[Project 2] Complete Documentation

Part I: Sketching Thumbnails

Initial Sketches

For “tension,” I thought of creating scenarios with the boxes that would literally express tension. Thus I drew two boxes that are barely touching, and one box with another box precariously perched on the corner. My intention was to draw these boxes in such a way as to actually evoke a feeling of tension from whoever may be looking at the pictures.

I had similar thoughts for “playful.” I wanted to, in a sense, animate the boxes so it would seem that they had playful personalities. I think my most successful thumbnail is the one with the box peeking out from the corner.

For “compact”, I went with two routes: 1) the boxes are compressed into each other, and 2) the boxes are compacted into a space and it looks like there is no room for movement.

For “boundless,” one approach I took (bottom right thumbnail) was to create the feeling that the box was growing out of the space available and would not stop growing. Another approach I took (middle row and bottom left thumbnails) was to have the boxes have no boundaries, so they’re overlapping each other. The approach I took with the top right thumbnail was to create the feeling that there is an endless grid of black squares.

For “rhythmic,” I wanted to create a feeling of repetition and also smooth movement, so I experimented with just drawing a couple and also multiple rows of boxes, as well as drawing a gradient of boxes from small to large sizes.

For “erratic” I went with less of a scattered, random approach and more of a “non-uniform” look, which led to overlapping a bunch of differently sized squares on top of each other and seeing what kind of shapes I could create with the squares and also the white space.

Narrowing it Down

I decided to go with tension+playful and rhythmic+erratic.

For “tension,” I went off of the idea of creating scenes that would evoke literal tension, so I drew different scenes in which the squares were stacked precariously on top of each other, and also to have a couple scenes in which a large square looks like it’s going to fall on top of smaller square, and a small square on the verge of falling off a big one.

For “playful,” I really liked my thumbnail with the square peeking out from a corner, but I also tried to create scenes that looked as if the squares were playing with each other. In the top right thumbnail, I tried to make it so the two squares were playing some sort of game, and in the middle right thumbnail, I tried to have the square look like it was wearing a hat (using an overlapping square) and throwing confetti.

For “rhythmic” this time I tried to go for a more structured, repetitive route and experimented more with creating different shapes with the squares, such as the pyramid in the top right thumbnail, and the flower and spiral in the middle row.

For “erratic,” I again wanted to use less random patterns and more scenes that showed non-uniformity. So I created situations in which the squares seemed out of place next to the other squares in the thumbnail.

Figure-ground Sketches

Creating this sketches was a bit challenging for me, since I knew I had to keep the black to white ratio 1:1. I wanted to do something fun, but I felt that a lot of my drawings eventually started to want to turn into a checkerboard pattern.

Part II: Digital Iterations

I didn’t have too many troubles with “tension”, since I only used two squares for each composition. However, I did fiddle around with the positioning of the small square for the second tension drawing.

Tension 1
Tension 2 variations

“Playful” also went pretty smoothly. I mostly tried out different angles and positions for the squares to try to see what looked better, and to make sure it didn’t look too messy.

Playful 1 variations
Playful 2 variations

Working on “rhythm” was where things started to get more detailed for me, since I decided to use a lot of squares to emphasize the repetitive feeling that I was trying to convey. My first attempts at the first composition were to see if the shape that I wanted the squares to make would turn out okay. After I finished arranging everything, however, I thought that the squares were too small. I went with a blue color to create more of a “flowing water” feeling, since I was creating two waves.

Rhythm 1 first attempts

I decided to make the squares bigger overall, and tweaked the positioning of the squares too.

Rhythm 1 second attempt

In my second “rhythm” drawing I wanted to create the illusion that the gradient of squares was never-ending, so I made the diagonal lines of squares bleed off the page and placed them slightly off center.

Rhythm 2

In class I realized that we could only use one color across both options, so I decided to keep the blue in the second rhythm composition.

Rhythm 2 in blue

For “erratic” I wanted to create different abstract shapes, but while still making sure that you could still tell that the squares are actually squares. This is where I used a little bit of color to help keep the square shape.

For the first erratic drawings, I thought using a bright color looked a little weird, so in the end I opted for an extremely dark color. In class, I matched the first erratic drawing to the second one with the orange color.

Erratic 1
Erratic 2
Erratic 1 in orange

Finalizing Everything


I decided to go with the first tension drawing because I felt that with the huge contrast in the sizes of the squares, the small square’s positioning is even more precarious because there is such a large height from which to fall. I feel that this creates a lot of tension. The playful drawing was my favorite from the start; I think the simplicity of it, combined with the square peeking out of the corner invokes a lot of playful spirit in the square itself.


I think the final pieces for rhythm and erratic complement each other in terms of their forms, but both depict their respective words in different ways. The “rhythm” drawing is more structured, and with the wave-like shape it creates gives more of a rhythmic feeling. Once I took out the orange color in the erratic drawing, I changed the positions of a few squares so it was still clear that they were squares. But at the same time, the placement of the squares still creates “erratic” shapes.

Figure ground process

I had the most trouble with the figure ground composition. I couldn’t think of how to create the figure ground impression without just making boxes with the squares. I played around with a few of the squares until they created the fish-like shape in the second row of the first drawing above. I tried placing them in rows and seeing how the resulting white space could add to the figure ground illusion. I also tried removing some of the black squares, since the white and black colors didn’t seem that balanced at first. Then I noticed that some of the white space created heart shapes, and I decided to use the black squares to make the heart and ended up with the second drawing above.

Figure ground 2

The left drawing was what I had initially, but at the end I noticed that the top and bottom parts of the drawing weren’t symmetric, so I shifted everything up by half of a square and ended up with the composition on the right.

Final Thoughts

It was really cool to see everyone else’s interpretations of the words during the critique. It was also interesting to see similar interpretations of the words as well. I thought the critique went really well, and it felt good to describe the compositions using the Gestalt vocabulary. When I was making the drawings I often would place the squares according to gut feeling, and having someone explain that “feeling” was also nice.