ADN-111 Two Dimensional Design is a foundation course in the concepts of Visual Literacy. We will examine parallel design techniques and creative connections between the physical and the digital worlds. I this class, you will be introduced to the vocabulary, structure, and design techniques for visual problem-solving.

“What is the story?” that is the ultimate question that must be answered by every single person looking at a designed image. If the story cannot be determined then the design failed. If the story is garbled then the principles and elements of design were not controlled in the making. If the story is clear, then the majority of these were used in agreement with each other. Success in visual problem solving means image elements are working together to achieve the goal of telling the story as forcefully as possible.

The 4 principles of 2-dimensional Design:
•    Balance - the visual weight of elements distributed across the image.

•    Emphasis - refers to the size relationship between elements.

•    Contrast - adds variety and emphasis.

•    Rhythm - is associated with eye movement.

6 elements of 2-dimensional Design:
•    Line - is a continuous linking of dots, having movement and direction.

•    Color - is a property of the wavelength of light. It is not an object in itself.

•    Value - is the relative lightness reflected from a surface. It is not an object in itself.

•    Shape - is mass which defines figure/ground relationships.

•    Space - is the area around within or between parts of an image.

•    Content - is creation with the intent of communication.

Each principle may be controlled by many elements, and in the real world that is usually the situation. For our projects, we will separate the principles and elements as much as possible to examine and understand them individually. By this method, we hope to then recognize how they function and inter-relate in more complicated visual images later.

You will notice that sometimes words are used interchangeably, ie. mass and shape, formal balance and symmetrical balance, etc. A good rule of thumb here is that if you hear one of these words used and you are unsure of its meaning: go ahead and seek clarification, i.e.. “You said shape, did you mean mass?”.

# Principle 1 - Balance

Balance is achieved in a design when the weight of its elements “seem” or “feel” evenly distributed. There is no equation for determining balance. It is present everywhere in one form or another. But, like all 5 of the principles, recognizing it and controlling it allows your message to be heard rather than getting lost.

When using all the elements of design in creating a piece of graphic work, you will need to think about balancing these elements within your format. Actually, there's only two ways to think about balance - either you want to control it or you don't.

The use of this term in critique:The image is balanced/unbalanced because…” or “The balance can be improved by doing this….

The use of balance requires an initial decision, you can either use symmetrical or asymmetrical balance.

The difference is simple: Symmetrical or Formal balance is balance where "weight" of the elements is evenly distributed across and within the format. Right and left sides, as well as top and bottom, are equal. A perfect example of this would be the print or design used in gift wrapping, textiles or wallpaper.

The Greeks were huge fans of formal balance, as exemplified in their temples and alters. A special instance of symmetrical balance is Radial balance where the elements are arranged as if around the perimeter of a circle. A good example of radial balance is the Japanese flag known as the “rising sun”.

Asymmetrical or informal balance is more commonly used in illustration and graphic design. This is a tool is used to emphasize contrast and direction, but you can use any element to build this principle. This can be achieved by using scale (big vs little) or spatial relationships (many vs one) There's always third choice of having no balance at all. This would be an unbalanced piece, and it is perfectly acceptable in a work if there is a good reason for it. This is a tool to create tension.

Many artists during the DaDa and Punk movements created pieces with deliberate lack of balance in order to create a mood of confusion and chaos. These messages were designed with the use of various typefaces, disparate colors and unbalanced elements. Please notice the use of the word, "design." This is the point of using a lack of balance in your work. It should not be used without careful planning or design. Otherwise, you will not be developing a designed piece, you would just be making a mess. Be careful not to let your desire for a certain balance (of lack of the same) overwhelm your concept for the visual story. The use of symmetry might be pleasant to view, but if you lack contrast or even the subtle direction of line or texture, you might end up with a very bland image.

Grid systems bring visual structure and balance to 2-d  design. As a tool grids are useful for organizing and presenting information. Used properly, they can enhance the viewer's experience by creating predictable patterns for users to follow. From designer’s point of view they allow for an organized methodology for planning systematic layouts.

Some artists have found the grid to be interesting enough to spend their careers exploring its potential. Piet Mondrain radically simplified the elements of painting to reflect the spiritual order that he felt underlay the visible world.

When using a grid Mondrain recognized that grid did not mean formally balanced symmetrical composition the way that the Greeks used it. He recognized that grids could still move the eye around a composition, they could still be dynamic and present visually engaging design.

