Communicative Shapes

Shapes. Values. Colors.

Project Summary:

  1. Take notes about the locality of the assigned areas.
  2. Communicate those notes through photography.
  3. From the photography, create white on white paper cut out that still communicates the locality of the assigned area.
  4. Iterate and create a value version of the paper cut out.
  5. Iterate and create a color version of the paper cut out.

Atwood + Louisa |8/31/2016|

2. Communicate those notes through photography.


Upscale residential area.

The hallmarks of modern architecture are simple clean lines; no extraneous element and decorations. While the top of this building contains many intricate brick laying patterns associated with older buildings, the building itself is fairly clean and well maintained as noticed by the exterior paint job. In contrast with the rest of the college students’; residential area, this building is fairly clean, and it suggests that the people in charge have the financial means and incentive to takes pride in how they present themselves toward society. Even the gold rim on the first floor insinuates a certain amount of class. None of the windows are broken. Seeing an old building well maintained suggests: 1) the area has a historic root, and 2) the tenant is rich. The building also have two floors, therefore this means that the building is located in an area with higher population density. I would feel upper-class if I lived in this building.


Cathedral of Learning.

Penetrating the skyline here is iconic landmark University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. The grandness of the Cathedral of Learning implies wealth, but the lowness of the surrounding residential’s area contextualize the wealth as a polarized distribution of capital. People in the residential area have less money than people who in the Cathedral of Learning. Symbolically people in the residential area look up to the Cathedral of Learning. Because of the big masons and the classical architectural style of the Cathedral of Learning, it can be assumed that it was built before the modern age. I would feel like there’s a world of opportunity that aren’t available to me if I have lived here without access to a tertiary education.


Alcohol shop.

“Light Up Your PARTY — Mojo Shots” indicates the party culture within the residential area. The existence of the alcohol shop within close proximity of the residential area implies that there is high demand. The cracks on the glass along with the graffiti also indicates a lack of care within the residential area. I wouldn’t feel safe around here at night.


College student exiting dorm and texting.

The cars lining the streets suggests that: 1) the residential space is highly priced therefore not used for garage space, 2) the area was poorly planned to accommodate the resident, or 3) the area has been repurposed to serve a purpose it initially wasn’t designed for (housing college students with cars instead of steel workers). The density of power lines also implies a lack of concern and funding for the area’s aesthetic. The college student walking out of her house with gym shorts and bare shoulder indicates that the area is culturally liberal and casual. Moreover, she’s also listening to music with her earphone and texting while she’s walking, therefore the area must be fairly safe. The area feels young because of the college student, and the lack of concerns for aesthetic is the result of a high turn-over rate (e.g. colleges students coming and graduating after four years). There is no litter on the floor within this area, thus there must be fewer parties taking place within these college houses. The buildings columns on the right have clearly been lathed for decoration, something that is rarely done in today’s architectural style, therefore these buildings must have been built before I was born. I would feel like a pseudo-adult living here because everybody is of similar age and racial demographic.


Beer bottles, plastic chairs, and cigarettes.

The plastic chair indicates a cheap and high turn-over life-style. A lifestyle that is temporary for the college student. The Shock Stop indicates alcohol consumption and the “Butts” indicates cigarette consumption. It can be assumed that the resident of this area is very comfortable with drinking and smoking culture.


Post with staples.

The number of staples on this post is a manifestation of the area’s history of using this post as a method of disseminating information. The post itself is heavily textured, therefore it must be very old. The gum on the post also suggests that the area has a humorous culture that is always trying to push the boundary of what is acceptable.


Mailbox, traffic-cone, and cardboard.

The cardboard litter on the ground that the woman is stepping on clearly indicates a lack of care for the area. The cone placed on top of the mailbox also suggest that this area has a humorous culture that is unconcerned about its aesthetic. The demographically of this area is primarily white and probably has been primarily white according to the architectural styles of the buildings. The sky is also cut up by power lines. While power lines and litter is an indication of lack of concern for aesthetic in this country, the “dirty” aesthetic makes me feel at home because I grew up in a country which this is the norm. I would feel at home living with the “mess”.


