Exploring Unity & Composition



Develop a deeply powerful design foundation in a fraction of the traditional time and for free. Design Principles 101 is a learning place dedicated to supporting and developing designers and artists of all stripes. Far beyond discovering a few new tips & tricks, Design Principles are the actual tools of composition. They help coordinate how visual things engage with other visual things while distinguishing your work.

For some, this experience will be about standing clear and apart from a crowded field of competing visions. For others, this will become a deep, expansive dive into personal expression…or just more fun!

And then there’s Rhythm – the wild card of design principles. Have you ever come across a course in visual rhythm? Neither have most people…until now!

DesignPrinciples101.com is unique for so many reason, not the least of which is its explanation of Notan. – the historical, Japanese design concept of harmony, pattern and the predecessor of positive/negative space. In addition, the visual experience of Gestalt is finally made user-friendly and accessible.

Finally, a course on design and art that you can binge. Order up a coffee and watch a two-, three-, or four-minute video while waiting. Enjoy life while you learn!

Each major section has subsections. Every subsection contains at least one lesson and most of these subsections have a good number of them. Some lessons only contain a written discussion. Some lessons only contain an exercise. Many lessons contain both. Several lessons contain a cool, self-administered quiz which will further grow your imagination. Most lessons contain a video that typically runs 2, 3, or even up to 6 minutes. The videos tend to take the written discussion and pump it up a few notches

Quick ref. The following lessons contain exercises: 1.02|1.03|1.04|1.06|1.07|1.08|2.03|2.05|2.06|2.08|3.03|4.02|5.02|5.03|6.02|6.04|6.05 through 6.10|6.14 (with video containing 10 exercises)|7.01|8.02|9.01|10.01|11.02.
The following lessons contain quizzes: 1.09|2.09|3.05|6.15|11.01. Looking for that Proportion video you saw two days ago? For quick reference, all the videos can be found in Just the Videos. 

News, insights and videos will be released over time, so subscribe NOW to our YouTube channel and be among the first to hear about the latest drops.

Remember, you are in control. You can always ramp up the playback speed. Hit pause or blaze through to the next one if the barista is backed up. Education has seldom been this engaging or fun. Enjoy!

Sign up and become a better designer…as in NOW! Subscribe to our YouTube channel and begin to strengthen your creative wings!

© Copyright 2024 Howard Schneider, all rights reserved.

  • Introduction Exercise Completed

    Nutritional irony: a pattern of holes for breakfast.

    Design is the structure of art. Art is more about the dynamic, creative response to the condition of living. Not all art requires structure though it’s hard to find an artistic expression that does not involve structure even at a minimum. Even the sky is a stage.

    Now let’s switch from design as a docile noun to design as a dynamic verb. Here’s a definition you might find helpful while using the exercises and resources in this site:

    Design is the logical selection and arrangement of visual elements for order with interest.

    Design involves logic and intuition, though necessarily not in that order. Design is not merely the result of knowing a program or mastering a technique, but it does involve understanding tools that help to express and enable visual relationships. The visual arts landscape is comprised of two primary sets of tools: Design Elements and Design Principles.

    Design Elements are the more tangible of the two. They are comprised of:

    Dots | Lines | Shapes | Volume | Value | Color | Texture | Space

    Design Principles on the other hand are all about coordinating Design Elements. Design Elements by comparison are pretty easy to recognize. Design Principles on the other hand feel more elusive; more abstract. A comb is a comb. A “passive area” is a what? The Design Principles we’ll be exploring in this course include:

    Proportion | Direction & Movement | Positive & Negative | Continuity | Repetition/Variation (Rhythm)
    Dominant/Subordinate | Active/Passive | Advancing/Receding (Depth)| Transition | Unity

    Each of the Design Principles discussed in the lessons below contain examples of how each principle functions in art, design or photography. The goal here is not to be consumed by these principles, but to become increasingly comfortable in regards to using them. After a while, these principles can become more intuitively available, ready to engage if and when visual relationships are desired.

    Design can be something that dawns on you while you are drawing, painting, arranging type, shooting photos, etc. But you need to have been exposed to it in simple terms in the first place, so you start to know it when you see it.” – Prof. Ken Jones; CSUN, Gnomon

  • Students begin here Exercise Completed

    Depending on how your instructor wishes to move forward – or even for those without an instructor – the first step should be to take a quick visit through this text’s learning set: Meet the Course. Go to lesson 1_Proportion > 1.01 and begin your experience.

    Your instructor may wish to target specific lessons, modules or videos for you to focus on. No instructor? No worries. Just proceed, read, view, and do (the exercises and zero-judgement quizzes that is). Revisit favorite sections at a later date if desired. The sequence of lessons is up to you, but completing the first section–Proportion–is essential.

    The videos are part of the lessons, short and definitely binge-worthy. Create your own YouTube playlists to customize the learning experience beginning today and as you progress.

    The text-based lessons are generally aligned with the video. The greatest benefit is received from consuming both the written portions and the videos.

    This learning experience is more experiential than one you might have to normally and doggedly commit to taking. Meaning–begin to enjoy the process of learning. Replay as often as needed. Read the text, watch the videos, do the exercises, mark your progress. Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat.

    Quick ref. The following lessons contain exercises: 1.02|1.03|1.04|1.06|1.07|1.08|2.03|2.05|2.06|2.08|3.03|4.02|5.02|5.03|6.02|6.04|6.05 through 6.10|6.14 (with video containing 10 exercises)|7.01|8.02|9.01|10.01|11.02.
    The following lessons contain quizzes: 1.09|2.09|3.05|6.15|11.01. 

  • Educators begin here Exercise Completed

    Welcome to DesignPrinciples101: A Resource for Educators.

    This site was created as a supplemental of learning system which can also serve as a class’s primary or secondary resource for any number of courses within your department – not just Foundation 2D Design. This site and its accompanying videos can serve as a useful resource to struggling students for whom negative space, for example, is still a mystery. Or proportion. Or hierarchy. Or rhythm. Or balance.

    Once within this site’s YouTube channel, educators can create YouTube playlists to customize the learning experience for whole classes as well as for any single individual.

    There is no universally-adopted narrative on DesignPrinciples. No two designers, artists or educators are the same. Just when you think that all art educators know there’s six design principles, your department’s newest lecturer has only one. Or maybe seven.

    Plus, given the substantial number of inter-collegiate transfers and the inherent inconsistencies of scaffolding despite everyone’s best efforts, one student’s design principle reinforcement can also be another student’s introduction. Scaffolding as a consistent, downstream learning ecosystem may have issues regarding implementation, depending on the nature of each department.

    DesignPrinciples101 represents a surveyed compilation of some of the most commonly-held principles currently in general use. This site can easily function as a self-guided course or be instructor-led.

    The reader’s first step should be to take a quick visit through this text’s main learning set, Meet the Course. The lesson contained within each main principle or module typically contain exercises, videos and a handful of video quizzes (more of an engaging set of challenging videos than data-recalled responses.)

    YouTube is the video arm of the DesignPrincipes101 experience. All videos can be found at our dedicated channel. Please make sure to like (if so inclined) and especially to subscribe. Let’s together see what kind exciting experiences lie ahead.

