Project Two: Form and Composition Final Documentation

About the Project

The goal of this project was to use simple elements — in this case, black squares (with some squares of color) — to communicate six words. These six words are paired together such that there is some contrast between the two words. In this assignment, students were allowed to overlap, rotate, size, and place squares wherever they liked so long as each individual square could be perceived as a square and was large enough to be distinguishable from a dot. In the final iteration of the project, a single pair is selected and refined in Illustrator.

The more abstract purpose of this assignment was to utilize Gestalt principles to effectively communicate our concept of the word pairs. Gestalt principles can take advantage of parts to create a whole, thus making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. These principles include figure/ground, equilibrium, rule of thirds, closure, balance, proximity, continuation, and similarity.

Project Development

1. Thumbnail Sketching

The first portion of the assignment involved sketching out five different interpretations of each word. First I thought of a variety of phrases that described the six words:

Rhythmic: symmetric, even, has body and feels like it expands

In design, I tried to incorporate symmetry, proximity and similarity the most: the latter two were used the most in the bottom two and the left most designs which had ‘waves’ of squares formed by similarly shaped and angled squares.

Erratic: unpredictable, can have multiple interpretations, unbalanced

During sketching, I made a lot of ‘randomly’ placed squares: I think they look like they may be random though I know I am placing them strategically to try and make them seem more random than they are. Almost all the designs were not centered to promote the idea of randomness and imbalance.

Tension: pulling, on edge

I had two designs that had some form of ‘rope’ formed by squares of similar size and proximity in a line. Most of the designs fell along one or more of the line of thirds to give that sense of pulling and movement.

Compact: close, compressed, filled

To give the sense of compression and closeness I either had a lot of positive space or negative space in each sketch. I had an interesting balance between either heavily balanced/centered images or those that were not at all. I found that having balanced images gave a sense of no motion (like a bug trapped, unable to move) and that unbalanced images gave more of a sense of compression, moving inwards to a single square or space.

Boundless: growing from a center of origin, moving slowly

I found the best of my boundless images were ones that began at some central object and moved ‘outwards’. I tried to communicate the outwards movement by changing size of surrounding layers of squares.

Playful: has energy and movement, not balanced or straight

Playful was definitely troubling. I tried to embody jumping or randomness via the distance between the squares. Another one of my sketches for playful that I liked clumped groups of 3 or 4 squares together and ‘littered’ each of these groups on the canvas. I imagined that like a kid dropping toys behind them and that seemed playful to me.

2. Refinements


I adapted my figure/ground piece from one of my boundless sketches. I changed from squares that do not meet at the corners to squares that do meet at the corner. If I had left them as they were, they would have formed stripes: though they definitely would have fulfilled the figure/ground requirement of the piece, I found the presence of white squares among black squares helpful in switching from white foreground to black foreground. I made the black squares extend off the page to give a sense of continuity, like both black and white squares were rolling on forever in the distance.


I stuck pretty exclusively to one of my original sketches: I did play around with the angle and position of the smallest square (I tried to place it close to the line of thirds both horizontally and vertically) and the angle of the two larger squares, but I really liked how this image came out. It really feels unbalanced while still holding on ever so slightly to the center square. After some thought I decided to make this piece one with color, and used red as an alarming signal for the eyes. It draws attention to the small square, and almost seems like a warning of danger with the brightness of the red.


These are the Illustrator images of my original chosen design from my playful sketches. After toying with the angle and the height of the jumping square’s trajectory, I found that this iteration was too 2-dimensional and did not give all the energy I felt was in the word playful. Instead I designed the images below. One of the images includes lines: I used these to straighten out the angles and I started with some of the squares at an angle, and then did another version with the squares layered with another colored square. I found that I preferred the iteration with colored squares so I continued to work with that. Pink worked well as a light and eye-catching color. It also contrasted nicely with the black which gave more depth to the image, making the pink squares ‘bounce off’ the page.


I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted my erratic piece to be. At first I had the image on the far left, which emulates one of my sketches. However after discussing it with classmates I found that it did have a little too much symmetry, which is definitely not associated with the random nature of the word ‘erratic’. As a result I tried some things closer to my other sketches: the middle sketch was getting to the kind of random pixel-like images that were supposed to ‘seem’ random. I thought that was not very creative and the same degree of rotation on every square was boring. I adapted yet another one of my sketches but I gave more spacing and differences in rotation between the squares to try and communicate a sense of unpredictability. In my opinion, one of the best uses of spacing in that piece is between the 5th square from the left and the 6th square from the left: they are close enough that you may perceive them as a single line, moving up and down, or you may perceive them as distinct ends to two different lines. I was happy to hear people mention both interpretations during our crit — clearly I had communicated this idea well enough for others to see it too.


The first three or four images are pretty close to what I had in my sketches. I spent a good amount of time making sure the angles between the squares were even on opposite sides of the circle and did this by forming rectangles and comparing the heights and angles of opposing sides. After re-creating my sketch, I played around with the size, making the rings very small and very large. Small felt too quiet and understated, but larger felt like it was moving somewhere, with the inner ring diving deeper and the outer ring reaching outwards. I decided to amplify this feeling by creating more concentric rings, which gave the piece more depth, like the squares were falling down towards some hole or point, or reaching out from a central region. Either way, it embodied the symmetry and evenness I associated with an even rhythm, as well as the full-bodied expression of rhythm, like in music.

3. Final Product

Final products were printed on 60–80lb paper on tabloid size paper (11–17") however I must admit that mine were printed smaller than this.


I really enjoyed this project and can say that I am happy with my final products! The advice in class given by Kaylee, Julia, and my peers was very helpful in the design process. One thing of note is that almost all of my designs changed significantly from the sketching process to the final product.

Some of the things I think I did well in this assignment were really experimenting with a variety of my sketches. I explored a variety of designs for each word and ended up incorporating a few elements from different sketches. None of my designs (besides tension) are remotely close to what they were in the sketching period, and I think they all build off the ideas from there and the advice I received. The majority of my time on this project was definitely spent refining and practicing different iterations of each design, and I feel the end results were effective in communicating their given word.

As for self-criticism: I think I could have been more creative with my figure/ground piece. I really focused on the contrast between white and black squares, and though it does work for figure/ground. However, it could have been executed with something more interesting, like the tessellation-like pieces that some people made. I avoided making more complicated shapes out of my squares in an effort to preserve the properties of each square, but still. Could have used some more investigation and sketching. Another error was that I also messed up with the colors: once arriving at the crit I realized that I had used two distinct colors for my tension+playful word pair when we were supposed to use only one for both.

Overall, I am proud of the designs I made and feel like they effectively communicated their words while still maintaining the integrity of each square. I look forward to the next project, and to improving my skills from here on out!