Latino man and white woman.

Primarily the demographic of this area are white college kids, but occasionally vendors who are non-white would exist to provide consumables (food) for the white demographic of this area in exchange for money. Hispanics and Asians food vendors scatter across the area. Most people within the area walk next to the people of the same ethnic background and across people of different ethnic background. Apart from the exchange of food for money, there isn’t much cultural exchange happening here. The picture of Virgin Mary on the shop indicates the vendor’s religious views. Apart from his food vendor, the latino man’s surrounding does not glorify or reflect his cultural heritage and identity at all. If I was him, I would feel inferior to the white college girls’ whose cultural heritage is embodied and glorified amongst the architectural style of the surrounding area.


Cardboard and House.

The boxes indicate a lack of care about the surrounding area. Cardboard boxes which was designed for moving in and out littering the floor mean that this area has a high turnover rate.

Atwood + Louisa |9/05/2016|

2. Communicate those notes through photography.
3. From the photography, create white on white paper cut out that still communicates the locality of the assigned area.

The goal of the assignment is to communicate the locality of the area. Last time I didn’t really understand the project, but this time the goal of these pictures is to communicate three key factors:

1) This is a uPitt residential area.

2) This area is not well taken care of. Dirty.

3) This area has a high turn-over rate (Students come in for a year and leave).

To me, locality is the combination of factors that is unique to the area. Every photo below is justified using the three factors listed above. The three factors above are created from my last visit to the area, how I feel, and what I think best represents the area.

Cathedral of Learning

The key thing to communicate is that this area is a uPitt residential area. The housings are usually leased off to uPitt’s kid; hence the symbolic Cathedral of Learning is used to symbolize that this area is within uPitt’s proximity. The blur of college kids walking by justifies this area being a high turnover college residential area . To communicate that the area is dirty, I got low and tried to use the vegetation poking out of the ground in the foreground and the dangling power line to communicate that the area is not well taken of. This photo meets 3/3 criterions; this picture achieves a full sense of locality.


The dumpsters, the powerline, and the litter on the ground signifies that the area isn’t well taken care of. The Amazon cardboard box signifies that the area is a high turn over area. Nothing in this photo communicates that it’s a college residential area. This photo meets 2/3 criterion; not bad.


This picture shows the demographic of the area. The vendor on the street and his cracked glass door signifies that the area is not well taken of. The kids in to me photo with Nike air, thick rim glasses, and Chinese food take out signifies that this area is a college residential area, but there is no specific marker of the area being uPitt’s. This picture meets 2/3 criterions. Louisa + Atwood's demographic changes with the time of day. The area was much ‘whiter’ during the day time.


The compositional complexity of the powerline signifies that this area is not very well taken care of; corroborate that with the overflowing trash can and graffiti and it is clear that this area is not well maintained. The washed out bricks also suggest that the building has been worn down over time with a deep historic root (architectural style). This picture doesn’t demonstrate that the area belongs to high turn-over college students nor does it demonstrate that the area belongs specifically to uPitt. This picture meets 1/3 criterions.


The worn down planks of these college housings signify that the area belongs to high turn-over colleges students. Since college students are present within the photo, there can be no mistake that this is a college residential area. While there is no litter on the floor in this area, the jumbled up power line can be used to justify that the area is not very well taken care. Nothing specific in this photo suggest that this college housing area is uPitt’s . This photo meets 2/3 criterions.

— — —


Having three specific variables to optimize made the trip much easier and more efficient. Unlike my previous attempt, I know exactly what I wanted to communicate and tried to capture it. While trying to signify specifically that the area belonged to uPitt kids was difficult, I’ve successfully captured at least one image that distinctly communicated that the low-maintenance residential area belonged to uPitt’s kid.