    Gallery hides within About and displays a sampling of the varied imagery used in the site and in the videos.

    Intermediate level students might enjoy revisiting one of their earlier creations after they’ve consumed the reading sections, did at least some of the exercises and viewed the videos – including the quizzes. Revisiting previous sections and then revisiting an earlier work – could reveal just how far your students’ sensibilities have evolved.

    This course is very helpful towards building a deeper sensibility and appreciation of structure and aesthetics, but the longer-term goal is to wean one’s self away from obedience and orthodoxy of principles into a more fluid sense of experimentation or playfulness, with a lingering mindfulness in regards to how design works. And how rhythm works. And balance, and proportion, and hierarchy, and…

    So welcome to DesignPrinciples101 and enjoy the journey!

    • 1.01_ Proportion: Harmony, Balance, Contrast & WeightExercise Completed







      Proportion affects everything and everything is affected by proportion. Ttherein lies the reason behind its prominence within this discussion. Harmony is a state of cohesive balance in which similarities are achievable despite contrasts or variances. A harmonious musical chord will have a structure composed of various notes, yet will blend together the instant it is heard. 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. Sometimes contrast and balance are achieved in the same composition. Being able to make the necessary adjustments to achieve such a combination is a measure of craft unto itself. Below are a few examples with descriptions upon rollover.







    • 1.02_ Proportion: Harmony, Balance+ ExerciseExercise Completed



      Achieve a balanced harmony by controlling proportions. Three factors controlling balance: size, value (or 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. Proportion affects everything.

      Balance may not be every situation’s objective. Alternately, a need for emphasis might be desired which would then require a sense of hierarchy be established. Hierarchy can help the viewer determine how to navigate a design in terms of enabling where the viewer would go initially and then successively. Towards achieving hierarchy, the same factors we used to achieve balance would be employed: size, value (or color or texture), and position – even shape, but with appropriate changes in proportion.

      Two rows of image below. The first row represents balance; the second row represent hierarchy.

      If you can control balance, you can also begin to control hierarchy. Hierarchy aids in the exploration of any composition. Its helps identify which areas have greater importance over others. It helps in the navigation of those areas will likely be taken in first, second and so on. View the video, Proportion 4: Hierarchy & Focal Point in a couple of lessons.









      Exercise in Balance: In a state of perfect balance, nothing dominates or overwhelms. In a balanced state, elements contribute equally despite their inherent differences. As soon as any kind of dominance takes place, hierarchy beginning to emerge. Balance requires a bit of conditioning for the casual viewer.

      Test your results: Want 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. Balance or imbalance will reveal itself immediately. Make the necessary adjustments in terms of size, value (or color or texture), and position. (A good double-check is to turn the composition upside down, then do the paper test.)

    • 1.03_ Proportion: Contrast| ExerciseExercise Completed


      Exercises in Proportion by Contrast. This video contains two exercises on contrast. A point of interest is made in the video regarding Bauhaus founding director, influential Swiss painter, designer, writer and theorist Johannes Itten, who identified a range of contrasting conditions in his basic course at the Bauhaus school of post-WW1 Germany. The types of visual contrasts shared were inspiring, varied and listed below:

      Rigid vs Fluid
      Flat vs Textured
      Color vs Gray
      Stable vs Random
      Thick vs Thin
      Large vs Small
      Long vs short
      Much vs Little
      Straight vs Bent
      Pointed vs Blunt
      Horizontal vs Vertical
      Circular vs Diagonal
      High vs Low
      Plane vs Line
      Plane vs Volume
      Smooth vs Rough
      Hard vs Soft
      Still vs Moving
      Light vs Heavy
      Transparent vs Opaque
      Steady vs Intermittent
      Sweet vs Sour
      Strong vs Weak
      Loud vs Soft
      (and in any combination)

    • 1.04_ Proportion: Contrast & Scale+ ExerciseExercise Completed







      Contrast of Scale – another form of Proportion – is all about comparing varied amount or 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 in a surreal landscape where an enormous eye replaces the setting sun.

      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. Snowbird Marathon shown above, uses contrast of scale to emphasize the dynamic energy behind the event and within each of its participants.







    • 1.05_ Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal PointExercise Completed








      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 first, 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, intention or outcome.

      As seen in the Vermeer painting on the left, a focal point can lead the viewer into secondary areas of interest and thus into the heart of a story or narrative by way of creating hierarchy. (Hierarchy and focal point are also covered under the Active/Passive definition, shown elsewhere within this section.)

      Below are examples of hierarchal compositions:




    • 1.06_ Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal Point | ExerciseExercise Completed


      Exercise in hierarchy and focal point: Find a vintage 1950’s-era automobile magazine ad with multiple focal points. Many automobile advertisers of this era wanted to make sure that no detail was lost upon the gentle reader. The narrative was all-encompassing. They were like short stories but all on one page. It was the reader’s responsibility to sort out the details.

      Details: Deconstruct the entire ad and reassemble it into a composition with a visual hierarchy starting from a single focal point. This can be done either digitally or using traditional media such as copiers, scissors and glue, then making a copy of the final results. (To research actual hard copies, libraries with a decent periodicals archive can be a good resource, especially 1950’s issues of Life magazine.)

    • 1.07_ Proportion: Hierarchy & Focal Point | ExerciseExercise Completed

      One example of the exercise, emphasizing visual hierarchy.


      Create your own version of Hierarchy through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Create a composition that’s a layering of three visual items. Make whichever adjustments you need (size, brightness/dullness, color, texture, positioning) to create a hierarchal composition that also features a focal point.

      Advanced: See if the net result can communicate something stronger than that which is suggested by the individual parts alone. If not, see what adjustments need to be made to make that happen while still maintaining a hierarchy and a focal point.

    • 1.08_ Proportion: Symmetrical & Asymmetrical Balance + ExerciseExercise Completed

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

      Symmetrical Balance involves mirroring an image along an imaginary axis. The compositions immediately below demonstrate four different types of symmetrical balance: vertical, diagonal, horizontal, and radial. In each case there’s an imaginary axis that provides this kind of underlying structure. Vertical symmetry: National Watercolor Society poster; Keep Your Head Above Your Heart poster; 5 Generaciones wine label; Diagonal symmetry: Beef Consumption poster; Horizontal symmetry: Angel Hearts; or Radial symmetry: Snowbird Marathon logo; Staircase, Sagrada Familia.



      On the other hand, 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; DADA/no; To Our Shareholders; DP101 Robot; Church of the Nazarene – demonstrates symmetry (building structure + sign) coexisting with asymmetry (bench and windows). Overall there’s a felt sense of balance borne out of proportional considerations (size, value or color, weight and placement).





      Walker Evans. The Church of the Nazarene. Tennessee, 1936. Library of Congress










      Create your own composition through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Create or find another item or image of something that’s symmetrically balanced. Now create or find another image that is asymmetrically balanced. Then integrate these two images into three compositions: (1) favoring asymmetry; (2) favoring symmetry; (3) a balance between things symmetrical and asymmetrical.



