Form & Composition: Expressive Squares

Print | 2017 | Individual Project

About the Project

In this assignment I attempted to explore how composition can allow objects in to convey meaning. The goal of the project was to communicate word pairs through black squares. Keeping in mind Gestalt principles, I iterated through Ideas and landed on a final project quite different from my original sketches. My ultimate goal was to be able to get friends to guess the word each piece was based on. I was not able to fully achieve my goal but was able to get close; friends would guess synonyms and related adjectives.

Project Process

Initial Sketches

Initial Sketches

I did my initial sketches on the graph paper within my notebook. In these sketches I tried to explore as many options as possible and took time before each set to think about what the word means to me and how to convey it with squares. My interpretation of the words are listed below:

Rigid- Something hard and either strong or brittle, stuck and unmovable
Flowing and smooth, but irregular and adaptive; water-like
Failure of achieving balance or grace, goofy and different
Steady and persistent in pattern
Without plan or pattern, unpredictable, crazy in an intimidating way

One problem I noticed after reviewing my sketches with classmates was that they were too neat, in a way. Working on graphic paper limited me in a way I hadn’t expected by confining me to a grid. Subconsciously, I had set an unintentional set of parameters and stuck to them. This is evident by how I failed to consider rotating the squares, layering them, or allowing them to fall off the square until my clumsy sketches, where I used a post-it instead due to previous sketches bleeding through the page.

Breadth/Depth Work 1 and 2

Digital Iterations

Iterations 1
In my first iterations the work done was mainly breadth. I started by creating digital versions of the sketches I liked the most, and then began to try different ideas I had not sketched. Not having a grid underneath my work was extremely helpful to trying more irregular and less structured options, especially for erratic.

I struggled the most with rigid+fluid. I had tried a few different options and played around with them. To begin with I did not like many of my sketches, either. As I continued to work on both, I felt too stuck in the literal conveyance of the words. At the end of this round of iterations I was leaning towards moving away from working with the words.

Feedback helped to confirm some of my own opinions about my work. I felt my rigid+fluid pairs were very weak. Based on the confirmation of this, I decided to move forward in cutting that from my selection and focusing on the rest of the pieces.

The #1 artboard for graceful came out as being the strongest of the options. It was suggested to me to try and build off of this in some way and to see if I could accomplish it with less squares. It was also suggested to me that I try to make the composition less centered and try for something more interesting.

With this advice I felt I had a much clearer direction on where to go from where I was. The first and most obvious change was to lessen the number of squares in the stack the diamond stands on. I then moved it to the side and started to think on how I could create more of a sense of motion to the piece.

When asking for feedback, I asked for an opinion on how to decide where to use color. The response I received was to use it where it is most important and creates the most impact. If the color isn't imperative to the design, it might not really be needed there. This greatly simplified the decision as the Rhythmic piece I was leaning towards using as my final depended entirely on its color, and the Erratic piece it would be paired with needed the color to add to the feeling of randomness and depth.

Iterations 2
In the second set of iterations I did not document my work as well as I needed to. For most of the squares I made changes to, I made changes in existing artboards or made adjustments that I later undid in favor of an earlier version.

My main focus in my second iteration was to use the feedback given by friends, the professor, and the TA to refine my graceful+clumsy pair. The goal of this iteration was to create a clear parallel storyline between the two that captured my definitions for the two worlds. the driving thought was of graceful as the success of an attempt at achieving balance while clumsiness is the failure of such. I used the #1 version of graceful as the basis and began trying to refine it while also creating a version of the #1 for clumsy to match. The result was my final pair.


My strongest thought looking back at my work is that I regret my final choice for my figure/ground piece. While the one I chose was interesting, I feel I should have gone with my gut decision of the 5th one listed in my breadth work (the one that forms a white hexagon in the center surrounded by diamonds and triangles). Even now, comparing the two, I prefer the hexagonal one. I shied away from it because it threatened to bend or break the rules set for the project due to the squares losing a bit of their square-ness as well as because of feedback recommending I go with the checkered pattern piece.

Looking back I also see a definite need for improvement in my documentation process. there were a lot of versions of my pieces that were not documented because I deleted them or would keep changing them. Instead I should have either taken screen shots of them all as I went or ensured to have a separate artboard for all. For my next project, if there will be as many artboards as this time, I think I will try to make a separate ai file for each iteration. and see how that works.