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[P]
An Intermediate Guide to Formal Visual Design

By CheeseburgerBrown in Media
Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 03:45:22 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

The varied and sundry digital revolutions of the last thirty years have empowered many regular people to create the kinds of media that had heretofore been the exclusive domain of trained professionals with expensive proprietary hardware and specialised knowledge.

In part this has resulted in a profound empowerment of creative users to express themselves in powerful new ways; largely, however, it resulted in the wide exposure of a whole lot of really, really bad visual design by amateur clods.

Whether you are an enthusiastic user of these new technologies who would like to improve your skills through a better understanding of the formalised elements and principles of design your fly-by-night "digital design school" located above a convenience store may have failed to teach you, or if you are just a regular person who would like to sneer and poke fun at the ocean of bad design that surrounds us in a more intelligent and informed manner, this is the article for you.


The beginning of the end for the elite design professional came when the Desktop Publishing Revolution of the nineteen-eighties first gave the average inexperienced ignoramus power over the domain of print, giving rise to things like corporate newsletters printed entirely in Olde English majuscules and wedding invitations with enough mixed typefaces to pass as ransom demands.

Next came the Desktop Video Revolution of the nineteen-nineties which put broadcast-quality expressive power in the hands of the regular user. As the reach of the average personal computer increased this wave of new, cheap video artists moved quickly from the technophiliac loner in his basement with a VideoToaster to the rows upon rows of gleaming, underpowered G4s that lace today's mid-range creative production houses. Now any fool can make TV.

With the popularisation of the Internet the computer-using masses finally got their chance to become self-publishing content creators, breaking the final barrier between their imaginations and an audience potentially as wide as the web itself. This revolution (initially called The Information SuperHighway Revolution by idiots) was complete. Sensitive professional graphic designers who had killed themselves a decade earlier when the word "typeface" was replaced with "font" began spinning in their graves in disgruntled concert, knowing now that their trade had finally been irretrievably thrown to the dogs.

To intelligibly discuss why the products of these revolutions so often suck it is helpful to understand the formal elements and principles of visual design that are not underpinning them.

It is important not to mistake formalism for an argument that the creative act can be boiled down to a set of mechanical rules. Like all of the arts, visual design is a discipline comprised of a balance struck between intuition and formalism. I submit simply that work produced in complete ignorance of these formal principles is accidentally ill-formed far more often than it is accidentally well-formed.

By defining and briefly discussing the key concepts of formal visual design I hope to bring into the light a subject that is frequently obscured by the vague and slippery garbage of nonsense-spouting artbots.


THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN

The elements of design are considered to be the atomic components of any visual work. They are formatted according to the principles of design, resulting in sound composition and good form.

Point
This is the most basic of elements, manifested in the material world with just slightly more gusto than a mathematical point (which is visually quite dull). In terms of actual media a point is a single mark from a pencil, a blob of paint, a pixel. In technical terms a point can be implied by diminishing perspective. In conceptual terms a point may refer to a specifically emphasised area or region of focus for the eye of the viewer.

Line
Lines can be literal, like the outline around a cartoon drawing, or incidentally formed by an edge, a shadow or an intersection of two objects. A line might be implied by a series of shapes arranged loosely along a linear or curved path. In a good composition lines often serve to connect the areas of emphasis in the image, giving the eye a pathway from one focal point to another.

Shape
Shapes are distinct, contiguous areas of visual information. Shapes can be defined in terms of positive space (draw a triangle) or negative space (an anti-triangle shape is rendered in the white space surrounding the triangle when I draw a triangle). Emphasizing incidental shapes in an image helps to raise the level of abstraction, drawing the viewer's attention away from the literal forms depicted and focusing instead on their more geometric and aesthetic qualities.

The structure of common shapes lends them cross-cultural connotations drawn from the way similar shapes behave in the real world. For example, an inverted pyramid contains a far greater degree of built-in visual tension than a non-inverted one, because in the real world the former is as precarious as the latter is stable. Similarly, shapes that converge toward the top appear to be ascending and shapes that converge toward the bottom appear to be descending, because of the way these shapes mimic the effects of optical perspective distortion in the real world.

Mass
In most visual media, with the clear exception of sculpture and midget-throwing, mass is implied rather than actual. Illusions of depth, volume and weight are created by manipulating the apparent mass of an image. In general, darkness lends more mass than lightness; areas of visual tension weigh more than relaxed regions.

Space
The relationship between visually complex regions and visually stark regions has a profound impact on the composition's sense of weight and balance. On the surface space is simply the opposite of mass, but the relationship is in fact more subtle: beyond the literal spatial relationships of the visual components arranged in the image plane there is also implied space or imaginary volumes created through illusion. This space, while virtual, can be as impactful as actual space in the mind of the viewer.

Change
This element is often needlessly broken down into sub-components such as time, motion and transition. The common spirit is one or more attributes of an element differing across time. The change can be actual, as in the case of motion graphics and animation, or the change can be virtual, implied by something as simple as "motion lines" in comic book illustrations. The principles of tempo and rhythm guide the application of change.

One of the best examples of using subtle (but actual) change to create a hypnotic effect is the renowned painting La Joconde (also known as "The Mona Lisa") by Leonardo DaVinci. Leonardo pioneered a new oil painting technique in that work by using dozens of layers of semi-transparent applications of glaze and paint to build up the image: the effect is one of exceedingly subtle depth, leading to the eerie feeling that there is a woman trapped inside of the picture plane with eyes that follow the viewer around the room when they move. The change in the painting is almost undetectable, but it is unanticipated and can be very disquieting. (Naturally, the effect cannot be captured by conventional photography, thus leading millions of people over the years to wonder just what the hell is so special about that lady's smile.)

My personal favourite work that embodies the notion of represented (as opposed to actual) change is Marcel Duchamp's Nu descendu une escalier, a painting which depicts several seconds of quick motion as a rhythmic smear.

Value
Value is a measure of the brightness of an image. Value can be used in a very formal, abstract way (darkness is heavier than lightness, so value can be manipulated to balance a composition), as a narrative device (to connote ethereal versus earthy characteristics), or simply as a tool for emphasis (look here).

Hue
Colour is one of the most accessible elements of design, in that it is the element most often claimed by fluff-brained amateurs to be well within the range of their intuitive expertise. This is true in some rare circumstances; it is more usual for colour to be badly managed by the well-meaning boob.

The basis of any colour system are its Primary Colours. The exact hues vary depending on the medium: televisions (RGB), oil paints (RYB) and advertising posters (CMY) each use different primary colours. Common to all is the fact that primary colours cannot be created through mixing in a given system, and are equidistant when represented on a colour wheel (where chroma is represented as a value in degrees between 1 and 360, expressing the entire spectrum available (or gamut) within a given system).

Colours diametrically opposite one another on a colour wheel are known as Complementary Colours (contrary to popular belief this term does not mean "colours that look good together"). In many familiar colour-spaces red is the complement of green: this means, among other things, that red looks redder when surrounded by green, red can be shaded by mixing with green, and that staring at red and then looking at a neutral field will cause the optical illusion of seeing green. Complementary colours can be used to accent one another (via juxtaposition) or to subdue one another (via intermixing).