      Proportion 5: Symmetrical & Asymmetrical Balance

    • 1.09_ Proportion: Notan, Balance & Harmony| QuizExercise Completed


      Notan is a Japanese concept roughly translated as dark/light and is most apparent where shapes and patterns occur. It’s all about darks and lights (or other visual forms of opposition) composed into harmonic, balanced patterns or relationships; a concept made visible in this painting by Utagawa Hiroshige, (View from Massaki of Suijin,1856; The Art Institute of Chicago). In the painting, neither the flowing tree nor the receding landscape dominate one over the other. Harmony and Notan become the result.

      “Darks and lights in harmonic relations – this is Notan…”, Arthur Wesley Dow; educator, painter, art historian.

      Below are various examples of Notan in which balance achieves harmony, left to right: ■ OK logo: two symbols – one dark, one light – are combined and proportionally adjusted so the neither shape dominates the other; ■ Snowbird Marathon logo; ■ 42nd Annual Dakar Rally poster; ■ Pomposity; illustration;




      Below, left to right: Yellow Dancers by Edgar Degas (1874/76, The Art Institute of Chicago) in which patterns of dark, medium and lighter tones are balanced by controlling the proportion of one set of tones against the others; ■ Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Johannes Vermeer (1663, The Rijksmuseum) further extends the idea of harmony being achieved through balance – with Notan as the net result.



      Below are additional examples of Notan in which pattern of shapes, colors, values or tones appear as contributing factors, left to right: ■ Exterior and interior details, Sagrada Familia; Antoni Gaudi, 1882, Barcellona. First detail displays patterns in both positive and negative spaces; ■ second detail displays softer pattern contrasts; ■ third detail displays a balance between softer and stronger patterns; ■ fourth detail displays a random balance and harmony among a varied group of contrasting shapes, colors and patterns in which no single elements appears to overwhelm any of the others.



      Below, left to right: ■ Snowbird Marathon poster continues the same quality of Notan as enabled by balance and harmony, ■ as do January ’59, ■ Post-Pandemic Ball 2023!, ■ In the Spirit, and ■  Wayne Hunt’s Been Dancing.



      Proportion 6: Notan, Balance & Harmony

      Proportion 7: Time to test yourself.

    • 2.01_ Direction & MovementExercise Completed

      Direction & Movement: There’s a difference. In the example on the left, a pattern of black dots is shaped into a line with a decidedly diagonal direction. This line also has a sense of movement. It is a bit bumpy and fairly active in addition to flowing diagonally.

      The diagonal 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 diagonal.

      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: an orange line which acts as an alternately diagonal, subordinate source of direction. The direction of both the dotted line and the orange line are echoed and repeated by the lightish blue strokes behind each.

      Below are some examples of direction and movement:  Rolling Hills 2 represents horizontal and diagonal direction; triangular and curvilinear movements; Frolicking Physicians represents diagonal, triangular and vertical directions as well as curvilinear moments of movement; 77th Dakar Rally exudes cascading movement and a somewhat diagonal sense of direction; DP101 Workshops poster strongly express both vertical and horizontal directions;  Broad to Disney sweeping curves contain a perfectly counterposed diagonal edge;  President’s Message expresses movement through the aid of a fractured perspective; and  Cielito Lindo balances the organic, curvilinear movements within the angelic illustration against the geometric, horizontal direction of the rectangular area.



      Direction & Movement 1: There’s a difference

    • 2.02_ Direction by AlignmentExercise Completed

      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. 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”).

       Night Stream‘s black dots float along as if in a diagonal migratory sort of flight.  All of the 5 Generaciones wine label elements align along a center axis, as do the black elements. Please notice that each system of color has it’s own rhythm. Alignment bonds both rhythms.  What Makes Communities Stick? uses alignment and hierarchy to create a meandering but coherent path.  We’re Back! uses flush left text alignment to connect the body text to the salmon and then to the headline. You’ll notice here as well that each color has its own rhythm and that alignment unifies one color system with another.

      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. Alignments assert control:








      Descriptions of alignment/control shown above: Stagecoach poster, the floating, quoted text appears tethered to the move title on a left axis which also controls the actors’ images and client’s identity. The “tethered” elements assert a dominantly vertical direction. ■ Magritte’s Grotto, an egg yoke shares a centering axis with the red shape beneath it, acting as a tether and helping to offset the more random elements of the image. The relationship of yoke to red shape asserts a subordinate direction. ■ Dakota is built on a central axis that engages the text, middle ground pattern, and background vignette of the circled star. All content but the larger silhouetted airplane shape are controlled by this visual thread. Although the composition is dominantly horizontal, the central/vertical axis asserts the composition’s only subordinate direction. ■ Marineland of Rolling Hills #1 features a pattern of white triangles (and dolphins) that are aligned on diagonal, horizontal and vertical axes. There are two dominant directions at play here: triangular and horizontal.

      Direction & Movement 2: Direction by alignment

    • 2.03_ Direction by Alignment| Exercise 1 of 2Exercise Completed


      Direction 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 usage in 2.05. Next, rearrange your items along an imaginary line. Take a few pics, overhead, including a variety of angles and closeups. Save for usage in 2.05.

      bilateral-master-layout-smaller flush-align
    • 2.04_ Direction by OrientationExercise Completed

      (Proposed revision)

      Orientation can be defined as an overall, underlying positioning of objects, relative to the viewer. Orientation has more to do with the direction or movement within a composition relative to the underlying working area or format that initially greets the viewer.

      The examples below each feature one dominant direction based on overall orientation.






      Orientation can be defined as an overall, underlying positioning of objects, relative to the viewer. Orientation has more to do with the direction or movement within a composition relative to the underlying working area or format that initially greets the viewer.

      The examples below each feature one dominant direction based on overall orientation. From left to right: ■ Sagrada Familia staircase’s dominant spiral orientation is complemented by the subordinately radiating pattern of steps; Plum Garden at Kameido (Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857; The Art Institute of Chicago) displays underlying diagonal movement and orientation, all the while being countered by vertically subordinate (or minor) movements of the saplings. The vertical orientation of the overall working area is a powerful balance against all the internal, diagonal activity;  The complexity increases a bit in January 59 in which a strongly reinforced radial (diagonal movement originating from a single point) movement runs in counterpoint to the vertical format and individual letterforms. The horizontal January text reinforces a subordinately horizontal direction. Continue on to the next module and dive into the exercise.













      Direction & Movement 3: Are Affected by Orientation

    • 2.05_ Direction by Orientation| Exercise 2 of 2Exercise Completed

      Direction by Orientation Exercise. Reformat your pics from the 2.03 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.

    • 2.06_ Direction by Alignment & Orientation+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      Create your own composition that expresses alignment and orientation through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Create one piece of art with your eyes closed.  Next, create another piece of artwork with eyes open but in 3 seconds or less.  Next, split one or both of your art pieces in half.  Next, recombine all pieces to create a composition that displays only one dominant direction and at least one subordinate direction.  Lastly, create a frame that’s too small for your combined art. Place the frame on top of your art and see how many different orientations you can create before trimming the excesses at the frame’s edge.

      Top row:  Rolling Hills (triangular movement with diagonal and horizontal direction; dominantly diagonal orientation);  National Watercolor Society poster (dominantly horizontal orientation with typographic reinforcement; subordinately vertical direction reinforced by the address line at bottom),  Magritte’s Grotto (dominantly horizontal direction established by horizon, subordinately vertical direction due to implied center axis of yolk to red shape).

