
■ Dominant=primary; subordinate=secondary.
■ Helps to establish a visual hierarchy: what the viewer will see 1st, 2nd, etc.
■ Applies to all design elements and principles. Color-wise, this page is dominantly white and subordinately black, subordinately red and subordinately brown.
■ Many great compositions have one clearly dominant direction or sense of movement.
■ Many confusing compositions have multiple dominant directions or dominant movements.
■ Compositions with the most dynamic structure not only have one clearly dominant direction, they also have at least one clearly subordinate direction.
- Active/Passive Exercise Completed
■ The most active element in a composition will usually be the focal point.
■ The elements of lesser interest or weight are considered relatively passive.
■ It’s all relative. For example, Negative space may typically be seen as passive space until it has significance, such as the arrow inside the FedEx logo.
■ Multiple focal points may cause confusion or chaos. Chaos can offer excitement but at the expense of clarity. Managing both becomes a dynamic issue of proportion involving balance.
■ Hierarchy refers to the relative importance (or activeness) of one thing versus the relative lack of importance (or passiveness) of another thing or group of things. (This also goes back to our earlier discussion under the definition of Proportion.) By adjusting proportions involving balance and contrast, a primary area of interest (called a focal point) as well secondary areas of interest can become established. A well-expressed hierarchy can be helpful in directing viewers where to enter and how to navigate a composition.
- Advancing/Receding Exercise Completed
■ Illusionary creation of three-dimensional space or depth.
■ Can be created by overlap, placement, linear perspective, value, color (warm colors advance, cool colors recede), active-passive (active things advance, passive things recede), bright vs. neutral (bright things advance, neutral or dull things recede).
- Transition Exercise Completed
■ A step in-between.
■ Transparency is a dynamic example of transition.
■ Shapes that “bleed” (running into and “off” the edge of a composition’s working area) are a transition from (or to) the edge of a working area into the composition itself.
■ Medium is the transition between large and small.
■ Gray is the transition between dark and light.
■ Connects two or more elements in a natural fashion.
- Unity & Gestalt Exercise Completed
■ Unity 1 introduces the reader to the key concepts and terms.
■ Also referred to through similarity, oneness, togetherness, or cohesion.
■ Diminishes chaos.
■ Grouping, overlapping, containment, proximity, alignment, closure, repetition, pattern and grids are the primary ways of creating unity. Proximity (closeness) can create powerful visual tensions. Imagine two magnets at the moment just before they merge. Tensions can work with you. They can also work against you.
■ These various types of Unity can create an opportunity where one item seems to exert control over another item.
■ Unity 2 dives into gestalt. Gestalt is a German word that roughly means: to take shape. It materializes through Unity. Gestalt is all about individual parts forming a relatable whole. When letters form words, we have a gestalt. When symbols combine to create an idea: gestalt. Underneath all the above: Unity.
- Rhythm Explained Exercise Completed
Rhythm can seem as well-behaved as a parade formation or as chaotic as a swarm of bees. Rhythm is borne out of our experience with the flow and pacing of the natural world, and serves as a means to understand underlying patterns that intrigue and engage us. This phenomenon doesn’t need a title or a name, however, we do. Two principles introduce the viewer into how rhythm fundamentally works.
- Rhythm 1.0-Uninterrupted Sequences Exercise Completed
Uninterrupted sequences can be about as simple as a rhythm can get. All rhythms involve a sequence. Repeating shapes can create a pattern that – depending on which kind of sequence it assumes – may result in a sense of movement, generally referred to as rhythm.
An uninterrupted sequence is as simple as it gets. Depending on the nature of what’s being repeated, movement can result as well. It’s hard to find movement in static patterns, that’s why not all patterns have rhythm. Patterns with even the slightest degree of variation can still produce a rhythm.
- Rhythm 2.0-Interrupted Sequences Exercise Completed
Creating a more dynamic rhythm. Revisit the uninterrupted sequence example shown in Lesson 1.0 and this time imagine removing one circle at a time in order to create and sustain an implied horizontal line. Try it on a piece of paper with pencil and eraser. How many circles did you end up removing until the line finally fell apart? Five? Six? More?
Notice how the line or sequence seems to continue despite the fact that some of its circles are missing. (FYI, this effect is called Closure. Find out more in the video on Unity.)
The main point is that the interruptions create their own rhythm among the remaining dots. The missing circles (aka, open or negative space) now affect their own sort of pacing or rhythm as well. Conventional swiss cheese is noted for its flavor but also its holes. Shouldn’t open space have its own dynamic as well?