Analogous Colours are three hues that are adjacent to one another on a colour wheel such as blue, blue-green and green. A good colour scheme often consists of two sets of analogous hues, and one set of opposing complementary analogous hues based on the average hue of the two sets on the other side of the wheel.

For terminology fans:
A "tint" is a given hue with added white.
A "tone" is a given hue with added black.
A "shade" is a given hue with added complement.

Colours have psychological connotations, in great part influenced by their real world expressions. Green, for instance, is perceived as lush and vibrant due to an association with flora, and blue is perceived as open and serene due to an association with clear skies. Red is the most primal colour, linked with deep reactions in the limbic system in the brain; cultures with only one word for distinguishing hues from black or white invariably identify red, cultures with two words identify red and green, cultures with three words identify red, green and yellow, and so forth in a predictable pattern of cumulative complexity. Cultures that can identify violet and indigo are considered to be sophisticated in terms of colour differentiation; cultures that can identify taupe are just pretentious.

Media
As we acknowledge that a point is not a point of mathematical precision or that a line is really a smear of graphite of finite width on paper, we must also take into account the effect the medium we are using has on the image we are creating with it. The media can be relevant through actual visual traits (quality of the paper/videowall/filmstock from which the work is viewed), illusory traits (impressions of glossiness or coarseness created through artifice), contextual traits (a farm scene painted on a wooden panel gives a different impression than a farm scene rendered out of neon tubes), and tactile traits (the actual feel of the materials used in sculpture, art installations and industrial design).

Type
Despite the fact that typefaces are compound visual objects they play such a significant role in visual design that they are considered to be an element unto themselves. The mastery of typography is a refined and subtle art covering an array of skills whose depth and dullness is beyond the scope of this article.

Scale
Frequently and mistakenly mixed-up with ratio, a principle of design, scale is one of the most basic building blocks for framing how a work will be perceived by the viewer. For instance, a finger-sized figurine of the Hamburglar has a distinctly different feeling than one thirty storeys tall. Similarly, viewing an encyclopaedia thumbnail of Michelangelo's David makes a different impression than standing at the foot of the superhuman-sized original.


THE PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

The principles of design represent the most general classes of tools available for determining the ideal arrangement of the elements of design for any given visual work.

Balance
The concept of balance is fundamental to well-formed design. Most of the following principles are forces which are used in opposition with one another to make artful use of visual tension; when these loci of tension are aligned with one another in such a way as to serve the overall form of the design, the image is considered to be balanced (or to "have good composition").

The twin underlying principles of good composition are balance and direction (discussed below). In the most basic sense, balance ensures that the design is perceived by the viewer as stable (factoring in effects such as the imaginary sense of gravity imposed by the human psyche) and direction ensures that the design is perceived as interesting (the eye finds things to see in the places where it is pushed to look).

Overall compositional balance can be achieved most directly with simple symmetry, but this is seldom desirable because perfectly centred compositions tend to be boring (due to an imposed excess of unity, discussed below). Dynamic but balanced compositions can be created by arranging elements in mis-matched opposition. For example, a large shape on the left can be balanced by a small shape on the right, if the smaller shape is darker (or otherwise visually "heavier" due to added visual tension, complexity or mass illusions created through shading).

Direction
The course a viewer's eye will take through a composition is shaped by actual or implied lines, and actual or implied geometric shapes. Manipulating this course well is the mark of a master designer.

The viewer's eye should be considered to be like water. Once it has entered the picture plane it will seek the course of least resistance, left to its own devices content to slosh around randomly and be tugged upon by imaginary gravity and the conventional reading direction of the viewer's society.

By using line, direction and emphasis the artist can provide strong pathways for the viewer's eye to adhere to, sweeping through the prime areas of focus and steering safety away from falling out of the edge of the picture plane. When this manipulation is perfected the viewer will feel that they "cannot look away" from the image.

In general, images dominated by rectilinearity (strong verticals, horizontals) have a more static or stately quality compared with images dominated by diagonality (slanty lines, triangles) or orbicularity (sweeping curves, spirals) which tend to impart a feeling of sweeping motion and dynamism.

Ratio
This principle refers to the proportions of elements within a given composition (distinct from overall scale, which is the size of the work itself). The relative sizes of things can be adjusted for the purposes of creating a perspective illusion, exaggerating comparative apparent attributes, as a message or metaphor, or simply to achieve a balanced layout in terms of the distribution mass and space.

Ratios can also be considered on a purely aesthetic basis. The Ancient Greeks had a number of homoerotic cults dedicated to mathematical masturbation among whose principle fetishes were various quests for divine ratios. Their most famous product was the Golden Section (also known as Phi) which can be found so: divide a line (AC) at a particular point that will yield unequal sections in which the smaller one (AB) is to the larger one (BC) as the larger one (BC) is to the entire length (AC), or AB:BC = BC:AC. The ratio can also be expressed as 1:1.618. Common in nature (in the Fibonacci spiral of a snail's shell, for instance) and universally pleasing to the eye, this ratio is at the heart of many world-famous sculptures, paintings and buildings.

Another source of inspiration for those clever, lusty Greeks was the human body itself. The proportions of pillars, porticos, platforms and all sorts of other forms in architecture directly reference the human proportions of hand to forearm, head to body, leg to foot. Human beings are designed to find human proportions pleasing -- curves and spatial relationships semblative of human biological design often score high points with the viewer's subconscious.

Juxtaposition
Also known as proximity, juxtaposition is the act of placing one thing next to another for the purposes of harmony or contrast in visual form or in meaning. Very different images can be placed side by side in order to force the viewer to confront both simultaneously, or very similar images can be juxtaposed in order to blend with one another seamlessly. Juxtaposition is one of the most powerful tools for creating tension, by pinching spaces between some objects and bloating the space between others, alternately constricting or expanding the passage the eye is inclined to follow through the work.

Repetition
Repetition is the process of creating identical instances of an element or assemblage of elements. (Repetition is the process of creating identical instances of an element or assemblage of elements.)

Variation
Variation is the process of creating non-identical instances of an element or assemblage of elements by adjusting one or more attributes, such as hue, value or direction. (Variation is the act of reproducing a given element as a nearby permutation of the original.)

Pattern
Patterns are regular assemblages of repeated and/or varied elements. There are ten generally recognised classes of pattern: orbicular (anything derived from playing with pi, like circles, spheres, radia), mosaic (many images combine to form a meta-image), lattice (periodic configuration of interlocking elements), polyhedral (repeated shapes), spiro-helix (including volutes), meander (organic wandering river-like lines), bifurcation-circulation (branching, some Arabesques), modulation/phasing (waves), reflection (symmetries) and fractal (reiterations of a single element, self-same on all scales).

Pattern is a powerful tool and should be used carefully. Different patterns can stimulate sensations of motion, directional forces, scintillation, roiling and crawling in human vision. Patterns figure heavily in tribal art, dream imagery and narco-hallucinatory experiences. Scotsmen and DeadHeads alike agree: patterns are trippy.

An article in the December 2002 issue of Scientific American describes computer analyses of several famous "action painting" works by Jackson Pollock, revealing that Pollock built up fractal patterns through a methodical layering process. Human test subjects reacted strongly to a specific range of fractal complexity in which Pollock's works lie, which may dispel the mystery of why the "action paintings" created by your kindergartener don't hold the same appeal to the world at large as their multi-million dollar counterparts hanging in museums: not enough fractal structure.

