NOTES ON VISUAL ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION:
NIFTY DEFINITIONS FOR GROOVY WORDS USED IN THE BOOK
additive color: color created by mixing the primary colors of direct light (red, green, and blue); all three mix together to make white light
angled line (also geometric line): converse of organic line; feels mechanical or rigid, conveying a sense of stability or austerity
asymmetrical balance (also informal balance): the placing of different (or different number of) elements of similar visual weight on either side of an axis within a composition in order to create balance.
atmospheric depth: a spatial illusion in which distant objects become out of focus, lack detail, or appear hazy and muted
balance: principle of composition that creates a calming reconciliation of differences of visual elements. In the physical world, balance is created through an even distribution of the weight of objects. In art and design, balance is created through an equal distribution of the visual weight of the elements. see also symmetrical balance, asymmetrical balance, radial balance, crystallographic balance, and visual weight
Blood on the Bristol (also abbreviated to BotB): The official death-metal band of the Design Fundamentals series. Members include Margaret Grzymkowski (lead vocals), Max Friedman (guitars, vocals), Christopher Navetta (bass, vocals), John Weigele (drums, vocals).
brightness: the relative lightness (tint) and darkness (shade) of a hue
C (also c): C is for cookie. And that’s good enough for me.
calligraphic line (also gestural line): free and organic, primarily depicting activity and fluid movement; derived from a form of writing with a brush and ink
Christopher: see Jedi Artisan
closed shape: complete outlines or contours depicting an object. See also shape
compositional line (also line of vision): An edge or implied line that moves the viewer’s eye around a composition
collage: the arrangement or assemblage of actual textures, such as bits and pieces of printed matter, fabrics, metal, wire, paper, cardboard, etc. A collage is meant to be physical and inspire a visceral response from the viewer.
color: the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usually determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; saturation or chroma; hue. That’s what dictionary.com says. And they’re right. But to be honest, head over to the Notes on Color page for more in-depth exploration of this major topic.
Color CC (or Adobe Color CC; formerly Adobe Kuler): a mobile and web app that captures the hue, saturation, and brightness of a scene or image to create an instant color palette
crystallographic balance (also all-over balance): the equal and regular distribution of all visual elements and weights across a composition, resulting in no focal point or clear hierarchy. see also pattern
dot: the smallest visual element; a spot, speckle, mark, or freckle, with a different color from that which surrounds it
edge: a form of implied line which defines and creates a line of movement around a single object or through the objects in a whole composition. An edge or implied line that moves the viewer’s eye around a composition is referred to as the line of vision or compositional line
figure: the positive shapes or objects within a picture plane
focal point: the most clearly emphasized element or area of a visual hierarchy. The focal point is usually the entry point to the composition.
form: a shape with a perceived or actual volume. Forms are measured by length, width, and depth.
format: the container for the visual elements within a composition. The format can be a visual element in itself— a shape of varying size and proportion that has a texture, color, and bounding edge (line). also format can be an object of design— a book, magazine, website, outdoor board, sculpture, mobile app, etc. 2D formats contain pictorial space; 3D formats occupy physical space.
Friedman: (from the Jewish [Ashkenazic]): 1. Yiddish frid, meaning peace. 2. Designer, illustrator. 3. Doodle Boy.
geometric line (also angled line): converse of organic line; feels mechanical or rigid, conveying a sense of stability or austerity
geometric texture: a texture that has a recognizable systemic order, or structure. The structured and ordered repetition of shapes creates a specific type of texture, a pattern.
gestalt principle: derived from a psychological theory of the late 19th and 20th centuries that explains a human compulsion as a self-organizing effort to complete the whole before perceiving the individual parts, providing a sense of order and contentment; in design, the human mind is compelled to seek closure, balance, and conclusion, which causes the brain to fill in spaces (as to complete an interrupted line)
gestural line (also calligraphic line): free and organic, primarily depicting activity and fluid movement; derived from a form of writing with a brush and ink
golden ratio: a mathematical proportion that is often found in nature (flowers, seashells), that has guided artists and designers for centuries and was thought to be divine. Employing the golden ratio in design is meant to yield pleasing, harmonious proportions of the visual elements within a format.
Gonnella: (from the Italian) 1. Tunic, cloak, mantle, later skirt. also taken with the given name Rose, little pink skirt. 2. Author, designer. 3. The Queen.
ground: the negative shapes or background within a picture plane
hatching (also massing): technique using line to create a variety of surface qualities and light to dark values
hierarchy: see visual hierarchy
hue: a color. We love hue.
implied line: not an actual line; formed in the mind’s eye of the viewer, as the human eye and mind seek to fill in the space between a series of dots or points to complete a line
interrupted line: a row of marks, dots, or dashes
Jedi Artisan: a very rare specialization path for a Jedi, the artisans focused their Force studies into the art of creation, crafting beautiful works ranging from lightsaber hilts to other precious artifacts that were imbued with the Force.
