p2 // form & composition documentation

print/illustration
fall 2017
individual project

Studying Form and Composition

The primary objective of this project was to take explore how objects in space can convey meaning based on the way they interact with the space and the other objects around them. Using the principles of Gestalt, we were only allowed to use squares bound on a white space to illustrate the following word pairs: rigid and fluid, clumsy and graceful, and rhythmic and erratic. Additionally, we created figure-ground compositions to further explore the relationship between objects and negative space.


Project Process

Starting off with pen and paper, I began sketching out anything that came to mind for all the words and the figure-ground composition. “Perfection” was the last thing in my mind as I was sketching since I find that just churning out iteration after iteration can lead to some surprising results — in this phase of the project, quantity seemed to trump quality. At times, I found that ideas came fairly quickly, but often, I found myself agonizing through some of the sketches because nothing was coming to mind. During these times, I found inspiration through the conversations I had with people, as I explored how others perceived these words.

initial sketches and notes

When I began translating these sketched onto the digital space, some ideas had to be scraped because those formations couldn’t actually happen with perfect squares. For certain words, I had an attachment to certain sketches for and I began refining these ideas right away — especially for fluid. It also provided an opportunity to start playing with color.

first round digital iterations

During the in-class crit, some of the comments that came up regarding some of the compositions was the debate between direct translation of the words vs. taking a more conceptual approach. Ultimately, since the objective was to express these words to the viewer as clearly as possible, I began to lean towards the more direct designs during my selection phase. Another point I had to consider was intentional use of color. Previously, when I was just playing around with color, I was using them haphazardly — sometimes with intention, other times for effect. Since a key aspect of good design is to use every element purposefully, I had to really start thinking about why I was making certain design decisions.

final round digital iterations

Final Compositions

solid // I tried to evoke feelings of being trapped by using tight spacing; the even edges add to the overall rigid formation and even in skewed form, there is no room for sliding or moving

fluid // I focused on the imagery of smaller pieces flowing through the gap to indicate fluidity in motion; a variety of sizes were used to express fluidity in both size and orientation

clumsy // The lower left square was colored in order to draw the eye to that corner and allow the eye to travel up to the smaller, black squares that are bursting out; clumsy effect of everything falling — in hindsight, possibly changing the orientation so that the pieces are falling down (so the blue box is set to the top) might have translated more clearly

graceful // This one was the hardest to choose — ultimately I was trying to connect graceful with nimble, light movement so the squares were supposed to appear as if they were floating. I chose the pale blue to match this concept.

figure-ground // I wasn’t sure if this might possibly break any of the given rules but I thought it brought out the white space very well. Perhaps I should have gone with my simpler design where there was no repetition since during the final crit, the more effective figure-ground compositions relied on bigger pieces, rather than repetitive patterns.


Overall, it was interesting to see the overlaps in how other people perceived these word pairs. As people took a more direct interpretation, compositions took a similar form, while people who approached these terms more conceptually created more diverse forms. During the final crit, Julia pointed out the importance of approaching users on a universal level which I took for granted during this project. I plan on incorporating this approach more successfully in future works. Also, this may be a little too conversational to include in the documentation, but I need to get in the habit of taking pictures of the printed work since that is the true final form of the product.

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