      Bottom row:  Do the Math (triangular cluster of symbols, counterposed by a horizontal line suggestive of either a horizon or a rotisserie;  For Love (dominantly horizontal direction and orientation, subordinately vertical direction in heart/for love relationship, subordinately diagonal direction middle/left);  Douglas C-47 (dominantly horizontal direction and subordinately vertical orientation);  Queens of Hearts (dominantly horizontal orientation, subordinately diagonal movement, subordinately vertical movement).


    • 2.07_ Movement by FracturingExercise Completed

      Fractured space can express Movement or even shape a story. 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 fracturing at its core and at its most everyday. It’s alternately a product of natural forces or a human contrivance. In terms of the latter, think of fast forwarding with a remote control or the precise instance when a media selection has suddenly changed.

      Examples shown below, top row:  President’s Message suggests a chaotic process of self-examination in which even the most sacred of all symbols would not be exempt; ■ They Were Heroes, represents the narrow window of strongest opportunity in the planning of D-Day, WWII. ■ 42nd Dakar Rally suggests the circuitous, rugged nature of an off-road rally; Wayne, Off-the-Grid juxtaposes artist Wayne Hunt with his work; 2003 Paula Annual Report suggests the various farming interests whose insurance needs are represented and the communities thus supported;  Consulting Fees, Fictionalized Aggregate, 1st Q, 2022 suggests the enormity of the hourly fees charged by a fictitious business consultant.

      Direction & Movement 4: Fracturing & fragmentation

    • 2.08_ Movement by Fracturing| ExerciseExercise Completed


      Exercise in fracturing 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.


    • 2.09_ Movement by Gesture+ QuizExercise Completed

      Movement can be expressed by the wave of a hand, the bounce of a ball, or even suggested as in the sweeping, overlapping lines of a freeway interchange. Motion tends to produce a trail whether actual or imaginary. 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.

      On the left,  Westbound abstraction suggests a shifting cluster of cumulus clouds floating somewhere in or about Los Angeles.

      First row down:  Snowbird Marathon logo depicts compressive and expansive gestures occurring at the same time;  Post-Pandemic Ball 2023 leaps and spins in celebration of the post-Covid era while referencing the bubonic plague doctors of 16th century Europe;  DADA suggests the tumbling chaos that was emblematic of this game-changing early 20th century art movement;  5 Reasons to Drink suggests the haphazard, stumbling and tumbling effects of over-indulging.

      Bottom row:  Arrived Australia features a cresting combination of active forces;  U-turn on Sunset, #2, features a rotational movement that serves to enhance its searing gaze;  Branching Ballet is a mimic of natural, branching forces and a dancer’s response.




      Direction & Movement 5: Movement & Gesture

      Test yourself:
      Direction & Movement 6: Direction or movement. Test yourself.

    • 3.01_ Positive/Negative SpaceExercise Completed

      Negative 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.





      This 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.



      If 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.


      Video: Positive/Negative Space 1: So present. So misunderstood.


    • 3.02_ Positive/Negative SpaceExercise Completed

      Positive/Negative space can be an extension of line, shape…and rhythm. A simple composition made out of a series of identical objects like pencils, is arranged on a simple background. These objects are then arranged so that the proportion of spacing between the objects repeats. Next, a second composition is created from the same objects but the space between the objects get varied. The pencil’s width becomes the model for space making, making the negative space reflective of the positive matter. A positive shape has been repeated and varied as a negative version of the positive object. Repetition and variation are the underpinnings of rhythm. It’s easy to see how negative space can assume rhythm just like any other tangible pattern of elements. Negative space has all of the qualities that can make its presence an asset. And lastly, negative space isn’t always white.



      Ask yourself: In which ways are the following examples affected by negative space?

      Positive/Negative Space 2: Awaiting your discovery. 

    • 3.03_ Positive/Negative Space| ExerciseExercise Completed

      This exercise in Positive/Negative Space deals with the integration of two individual objects and the creation of a larger idea as a result.

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

      Optional: Save your creative results and revisit after completing the next exercise and video which includes notan. What adjustments would you make? None? A little? A lot? Do these changes change the meaning?

    • 3.04_ Positive/Negative; Figure/Ground; NotanExercise Completed


      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 left print, Yoshiwara/Fuji Marsh by Utagawa Hiroshige (1855. Chicago Institute of Art), depicts a landscape in which the clouds that cluster at the base of Mt. Fuji take are roughly the same shape and pattern as are the tufts of marshlands in the foreground water. As a result, a pattern of positive/negative shapes gets distributed amongst both the foreground and the background. As each “figure” leaves behind a “ground”, the reasoning behind the paired terms figure/ground begins to make sense. 

      Figure/ground, positive/negative – and even form/space – have each evolved from the Japanese sensibility of notan. Notan has no literal translation in English but, according to 19th century educator, painter and researcher, Arthur Wesley Dow in his book Composition, should be understood to mean, “darks and lights in harmonic relations“. Through this sensibility, harmony and beauty is achievable through the selection and arrangement of dark and light spaces – and not just extreme dark (black) and extreme light (white), but in an infinite variety of combinations. The Hiroshige example directly above is an example where neither the foreground, middle ground, or the background dominate one over the other. The same could be argued for the January 59 image next to it and the Wayne Hunt Been Dancing composition to its right. If the latter’s orange radial shape were any larger, it would dominate the entire work.

      Negative space can take on it’s own pacing and integrity. The January 59 image has three layers of objects – (1) all three gray photos; (2) a white 59; and (3) a black JANUARY – in which each of these three layers create their own dynamic layout of negative shapes. Similarly,  Wayne Hunt’s assemblage, Been Dancing, creates multiple arcs of figure and ground throughout the composition.

      Positive/Negative Space 3: Figure/Ground and Notan

    • 3.05_ Positive/Negative; Figure/Ground; Notan+ QuizExercise Completed


      It’s your turn! This exercise deals with how positive/negative, figure/ground and notan relationships can be discovered nearly anywhere.

      Details: Find several images that were unintentionally taken or were just poorly composed to begin with. Pick one and crop into it (meaning to trim away the excess, typically after enlarging) so as to reveal a balance between positive and negative shapes. This may involve losing your photo’s sharpness, meaning or importance, but not to worry. We’re just dealing with space and shape and emphasis at this time.

      Rotate the image if desired. Crop even further if necessary. After achieving the desired balance between positive and negative areas, use the original image again, but now create a second composition. In this alternate composition, your intention will be to achieve balance between dark areas, medium areas, and lighter areas, that neither will dominate one over the other. Lastly, compare the two compositions. How are they similar to one other and how are they different?

      Positive/Negative Space 3: Figure/Ground and Notan

      Test yourself:
      Positive/Negative Space 4: Test yourself

    • 4.01_ ContinuityExercise Completed

      There are two types of continuity: Visual and Physical. Visual continuity is about alignment. An example of which is on the left: a circular rose aligning with a circular palm tree. The text on this page aligns along a left edge. Physical continuity is about physically connecting. An image of a clothesline – with the line removed – exhibits both types – all garments are unconnected and overlapping. In the end, it’s about how the eye navigates.