Rhythm-Tempo
As in music, rhythm is the use of similar motifs or stresses in a specific sequence, pattern or grouping of more than one element. Rhythm can be used with narrative time (as in animation) or in subjective time (as the viewer's eye takes a path through the work). Likewise, tempo can be literal (a time-lapse movie) or not (a frenetically busy illustration of a street scene). Rhythm and tempo figure heavily in the graceful use of type.

Emphasis
Emphasis, also called focus in some schema, is the act of causing some regions of an image to seem more important than others. Creating a balanced series of emphases is critical to creating a good overall composition: too many emphases is chaotic, too few is boring. When the eye is not directed where to look, it tends to just look away.

Contrast
To contrast is to set elements in definite opposition, in order to highlight differing attributes or juxtapose similar qualities. Irony, satire and morally didactic messages can be communicated through the effective use of subtle contrasts of subject-matter. Manipulating the colour or value contrast in photography can dramatically change the feel of the light in an image. High-contrast images tend to have more apparent abstract qualities, highlighting graphic shapes over actual forms.

Harmony
Too much variation and/or too much contrast between elements can ruin an image's sense of harmony. In a harmonious composition, even the elements that stand in opposition share enough common attributes with their surroundings to seem a part of the whole. Harmony in design is about finding a kind of visual rhyme-scheme, expressed through any single attribute or sets of attributes; for example, faint touches of colour in common can connect two otherwise unrelated quadrants of an image.

Unity
Often mistakenly confused with harmony, unity is a stronger quality in which all elements of a composition are directly linked by one or more attributes. Images where unity is required but absent seem weak and insipid; images where unity is present but unnecessary seem static and cramped, locked into place. Flags, seals, and logos feature extreme unity. In some media more than others a certain amount of unity is imposed by the medium itself: in black and white photography, for instance, all aspects of a given image are united in terms of hue by default.

Function
Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as art for art's sake, but it is rare. Everything else has a more definite function, and this is a principle which far too many visual designers trample upon or ignore. In many wise lectures on the principles of design the concept of function is not even touched upon, thus arming a generation of university-trained designers with nothing more than a furrowed brow and a grunt of confusion when confronted with the realities of having to compromise a design for the sake of delineating intelligent information flow on websites or assuring readability in broadcast design packages.

The bottom line is that in the real world things have to work: design must serve function. No matter how beautiful a design may be, if it interferes with functionality it is unadulterated guano.


EPILOGUE

Occasionally, highly successful works are created in a formal vacuum, executed by artists based entirely on an intuitive process. This is called Folk Art. The term refers specifically to diamonds in the rough and not, as is sometimes implied, to simply any art generated by regular folks (the proper, snotty term for which is "hobby art"). Sometimes amazing things can happen in the hands of hobby artists.

Usually, however, it is advantageous to have some understanding of the formal aspects of art in order to better manipulate them to create better works, and to more meaningfully scoff at inferior works. In a professional context, formalism provides us with a language and a framework for constructing effective bullshit for pitches or for justifying resistance to revisions. In a social context, formalism gives us the analytical tools to cut through the inferior bullshit of soft-headed flakes who would hide behind vague, emotional justifications for the structure of a work.

While this article has barely scratched the surface of the subject of visual design, I hope that it has provided the reader with an engaging and informative overview of some of the issues involved. At the very least, the reader should now be able to toss off a few pompous art terms at their next cocktail party.

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Poll
Most abused visual trick?
o Lens flares 30%
o Drop shadows 26%
o Embossed type 9%
o Volumetric light shafts 0%
o Soft focus 5%
o Phat outlines 2%
o Long, artsy dissolves 3%
o Anything that morphs 21%

Votes: 91
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Desktop Publishing Revolution
o nineteen-e ighties
o Desktop Video Revolution
o nineteen-n ineties
o VideoToast er
o underpower ed
o the Internet
o The Information SuperHighway Revolution
o typeface
o font
o mathematic al point
o cartoon drawing
o incidental shapes
o abstractio n
o aesthetic
o tension
o imaginary volumes
o comic book illustrations
o La Joconde
o Leonardo DaVinci
o Nu descendu une escalier
o illusion
o limbic system
o the effect the medium we are using has
o artifice
o sculpture
o art installations
o industrial design
o significan t role
o mastery of typography
o the Hamburglar
o encyclopae dia thumbnail
o Michelange lo
o superhuman -sized original
o the human psyche
o opposition
o dynamism
o Ancient Greeks
o homoerotic
o mathematic al masturbation
o Phi
o Fibonacci
o buildings
o lusty
o human body
o human proportions
o side by side
o Arabesques
o scintillat ion
o Scotsmen
o DeadHeads
o trippy
o An article
o Scientific American
o Jackson Pollock
o fractal
o rhythm
o graceful use
o Irony
o satire
o morally didactic
o graphic
o a part of the whole
o rhyme
o unrelated
o Flags
o seals
o logos
o black and white photography
o art for art's sake
o informatio n flow
o broadcast design
o functional ity
o Folk Art
o Also by CheeseburgerBrown


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An Intermediate Guide to Formal Visual Design | 117 comments (88 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
hrm. (3.80 / 5) (#2)
by pb on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:34:11 AM EST

Nice glossary.

But you still didn't say what was wrong with the current methodologies.... setting the stage for a future editorial, I hope?

Regardless, given Kuro5hin's propensity for HOWTOish articles and other functionless expository works, I'm sure this will do quite well--but I still view them as being full of sound and fury, and signifying... nothing. (again, much like K5 at times...)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Didn't I mention that? (4.25 / 4) (#7)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:00:54 AM EST

But you still didn't say what was wrong with the current methodologies...

I did try to be clear about that: I was trying to communicate that many working designers today have had technological but not artistic educations.

Thus, their methodologies include exploring permutations of plug-ins to see what "looks kinda cool" and other kinds of inspired play, hoping to via trial-and-error eventually come upon a great design. Some designers have been expert in this visual equivalent of "hunt and peck" typing, and can indeed come up with solid designs -- but they are hard pressed to explain why their designs work, and are therefore clueless when it comes to modifying the design...

...Since they do not understand the design's component elements, the re-arranged version will often lack whatever lucky alignment made the original seem "cool" in the first place.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
The ever elusive whys (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Pac on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:29:04 AM EST

I have been developing server-side software for the Web since 1995, and I must have worked with almost half a hundred designers during this time. Almost none could explain their design decisions in words. Even those who could would barely rise above the "because it looks nice" explanation. This eventually led to CEOs, CTOs and Project Managers making design calls, almost always for the worse.

Recently we needed a logo for our new company, so we called in a designer recommended by our Art Director. This guy is specialised in something we may call enterprise image development: he will develop a logo, company papers (business cards, letters) etc.

To mine and my associates immense surprise and joy, our logo designer could not only explain clearly why and how he reached each each decision, he also had a working process to extract from our design-less minds our ideas about what the logo should look like. We worked with him for some 20 hours (in 3 or 4 meetings) and ended up as the happy owners of a brand new logo completely adequate to to our company and our expectations.

