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Graphic Design - Composition

A basic introduction into graphic design.
by

Kyle Topping

on 2 February 2014

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Transcript of Graphic Design - Composition

The 3 C's of design.
Overview:
As all designs, you begin with an empty page. What makes good design is how the bits and pieces on the page interact with each other. Spatial relationships. Good composition is about effective placement and divisions of space.

A difficult subject:
This is a difficult subject to teach, there is no guaranteed formula for 'great' compositions. What will make you better at composition is practice and continued practice. It takes years to become great at making compositions quickly and effectively. Some people will have a natural ability for interesting compositions and others of you will have to work very hard to make effective images.
Basic composition:
There are tools that will allow you to be better at composition immediately. One of these tools is the grid. When you are designing images if you consider this grid you will make better compositions. Try positioning the elements of your composition on the intersections of the grid. This tool can also be refereed to as the rule of thirds. By positioning the elements of your composition to the left or right you will create a more dynamic composition. This begins 'movement' within your composition.
GRID PICTURE
+ POSITION EXAMPLES
Boring static composition:
What you want to avoid is boring static compositions. Sticking an image dead center of the page makes for a boring image, get out of this habit as soon as you can. A common example of this is every person on Facebook who takes a full length picture of themselves standing in front of a mirror. Or any fledgling artist who draws in the dead center of the page. The distances from the sides to the person/object are all roughly equal. This is a terribly static image. Ways to improve on this could to do give more space above the head, or moving the person to the left or right of the image. By moving away from this symmetrical image, we can begin to create something more interesting.
BORING DEAD CENTER IMAGE
+ VARIATIONS ON DEAD CENTER
+ IMAGES EXTENDING PAST THE FRAME
+ CONSIDER PLACEMENT OF TEXT
Variations on photographs:
We will be using photography to complete assignments. Use the 'grid' to improve your compositions. Consider what your subject matter is. Frame and position your image according. Create a more dynamic image if your subject is position to the left or the right, or if your subject touches the edges of the picture. You should also take into consideration is the position of the horizon line. Get out of the habit of standing, facing your subject, and taking the picture unless you spend the time to frame and position it correctly. Learn to get down low, or get up high, or take images from radical angles, if you consider these factors you will create more dynamic images. Don't go too crazy! Extreme photograph that have been pushed too far begin to step into the world of abstract photography, where conventions ease. Lastly, consider if you are going to add text on top of your image afterward.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE HORIZON + LOW, MID, UPPER.
Improving your compositional skills:
An exercise that you can do to improve your skills is to grab a white piece of paper and a whole stack of magazines (this is something that I did in university, for an entire semester). From the magazines cut out shapes, colours, textures. Try not to think about cutting out subject matter (don't cut out people, or objects). Just focus on colour, shape, texture. Take those items and randomly place them on the piece of paper. You'll begin to see how those elements interact with each other. Move the pieces around on the paper and you'll begin to develop an understanding of how the pieces work together to form spatial relationships. What happens when the pieces are far away? Or close together? Clustered in one area and sparse in another? Blue objects placed beside a red object, small red object, or maybe a far away red object.
ABSTRACT COMPOSITIONS +5
4 quadrants:
This is yet another way to logically understand what makes a good or bad composition. Look at your composition and in your imagination divide the paper in 4 equal sections. Each of those sections should have a different feel to them, or different intensity. If all four sections are just packed full of little bits of information and are cluttered then the composition becomes static even though there is so much happening. But consider if you make 1 section really intense, and another section not quite as intense, and the other two sections not intense at all.
4 QUADRANTS
Visual movement:
When you have different sections of intensity your eye will be allowed to move around, one section can be intense and then another may be open and allow your eye to rest before moving. Good composition is when your eye can move around the page and at the same time have an opportunity to rest.
Positive and Negative space:
Great composition has both positive and negative space. Positive space can be defined as a circle on a piece of paper. Something is there and is occupying space. Now all that other 'empty' space is called negative space. It is so important that you have a balance of both. White empty space is really really important, so important that I'll say it again. You need that empty space, that space that isn't occupied by anything. This allows the eye to rest and it gives balance to all the chaos that you'll scribble onto the page while designing.
COMPOSITION
COMPONENTS
CONCEPT
to abstract images
90 degree turn
180 degree turn
270 degree turn
Notice the differences when the image is turned even just 90 degrees? What is happening is the elements in the image are changing their direction, position, and weight in relationship to the page.

Notice the circle mass that feels quite secure and grounded when it is located on the bottom, but it feels uneasy when it is positioned at the top of the page.

As we change orientation the directional line movement changes as well. Each new orientation commands our eye to observe and move around the image in a different manner.

Something to note now would be how English speaking people read images. Our default action is to read an image from left to right then top to bottom. Consider how a Japanese person might begin to read an image, top to bottom and right to left.

ELEMENTS OF DESIGN

LINE - Line can be considered in two ways. The linear marks made with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes meet.