      Displayed below are examples of images with both visual and physical continuation. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter contains a map on the back wall whose lower edge/contour disappears and re-emerges from behind the figure, a visual continuity (aka, alignment) is maintained. The right edge of the table appears to physically continue onto the figure’s coat. ■  The year 2008 will forever be associated with the collapse of one of the lengthiest bull markets in history and is physically connected to a market graph in this visual. As the Dow Jones evolved into a fallen bull at the cycle’s end, visual continuity connects the end of the graph with the tail of the fallen animal. ■ Stockyard Scene depicts several lines of cattle and reflects an implicit line of visual continuity with occasional moments of physical continuity for the sake of rhythm. ■ Copeland’s Rodeo reflects a managed tension created by tight proximities within the text (creating a virtual physical continuity at the text level) and also with the line art that contains it. The star’s visual alignment with the vertical line below it reinforces the composition’s vertical direction that is established by the fork standing on the right side. The top of the fork is aligned with the white star at the top and the black line at the fork’s bottom.




      Video on YouTube: Continuity 1: Physical and visual pathways

    • 4.02_ Continuity| ExerciseExercise Completed

      It’s your turn! Exercise in Visual and Physical Continuity. Details: Find a magazine with lots of color images. Go to a feature spread, cut it up and reassemble it but not back to its original configuration. Instead, attempt to reassemble the layout in a way that features physical as well as visual continuity.  Tip: don’t worry about the story or concept in this exercise. Let’s see what story or concept emerges unintentionally.


    • 5.01_ Repetition, Variation & RhythmExercise Completed


      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.

      Repetition is logical. Variety can be playful and graceful or wild and unpredictable. Tall grasses swaying with the wind can express both qualities at the same time. The same can be seen in the pattern variety of a bird’s feathers or the color variations found in produce at a farmer’s market. Similarities with differences can also be discovered when comparing the dashboard design of some automobiles to their exterior profiles.

      Repetition & Variation 1: Change, unity and the heart of rhythm


      Been Dancing, 2019; Wayne Hunt

    • 5.02_ Repetition, Variation & Rhythm| ExerciseExercise Completed


      Exercise goals: repetition as a means of creating unity, variation as a means to elevate interest, and rhythm as the net result .

      Details: Create a mask, flat or dimensional, any medium, based on at least two or three simple shapes that are repeated and varied throughout your creation. 

      Create your mask using just existing media – whether it be print or digital – but none of your media can represent a face or have anything initially to do with a face. You will be creating a face using repetition and variation of visual items that you find, cut, copy, repeat and put together.

      To get you started, below are two items that have nothing to do with facial features, yet either or both can be downloaded and used to create a mask.

      Now it’s your turn to have some fun!

    • 5.03_ Repetition, Variation & Rhythm| ExerciseExercise Completed

      leaves4It’s your turn, part 2.

      Exercise goals: Repetition, variation and rhythm created through critical analysis. (Critical analysis may sound like a fanciful academic task, but it can actually be quite simple. If you see an interesting pattern, spot it, consider what makes it interesting to you, and then repeat it as something else.)

      Details: Take your exercise from E2, make a copy of it, or if you’re working digitally,  add a new layer. Next, on this copy or new layer, add a geometric pattern to your mask in a way that mimics or repeats one of the interesting rhythms or patterns in your mask.

      Repetition and variation can easily become your first line of repair when creativity gets jammed up. “Is there something here that I can repeat and vary?” 


    • 5.04_ Repetition, Variation & RhythmExercise Completed

      Repetition and variation are both independent principles that are frequently combined with engaging visual affects, and often towards the development or illumination of a story or narrative.

      Repeating something is one thing, but aside from any need to create unity, what is there about that thing or item that makes it worth repeating? Are we talking about repeating a precise shape or maybe “being influenced” by a shape in general? Is this thing a texture, a movement, a color, a palette of colors, a meandering pattern?

      Aside from making life in general interesting, variety can also introduce creatives into unexpected and engaging paths. Below are some examples: A cloud covers the base of Mt. Fuji and its unique shape gets repeated and varied into a pattern of marshy grass clusters; ■  A Cy Twombly-inspired drawing is populated by arcs, loops, and straight lines – repeated and varied by widths, textures and tones; ■  Marge, Not the Neighbors Again features a cluster of onlookers whose individual shapes are somewhat similar to exclamation marks – even down to their comparable sizes. ■ Repetition unifies this box of donuts while variety colorizes an otherwise empty feast.

      Repetition & Variation 1: Change, unity and the heart of rhythm

      Test yourself:
      Repetition & Variation 2: Test yourself

      Yoshiwara/Fuji Marsh by Utagawa Hiroshige (1855, Chicago Institute of Art)

    • 6.00_ Around Us and Within: a Universe of RhythmExercise Completed

      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. Several modes of rhythm will be discussed in this module, both individually and collectively.

      Both the written and video lessons of rhythm 6.06, 6.07, 6.08, and all the way through 6.14, make up the advanced section. This advanced section reflects a dualized approach to movement and balances in which any of the preceding, basic modes of rhythm 6.01 to 6.05 can endlessly be combined with one another. These sensibilities can also involve harmony and balance-related concepts such as notan and yin yang.

      This major section contains lessons. Some lessons contain an exercise. Some lessons only contain a discussion. Many lessons contain both.

    • 6.01_ The simplest of all potential rhythms: an uninterrupted sequenceExercise Completed

      sequence1gray-300x300An uninterrupted sequence 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. When patterns take on a quality of movement, this effect is generally referred to as rhythm. It’s hard to find movement in truly static patterns, that’s why not all patterns have rhythm. Patterns with even the slightest degree of variation can still produce a rhythm.

      Alhambra tile1

      A series of uninterrupted sequences arranged in a series of coordinated columns; 13th-14th cent, the Alhambra; Granada, ES.

      Rhythm Explained
      Rhythm: Previewing Symmetry & Asymmetry
      Rhythm 1.0: Uninterrupted sequences

    • 6.02_ Interrupted sequence+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      Example of an interrupted sequence.Creating a more dynamic rhythm. Revisit the uninterrupted sequence example shown in the previous lesson, but this time imagine removing one circle at a time while attempting to 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?


      It’s your turn! Create your own version of an interrupted sequence through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Using a pair of scissors or a photo editing program, create two images: (1) a group of at least five people, and (2) a group of at least five spheres such as marbles, golf balls, or meatballs – anything round. Next, remove one person from the group. Next, remove one spherical item from your group of other round items. Combine the spheres imagery with the crowd imagery to create a broader interrupted sequence of rhythm.



      Rhythm 2.0: Interrupted sequences






















    • 6.03_ Altered sequence+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      Creating an Altered Sequence. Now let’s explore an additional form of a rhythm; one where a sequence starts to alternate in a variety of modes.

      The varied “pulse” within the each of the above two sequences of circles has wide reaching, interesting consequences. What if just a few alterations are involved? Or just one? Black, white and gray may be interesting, but also think about how this can apply in the use of color, or in other modes of proportion such as large vs. small (and in-between), heavy vs. light, strong vs. weak; contrasting textures, alternating spacings, etc. How many unique applications can you come up with?

