Tag Archives: Change

Design Principle – Progression

photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

Progression of hues. photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

You will remember that a Principle of Design acts on the Elements of Design to create meaning and impressions.

Progression, sometimes called “Gradation” means difference, change and interest, and relates closely to Repetition.

The change might be smooth, like an ombré, or a series of steps – like pixels. Progression might show the feeling of fast acceleration, or ponderous movement. It might be steady or jerky. It might be symmetrical or lopsided. Plus Progression may go in two directions like a bell curve.

In functional design, the pace of progression might relate to functionality – like a clock, designed specifically to maintain a steady pace of movement, through time.

Consider Ravel’s “Bolero” – a constant build of energy and complexity with the same few notes and beats.

Consider any kind of narrative, building to a climax and catharsis or resolution.

Calligraphy is made possible through gradations of Line. Progression of Size creates the impression of perspective, or discombobulates it. Progression is used to create the sensation of solidity – shading and shadows for 3D in flat artwork.

Photos of a sequence of events over time – the illustration of a work-in-progress, or a garden’s flowering, or a child’s growth – are a common use of Progression.

Here’s about 9 1/2 minutes of serenity with flowers blooming for your enjoyment.

 

Design Principle – Contrast

Contrast image

Contrast is one of my favorite Design Principles because it is completely accessible and so very dynamic. In school you will recall being asked to “compare and contrast” two ideas or opinions. We have an intuitive understanding of contrast as opposites, when we see it. In politics, there is no debate without contrasting opinions. In life, change is contrast happening over time.

In designing, the idea is to use the Principles intentionally to change and effect the Elements of Design. Contrast is all about examining or depicting difference. Contrasts, especially those that are unexpected, create vibrancy, draw attention to the subject. Visual contrast creates interest and contributes to a sense of movement or balance (another Design Principle). Contrast defines edges. Uniformity is the absence of contrast. Incongruity is unexpected contrast.

Contrast does not have mean diametric opposites, however. Just like the Tonal Scale where contrast is inherent in defining it, degrees of contrast are possible. Contrast is always comparative – about the relationship between two or more values. Sometimes the degree of contrast defines a style.

One example is the 1940’s film genre Film Noir. The style is defined today by the deep contrast in tonal values of the visuals – with many deep shadows. Shadows will be cast on characters’ faces, highlighting their emotional duality and ambivalence. The audience is left with uncertainty, since every character seems to be both dark and light. The other part of Film Noir mis-en-scene will be the sense of deep shadows in the distance, much of the action taking place at night, in poorly lit cities. The visual style underscores the drama of the story, often crime dramas or mysteries, and characters’ journeys who often represent the “seamy underbelly” of society, or are engaged in some kind of deceit.

This visual style of deep shadows is known as chiaroscuro in painting, a characteristic of the High Renaissance and Baroque eras, among other periods. Painters and sculptors alike were interested in deep folds, faces looming out of dark backgrounds, and consistent looking light sources.

Shabby Chic and prim styles have an intentional lack of contrast. Blurred edges, faded prints or text, distressing and age. If it’s too white, it’s dipped in tea. If it’s too dark, it’s washed. If it’s too shiny, it’s sanded.

I’ve always been intrigued by Dazzle Painting – a high contrast method of camouflage. The key is distance. In nature high contrast often means a warning.

Dazzle painted battleships

Dazzle Camouflage obfuscates the shape

Let’s look at how contrast works with other Elements of Design.

 Color

Complimentary opposites, the colors opposite each other on the color wheel would be a Dual color scheme. Using three colors in an equilateral triangle is a Triadic scheme, while using four colors from the points of a square is Tetradic. Analogous colors have low contrast in hue, but might have high contrast when tonal values are considered.

What do you want the colors to convey? What ideas or emotions? Are you concerned with beauty and comfort, or challenging discomfort? (You see what I did there…..)