I just thought the story above supplied a good illustration for your point.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


[ Parent ]
Lesser of two evils (5.00 / 5) (#19)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:40:43 AM EST

I'm glad you found somebody you could work with well in the end. Thanks for the story, Pac.

Sometimes worse than designers who can't get beyond "because it looks nice" are designers who bathe everything in a thick layer of nonsense-muck disguised as formalism, such as, "the underlying thematic pulse of the work is echoed through contemporaneous use of subtle retro blotting techniques, supported by a dynamic use of blue."

...The only sensible answer to which is, of course: "No it doesn't."

Artiste blinks. "Pardon me?"

"I say, the underlying thematic pulse of the work is not echoed in the blotting technique whatsoever. In fact, they contrast strongly, creating tension in the juxtaposed textures that is, I believe, entirely unintentional. The dynamism you speak of is aught but a by-product of your own goofiness."

"Curses! Foiled again."

Curtain.



The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
I feel compelled to respond (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by calimehtar on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 07:41:41 PM EST

I took a lot of art in school... and my dad is a painter. So I've heard a lot of that sort of language you refer to. It's much more prevalent in the fine arts than in design. I'm inclined to think it's bullshit, but I also can't resist a good fight

A large part of graphic design, when it isn't simple layout or decorative tricks (Yeah, that's pretty rare I know -- think of a site like lavalife.) is about being simultaneously evocative and informative. It's the evoctive part that's hardest to express, but also very important.

The example I gave, Lavalife, is intended to feel like a nightclub -- hip, romantic, a little bit sleazy. That's how they chose the colour, the logo, the ad campaign, everything. This isn't something that can be explained by using terms like repetition, balance etc... It's pure emotion...



[ Parent ]
Pure Emotion (none / 0) (#54)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 09:31:04 PM EST

The example I gave, Lavalife, is intended to feel like a nightclub...[snip]...This isn't something that can be explained by using terms like repetition, balance etc... It's pure emotion...

I'm not sure why you think something cannot be explained in terms of reductionism just because the effect inspired by the thing is emotional. If this were true, how could we analyse the use of language in a poem?

The Lavalife site can definitely be analysed in formal terms. The psychological effect of the whole layout is a product of specific choices of shape, colour, proportion and type.

Each of the introductory Lavalife pages is a uniform shade of crimson, a darkish blood red. Red inspires effects in the limbic system in the brain, with direct connections to primal emotional states like aggression and sexuality. The layout is widely spaced, with content framed inside wide, thin-lined boxes: the linework is subdued and elegant, contrasting with the intensity of the background page. Where the colour is bold, the rectilinearity and horizontal bias of the frames suggests serenity/stability. It's a good, dynamic juxtaposition, that is. The typography is artsy and refined, mimicking the look of real world night clubs signs...

...And on and on. Do you need to be drawn a map of how all of these elements contribute to reproduce the experience you described? It's pretty transparent. Hell, most of the cues come straight from real world night club interior design. What's so slippery about capturing the characteristics that inspire this "pure emotion"?

(Beyond which I don't personally find the site design all that compelling. The photographs are pretty weak, in my opinion.)

The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
damn (none / 0) (#56)
by calimehtar on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 09:42:00 PM EST

"Red inspires effects in the limbic system in the brain"???? You're starting to sound like an artist :)).

[ Parent ]
No, like a scientist. (2.00 / 1) (#59)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:07:23 PM EST

Have you confused things you find incomprehensible with bullshit?

Pick up any first year psych textbook and read all about the specific, measurable effects of colour on the brain.

(Ever wondered why all hospitals use the same shade of green? Why children's toys use high saturation? That's the science of colour. It is not poetry.)

That is my basis for claiming an unusually direct link between red and certain emotions compared against other colours and their interactions with the brain.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
That guy should be an analyst (none / 0) (#29)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 12:26:00 PM EST

As far as I can tell, the main thing needed in that job is an ability to map back and forth between the user's woolly unformed ideas and something a bunch of techies won't laugh at you for suggesting. Unfortunately, most analysts, like most graphics artists, can't do it very well.

Come to that, there's a need for a similar job in the car repair business, for dealing with people like me, who don't know much about cars, but do know some basic mechanics, and aren't satisfied with being told that the frezzwimbler is bowing out and it'll cost £600.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Grrr (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Josh A on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 06:36:46 PM EST

Even those who could would barely rise above the "because it looks nice" explanation.

I can shed light on part of the problem, having sat through enough crits with these people. Professors just aren't failing these students like they should. :)

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
Subjectivity & Grading (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:00:12 PM EST

There are some soft-headed fops who continue to stick to the sophomoric notion that skills in art are highly subjective, and therefore difficult to grade fairly.

Fuck that. I don't have to be an expert in mystery stories in particular or even a fan of mystery stories at all in order to identify that a particular story has been well written, making artful and sophisticated use of literary devices.

Similarly, the subjective nature of the experience of art itself isn't very relevant to judging whether or not an artist has skillfully used the tools at their disposal to mold that experience in a way appropriate to that given work.

In my opinion, the reason why so many shit-for-brains are graduated from post-secondary degree programmes is because if they failed everybody who deserved to be failed the yield of successful graduates would simply fall too low, and new applicants would be discouraged. In my modest experience it has always seemed to me that a significant portion of that particular cross-section of humanity that chooses to pursue fine arts degrees tends to have a low tolerance for competition (or at least for being judged). They squirm under the harsh light of having to be specific.

...It's okay, though, because 99% of the people I knew in art school don't have careers in art. (To tell the whole truth, most of the people I know who actually make money with art either dropped out of art school or never attended at all.)

It is possible that most post-secondary art education is just a way to scam money off saps with creative dreams.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
logo design and typography (none / 0) (#51)
by calimehtar on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 07:29:51 PM EST

... the only thoroughly formalized visual arts. Okay, not quite true but almost. Information design and signage are thoroughly formalized too, but barely qualified as arts. Personally I don't get graphic design in spite of having taken it in school. I think designers are all flakes... even me when that's what I'm doing.

[ Parent ]
Good design (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by rusty on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 04:14:58 AM EST

On this here intarweb, it sometimes seems like everyone is obsessed with rooting out bad design. And granted there's plenty of it. What I'd love to see is a gallery of really good design, with some actual explanations of why it's good.

If you feel like writing a follow-up, I'd vote for that.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Folk art (4.40 / 5) (#4)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:44:07 AM EST

not...simply art generated by regular folks
Wasn't it Leadbelly who said that his songs must be folk music, because after all horses didn't sing them? :)

Horsefeathers (4.60 / 5) (#30)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 12:41:21 PM EST

This begs the question: what do the labels of various classes of art really mean? The answer is: not much -- they're just an aid for cataloguing the massive output of an image-making civilisation.

Justifying a definition of "Folk Art" on the basis that folks and not horses create the art is on par with defining "Fauve Art" as art created by wild animals (as a literal deconstruction of the term might suggest). Cute wordplay, but not really very helpful for sorting anything.

Are the words used in the terms important? Is "High Art" inherently better and more worthwhile than "Folk Art"? I don't think many people would seriously argue that case in such general terms. The terms are just jargon, and their etymology doesn't shed all that much light on their meaning.