      Repeating and varying visual elements typically creates rhythm. The possibilities are quite limitless.


      It’s your turn! Create your own version of an altered sequence through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Take your exercise from the previous lesson (6.02) and modify it by changing some of the sizes and the colors (or values if you’re in black and white). Maybe play with contrasts. Try varying the sizes of any of the spheres or any of the people; vary the color or intensity; maybe one item is almost entirely transparent. The goal is to create a rhythm based on stronger variations than in the previous exercise. Take pix.


      Walker Evans, Flood Victims, Arkansas; LOC.


      Rhythm 3.0: Altered sequences

    • 6.04_ Progressive Sequence+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      progressive_sequence-sqA progressive sequence involves a logical sequence of alterations not only in size but potentially in color, value, shape, texture, space, time, etc., individually or in combination with each other.


      It’s your turn! Create your own version of a progressive sequence through the medium of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Create a progressive arrangement of clouds. (Could be progression by size, color range, complex to simple, etc.) Add into your cloud layout, a flock of birds in a somewhat different progressive arrangement than with your clouds. Try at least three versions. Take pix.


      Johannes Vermeer. The Love Letter, 1669/70. The Rijksmuseum











      Rhythm 4.0: Progressive sequence 

    • 6.05_ Altered-Progressive Sequence+ ExerciseExercise Completed

      progressive_sequenceAltered-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, perhaps 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.


      It’s your turn! Create your own version of an alteredprogressive sequence through the vehicle of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Using whichever media you prefer, arrange two right-angled triangles and one arc (arc: as in a sliced off portion of a circle) to create a simple sailing ship. Create five of these simple sailing ships ranging from small to very large and in-between – even changing the proportionate sizes of triangles to arcs if so preferred. None of these sailing vessels need to be engineered to sail. Have some fun! Add patterns to the sails if you’d like. The key rhythm is the relationship amongst the primary objects – your sailing ships.

      Arrange your sailing ships to create an altered-progressive arrangement. Try overlapping your sailing ships as well. Also consider the final cropping (aka, trimming) of your composition. Which cropping approach creates the best positive/negative results: tight trim or open? Think about color. Or not.




      Rhythm 5.0: Altered-Progressive Sequence

    • 6.06_ Symmetrical Sequence: 2 Elements (advanced)+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      dual_sequence1Now let’s changes things up a little bit and add another layer of elements to coordinate.

      Symmetry is a relatively 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 type of carefully crafted rhythms, potentially making compositions far more dynamic and interesting.

      It’s your turn! Create your own version of a multi-symmetrical sequence through the vehicle of your choosing: photography, painting, drawing, digital tools, mixed media, etc. Details: Fast food for the sake of experimentation. Buy a french fries and burger/sandwich combo. On a plate, disassemble the burger/sandwich and rearrange it’s contents into a symmetrical formation. Next, arrange your fries in a symmetrical formation, relative to the burger/sandwich arrangement.

      Alternately, start with a symmetrical french fries arrangement and then add the symmetrical burger/sandwich arrangement. If you’re not that hungry, do both. In any case, take pix.


      Been Dancing, 2019; Wayne Hunt








      Rhythm 6.0-Symmetrical Sequences; altered/unaltered

    • 6.07_ Symmetrical Sequence: 2 Elements, 1 Altered (advanced)+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      rhythm-of-two-systemsOpposing 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.


      Create your own version of a multi-symmetrical rhythm with one altered sequence in which one sequence is altered and a bit restless, while the other sequence is entirely rational. Details:

      1) Order a bagel (or a donut; English muffin) sliced in half and a cup of coffee to-go with a lid and tow or three stir sticks.
       Place the bagel slices on a plate or on an unfolded napkin.
      Take the coffee cup lid and add it to the bagel slices. Arrange the trio of circles symmetrically.
      Next, arrange the stir sticks in a symmetrical manner.
      Arrange with the cluster of circles you’ve just created to effect an overall composition.
      6) Last step: take a bite out of one of your bagel slices.
      7) Return the newly bit bagel slice to your plate. Consider the bite as part of the composition. Take a photo.
      8) Take more bites and after each bite, take another photo. Repeat until the bagel is gone.

      Look at your collective sequence of photos, from first bite to the last. As a result of this collective sequence, what other kind of rhythm has taken place?


      Rhythm 7.0-Two Symmetrical Sequences, 1 Altered







    • 6.08_ Symmetrical Altered Sequence of 2 Elements (advanced)+ ExerciseExercise Completed

      rhythm-of-two-systems7altSymmetrical sequences can act as a dominant sequence in a composition or it can act as a reclusive counterpoint and something to play off of. 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.  

      Below, left to right, Keep Your Head Above Your Heart; Pomposity; Mask (Northern Africa, 19th century); 5 Generaciones; DP101; Untitled (Dorothea Lange, LOC).


      Create your own version of a symmetrical altered sequence of 2 elements through the media of your choosing. Details: create a symmetrical mask from both (1) images of auto parts (or any kind of parts, actually) arranged symmetrically, and (2) a symmetrical arrangement lines either created by you or ones that you’ve found. Integrate both systems in a way that produces an interesting, symmetrical  mask.

      Does it have a personality? Is the mask an extension of you, your alter-ego, or does it represent someone you know? Or is it the face of an animal? Take pix.


      Dorothea Lange, Untitled. (Workers West Carlton Yamhill County Oregon); 1939, Library of Congress


      Rhythm 8.0-Symmetrical Sequences of 2 Altered Elements

    • 6.09_ Asymmetrical, altered sequence: 2 elements (advanced)+ ExerciseExercise Completed

      rhythm-of-two-systems,asymmetryAsymmetrical balance is all about achieving a felt sense of balance. Asymmetric arrangements can be chaotic, random and even playful. They certainly do not embrace an axis of any sort and have nothing to do with mirroring. In fact, just the opposite. Popcorn never pops symmetrically. Water never boils symmetrically. Asymmetrical balance becomes very reliant on an individual’s awareness and sensitivity to the role played by size, value (or color), and location.


      Create your own version of an asymmetrical altered sequence of two elements. Find 12 toothpicks or matchsticks. Drop them randomly onto a sheet of white paper placed on the ground. Take a photo or your arrangement. Crop into the image to the point where the negative space appears dynamic and interesting. Make a print if you’re working traditionally.

      Take out another sheet of white paper but now with a bottle of ink or a cup of black coffee and an ink brush. Spontaneously lay down a pattern of splatters or marks within a short amount of time such as five seconds. (If you’re working digitally, create your pattern of splatters or marks either with your eyes open or closed – at least to the point where your vision is somehow obscured.)

      Either digitally or taped onto a window, overlap your splatters upon the toothpick arrangement. Find as many means of uniting or relating one arrangement to the other as you can create. Take pics or export to PNG if working digitally. Which are the most effective ones and why? What adjustments would you make to either image in order to strengthen the results? Is there an opportunity for a repetition and variation between toothpicks and splatters to occur?