Texture

Triadic/Tetradic “texture schemes” are more interesting than just opposites. The opposite of hard is not just soft, but also spiky.

Too much of the same texture can be overwhelming. In Transformers (2007) it was sometimes tough to tell who was an Autobot and who was a Decepticon, when the two were battling. There was a lack of contrast in the bodies, and limited color palette.

Line

The properties of Line include thickness, degree of straightness or curve, and length. Line defines shape, but so does contrast; for example where two colors come together there is the suggestion of Line. However consider that a line may have blurry edges.

Shape and Space

Shapes may be geometric or organic, vary in size or complexity.

photopin.com

Mid-century Modern and Danish style of furniture employs a nice tension in the contrast between the simple shapes of the furniture and the space below and around the pieces. For example the height from the floor is an important part of the sense of airiness and definition.

Intentional Design Process – using contrast

Contrast makes things interesting.

  • Define your message – the reader/viewers takeaway – what you want them to think, see, believe or do?
  • How can contrast convey this message?

Writing with Contrast

Contrast is the foundation of much great literature. The contrast between good and evil is the most basic plotline. People say that irony is the foundation of Jane Austen’s work, but the irony is impossible without the contrasts inherent that idea.

Incongruity is the contrast between the expectation and the result. It works especially well in comedy. For example when the reaction does not match the trigger – that’s comedy. (“Nobody’s perfect.”) Interesting characters contain incongruities or apparent inconsistencies. A flawed hero is far more interesting. People sometimes behave inconsistently too. There can be a contrast between their desires or hopes and their ability to realize their potential.

Mismatches between sequential images, or between the image and the soundtrack, foreshadow events, or strengthen the message. The ominous music always cues our concern when the scene is children playing on the beach. Jolly music playing from the radio strengthens the horror of a catastrophe; lyrical music emphasizes the evil of cruelty. One famous example: Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange (1971).

“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) – Stanley Kubrick

Contrasts invite value judgments – that one product is better for your needs, more suitable than another. For this reason, be cautious when considering Contrast to do with real people. Especially your kids.

 

Changing Seasons

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

Spring has come upon us suddenly here in Southern California. Many places further North still have snow. Meanwhile back in Australia, people are starting to mention cooler weather in their Facebook feeds.

Seasons’ change always gives me a burst of different energy. Going into fall then winter, because for me it’s the holidays, are always full of new creativity. There are things to make and do, my daughter’s birthday in October, and cards to reconnect with people. I was moving this year and didn’t get to send any handmade cards. The holidays felt a little off kilter because of that.

Now that it is Spring, the energy of renewal is everywhere. People are talking of gardening and cooking. I have started itching to write, itching to make some new dolls and itching started get on a couple of projects that have been percolating inside my mind over the winter.

I try to enjoy the moment, but some future planning must be done. Just like planning a garden, the expectation in starting projects now, is that they will come to fruition later in the summer. I have travel plans, convention plans, entertaining plans, and publication deadlines.

I’m excited. I just want to make stuff!

How can you use the change in seasons to inspire creativity?

  • When seasons change, nature is busy. It’s a great time to take those re-energizing walks we like and look out and around.
  • Change your home environment. Some people change all their drapes, pillows and even artwork. Perhaps you will like to change the layout of your furniture to take advantage of the window instead of the fireplace, or move your writing station to a different part of the house.
  • Re-organize your inspirational pin board if you have one. When something visual is left to sit, it can start being ignored. What can you remove from your board that is not relevant? Are there different connections that weren’t obvious in the middle of winter? Maybe some of the ideas there have already been expressed and can be retired.
  • Food, food, food. The warmth of chowders is ready to give way to fruity smoothies and aqua frescas in the northern hemisphere, while the last of the summer fruit salads will soon be replaced by stews and roasts as winter comes. The change of seasons when so many magazines and bloggers start publishing new recipes is a good time to try something new.
  • Resolutions are not just for New Year’s Day. Chances are your resolutions have already suffered. What if you consider your resolutions to be quarterly affairs based around the seasons instead? Personally I think it is easier to start something new when the whole of nature is bursting with energy than in the very dark of winter when it is man-made calendars that define the new beginning.