The terms in and of themselves are not value judgements. When they are used as value judgements they are being abused.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
thats not what "begs the question" means (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by dro0g on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:10:44 AM EST

since your panties are so bunched up about shitty graphics, thought you might enjoy a comment in regards to shitty use of language.

i think you want "raises the question" or something.

http://gncurtis.home.texas.net/begquest.html

[ Parent ]

Unknotted Panties (1.33 / 3) (#73)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:33:18 AM EST

"Begs the question" and "raises the question" are expressions that are identical in meaning

Next time trying actually looking it up before you get all hoity-toity, smarty-pants.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
re: Unknotted Panties (4.66 / 3) (#77)
by Totto on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 02:52:25 PM EST

"Begs the question" and "raises the question" are expressions that are identical in meaning

If we consult the page of common errors in English (as featured in a previous article), we will indeed find that you are quite mistaken.

I recommend following your own advice next time around, instead of posting rude replies. :P



--
Cazart!
[ Parent ]
Prescriptivist Nonsense (1.00 / 1) (#80)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 09:46:06 PM EST

Get real: this is on par with suggesting that it is an error to say "partially" when "partly" is meant (since the former technically means "with bias" and not "a portion of").

The error I have made (and Totto is quite right, it is technically wrong) is such a common entanglement of the two expressions that any differentiation that may have held real semantic importance in frickin' antiquity doesn't really hold a lot of water in modern usage unless you're some kind of intensely anal linguistic prescriptivist (generally acknowledged by linguists as a an unuseful calling).

Yes, I was rude to the dro0g, responding in kind to his characterisation of my error as a "shitty use of language." I think he deserved a pretty terse reply. As for my own advice, I did follow it. I did not -- and still do not -- consider the etymology of the convergence of the two expressions to be particularly relevant. The guy was just being a dick.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Well-written. (1.75 / 4) (#12)
by graal on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:18:54 AM EST

Every day I spend here is another day I can hone my skills as a pretentious dilettante.

The thing of it is, however, I don't go to too many dinner parties. And the ones I do attend are frequented by people I've known for years, and who therefore know that I'm mostly fulla' shit.

BTW, your initials wouldn't happen to be PRC, would they? This sounds exactly like the kind of rant a former manager of mine used to give.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)

I'm a frayed knot. [n/t] (none / 0) (#31)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 12:44:40 PM EST


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Ain't science grand? (1.50 / 4) (#25)
by IHCOYC on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 12:13:09 PM EST

The astounding thing about the science of formal visual design, apparently, is that I probably could have thought up most of it independently if I chose to invest the time thinking about it.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
So? (4.60 / 5) (#32)
by Ranieri on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 01:43:28 PM EST

Given a suitably smart individual, and enough time (as in, several tens of lifetimes) one could reproduce modern mathematics or physics from scratch as well. The reason we write this stuff down in books and papers and K5 articles is so we don't bloody have to.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]
A joke that the author will appreciate (4.28 / 7) (#39)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 03:13:52 PM EST

What is the difference between a designer and a programmer?


A designer knows he can't program.


Thank you! I'll be here all week...

-Soc
I drank what?


That would be funny (4.00 / 3) (#40)
by Stick on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 03:25:35 PM EST

But I hate graphic designers with a passion, so you displease me and I plan to stab you with a paint brush. Good day sir.


---
Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
[ Parent ]
heh (none / 0) (#74)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 11:07:14 AM EST

but I am a programmer. I know my limits though. I've been upstaged artistically on enough occasions that I'm happy to defer design questions so that others will get the credit/blame. As long as the code runs efficiently and correctly, that's enough for me.

In my designed world, everything would be animated gif stick figures.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
animated stick figures (none / 0) (#109)
by eudas on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 10:27:26 AM EST

something like this?

eudas
"Nothing is on fire, but the day is still young" -- Phil the Canuck
[ Parent ]

pffft! (none / 0) (#91)
by El Hober on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:03:17 PM EST

I paint, I work as a graphic designer, and I dabble in programming. And I plan to stab YOU with a paintbrush.
---
"Painting is an infinitely minute part of my personality."
-Salvadore Dali
[ Parent ]
It would be funny, if only it were true. NT (none / 0) (#48)
by ph0rk on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 06:08:55 PM EST


[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]
If only that were true! (none / 0) (#49)
by lordpixel on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 06:19:44 PM EST

In my experience most web designers think they can program.

You've obviously never been handed a couple of hundred lines of Javascript (and sometimes even JSP!) that's been knocked up by someone who thinks they can program because they can design in HTML.

I'm sure similar examples exist with designers who know Director (Shockwave & Flash), Hypercard (back in the day) or Applescript.


I am the cat who walks through walls, all places and all times are alike to me.
[ Parent ]

Wait (none / 0) (#63)
by kholmes on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:55:41 PM EST

Doesn't "programmer" imply that he can program by definition?

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]
How about (none / 0) (#71)
by Zero Gravitas on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 07:31:16 AM EST

Doesn't "programmer" imply that he can program by definition?
I'd say it's the same as with "designer". Does, not necessarily can.

[ Parent ]
You've got it backwards! (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by DuncanChud on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:02:14 AM EST

In my job I receive pretty pages all the time obstensibly to merely add .jsp guts to, but in in actuality are not worth the bits they take up on the server. Designer + Dreamweaver = worthless code. Stretched single pixels everywhere, absurd table structures, font definitions every single line, paragraph tag madness.

I've now learned and just recreate their pages from scratch simply using them as mockups. This would be fine if the designers saw them as such, but in practice they are shocked and offended that you modified (ditched) their code as they "know html".

[ Parent ]

Too many "know HTML" (none / 0) (#79)
by TrinityTestSite on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:51:48 PM EST

So many times at work have we (systems folks) been irritated by those that "know HTML" that we had a designer come up with a sign. It hangs at the entrance of our ward area.

How To Manage Lunacy.

Anyone who utters the phrase is refered immediately to the sign. With their forehead if need be.

clusterfuck is the word that comes to mind
[ Parent ]

Not necessarily (none / 0) (#78)
by meaningless pseudonym on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 03:03:34 PM EST

Over here in the UK, my CS education included design. They recognised that I was going to be laying out interfaces and so on and so thought it'd be sensible to train me.

Now, I don't claim to be a brilliant artist (why is it that it's the visual media that get that term? Why can't I say I'm an artist because I play the trumpet? Anyway...) but I know a lot of the rules so can troubleshoot someone else's design. I also know plenty about HCI design.

Some designers come up with pretty but utterly unworkable stuff because they just don't realise how we interact with it. Programmers over here get taught enough to work out if something's any good. Some have no artistic sense at all, sure, but it's better than nothing.

Is that really not true elsewhere?

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#81)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 11:35:56 PM EST

Man o' mighty! It's just a joke people. ;)

It's that way here, too, but it depends on the type of education. Some schools are purely technical. But that's always been true. I'm sure that in ancient Greece there were some who could make amphoras, some who could paint on them, and other who could do both.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Yes, but... (none / 0) (#86)
by meaningless pseudonym on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:12:13 PM EST

Speaking as a crossbreed scientist-artist it's somewhat annoying to find the assumption that the two never cross over. I'm a good computer programmer and designer _and_ a good musician, damnit!