— — —

Paper Cut-out:

  1. Drawing: Is an act of simplification.
  2. Cutting: just grunt work.
  3. Pasting: Arrange for composition.

Again, I selected the photos based off the same criterions from my previous project:

1) This is a uPitt residential area.
2) This area is not well taken care of; dirty.
3) This area has a high turn-over rate (Students come in for a year and leave).
Comparing photo using the criterions above.

I ended up chosing the darwing on the left because it communicated more of the criterions I’ve chosen. I’ve also taken artistic liberty to add a trash pile from another photo in this drawing for compositional purpose along with communicating that the area is dirty. I know from drawing this drawing that I wanted alot of depth in my releif, therfore I devised a method to quickly acheive the illustion of depth by using stilts:

2D arrangement = composition; 3D arrangement = depth.

The drawing above illustrates by method of quickly and cheaply achieving an illusion of depth.

Compositional Drawings.

I’ve broken down the forms into simple shapes and made multiple of them, because I know from my collaging experience that I will lose paper cut outs. The drawings are made so that I can easily move the elements around therefore preserving maximum modularity.

Cutting out a car.
Tape, tape, and tape.

For this draft, I only employ masking tape because it allowed me the maximum amount of flexibility to re-edit my work. This picture also demonstrates my stilt technique to quickly achieve the illusion of depth. The

I had to erase out extraneous pencil marks. I should find a way to eliminate pencil marks in my next process. I’ve heard from a friend that I can flip the picture around and retrace it to prevent pencil mark.

First draft.

— — —


Things I like:

  • The power line strips
  • adding the dumpster for compositional purposes
  • layer thepaper on the left wall to create depht
  • using stilts
  • how the detail increase in the area that I want to communicate
  • modularity of tape

Things I don’t like:

  • dirty pencil mark
  • The photo sucked. Now that I have a better photo I’d like to this again with a better photo communicatively and compositionally.
  • the peice doesn’t really demonstrate craftsman ship because it is not intricate enough.

Next time:

  • More intricate details
  • No more pencil marks
  • Better photo intended for the paper cut out relief
  • more depth!

Creating the Illusion of Depth (9/08/2016)

There are multiple ways to create depth; by using perspective lines or depth.

Lines of perspective creates depth. Disclaimer.
Depth by relief. Disclaimer.

Communicative Shapes: Paper Cut Out 2nd Iteration (9/08/2016)

3. From the photography, create white on white paper cut out that still communicates the locality of the assigned area.

Too Much Information: Signal to Noise Ratio

Organized by z-space (x-axis) and size (y-axis) so that I can easily identify and stick these.peices on fast.
Final piece.

Seeking Steve’s interpretation, I heard from Steve that Steve doesn’t recognize the huge foreground element as a tree.

Steve thought it was a wrapping ribbon to wrap my relief.

There is insufficient information presented for the cut-out to interpreted as a tree effective, but I also realze that the tree does nothing in terms of communicating what this area is about thus I took it out.

Removed trees and plants because power lines already communicate low maintenance.

In removing, the signal to noise ratio within this square significantly increased.

Choosing the Photo and Making the Same Mistake

I decided to change photograph because I felt that my initial photograph wasn’t communicating what I wanted. The photograph didn’t communicate that the place was a uPitt residential area. The initial photograph didn’t have people it in at all, therefore it felt empty. The second photograph was also much better composed with foreground elements and background elements. But composition asides, I made the mistake again of not communicating that this was a residential area.

Analysis of 1st photo:
[X]College residential area
[X]High Turn-over
Analysis of 2nd photo:
[X]College residential area
[X]High Turn-over

Woops I just made the same mistake twice.

What Is Really In The Frame?

The only possible visual maker to communicate that this area belongs to uPitt is the Cathedral of Learning. Framing a shot that has both the residential and Cathedral of Learning is extremely difficult, and I have yet found a way to capture it. Perhaps, I might be trying to communicate too much with a relief and photo and all my signals are being overcrowded.

