Communicative Shapes

Final series of 2D representations of the intersection
Arrows pointing downhill

Using shapes and colors, we created 2D representations of our intersections that communicate important characteristics of the areas. For my project, I chose the intersection of Forward Ave. and Murray Ave.. After visiting and investigating my intersection, I made this series of paper cut-outs that hopefully conveys the vehicle-dominated, raw characteristics of the intersection.

Murray Ave and Forward Ave is an intersection where vehicles from five different directions merge (see left).

Murray + Forward is not only an intersection of roads, but also an intersection of different characteristics and atmospheres.

First Impression (8/31)

The bus stop brought me right on to Murray Ave. on the Pocusset St. side (the lower one in the picture). At first, it felt like a normal neighborhood: there are houses evenly spread throughout Pocusset Street. But as soon as I crossed the street, I started to feel like the 50s. Along Forward Avenue, there were 50s style buildings and an abandoned factory right at the corner (upper left area on the picture). Also, I felt a little lonely as a pedestrian. The vehicles outnumbered pedestrians greatly. Even most pedestrians that I met in this area either just got off the bus or were waiting for a bus.

People waiting for buses.

Vehicle-Dominated Area

I think that several components contributes to why this place is more vehicle-driven:

  • There is a gas station right by the corner between Murray and Forward.
The Gas Station right across the bus stop along with a parking lot
  • There are three parking lots in this small area of intersection.
  • There aren’t a lot of places for people to hang out, except a Starbucks and some spa stores along Murray.
  • The intersection is poorly designed for pedestrians: there is no cross walk on the lower side of Forward Avenue (see the first illustration and the image below).
The cross walk discontinues on Forward Ave.

Visual Characteristics

There are many visual characteristics that contributes to the overall nostalgic feeling of this area.

The buildings in this area are mostly in a reddish-brown color. The abandoned factory/cinema (don’t really know what that is) structure contributes the most to the aura of this area because of its obvious presence. There is nothing in front of the abandoned structure and chimney — just a large open space and a bus stop. Along Forward Avenue, the other stores have the same sketchy feeling. They all look old, but in different ways. One thing in common about the shops on this street is the purpose of the stores doesn’t match the vibes of the buildings. For example, there is a real estate office in an old wooden structure, which I first thought was a botanical shop. But this strange combination and juxtaposition give this area its own personality.

blatant abandoned structure
Shops on Forward Avenue: looking sketchy in different ways
An office building between Forward and Pocusset. In a 50s style.

On the other side of Murray, there are different visual characteristics. There is an 50s-style office building between Forward and Pocusset. It also makes quite a statement because it is in the middle of the two roads and is quite visible from afar. Along Pocusset and a part of Murray is a residential area, where the houses form a visual pattern.

Regular Houses on Murray and Pocusset

The commercial stores on Murray are “regulated” and has the same appearance and visual elements. Thus, each store has less personality. But comparing to Forward Avenue, Murray overall looks more high-end, and well-maintained.

Shops on Murray

This area also has some artistic characteristics because of the street art on the walls. The vibrant colors really caught my eyes among all the reddish brown bricks in the area.

Street Art


As mentioned before, there are not many pedestrians in the area. Most people I saw were trying to catch a bus. At night, I barely saw anyone at all. About 70% of the people here are students with backpacks. There were also several elderlies. Seldom, I could see businessmen with black suits and suitcases. The middle-age people were in the gas station or the parking lots.

Except the businessmen, people here dressed casually. This is not a wealthy neighborhood, and people usually don’t come here for shopping.

People waiting for buses
I rarely saw pedestrians at night.


As mentioned before, the entire Murray Ave. is very well-maintained and clean. However, I spotted trash along the whole way at Forward Ave. Although there was trash along the whole way, most trash was hidden in the grass on the empty space in front of the abandoned structure, next to the bus stop. Clearly as shown on the left there were a sufficient amount of trashcans on Forward Ave, not to mention that there is a big dumpster next to the abandoned building. I guess that nobody had been maintaining this road for a long time.

Communicative Shapes (9/3)

For this assignment we were asked to simplify our street views into simple shapes, and communicate our intersection with different layers of white paper cut-outs.