Seriously, if you want to be any good at this sort of thing, learn _both_.

[ Parent ]

Trumpet playing artists (none / 0) (#87)
by phliar on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:13:02 PM EST

Why can't I say I'm an artist because I play the trumpet?
Has anyone objected? I play the trumpet, and I do call myself an artist. (Anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Yes, but... (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by meaningless pseudonym on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 10:16:10 AM EST

The automatic assumption is that if you say you're an artist then you work in the visual media. The assumption is almost that all others are mere imitations. The term 'fine art' consistently annoys me for exactly the same reason.

All the more ittitating thinking that, however daft the question was, Melvyn Bragg was actually able to make a coherent case for music being the foremost art. It absolutely has to be abstract but it still capable of moving people, and probably more consistently and repetably than other artforms. OK, I'm biased, but he has the beginning of a point.

[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#105)
by phliar on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 06:33:38 PM EST

The automatic assumption is that if you say you're an artist then you work in the visual media.
On further thought I realised you were right. I see what you mean. I guess I hadn't thought of it that way because I also work in visual media -- specifically the polaroid image transfer process.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

tee hee [nt] (none / 0) (#116)
by livus on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 06:32:26 AM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
examples... (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by shenanigans on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 03:30:22 PM EST

do you have any online examples of your work?

Critique Away (none / 0) (#61)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:24:56 PM EST

Yes. What I can't understand is how it is that you're having any trouble finding them...


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
This guy... (3.00 / 8) (#43)
by failrate on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:08:35 PM EST

... is a dick. It's one thing to describe the elements of style to help people create better visual work. It's another to flame people without discretion, loading your paper with brazen insults. Why would anyone read a paper that has such little respect for the reading audience?
Voodoo Girl is da bomb!
You've never met a graphic designer, have you. nt (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Stick on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:12:26 PM EST




---
Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
[ Parent ]
Precisely (4.00 / 1) (#47)
by Pseudonym on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 05:38:43 PM EST

I'm married to a graphic designer. The flamage in this article was quite restrained.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
I am a graphic designer (none / 0) (#96)
by failrate on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 10:44:22 AM EST

no text
Voodoo Girl is da bomb!
[ Parent ]
Phew! (4.80 / 5) (#45)
by epepke on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 04:35:41 PM EST

I'm glad this made it to publication. It's well written and provides a good taxonomic framework for discussing these things. (One major omission is a discussion of the concept of "field," but none of us is perfect.)

That having been said, I have to say that some of the most egregiously execrable examples of graphs I've seen have come from visual artists. It's gotten so bad that I leaf through books on visual design, and if I ever come to the phrase "increase the impact," I throw it against the wall. I used to think that USA Today represented the absolute nadir, but then I got a book called UnderStAnding USA (seemingly out of print, praise "Bob"), which exceeded my expectations. (Actually, a couple of the designers have good graphs, but I imagine they are mightily embarassed.)

Here's one of those oversimplifications that actually contains more truth than a bigger explanation: The purpose of art is to distort reality. This is fine, if you're trying to make an artistic point. Hell, even King Lear is an exaggeration. However, if you're trying to represent some data, this proclivity is somewhere between unethical and evil, pure and simple, from Planet 10 by way of the eighth dimension.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Field Me, Epepke (none / 0) (#55)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 09:41:25 PM EST

One major omission is a discussion of the concept of "field," but none of us is perfect.

I'm the first to admit it. Please, tell me more about the concept of field.

...The purpose of art is to distort reality.

Damn straight. It ain't called "artifice" for nothin'.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Beats me (none / 0) (#58)
by epepke on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:01:52 PM EST

I'm not a graphic designer, and I don't know too much about it, certainly not in formal terms. But it has something to do with the background, the environment in which a presentation appears. I guess in a website, the field could be white or gray or black or some distracting .gif file. The idea is that the elements in the "space" are interpreted in terms of the "field." To some extent, it is the contrast of the space and the field that gives a work meaning. As a trivial example, a white rectangle on a dark field has a different impact from a white rectangle on an off-white field. However, a dark rectangle on a white field is quite similar to a white rectangle on a dark field. In a GUI program, the field could consist of the background of the window, but it also included the desktop, the monitor, and the room around the monitor. There has to be enough contrast in value between the field and the elements to make them legible. Significant differences in hue, however, can be jarring. Also, an artist can play with the notions of field and space: a white canvas in a white room can be pretty impressive.

However, as I said, I'm just an ordinary person, so I don't know shit about fields.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I am a programmer and that's why... (5.00 / 4) (#46)
by shenanigans on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 05:17:36 PM EST

every time I have to do a project that involves producing an intuitive, visually appealing user interface I call up my lazy, unemployed (but talented) Art/Design major college roommate and throw him a few hundred bucks. I get a nice UI, he gets beer money for a couple months.

Is he is so talented... (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:28:27 PM EST

...why is he unemployed? Just curious.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
why? (none / 0) (#93)
by Baldwin atomic on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 02:05:02 AM EST

Because most programmers REALLY suck at making decent interfaces, even a realtively bad "designer" could make a "good" interface. The best programmers either know how to make a good interface, or realise that they don't and get someone who does...


=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
[ Parent ]
I might be a little slow, but... (none / 0) (#104)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:25:03 PM EST

...what does any of that have to do with why a talented designer should be unemployed?


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
To quote some of your previous posts... (none / 0) (#112)
by MrSnrub on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 06:32:38 PM EST

Read the copy.

every time I have to do a project that involves producing an intuitive, visually appealing user interface I call up my lazy, unemployed (but talented) Art/Design major college roommate and throw him a few hundred bucks.

He is talented, but lazy.

[ Parent ]

as bob would say: (none / 0) (#114)
by shenanigans on Wed Dec 18, 2002 at 04:34:19 PM EST

THERE IT IS.

[ Parent ]
Design is about intent (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by mveloso on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 09:28:23 PM EST

Every rule, guideline, etc is plastic in the face of the intent of the designer ie: you...as long as you understand the cost/risk/effect on your audience.

And that's really what's missing/implied in the article above, that should be discussed more. Everything in design is about manipulating your audience. All these are tools in your quest to do, well, what you want to do.

What You Want To Do (none / 0) (#60)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 10:18:10 PM EST

...All these are tools in your quest to do, well, what you want to do.

Indeed -- that's why I have such a hate-on for happy-accident-based methodologies. It is the artists' job to manipulate a discreet chunk of your experience of reality. Therefore, understanding the way that experience is triggered/skewed/inspired is key.

That is why it is meaningful to say that all art has a function, from advertising posters to non-representational sculpture, even if the function is only the transmission of experience or ideas from one mind to another, via art.

Just making shit you think is cool and hoping that the rest of humanity will think so too is self-indulgent and contributes nothing to culture. Getting government grants for the purpose is adding insult to injury, in my opinion. But that's a whole other rant...


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Don't underestimate coolness (none / 0) (#68)
by carbon on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:28:41 AM EST

"Cool" is a huge range of ideas, with many entire works practically devoted to expressing it in various ways. James Bond, for example; you might not like it subjectively (which is fine, since I'm not a big fan of it either), but it's art by your definition, since it's just trying to express coolness in a specific form in as many ways as possible (of course, this disregards your point about it also being a commercial medium, but anyways...) Bond's cool, however, is completely different from the coolness expressed by, say, Ed, Edd n' Eddy, which also covers a whole range of concepts, or Weebl and Bob, which also focuses just on being cool, but a very different cool than Bond's. Oh, and IANAD (I Am Not A Designer).