# Principle 2 - Emphasis

The size of an image element is normally based on its importance; the single, most important element is usually placed along the line of golden proportion, or at the visual centre, which is where the two lines intersect. All parts of the design must work together to communicate the message. Build the page around a dominant element. Group similar elements.

When you create a visual image, what point are you making? Achieve a focus to your story with the principle of emphasis...

Have you ever known anyone who told a story, only to come this this ending: "And my point is this...?" Although the story might be interesting, the point could be made with less embellishment and more structure. The same logic applies to emphasis in graphic design. When everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.

The use of this term in critique: “The emphasis of this image is …because…” or “The lack of emphasis in this piece helps the story because…”

It's important to understand each element of design and how it can support your work in this principle. When you use the elements to tell your visual story, the idea is to build with structure, not embellishment. The emphasis - or the dominant element - in a design is often supported by a second or third point of emphasis called an accent. Dominance contributes to unity because one main idea or feature is emphasized and other elements are subordinate, yet supportive. It is by controlling this dominant/subdominant hierarchy, that relationships of elements are built and the story becomes more complicated.

The other way to use emphasis is to stay focused on your target audience. Every story has an anticipated audience, and a knowledge of that audience’s expectations and predispositions goes a long way in determining a piece’s success. A psychological emphasis requires thought, and its vision is swayed by perception. You may create what you believe to be a simple point, but the viewer may take a different stance, based on their own experiences. Therefore, any emphasis I see may or may not be correct from your viewpoint.

In the example above, Black is dominant, White is subdominant, and gray is accent.

Music is a fine way to explain this principle, since there are many forms of music, and they all appeal to different target audiences. From a psychological point of view, the emphasis in some markets within the music industry is sex. In other markets, the emphasis is on sex and defiance. In yet other markets the point is sex, defiance and violence. Some areas of music place emphasis on the music, on the appreciation of how its parts interconnect. Classical music is meant for reflection and contemplation to be fully appreciated. In design, the same can be said of abstract art, or designer furnishings. The success of each of this forms is based on how the creator controls the elements of design.

# Principle 3 - Contrast

Contrast provides emphasis to important elements; it can be created using a variety of elements together or in isolation.

The only way you can read the type on this page is through contrast. The black type against the white screen is contrast. The application is automatic, and you can't avoid it. If you then add a piece of red type you have created a second level of contrast. You have also created a dominant/subdominant hierarchy within the type. The piece of red type just went to the front of the queue for the viewer/reader’s attention.

Contrast is also leveraged by the use of every element of design. Remember graphic messages in the real world are interplay of all design elements. The use of contrast is perhaps the one principle that needs the most care, since it could deliver the message with more impact than any other principle in graphic design.

Contrast can be the muscle behind the message. Some of the most powerful images in history have been done with high-contrast. This means that there have been very few gradations of value created within the image (black vs white, red vs black). Some contrasts are also very subliminal - but no less powerful. Think of one of your worst days. It can be hectic, noisy, nerve-wracking. Your desire might to escape and listen to some mellow music (no cymbals, please!), and to have a nice, soft chair to settle into. You're desiring a contrast to your chaotic day.

There are several ways to show contrast. The one mentioned previously would be to use high-contrast within one element - a dark object in a light setting, or a light object in a dark setting. Another way to show contrast would be with contradiction; this would be high contrast across multiple elements. If you decide to use just one word in your message, what is that word, and how would you display it? In the example, you can see the use of type to show contrast. The word, "Peace" in Stencil typeface may give several messages, depending on where the word is displayed. In sending a message to the military, it might be totally appropriate. The contrast of the concept of peace displayed with a typeface that is normally used in signage is enough of a jolt to get someone's attention. Add a few soft leaves in the background and you have even more of a contrast. This image might send a different message, even though the same typeface is being used.

Using color for contrast is common. The most used colors for Christmas greeting cards are red and green. Agents for this market discourage any other colors, unless it's blue and gold or silver to depict a traditional scene. Green and red, if you know your color combinations, are contrasting colors on the color wheel. But used as pure color they are not very legible, in fact the will tend to vibrate against each other. So to increase their contrast against each other, designers will change their value, tint or tone.

Once you begin to look for contrast in events and objects around you, you might not be able to stop. You'll see the contrast in ads with people who used to be overweight, wearing their old pants stretched out. You'll see why hunters use orange vests in the woods. You'll hear the subtle tones of a key change in your favorite music.