Joker: Why so serious? also You wanna know how I got these scars?
Kuler (or Adobe Kuler): see Color CC
line: a path, beginning at one point and ending at another, characterized as longer than it is wide; also stroke, a line in computer graphics. Lines can be interrupted or uninterrupted, angled or geometric, hatched or massed, gestural or calligraphic, implied (as in edge). Lines also hold defining characteristics such as width, length, position and direction, as well as qualities such as focus and condition.
linear perspective: representation of objects in space using parallel lines that appear to vanish on an imaginary point on a horizon line corresponding with the viewer’s eye level.
line of vision (also compositional line): An edge or implied line that moves the viewer’s eye around a composition
massing (also hatching): technique using line to create a variety of surface qualities and light to dark values
Max: ginger doodler
negative shape: area(s) around or between a positive shape. Negative shapes are implied shapes. See also shape
Navetta: (from the Italian) 1. shuttle, a device that holds the horizontal thread and passes it through the vertical threads in weaving. 2. vehicle, such as a ship, that transports people over a short route. 3. Author, designer, sabersmith. 4. Scanman.
open shape: outlines or contours, depicting an object, that are purposely left incomplete. See also shape
organic texture: a texture that feels and looks random, creating a natural or life-like feel
pattern: the structured and ordered repetition of shapes that creates a specific type of texture
picture plane: a two-dimensional surface; an imaginary or illusionary depth of space perpendicular to the viewer’s line of vision
positive shape: the objective part of a shape. See also shape
principles of composition: visual hierarchy, unity & rhythm, and balance; ways of arranging the visual elements within a format to bring physical order to a design
Q: a highly powerful entity from a race of omnipotent, godlike beings also known as The Q, who first appeared to the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D on Stardate 41153.7
radial balance: the equal horizontal, diagonal, and vertical distribution of visual elements around a single central point, dot, or line. Elements seem to emanate from this point usually at the center of a composition.
rhythm: frequency of repetition of visual elements across and around a composition. As the viewer’s eye moves around the composition, the amount of different elements either intensifies or slows the visual beat.
Roy (also Roy G. Biv): design enthusiast and Design Fundamentals mascot
rule of thirds: the division of a composition into three parts horizontally and vertically, thus creating four intersecting points in which to place the visual elements in a well-organized division of space that makes for an aesthetically pleasing composition
saturation: the depth of a hue, from rich to dull
semiotics: the study of signs and symbols; the focus is on the study of how meaning is created, not the definition itself
shape: a defined area or figure on a flat, two-dimensional surface (paper, canvas, screen, etc.). Shapes are measured by height and width. See also open shape, closed shape, positive shape, and negative shape
space: see format. also the final frontier
subtractive color: color created by mixing the primary colors of indirect light (red, yellow, and blue)
symmetrical balance (also formal balance): the mirroring of visual elements along a central axis. Symmetry achieves order through a perfectly equal or even distribution of elements, creating a feeling of stability and peace in the viewer.
texture: the active surface quality of a dot, line, shape, or form. The surface is active because our eyes rapidly scan up, down, over, across, and around the texture to get a visual feel for it. See also organic texture, geometric texture
three-dimensional line: intrinsic to sculptures, objects, and architectural structures/environments; can be actual/physical or implied, interrupted or uninterrupted, angled or organic, massed, etc.
uninterrupted line: unbroken, solid, but not necessarily straight line
unity: a sense of cohesiveness within a composition. When the visual elements in a composition relate on one or more ways, they seem to harmonize. Unity and harmonious relationships can be achieved through repetition of elements, alignment, similarity of the elements, or proximity and containment of those elements.
visual elements: dot, line, shape, texture & pattern, and color; the individual parts or components of a design that are arranged within a format using the principles of composition
visual hierarchy (also hierarchy): a ranking system for organizing elements in a composition based on their order of importance. From entry point to finish and around again, visual hierarchy establishes the step-by-step plan for leading the viewer on a path into and through a composition.
visual weight: the perceived lightness of heaviness of the elements in a composition when compared to each other. Elements that capture the most attention in a composition always appear to be heaviest; as elements diminish in importance, they appear lighter. Perception of visual weight can be influenced by the relationship to weights of objects in the physical world.
weight: see visual weight
whoosh (also wooooosh!): the sound deadlines make as they fly by
Xenomorph XX121 (also Xenomorph, also [colloquial] Alien) (from the Greek xeno, meaning stranger, alien, and/or foreigner; morphe meaning form or shape): an extraterrestrial, endoparasitoid species with multiple life cycles (egg, facehugger, chestburster, adult), possibly originating from the planet Proteus (also known as Xenomorph Prime).
y: Why? Because I'm BATMAN!
zzzzzz (also sleep): what the authors, designers, and illustrators did not do while working on these books