      Walker Evans. The Church of the Nazarene. Tennessee, 1936. Library of Congress











      Rhythm 9.0-Altered Asymmetrical Sequences











    • 6.10_ Symmetrical & Asymmetrical Sequences Combined (advanced)+ ExerciseExercise Completed

      1. 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 > 11.01. The rational meets the dynamic. An explosion inspires a network. Chaos is modified by control.


      Make a pizza! Explore combining symmetrical grid with an asymmetrical arrangement of ingredients. Start with a 12” round pizza shell and coat it with tomato sauce, pesto, or olive oil. Cheese it up, optional. Cut half an onion into 1/8″ slices and separate into rings. Randomly arrange the onion rings on the pizza shell. Randomly arrange pepperoni and olive slices, capers or other round ingredients for a variety of round sizes. Bake at 450-500°F for fifteen minutes. Take Pix.

      1. Cut up your pizza into 8 or 12 slices. Rearrange the individual slices back into a circle, making sure no two slices end up in the same original sequence. Take pix. Post on your social media sites. Finally, enjoy your altered progressive, symmetrical and asymmetrical dinner pizza with your beverage of choice!


      Rhythm 10.0-Symmetrical & Asymmetrical Sequences, Combined


      Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading, 1663; Rijksmuseum






























    • 6.11_ Focal Point (advanced)Exercise Completed
      1. 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 11.0-A focal point can give rhythm a starting point.

    • 6.12_ Rhythm & Pacing (advanced)Exercise Completed

      Good rhythm has pacing. (Left to right.) Pacing surrounds us. The tempo of a walk, the pulse of a dance, the movements found in nature;  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.


       Sometimes pacing can sneak up on you while hiding in plain sight before quietly delivering a surprise.  Sometimes pacing can compress and recede inwardly.  Pacing can expand; it can recede; it can also do both at the same time!  Pacing can be serpentine, wandering, interrupted and resumed.  The pacing of an open space can replace a lot of words.


       Pacing can be about how the eye travels around, within and throughout a frame. Does the viewer get abandoned or are they induced to continue?  Sometimes pacing grunts, squats and stumbles.  Sometimes pacing emerges boldly and gracefully.  Sometimes pacing is continually self-referencing.  Sometimes pacing fractures, interrupts, then reassembles.  And sometimes pacing reflects an open spirit, never conclusive, always evolving.


       Pacing can be rollicking, frolicking, tumbling, and very much in motion – and sometimes pacing is layered from front to back to middle.  Sometimes pacing advances, sometimes it recedes, while sometimes displaying both qualities at the same time.  Pacing can complete a narrative. It can finish a statement; it can set up ironies as well as  the “punch line” at the end of a joke.

      Rhythm 12.0: Rhythm & Pacing

    • 6.13_ Each sequence with it's own rhythm (advanced)Exercise Completed
      1. The above composition is broken down into two color sequences seen below: black/grayish tones and white.

        Multiple rhythms can and do occupy art and design. Each sequence can produce it’s own pattern and pacing. When combined with other sequences that produce their own pattern and pacing, a layering of rhythms becomes the newly achieved net affect. Unity become a factor in how sequences engage with each other, whether intentionally or reflexively. Negative space or figure/ground may become even more robust or more of a challenge. (Tip: to get a better sense as to the movement or balance of figure/ground and whether rhythm is well-engaged, view your work upside down.)



      Rhythm of black/grayish strokes

      Rhythm of white and whitish strokes









      Vermeer’s Lady in Blue Reading is broken down into two color sequences: blueish and brownish. An additional sequence reveals the resulting negative space when both sequences are combined.


      Death of the Great Bull Market is broken down into two color sequences: red and black. An additional sequence reveals the resulting negative space when both sequences are combined.

    • 6.14_ Final Exercises in Rhythm| ExerciseExercise Completed

      CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve read, you’ve viewed, and created quite a bit, but now it’s time to apply the results of what you’ve experienced to everyday living. View this video and do the exercises. Each exercise is designed to be created without elaborate set ups, etc. Easy does it. The video’s final exercise involves a pizza shell so buon appetito in advance!

      Rhythm is all around you. Every time you choose the day’s clothing or arrange what’s on your dinner plate, you have a chance to create a rhythm. So why not take full advantage of what you’ve just experienced?


      CULMINATING EXERCISE. After you’ve completed the exercises on the video, it’s time to bring all your experience together into one product. It’s your turn! Create a poster for a bicycle race. Repetition and Variation will be on full display in this culminating exercise. Using wheels, arcs, lines, bicycles and the placement of at least one person (or more), create a poster for the Tour de France. Media can be digital, traditional (photocopies; scissors; glue; pencil; paper; etc) or mixed. Text is optional. Any size format. Images can be a photo or an illustration. Optional text: Tour de France and the year. Additional text is up to you.

      Your composition must express unity and rhythm through any of the types of rhythm and unity discussed and presented. Repetition and variation should be utilized. A line, a shape and/or a color must repeat at least once. Include a focal point (if need be, refer back to the sections on Proportion).

    • 6.15 Rhythm: A Deeper Dive| QuizExercise Completed

      Test yourself. Can you guess the types of rhythms being used in this video? Much of art and design becomes wrapped up in multiple layers of rhythm. But one doesn’t have to look far to find it. Rhythms can exist at the farthest ends of the cosmos and within the landscape of a fingerprint.

      Symmetry and asymmetry are two frequently used means of creating balance. Sometimes rhythms take on a random, meandering pattern while at other times, a sense for structure is very apparent. Symmetry and asymmetry are two frequently utilized models of imbuing structure for it’s own sake or for countering random visual expressions.

    • 7.01_ Dominant/Subordinate+ ExerciseExercise Completed




      Dominant and subordinate  qualities create various levels of interest and emphasis among all visual elements. Think of the term dominant as meaning the same as primary and think of subordinate as meaning the same as secondaryThis sensibility can apply to all of the design elements. How much intense red vs. how much muted red vs. how much white? How much movement vs. how much stability? How much order vs. how much randomness? Does a particular composition have a dominant direction (or movement), as well as a subordinate direction (or movement)?

      From the upper left, few examples to illustrate the point: ■ Hammer Museum detail reveals a dominantly curvilinear direction, balanced by multiple subordinate directions – the curved shadow beneath it, the diagonal and horizontal edges framing the curve, and finally the slender, repeated horizontal shapes at both top and bottom; ■ the beef consumption poster’s composition has a dominantly diagonal direction of cattle and a subordinately horizontal direction reinforced by multiple horizon lines. The composition remains dominantly diagonal in it’s overall direction despite the horizontal nature of the format itself.

      Shown below: ■ Figaro is Alive! is dominantly excited and subordinately benign; dominantly rational and subordinately chaotic; dominantly vertical and subordinately horizontal and subordinately random; dominantly red and subordinately black; ■ Elysian Park Morning has a dominantly red foreground and pinkish sky, subordinately green middle ground; and is dominantly horizontal and subordinately vertical in direction. ■ To Our Shareholders is dominantly vertical and subordinately horizontal in direction (but with a pinwheel’s promise of movement); dominantly black body text vs. subordinately green and other bits of color. ■ Los Descarbonadores has two diagonal axes but it’s most dominant diagonal direction is the one with the more vertical, upright axis. Blue and white dominate the color palette and are contrasted by subordinate accents of black, magenta and yellow.