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the advice (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by kholmes on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:03:26 PM EST

At least now I know not to call anything I create "design". I'd hate to disturb the preconcieved notions of those who already consider themselves "designers".

But don't you think that a lot of bad design is the result of no talent rather than lacking the sense of reading your article?

The sky's the limit. Lets keep it that way.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

Limits and Talent (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:24:39 PM EST

If you crappily mis-build furniture but decide not to call it a "chair" does it any the more hold up when sat on? (No.)

The sky's the limit. Lets keep it that way.

Giving names to concepts isn't limiting. (Any self-imposed boundaries artists may experience after digesting the formal principles are purely psychosomatic, and will fade with time and experience.)

Kholmes also mentions talent, or a lack thereof. If we define talent as a built-in, intuitive sense of composition and form or a prodigous learning of such, I believe the reason why talent is not much considered is because there aren't enough talented people in the population to fill all of the jobs we need them for. The economy needs skilled graphic technicians and creative illustrators, animators and layout designers, born or made.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Deviant Art (2.00 / 1) (#66)
by pandrax on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:45:30 PM EST

Perfect sociology of the horrible, horrible wave of terrible graphic art clustered around things like deviant art and the swarm of so-called Photoshop art that centers around using the SAME brushes, usually ripped off of Juxt Interactive's forgotten, infamous style.

Thank you (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by dcturner on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 05:55:54 AM EST

I have been searching for a while for articles to help me improve my photography (technically mostly fine, artistically pretty poor) but haven't been able to find much that's suitable as a starting point before your article.

If anyone has had better luck with the search engines than me then do enlighten me, please, but until then I will be evaluating my photos with the points in your article in mind.


Remove the opinion on spam to reply.


Doing good pics is easy. (4.50 / 2) (#76)
by Pig Hogger on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 01:49:59 PM EST

Mentally divide your frame in 9 equal parts (3 lines vertically, 3 lines horizontally).

*******************
*     |     |     *
*-----1-----2-----*
*     |     |     *
*-----3-----4-----*
*     |     |     *
*******************
Put the main subject of your photograph in one of the four intersections of lines (the numbers above).

Try also bringing something not related slightly in the frame, while not obscuring the subject. For example, say you take the picture of a friend who you put at "3" on the frame, and you're standing under a tree. Try bringing the foliage above the line where "1" and "2" are for example, or bring a low-hanging branch in "2".

Experiment, play.

It's even easier with a digital camera.
--

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing it's idiot
[ Parent ]

The Rule of Thirds (none / 0) (#82)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:34:27 AM EST

This is a variation on the Rule of Thirds, which tries to encourage placing focal lines/main lines at fractions of 1/3rd of the frame, rather than at one half (for centring/static/boring reasons discussed in the article under Balance). Obviously, it isn't the exact fractions that matter.

Pig Hogger's technique provides a good, memorable rule of thumb. Thanks.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Good pics vs. non-sucky pics (none / 0) (#88)
by phliar on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:30:45 PM EST

The "rule of thirds" works to elevate a photograph above the "snapshot" morass, but I wish you hadn't said "good." You take good pictures by taking lots of pictures and systematically figuring out what "good" means. Studying design and photography in a formal setting can help, just as with any art that requires a skill.

One more quick rule for taking photographs: look at the corners of the frame. Learn to identify distracting elements that usually creep in at the corners and edges and remove them. Oh, another one: look at the image in the viewfinder, do not look through the camera at your sweetheart. Don't just push the button; look and think. (Using a medium format camera with limited film and a waist-level finder made the biggest difference in my photography.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#98)
by dcturner on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 11:42:35 AM EST

By 'artistically pretty poor' I was meaning 'I know and use the rule of thirds, but feel I need more'. Ok, I am also guilty of being snapshotty at times and probably have a thousand really terrible photos of people at parties with horrible flat flash lighting and no attention to composition but that's because I was also at the party and was too busy having fun to expend effort being a photographer, and out of those thousand maybe 30 came out well enough to go up on my wall by sheer fluke so that's fine with me.

I digress; the point I was making was that when I'm not being snapshotty and taking my time I still come out with stuff that looks like it was taken by someone who just knows the rule of thirds. I have a shot down a row of trees which draws the eye strongly to the vanishing point (at position #3) but there's nothing to see when it gets there. It's mistakes like that that I want to beat and the enumeration of some of the things I should be thinking of when shooting is helpful.

I have a digital camera with a decent LCD which certainly helps with looking at the edges of the frame although my years of 35mm photography wearing glasses (so I can't see the whole frame at once because my eye is too far from the viewfinder) have made me get into bad habits there.


Remove the opinion on spam to reply.


[ Parent ]
We agree, of course! (none / 0) (#106)
by phliar on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 06:46:11 PM EST

Not a very interesting controversy if we both agree!
I have a digital camera with a decent LCD which certainly helps with looking at the edges of the frame
After using a digital camera extensively over six months, I've come to the conclusion that digital cameras are an exceptional tool for learning the skills of composition and exposure. Instant feedback and practically unlimited capacity -- can't beat that! I probably shoot about a thousand frames a week on the digital camera, keeping maybe ten or so, wouldn't give it up for anything.

However, I do find that to make good images (images that might be considered art by some... I prefer to think of as images that capture some feeling or emotion that I had or have) it really helps to take the medium format camera with a tripod and hand-held light-meter -- it makes me stop and think carefully about each prospective image. Digital cameras don't make me work hard enough so I don't think about and work towards finding the perfect image.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

posters page (3.00 / 1) (#83)
by werner on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 10:59:44 AM EST

The link to your "posters" page is broken, CheeseburgerBrown. Can you fix it so we can have a look?

That Link Isn't Ripe Yet (none / 0) (#84)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:16:18 AM EST

It isn't broken exactly -- it is, as the sign says: "Under Construction."

Honestly, I try not to abuse the "Under Construction" thing -- I only use it when a planned page is genuinely in the works. I have the HTML all laid out, but what I haven't yet worked out a deal with the Virtual Museum Project for reproducing posters of historical recreations I did for them last year. Also, my wife lost her PayPal password so we're waiting for that to come in the mail.

Once those details are ironed out I will indeed publish the Posters page.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Addendum (none / 0) (#85)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:21:38 AM EST

Oops, it doesn't even say "Under Construction." My bad.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
only because you are so elitist (none / 0) (#94)
by bluehead on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 02:15:21 AM EST

about graphic design will I point out that a professional web designer would never have an "under construction" page publicly accessible.

It tends to make me discount your design skills...

Hard like a criminal.
[ Parent ]
Try reading the copy (none / 0) (#99)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:01:19 PM EST

I'm not a professional web page designer. I don't do web design. Don't enjoy it, don't know enough about the technical end of it to charge money for it.

Read the copy.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Continuing to Miss the Point (none / 0) (#100)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:09:09 PM EST

Never said that. If you want to undergo formal training, fine... If my way of doing things doesn't use your designer-jargon it doesn'mean it isn't less effective or "informed".