SHAPE - A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric or organic form. A positive shape in a painting automatically creates a negative shape.

DIRECTION - All lines have direction - Horizontal, Vertical or Oblique. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and tranquillity. Vertical gives a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and action

SIZE - Size is simply the relationship of the area occupied by one shape to that of another.

TEXTURE - Texture is the surface quality of a shape - rough, smooth, soft hard glossy etc. Texture can be physical (tactile) or visual.

COLOUR - Also called Hue

VALUE - Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour. Value is also called Tone
Don't kid yourselves at the fact that we're looking at artwork as an introduction to graphic design. Anything that deals with visual imagery is subject to the elements and principles of design. It is our goal to learn this vocabulary. We are going to speak these terms, we're going to understand and comprehend what they mean, and we're going to learn how to implement them in an intelligent manner when we design.
PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

BALANCE - Balance in design is similar to balance in physics. A large shape close to the center can be balanced by a small shape close to the edge. A large light toned shape will be balanced by a small dark toned shape (the darker the shape the heavier it appears to be).

GRADATION - Gradation of size and direction produce linear perspective. Gradation of of colour from warm to cool and tone from dark to light produce aerial perspective. Gradation can add interest and movement to a shape. A gradation from dark to light will cause the eye to move along a shape.
PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

REPETITION - Repetition with variation is interesting, without variation repetition can become monotonous. 

The five squares to the right are all the same. They can be taken in and understood with a single glance.

When variation is introduced, the five squares, although similar, are much more interesting to look at. They can no longer be absorbed properly with a single glance. The individual character of each square needs to be considered.

If you wish to create interest, any repeating element should include a degree of variation.
PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

CONTRAST
Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements eg. opposite colours on the colour wheel - red / green, blue / orange etc. Contrast in tone or value - light / dark. Contrast in direction - horizontal / vertical.

The major contrast in a painting should be located at the centre of interest. Too much contrast scattered throughout a painting can destroy unity and make a work difficult to look at. Unless a feeling of chaos and confusion are what you are seeking, it is a good idea to carefully consider where to place your areas of maximum contrast.

HARMONY
Harmony in painting is the visually satisfying effect of combining similar, related elements. eg.adjacent colours on the colour wheel, similar shapes etc.

DOMINANCE
Dominance gives a painting interest, counteracting confusion and monotony. Dominance can be applied to one or more of the elements to give emphasis
PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN

UNITY
Relating the design elements to the the idea being expressed in a painting reinforces the principal of unity.eg. a painting with an active aggressive subject would work better with a dominant oblique direction, course, rough texture, angular lines etc. whereas a quiet passive subject would benefit from horizontal lines, soft texture and less tonal contrast.

Unity in a painting also refers to the visual linking of various elements of the work.
Principle of Design Images:
http://www.johnlovett.com/test.htm
Poor division of space:
If we think back to our horizon images, we'll remember how a poor division of space can effect an image. Usual death is due to equally dividing the page in half. Be that horizontally or vertically. If you can offset this division of space to the left or right you'll have a stronger composition. Some times a symmetrical division of space is a necessity some times, and if correctly arranged can be successful.
Consider the format and vehicle of delivery:
When you begin designing you should consider the dimensions of the physical material you are making. It is important to give consideration to the size, proportions, weight, feel, function, target audience, papers, inks, textures like embossment. You want to consider these elements when you begin designing your media.

For instance: a billboard ad is something that people drive by, would it make sense to paste hundreds of words on it? That same billboard has a fixed size and aspect ratio. Obviously that means you shouldn't design a vertical ad to go on a horizon layout.

A brochure that is distributed on the street needs to be eye catching and say what it needs to quickly, too many words and who on Earth would ever read it all? A brochure that is at a doctor's office about the dangers of smoking might be longer and provide more in-depth reading because the individual is specifically there to seek that information.
Image from: Design Basics Index by Jim Krause
A NOTE ON TYPE
When you begin layouts for type it is important to know a golden rule in design:
too many typefaces on a page can lead to visual chaos.
Keep your type consistent.
This WHOLE block is an example of bad type
None of the type is aligned, the sizes are all different, the type faces are all different, spacing is inconsistent and bad, overall everything is just = BAD
Breaking the rules:
There are many great rules for design and they're called rules for a reason. I recommend that you try not to break the rules until you've mastered them. You need to learn the rules first before you can break them. There will be situations when you must go against what we talked about today. Keep in mind there is a subtle and finely composed line that you can walk between bad photograph and interesting compositions.
what makes this picture static is the that the distance between the focal point (the boat) and any given edge is equal.
what makes this picture more dynamic is the that the distance between the focal point (the boat) and any given edge is not equal creating visual tension within the object's relationship with the outside edges.
Horizons can be naturally placed along one of the lines. The top or the bottom third.
The problem of placing the horizon directly at the middle is that it cuts the image directly in half and prevents an organic flow and harmony between the two halves. This problem is even more evident in a vertical (portrait) style of image.
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