      Compositions that have multiple dominant directions or movements have a tendency to edge toward chaos or competitiveness. Having multiple subordinate directions or movements are fine as long as you have at least one direction or movement one that is clearly subordinate. Otherwise, competitive counterpoints at the alpha level tend to foster chaos – which is fine if that’s what you’ve intended.

      Dominant & Subordinate 1:  Creating varied levels of importance

      It’s your turn! Exercise: view the examples on this page and ask yourself how each image exhibits one form of dominant/subordinate relationships; whether it be in terms of compositional directions, color or grayscale balance; order vs chaos; geometric vs organic; soft vs hard; etc. (For example: the beef consumption poster has a dominantly diagonal direction and subordinately horizontal direction. What happens to the compositional balance if the horizontal lines were made considerably heavier?)


    • 8.01_ Active/PassiveExercise Completed


      Johannes Vermeer. The Love Letter, 1669/70. The Rijksmuseum

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


      Active/Passive relationships involve dynamic vs. far less dynamic elements in a composition. Loud vs quiet and perhaps even quieter. A bright red square against a light, neutral background evokes a dynamic contrast of active vs. passive areas. However, the same light, neutral background would instead become highly active if black were to consume 90% of this background.

      Examples on display starting from the upper left: ■ The Love Letter by Vermeer presents a contrast between the two active figures in the background and the passive interior space that frames the space leading up to the figures. ■  5 Reasons is comprised of an active cluster of torn paper and a large, dark numeral. The wine stain behind to numeral as well as the surrounding text, present a secondarily active level of interest, with the wood panel serving as the most passive component. The wine stain and the text also serve as an active/passive go-between (aka, transition) from foreground to background. ■ Figaro is Alive! contrasts a benignly appearing sheet of musical score with arcing, red lines to indicate the emphatic vibrance that explodes a few seconds following Mozart’s seductively quieter opening.

      Examples shown below, ■ Unity & Rhythm in 50 Minutes presents a hierarchy from active to passive starting with the bright green Unity&Rhythm text commanding the most active attention, followed by “50”, the text at the very top, followed by the lighter word “minutes” that have been placed within the larger “0”. ■ 2020 Void has two or three active zones: the strip of blue sky and the traffic patterns before and after the interruption of normal traffic. The yellow sky represents the passive background of everyday, urban acceptance  ■ Window Above the Water contrasts active and intense with passive and relatively quiet.

      Active/Passive 1: From dynamic to quiet and points in between



    • 8.02_ Active/Passive| ExerciseExercise Completed


      Active-passive study2

      It’s your turn! Exercise in Active/Passive activity. Details: Recreate the grayscale study shown here. This design depicts a single, active dot surrounded by a cluster of larger, passive circles. Next, ■ 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.

    • 9.01_ Advancing/Receding+ ExerciseExercise Completed

      Monet sunset

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

      Advancing/Receding qualities add depth and feed the perception of three-dimension. There exists a variety of modes for expressing this quality, including fore-, middle- and background delineation; relative size and location; warm or bright colors advancing and cool or dull colors receding; active things advancing and passive things receding; physical perspective; overlapping; volume vs. flatness; and relative importance.


      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 (Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, in Winter, 1880, CC0 Paris Musées/Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais). ■ PAULA 2007 Annual Report’s spread featured advancing and receding typography through color variations. ■ Decarbonize L.A. poster uses a faded burst behind the key figure adding an inference of mystical powers. The caped luchero dominates the layout while the clouds in their diminishing widths lead the viewer towards the distant horizon. ■ DP101 Workshop’s poster expresses advancement by overlapping white text partially over a white background, which then introduces a figure/ground reversal whereby the white type acts as both foreground and background. ■ In Donuts, Aisle 5 the juxtaposition of a flat object against a three dimensional box is managed in a way to give the appearance of a sudden “dropping off”. ■ Learning From Twombly depicts smears, shapes and lines which tend to blur, leaving the harder-edged content more precise and as a result, more prominent.

      Advancing & Receding 1: Depth and the illusion of three-dimensional space

      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!

  • 10_ Transition
    • 10.01_ Transition+ ExerciseExercise Completed


      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.

      From left to right, top to bottom, these transitions are taking place:  cattle descending/ascending in size; ■ tight spacing and overlapping of the numeral 7, repeated, creates a visual pathway from upper right to left to lower right, top to bottom. a crowd of people emerging from out of the woods; a half-circle adjacent to other circle/arc shapes creating an overall pattern of partial circles; ■ the mesas of southwestern US replace the notches that normally populate the top edge of a revolver in a transition of narrative; ■ chili peppers transitioning in terms of color; ■ the seated portrait contains an abrupt juxtaposition and a transition occurring through a horizontal physical continuance on both the top and bottom. 

      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 se

      lection 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.

      Transition 1: a step between

  • 11_ UNITY
    • 11.01_ Unity+ QUIZExercise Completed

      Been Dancing, 2019; Wayne Hunt



      Unity is an essential sensibility for any artist or 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, ■ DP101 Workshops poster features the workshops.com text as an overlapping link between two letterforms. Closure appears when the white text “disappears” into the white background but with enough of it remaining easily readable against the brown letterforms. Angel’s Hearts is comprised of a pattern of heart shapes in close proximity with one another which also align both vertically and horizontally. ■ Queen of Spades is an example of containment, alignment and overlapping. ■ DADADADA poster’s irregular pattern of repeating words calls attention to a tumbling arrangement while in detail, the words exhibit containment and alignment. ■ The visual elements in Oldsmobile 88 are in proximity with one another enough to appear contained at an off-center focal point. Their unity is further expressed by the repetition and variation of elongated shapes – specifically the Oldsmobile 88 letterforms and the similarly proportioned rocket. The bulbous mass of the yellow vehicle is repeated by the mass of the similarly proportioned body text in close proximity underneath it. ■ The document 5% Hierarchy utilizes a grid which controls type placement through underlying intervals of columns and rows. ■ Wayne Hunt’s Been Dancing utilizes a grid as a means for guiding placements as well as for enabling a well-paced and vibrant rhythm. A thick frame acts as both a virtual stage and a means for containment.

      On the bottom left, ■ In Cielito Lindo, the color bands overlap the Frida Kahlo image and the black text overlaps the color bands, connecting the trumpeting angel to upper region by alignment from bottom of text to the top of the angel. This same black text also aligns flush right with the white text directly above it. The angel on the right is repeated and overlapped with its muted clone. ■ In We’re Back! the larger salmon is repeated and varied by its similar kind. Alignment connects headline and text to the key figures. ■ In Rose Parade 2023, the circular rose and palm tree elements repeat and vary from one to the other. They also align diagonally. They are also contained by the pattern of green vignettes. The cluster of three green circles are grouped. ■ Lastly, a comprehensive diagram depicting nine modes of unity is downloadable for quick reference.

      Modes of Unity: Part one
      Modes of Unity: Part two (+ Quiz)

    • 11.02_ Unity| ExerciseExercise 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.

      Composition can be representational or highly abstract or somewhere in between. Use any discussed form of unity or a combination of several modes: proximity; grouping; alignment; repetition; alignment; closure, containment; overlapping and grids.