- Rhythm 3.0-Altered Sequences Exercise Completed
The varied “pulse” within the each of the two thumbnail sequence of circles has wide reaching, interesting consequences. What if just a few alterations are involved? Or just one? Black, white and gray are cool, but also think about how this can apply in the use of color; different proportions such as large vs. small (and in-between), heavy vs. light, strong vs. weak; varying textures, alternating spacings, etc. How many unique applications can you come up with?
Repeating and varying visual elements creates rhythm. The possibilities are quite limitless.
- Rhythm 4.0-Progressive Sequences Exercise Completed
- Rhythm 5.0-Altered-Progressive Sequences Exercise Completed
Altered-Progressive Sequences are everywhere. Cross your fingers. Watch water come to a boil. View clouds going by. This could be the stuff that dreams are made of – though the stranger the dream, the more altered the sequence. It’s all about the scrambling of an otherwise rational, gradual sequence of visual elements, whether by one degree or by several.
- Rhythm: Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Sequences Explained Exercise Completed
- Rhythm 6.0-Symmetrical Sequences of 2 Elements-Advanced Exercise Completed
Symmetry is a precise form of balance. It typically involves a center axis, whether actual or implied. The left half looks like the right half; upper half like the lower half and so on. Think mirror-like. Multiple layers of symmetrical items may actually begin to form their own coordinated sort of carefully crafted rhythms, potentially making compositions far more dynamic and interesting.
- Rhythm 7.0-Symmetrical Sequences of 2 Elements, 1 Altered-Advanced Exercise Completed
Opposing sequences working in harmony. This type of exercise relies on similar qualities such as combining individual symmetries getting contrasted, but to a slight degree. We’re talking about a slight degree of order vs. intuition, precision vs. chance, or chaos vs. stability – that kind of thing.
- Rhythm 8.0-Symmetrical Sequences of 2 Altered Elements-Advanced Exercise Completed
Symmetrical sequences can act as a dominant sequence in a composition or it can act as a reclusive counterpoint and something off of which to play. Opposing rhythms working in harmony, part 2. This type of engagement brings along its own kind of contrasting elements: an agitated orderliness vs. a whisper-quiet orderliness; excitedly precise vs. quietly daring; light-hearted chaos vs. bloated stability.
- Rhythm 9.0-Asymmetrical, Altered Sequences: 2 Elements-Advanced Exercise Completed
Asymmetry is all about achieving a felt sense of balance. Asymmetric arrangements are chaotic, random and rhythmical. The goal is to create a felt state of balance where mismatching elements in a composition feel equal in weight towards each other. Asymmetrical balance becomes very reliant on a creative’s awareness and sensitivity to the role played by size, value (or color), and location.
- Rhythm 10.0-Asymmetrical and Symmetrical Sequences Combined-Advanced Exercise Completed
Symmetrical and asymmetrical sequences can combine to form greater harmonies. Opposites can attract. Managing their similarities – or their point of interaction – is where design truly becomes an activity and not merely a noun. This is also a good time to review this course’s section on Unity > J1 (Exploring Unity & Composition) once again. The rational meets the dynamic. An explosion inspires a network. Chaos is modified by control.
- Rhythm 11.0-Focal Point-Advanced Exercise Completed
A focal point can give rhythm a starting (or a culmination) point. A focal point can be created by some form of distinguishing event: contrast of color, size, value, texture, pattern, location, containment, and inference – just to name a few. Directing one’s attention to where the cascade of activity begins or to where it ends up – is a valuable way in which focal points support underlying compositional dynamics.
- Rhythm 12.0-Rhythm and Pacing-Advanced Exercise Completed
Good rhythm has pacing. Pacing surrounds us. The tempo of a walk; the cadence of a conversation; migrating birds finding a formation; the layering of a sunset. Sometimes pacing is vertical. Sometimes it’s horizontal. Sometimes it spirals. Sometimes it meanders. Sometimes chaos finds contrast and balance with symmetry, asymmetry or other forms of pacing. Sometimes pacing is as seemingly innocent as a random counterpoint. Sometimes pacing is progressive and predictable.
- Rhythm & Unity 01: Putting it all together–To a Joyful 2021! Exercise Completed
- Rhythm & Unity 02: Putting it all together–Night Stream Exercise Completed
- Rhythm & Unity 03: Putting it all together–Decarbonize LA Exercise Completed
- Rhythm & Unity 04: Putting it all together–Late Night Litho Exercise Completed
- Rhythm & Unity 05: Putting it all together–Is "Less" Boring? Exercise Completed
- Rhythm & Unity Exercises Exercise Completed