I feel that the Cathedral of Learning is very iconic and important to Pittsburgh, just as the Eifel Tower is to France. You could literally take any silhouette and throw the Eifel Tower in the background and suddenly you’re in France:

Disclaimer: Random Romantic Silhouette
Disclaimer: Boom now you’re in France.

How Much of _____ Is In The Frame?

Drawing to cut out before inversion in photoshop.

What are the cars communicating in this photo?

People park their cars here. This area has a lot of cars parked here, therefore it must not be in the middle city. We’re also unsure whether the car is moving or not.

Do cars communicate: uPitt, College Residential Area, Dirty, or High-Turnover?
uPitt: no.
College Residential Area: not really, it just shows that it’s not in the urban center.
Dirty: no.
High-turn over: no.

TOO MUCH OF THE FRAME IS COMMUNICATING NOISE. Gotta re-crop or try different photo.

Communicative Shapes: Paper Cut Out 3rd Iteration (9/12/2016)

3. From the photography, create white on white paper cut out that still communicates the locality of the assigned area.
Final composition: white on white.
The photo the relief is compositionally based off.

After seeking other’s interpretation of my 2nd interaction, I realized that while the shapes communicate “uPitt” it doesn’t fully communicate “uPitt’s residential area”. After hunting for the perfect shot to communicate both “uPitt” and “residential area” I gave up trying to communicate both. I made communicating “residential area” a priority and went dug around for a photo that strongly communicates residential area. From this photo a quick drawing is composed:

Compositional drawing

I intentionally removed the electric lines from the photo because I plan on using this drawing for cutting out my shapes. The trash can is added to further communicate that the area is dirty.

Communicative Shapes: Value Studies (9/15/2016)

4. Iterate and create a value version of the paper cut out.
Tonal communicative shapes.

The above composition had too much car, and car is irrelevant to my locality, therefore I change my composition.

Thumbnail line drawing to iterate upon.
Tonal Studies from thumbnails.

I went around first asking people what they like best, and then I remembered what Steve said about asking for interpretation rather than judgments. I also recall being able to justify every decision made by communicating the locality of the area. I began asking people what time of day they saw in the tonal studies, and there was a consensus response that #3 was consistently communicated night time, and thus I picked it.

Each building was constructed separately to ensure that no pieces were missing.
Making sure that the detail reads. This piece is critical to the “story” of the piece.
Us pinning up work.

Understanding The Use of Tones:

disclaimer: a z-depth ray trace rendering from a 3D CAD software.

Depth: Tones can be used to construct a function of communicating distance away from the viewer. In this 3D z-depth rendering white means that the object is closer, and black means that the object is further away.

Disclaimer: Here values is being used to distinguish his jacket from his shirt.

Objects: Even though objects may relatively on the same distance plane, values can also be used to distinguish different objects.

Values communicating time of day.

Time of day: Specific to this project, values can also use to communicate the time of day for our chosen subjects. Here, two different value structures are being used and it communicates two different times of day. One communicates dusk and the other communicates dawn. This factor of values for me is very important to communicate an area’s locality of the place with fidelity because demographics changes with time of day.

Communicative Shapes: Color Studies (9/15/2016)

5. Iterate and create a color version of the paper cut out.
Color Studies.

Referencing my initial goal, a huge struggle fo me in this project is how to communicate that the area is both residential and belongs to uPitt.

1) This is a uPitt residential area.
2) This area is not well taken care of; dirty.
3) This area has a high turn-over rate (Students come in for a year and leave).

To bring belongs to uPitt back into the equation I chose to mimic uPitt’s color scheme:

Color Scheme for the night and uPitt to communicate locality

By mimicking uPitt’s color scheme I insinuated that the area belongs to uPitt and I also suggest that the time of day within the paper cut-out is also night time. Finally, after five iterations I completed the communication goals I’ve set out to complete.

All the iterations.
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