Begin to become aware of the difference between subtle and high contrast. Use this awareness in how you present your message (how you tell  your story) to see if you don't develop a finer sense of clarity and economy in your designs.

# Principle 4 -Rhythm

The design should lead the eye along an invisible road map. It is usually not the focus of the design but it does set the stage on which the story is told.

In design, the elements are the ingredients of the final work. The principles are the tools that hold the elements together. It's much like baking a cake or writing a poem. Either activity involves elements (ingredients) and the application of these elements with principles if you are baking a cake or a loaf of bread.

The principle of rhythm is as unavoidable as the element of balance. Rhythm is in everything, it is instinctive and could be classified as primal. We tap our foot to keep time with music. The poet organizes words into a flow of sound. The seasons are repetitious, and life cycles are based on the rhythms of our planet, which is based on the rhythms of our galaxy.

In a similar way, the designer creates rhythm with the repetition of elements. The question is not whether the designer is going to use rhythm, since this principle will happen with the use of any element. The question is how, why, and to what effect will the designer use this principle to achieve the mission of the message.

Design, in its simplest sense, makes use of repetition as one element used in a repeat pattern. You can see this most often in wallpaper, giftwrap and in textiles. This is the principle used by Andy Warhol in his paintings of Campbell Soup cans above. His statement, if based on monotonous repetition, is that consumerism allows no room for variety or creativity.

A variation of rhythm is used to create interest. A brick wall will come to life if a window is installed. If three windows are installed, another problem is presented. If the windows are the same size, and if they all use the same window treatment, then we're back to the same problem of repetitious monotony. This may be the goal in some instances, but as a designer creating a message for a client, this is not what you want to achieve.

For example, Christo used repetition in the creation of the Gates Project for New York City. However, his format was the total viewing area within focus. The photograph above right shows the background buildings, which provide contrast in texture, color and size against what would have been a simple pattern on a blank canvas. The texture of Christo's design is not just in the material used for this project. When a single form is repeated often enough, a new texture is created.

Andrew Wyeth's "Christina" shows the value of repetition as texture. The original is 32 1/4 x 47 3/4 in., and each blade of grass is individual and distinct in the foreground. When the viewer stands at a distance, or when the picture is reduced, the grass fades and blends into a textural sea of grass.

Shapes and movement, two elements of design, are also structured by rhythm.

In Marcel Duchamp's painting "Nude Descending a Staircase," the illusion of continuing movement is created with a series of overlapping shapes. This is similar to creating a film or animation within a single frame. When viewed as a single form, the repeated shapes also create texture.

The use of rhythm in design is unavoidable. The mastery of this principle is to know how you will use it, and the effect you are trying to achieve with this tool.

Rhythm can be seen in any of the elements or across elements.

# Element 1 - Color

To an artist or a designer, color is either their worst nightmare or their best friend.

Today, graphic messages are seen globally, color takes on a special burden in psychological and social contexts. A designer’s message/story is no longer told on a local stage but may be seen by anyone anywhere on the planet. The color choices that were made for the local audience may not mean the same thing to a audience in another society where colors may have different meaning.

For example: RED

• Western cultures: (North America and Europe) Red is the color of passion and excitement, also associated with power

• Eastern and Asian cultures: Red is the color of happiness, joy and celebration.

• Latin America: In Mexico and some other Latin American nations, red is the color of religion when used with white.

• Middle East: Red evokes feelings of danger and caution. Some also consider it the color of evil.

At another time we will cover global, psychological, web and other variables to color. For now, we want to break color down into simplistic forms to understand how color works as a basic element in graphic design.
Color has three characteristics:

• Hue (color) - the quality which distinguishes one color from another

• Tone (value) - The quality of brightness, the lightness or darkness of a color

• Chroma (intensity) - the quality of saturation or intensity of a color

The basic and essential fact of color theory is that color is a property of light. It is not an object in itself. The object itself also has no color. An apple is not red or green or yellow. The apple merely has the ability to reflect certain rays of white light, which contains all the colors (hues) of the rainbow. The yellow apple is reflecting the yellow portion of the white light.

The significance of this is that as light changes, so does the reflective property of the object. The object shows the changes by reflecting back this light, modified by the light involved. This is especially important to remember for painters and printers. When you mix the primary colors of red yellow and blue with light, you end up with a white light. This is called the "additive" model. The additive model can be used to its best advantage by photographers and stage light directors. When mixing colors with paint and ink, you are mixing colors with the objects of paint or ink. The paint is not color - it is an object that reflects the light of that color. If you combine the primary colors of red, blue and yellow with paint or ink, you get a dark brown or black. This is called the "subtractive" model.