The jargon isn't important, the concepts are. It doesn't matter how you arrive at the concepts.

It seems like you've got a bit of a chip on your shoulder about the idea of formalism in general. What is it about it that you find so threatening? Did somebody using artspeak-doubletalk once hurt your feelings?


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Ignore Parent, Mis-Threaded Post [n/t] (none / 0) (#102)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:16:04 PM EST


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
I don't accept your attitude (1.50 / 2) (#89)
by gioppe on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:30:09 PM EST

You're an elitist. Like those classically trained musicians who listen to popular music and yell "oh no, that's not music, to properly create music you must undergo ten years of formal education, else you're an amateur".
What you call the right way to learn design is only your way, and you have absolutely no right to scorn those who find another path.

Eat My Attitude (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 06:06:44 PM EST

What you call the right way to learn design is only your way, and you have absolutely no right to scorn those who find another path.

I've argued that good designed is informed design. (All I have done is define conceptual terms to consider a work in, in order to help analyse it.) Is it really your argument that uninformed design (or uninformed anything) is a better way to proceed?

As for my rights, I'm pretty sure I have the right to scorn whatever and whoever I like. If enough people vote +1FP, I even have the right to scorn in a public forum, no less.

You're an elitist.

No, I'm attempting to uphold the standards of my trade. If a dump-truck driver was bitching that new truck-driving courses tended to produce young drivers who crashed into walls a lot, would you call him an elitist for saying so?

I know a fair shake of classical musicians and at least one composer, and I'm pretty sure that none of them scoff unilaterally at pop music. I think you might be barking at a stereotype in your imagination more than any real point of view espoused by actual musicians in general.

P.S. I scorn you.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Childish. (none / 0) (#97)
by gioppe on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 10:49:02 AM EST

Is it really your argument that uninformed design (or uninformed anything) is a better way to proceed?

Never said that. If you want to undergo formal training, fine. If you want to go and buy Freehand and start learning design your way, that's fine too. If my way of doing things doesn't use your designer-jargon it doesn'mean it isn't less effective or "informed".

I'm pretty sure I have the right to scorn whatever and whoever I like.

You have the freedom to scorn. That's a big difference.

I know a fair shake of classical musicians and at least one composer, and I'm pretty sure that none of them scoff unilaterally at pop music

Lucky you.

No, I'm attempting to uphold the standards of my trade

You're not upholding anything insulting those who do not work the way you want them to work.

[ Parent ]
Continuing to Miss the Point (none / 0) (#101)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:15:22 PM EST

Never said that. If you want to undergo formal training, fine... If my way of doing things doesn't use your designer-jargon it doesn'mean it isn't less effective or "informed".

The jargon isn't important, the concepts are. It doesn't matter how you arrive at the concepts.

It seems like you've got a bit of a chip on your shoulder about the idea of formalism in general. What is it about it that you find so threatening? Did somebody using artspeak-doubletalk once hurt your feelings?


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
reverse (none / 0) (#107)
by gioppe on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 08:11:00 PM EST

It seems like you've got a bit of a chip on your shoulder about the idea of formalism in general

Excuse me, I thought we were talking about your attitude toward "uninformed" designers. Nice focus shift.

[ Parent ]
Meanwhile, back to the subject at hand... (none / 0) (#108)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 08:58:42 AM EST

Excuse me, I thought we were talking about your attitude toward "uninformed" designers. Nice focus shift.

You're excused, and obviously confused. We had established clearly my view toward uninformed designers (they make sloppy mistakes due to ignorance), moved on to the subject of what formalism is (you seem to be confused about that), and then touched on why you're such a spaz on the subject. That's not a focus shift, it's a logical progression.

By the bye, if you want to put your money where your mouth is, next time consider this: if you're going to try to call somebody out for changing the focus of a discussion, wouldn't you do best to follow your own advice and not drop everything else in the thread? (Nice focus shift.)


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
nice try (none / 0) (#110)
by gioppe on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 03:01:11 PM EST

if you're going to try to call somebody out for changing the focus of a discussion

You still don't understand.

gioppe says: your attacks on non-formally-trained designers are unjustified.

cheeseburgerbrown replies: gioppe is very touchy about formalism. He has a problem about that.

gioppe: we're talking about you, not me, and I have not received an answer yet.

cheeseburgerbrown: following your line of thought you should flame everyone for going off-topic.

You're right. I am confused by your logic.

[ Parent ]
As Clear As An Unmuddied Lake (none / 0) (#111)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 04:22:27 PM EST

gioppe says: your attacks on non-formally-trained designers are unjustified.

Well, we have already discussed (though I cannot testify as to your ability to absorb it) that formal training is not the point: the ability to deconstruct and analyse is. It really doesn't matter how you come by those abilities.

Gioppe argues as if formalism were a synonym for being a part of a conformist, establishment intelligentsia produced by art education. Gioppe's inability to dissociate these two different things is what I meant by having "a chip" on Gioppe's shoulder.

Formalism:

1. Relating to or involving outward form or structure.
2. Being or relating to essential form or constitution: a formal principle.

Being able to relate the elemental components to the whole and understand how they serve the form of a thing is just plain smart. It is my contention that people in any discipline who lack an awareness of formal analysis are more likely to fuck up, or be lost in the case of someone else fucking up.

So, do I have the right to "attack" the products of people who lack the skills of basic formal analysis? Yes. Is it justified, in a professional context? Maybe. Is it justified, in an educational context? Definitely.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
At last (3.00 / 1) (#113)
by gioppe on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 02:21:28 AM EST

Some non angst-ridden explanation. Peace.

[ Parent ]
Cheeseburgerbrown hates his readers. (2.00 / 3) (#92)
by wilson on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:57:13 PM EST

I think it's a fine gloss of the topic (I mean that descriptively, not as a slight), but the tone the author takes seems inappropriate. Why begin the piece with a snide arrogant introduction that condescends to enlighten the unwashed. Wouldn't a friendlier, informative style be more appropriate for a forum like this rather than one of bitter pedagogy?

That said, I'd enjoy reading more in-depth pieces by the author on the topic in the future.

Only some of 'em. [j/k] (none / 0) (#103)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:21:34 PM EST

Seriously though, I did try a draft of the article in much friendlier tone, but subsequent readings left me feeling a little flat. Needed more acerbic bite, in my opinion. Needed more of a manifesto feel in order to stay interesting to non-artists, I thought.

Does the froth of fringe readers who shake their rattles at the perceived snobbery trouble me? Not too much.

Maybe my next article will be all about hugging contests or dogs who look like people, in order to reset the balance of cutesy karma in my favour.


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Here's a helpful hint... (none / 0) (#115)
by MrMikey on Sat Jan 04, 2003 at 10:59:05 AM EST

  1. Read the article.
  2. Extract the useful and/or interesting technical information.
  3. Ignore the attitude if it bugs you, or laugh at it if it amuses you.
Problem solved.

excellent Smithers. (none / 0) (#117)
by livus on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 06:39:00 AM EST


Well, I feel more delighted than instructed, but it was an enjoyable article.

---
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be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

An Intermediate Guide to Formal Visual Design | 117 comments (88 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
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