Five Ideas for Jumpstarting Creativity

No preamble – here are five great ways to jumpstart your creativity today:

1. Make an  External Change.

Change is the greatest creativity kick starter there is. If you are stuck, change your environment. The fastest fix is to go for a walk, or perhaps a bike ride. Go somewhere to sit. Change your view out the window.

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” ~ Jane Austen

Disney Concert Hall tree and spiral

Or make a bigger, if temporary, change. Work in a different part of the house, or a different place altogether. J.K. Rowling loves coffee shops for writing:

“My ideal writing space is a large cafe with a small corner table near a window overlooking an interesting street (for gazing out of in search of inspiration).”

One of the reasons people go on artists’ retreats is the change of environment. Use the change as impetus for some quick creativity jump start exercises.

  • Notice and list 10 different objects or items in this new environment that aren’t in your old space.
  • Use all four walls to inspire four zentangle doodles.
  • Look for shapes in the clouds.
  • Play a different piece of music inspired by the space. Startle yourself.

2. Revisit The Old.

Go to a place, read a book, watch a favorite movie or enjoy a song from the past, especially those that stirred emotions. It might be the comfort of a beloved book, a movie that always makes you smile or cry, a song that you always dance to, or a place that you haven’t seen in a while. Take a break to a happy place to refresh your spirit.

Ancient classics in a row

Or rediscover the old and almost forgotten – old notes from past projects or journals, old projects still incomplete. We call these UFO’s – UnFinished Objects. Sometimes time has softened their edges and it’s time to dismantle the contents or take the whole story in a new direction.

  •  Maybe an old story will inspire an illustration.
  • Choose colors for how you feel and pin them to a vision board for a pallette.
  • What had you forgotten from your notes? How do they apply to your current project?

3. Try Something New.

Not to instantly achieve mastery, but instead to inspire originality in your ongoing work, play with a new art form. If you write, try visual art. If you predominantly explore one genre, play around with the conventions of another. If you always work by hand, explore CGI. If you always create on a device, remind your hand what a pencil feels like.

Try a new medium. If you generally work in acrylics, try paint chip mosaic or embroidery. If you usually play piano, try some electronic percussion.

Add a new activity to your day. If you rarely read, set aside half an hour for a book – try a compilation of short stories. Bake, garden, sew something. Bring in a piece of history – an activity that is rare now – polish your leather shoes, darn sox. These kinds of gently physical activities can be very meditative.

 4. Play With A Child

Always without a time table, allow the child to direct the play. Follow their lead and direction. It will probably be magical. You will see the world in a new way. You might have to improvise a whole story about a doll and its animal spirit guide.

Jayn with her doll

 5. Make an Internal Change

Not forever – unless it works fantastically – try working to a different schedule or muss your routine. If you are a night owl, try an early morning work session. If you set your tools down at sunset, try getting up at midnight. Try – just as a test – reordering your task list.

If you always plan every detail of your work first with sketches and detailed instructions, try doing something off the cuff without a plan. Or a baby step: if you generally lay out all your tools before you start, would pausing to fetch each one as you need it change your process to one that was more extemporaneous or simpler? Embrace the random.

Or conversely if you always improvise as you go, waiting to see what emerges from your process, try giving yourself strict guidelines or a definite plan. Write a treatment or outline before starting your story. Lay out all your tools.

butterflies and tools

I’ve always planned essays, but improvised stories. I’ve researched and made sketches, been very plan oriented in set design, but embraced random serendipity with art dolls. More and more, I find having a plan, writing a treatment, working to my own sketch, to be helpful. There are more steps, but the final result is better. And how I love mind storms and vision books.

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