Picture I chose to make into communicative shapes
First iteration of shapes
Compare to the original image

I put more layers on the building in the front to show that it is closer to my viewpoint.

6 X 8 Shapes (9/7)

This time, we were asked to make a 6 x 8 or 7 x 7 white paper cut-out. Because the picture I chose has small windows, it is almost impossible for me to scale further down. Thus, I chose to use the same scale, but crop out a part of the image.

Testing Cropping Options
Finished 6 X 8 Cut-out

After-critique thoughts (9/8)

I have several things to improve.

  1. I’ve been trying to eliminate the organic shapes in my composition (bushes, trees behind the building). For the new round, I want to try and see if adding these organic shapes will make my composition more interesting.
  2. My building on the front pops up too much, which means that the direction of the shadow affects my composition a lot. I think I should probably go back to less layers on that building.
  3. Maybe I should add more cars on the road to demonstrate that this is a vehicle-driven area.
  4. Craftsmanship and details. The pillars look off. The edges of the windows don’t line up. Next time I should cut all the shapes before I stick them on to the background. I didn’t put as much effort to the perspective aspect of the little things, and they look off.

What I’ve learned:

  1. White space is as important as the rest of the composition.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cut the thin shapes. Fail and try again.
  3. Cut the edges with an Olfa knife.

Grey Scale cut-out (9/12)

For this round we were given 4 different shade of grey, and were asked to present our intersection using only those color paper.

For my cut-out I chose to convey the space through the grey, and I chose to align with the realistic light source (coming from the left side of the page). The building on the left is the darkest on the picture, so I chose the darkest shade. For the sign post on the right, I chose to use two different shades to show the 3D effect of the cylinder. The paper we used is a different texture than the white bristle paper I used before. It is a little denser, which makes it easier to cut. I think there is also an improvement on my craftsmanship.

After-Critique Thoughts (9/13)

The problems on my cut-out:

  1. Generally, it looks ordinary. The place looks very static. I need to add more objects onto the picture. More specifically, I should probably add on the trees and bushes to show some liveliness to this area.
  2. the gas station sign (far left)and the light post contrasts with the back building too much. It catches people’s attention too much. I should tone down these objects.
  3. The main building on the right does not look like the protagonist in this composition. Again, it might be because of the colors. The two middle tones are too close to each other, thus they do not create enough contrast on my building. And the building looks plain. Maybe I should put more variation on the frames of the windows and the columns.

Color Cut-Out (9/14)

For this assignment, we were given colored paper, and suppose to choose one of them and replace one of the grey.

Given colors

Reflecting on my impressions of the intersection, I wanted my composition to look a little sketchy. However, I want to use the color to break the stale feeling of my grey-scale composition.

I eliminated the “happy colors”, and picked four gloomy, shady, and “dirty” colors:

My Top 4 pick

I tried out different color swatches:

My classmates’ opinion: the green one on the right got the most vote. However, when I asked what feeling they get from the green composition, they mentioned “sustainable” and “lively”, which is not what I was going for. But I think the tree plays a large factor into the popularity. So I decided to go with the second popular mustard yellow, which really conveys a sketchy feeling, and I added the tree silhouettes into the plan.

Here is my finished cut-out: (My craftsmanship really improved a lot)

After-Critique Thoughts (9/15)

People use color differently. Some use color to highlight and draw attention (most effectively the red, the bright yellow, and the light green). Some use color to recede (mostly blue-ish grey). When the darkest “grey” is replaced with the dark blue, it adds serenity to the composition; however it is not so effective to use the dark blue with the darkest “grey”. When the darkest “gery” is replaced with a light color, the whole composition looks more bustling and light-hearted. I found that not many people replaced the lightest shade like I did. Overall my composition looks dark because of the choices I made. I think it also looks retro in a way.

Final Edits (9/18)

To align the greyscale cut-out with the adjustments I made for the colored version, I did a couple small adjustments to my greyscale cut-out. Adjustments includes the silhouettes of the trees above the building on the left, bushes under the sign posts, and the window frames.

Final Products (9/19)

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