A color wheel or color circle is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle that shows relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors etc. As an illustrative model, artists typically use red, yellow, and blue primaries (RYB color model) arranged at three equally spaced points around their color wheel. Printers and others who use modern subtractive color methods and terminology use magenta, yellow, and cyan as subtractive primaries.

The color wheel above was constructed with "web-safe" colors; these colors are not "true" to the actual colors of the color wheel, but are sufficiently correct for this particular introduction to color.

We see the primary colors on the color wheel above as follows: red is at 8:00, blue is at 4:00 and yellow is at 12:00. The secondary colors are mixed from the primaries in the formula, P + P = S:

Red + Blue = Violet
or
Purple Red + Yellow = Orange
or
Blue + Yellow = Green

These colors will lie between the primary colors on the color wheel. The next set of colors are the tertiary colors. The tertiary colors are mixed by combining a secondary and a primary color in the formula, P + S = T.

Color moves on another axes besides Hue. Color intensity can be changed by increasing the amount of white, black, or gray in it.

Every individual color on color wheel can be altered in three ways by Tinting, Shading or Toning without mixing it with another color.

A tint is created by lightening a color adding white.

A Tint is sometimes called a Pastel. Basically it’s simply any color with white added. That means you can go from an extremely pale, nearly white to a barely tinted pure hue. Artists often add a tiny touch of white to a pure pigment to give the color some body. So for example a bright Red can quickly become a bright Pink. A color scheme using Tints is usually soft, youthful and soothing, especially the lighter versions. All tints work well in in feminine environments. You often see advertising, marketing and websites use pale and hot pastels if they are targeting women as a demographic. In painting you might save your lightest pastels for the focal point or use pastels for the entire painting.

Just as with making tints, you can mix any of the twelve pure colors together. Then simply add any amount of black and you have created a shade of the mixture. That means you can go from an extremely dark, nearly black to a barely shaded pure hue. Most artists use black sparingly because it can quickly destroy your main color. Some artists prefer not to use it at all. Instead they understand the rules of color well enough to make their own black mixtures. Shades are deep, powerful and mysterious. Be careful not to use too much black as it can get a little overpowering. These darks work well in a masculine environment. They are best used as dark accents in art and marketing graphics.

A tone is created by adding gray to a color.

Almost every color we see in our day-to-day world has been toned either a little or a lot. This makes for more appealing color combinations. A Tone is created by adding both White and Black which is grey. Any color that is “greyed down” is considered a Tone. Tones are somehow more pleasing to the eye. They are more complex, subtle and sophisticated. Artists usually mix a little grey in every paint mixture to adjust the value and intensity of their pigment. Tones are the best choice for most interior decorating because they’re more interesting.

# Element 2 - Content

Here we contrast Form form Content. The form is the visual aspect - the utilization of the principles and elements of design. The content may be addressed in subject matter or in words. The content involves all the other parts of the viewer’s brain, their education, their experience, their situation in life. In short, content is what binds you, as the creator, to your target audience.

When designers begins the process that will end with introducing an image to the world, they are planning a way to resolve how to say what they mean through form and content. The content may be addressed in subject matter or words. The form is the visual aspect - the "format" and the utilization of the elements and principles of design.

Some design is purely aesthetic, with abstract forms created for visual enjoyment. Other design has a purpose; it communicates to sell an idea or product. Both forms are involved with the active intent of communication. And Communication is story telling.

In abstract art, the content IS the form. In other words, the process is self-referential. Abstraction does not ask to viewer’s brain to make connections, to say “what does that mean?”. The purpose of the piece is to tell the story through formal elements alone.

In virtually all other forms of visual communication there is content present that must be associated in the viewer’s mind with something else. Designs that depicts something is called in the real world is called Representational or Figurative. When primitive humans went from stenciling their own hands to drawing symbols, they became designers. They became story tellers. The cave paintings discovered in Lascoux, France and other parts of the world are astounding in similarity. Many paintings, worlds apart, show animals in the hunt, outlines of hands, forms of weapons and of ritual. These drawings were the posters and poetry of our ancestors. Simple line drawings conveyed much of what they felt and believed.

We have been using signs and symbols for thousands of years to create content. Every possible story has been told and re-told.

Many people find this realization stifling and become stuck in the knowledge of their own insignificance. BUT…take heart. Not one of those stories has been told by you, through your own experiences and the tools that are only becoming available to you. Every story is waiting to have your individual interpretation of it made, so the possibilities are endless. That then, becomes the next problem that you as a story teller, content creator, need to solve: Which story to tell and how to tell it.

Barbara Kruger uses black and white photographic images combined with pseudo-slogans to make political content about our roles as consumers.

There are many ways, through the elements and principles of design, to reign in the possibilities. The physical limitations of your format could dictate the idea. There may be stylistic limitations; you may be more prone to render your subject realistically rather than in the abstract. There might also be a time limitation to your work; the tribe at the studio may need your thoughts on paper by Wednesday.

# Element 3 - Shape

﻿The simplest definition is: A shape is a line that is closed. Implied in this definition is that:

1. a shape is 2 dimensional

2. a shape has width and height

3. a shape has an inside and an outside.

A 3-dimensional shape is called a "form." A form will consist of height, width and depth. Joseph Albers makes square shapes, David Smith makes Cube forms.  the squares appear to be flat, so it is a square shape. The cube, which appears to have depth, is an illusion of a form. Since it is also two-dimensional (it only appears to have depth), it is also a shape. A cardboard box, a ball, a pyramid in the desert - these are all examples of a three-dimensional form. You can see a form from many angles, where a shape is visible only from certain number of angles.

As an element of design, shape will define your compositions with figure/ground relationships. This is often defined as positive and negative space. Depending on how you control shapes you can make a stable relationship, where it is clear what what is in front - the figure, and what is behind  - the ground. Or you can create patterns that are reversible, or ambiguous. You can also create patterns with shapes and forms, so you can generate illusions of movement and rhythm with repetition of forms and shapes. You can also create real or imagined depth and perspective by using large and small shapes and forms.

The figure is often called a positive space, this acknowledges that the image is implying a shape/figure/positive space that is surrounded by negative space, or the ground. These relationships can be simple, as in the Joseph Albers squares above, or complicated.

Your work will always have the element of line - whether it is visible or "passive" - and these lines will also describe your masses. The mass itself, if used first, will define where your lines will be drawn. In the illustration with the circles, you see one drawn with a line. This has defined a circular shape. In the other drawing, the circle is a mass of color with no visible line...yet it defines the areas around it by drawing a line between the red and white masses.

The shapes a designer may have to deal with are:

Geometric - shapes and forms that are defined within mathematical parameters. These include circles, ovals, spirals, squares, rectangles, triangles and more.

Organic - These masses are formed in nature. Some of these shapes and forms are undefined, such as a leaf, algae, some cells and other organisms. Others, such as many crystals, honeycombs, eggs, etc. are quite geometric in form and pattern.

Man-Made - These include shapes and forms in architecture, clothing, computers, and - yes - artwork. When we create, we borrow shapes and forms from math and nature to design our surroundings.

# Element 4 - Line

Lines and curves are marks that span a distance between two points (or the path of a moving point). But, these are not abstract collections of points that have no dimension in and of themselves. These lines are “marks”. Marks create lines, lines create shapes or planes, and volume. A line is either straight or curved. From these two directions, you can create any number of rhythms, moods and perspective.

The minute you place your pencil on a piece of paper and make a mark, you have created a complex number of problems to be solved. That mark, or dot, is automatically creating contrast between the itself and the paper. You have also created a "mass" with the shape of a tiny sphere. You have also created a sense of balance based on where you placed it, value based on how hard you pressed, even color if you used a colored pencil or are marking on a colored paper, and so on. All of these effects with one simple dot! When you drag your pencil in any direction, the form becomes… a line.

Some lines have no purpose other than as an abstract visual presentation. Other lines serve a purpose. They exist to describe something in the real world. Above right, as an example of a descriptive line is a Contour line: an outline, or internal line, that defines the shape or form of an object. Below are descriptive lines being used in the service of man made shapes:

Lines can be used as boundaries in the service of a shape but they can also be passive or implied. In this case there is no physical line, there is a separation of shapes. This is not an actual physical line; it's suggested or psychological. When pointing at something, the eye travels from the hand to the object as if on a line. This is an example of an implied or psychic line.

The speed of the line is denoted by variables: If a line is thick, the "speed" of direction might be slower than if the line were thin. If the line is horizontal, it may appear to be more "peaceful" than if that line is vertical. The line gives most action when it is diagonal.