Lecture 2 – Shapes, Lines and Meaning


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9:30 – Quick Reflections on the Massimo Vignelli’s Canon
9:50 – Personal Project Idea, Name and Values
10:15 – Session Lecture
11:00 – Break
11:10 – In-Class Project Development
11:50 – Open Class Time and One on One Development


This lecture is quite basic. It is a simple lecture about shapes and line. I am sure you all know what those are and what they can do.

Let us start with basic proportions. Sometimes we forget that a blank page has in itself a feeling or tone. that a blank page is inspiring or rather can tell is what to do. 

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo

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[column type=”one-fifth”]spacer [/column][column type=”three-fifths”]From Robert Bringhurst’s “Elements of Typographic Style”[/column][column type=”one-fifth” last=”true”] [/column]


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Although there is a lot spiritual aspects of what shapes can mean, I am reluctant to cast these as universals, like how circles represent eternity and unity or squares stand for solidity and trust. I can relate to that thinking, but it is always dependent on context. I.e. if a shape were to describe someone in western culture, say a square, that has a much different tone then in another culture, for instance, a crescent in one culture and a cross in another. Shapes can often go into symbol or icon and that is where it takes meaning, and we have to be careful because, then, even its orientation makes a difference. This is why I won’t discuss abstract shapes, which generally are icons.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piet_Mondrian#/media/File:Tableau_I,_by_Piet_Mondriaan.jpg, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai#/media/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg

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In general though, geometric forms can stand for perfection and things technical (and maybe mechanic, industrial or universal) whereas organic shapes usually hint at nature, imperfection, warmth and casualness.

I think it is better to break it down to line and angle. Generally speaking, horizontal angles and vertical angles are stable and solid whereas, angled lines indicate motion, and curved lines equal flow. The use then of say, a square is solidity, unless it is set at an angle which would indicate something solid in motion, a triangle has dynamic elements and circles is flowing but also self contained. These values can be stretched into different contexts.

Also to consider is the the negative space around the shape. What can they imply.

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Line is technically a shape, but it is different in that it can represent a shape. A line is a shapes reduced form. A line too, can act as a contour and have it’s own feelings and tone, by it texture and quality. For me, edge and line are almost the same. Think of shapes aligned to the top. This forms an implied line. The quality of line can change the tone, and have its own characteristics. Is it solid and uniform? It is textured? What medium is it and what qualities can be extended from that? I.e. maybe a brush line indicates spontaneity, a tentative pen line can denote frustration. A crayon line can be juvenile and a coarse bold line can be aggressive. Also, when we talk about line, we have to be very sensitive to curve, does it flow, or is there a breaking point somewhere?

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Lets look at Scott McCloud Understanding comics, pages 118 (123)– 126 (131). I recommend you all read this book and make some reflections on it. In a way this book is all about visual literacy going even beyond comics.

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Placement and Meaning

There are two styles of composition, symmetrical and asymmetrical and these can be contained and open.

The “page” is the universe of our design, it is where it exists in its entirety. Even if it is a multiplicity of interfaces, say a watch, app, and website, it ends at one screen and continues to another, the look and feel remains the same.

If something goes outside, we sense that it is open and if there is a margin, It is closed. These give two very different feelings.

Everything is defined by relationships and we can make these relationships through contrasting different styles. The negative space can tell story. I won’t go into too much depth because I will talk more about composition later. Just keep in mind that placement and size can create meaning and a narrative, as well as shape and line/edge.

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Final Notes

Systems of shape too can define cultures. Watch this quick video comparing forms of Salish and Northwest Coast “Art”/Image/Meaning Making.

source link 

Personal and In-class Assignment

Create a shape and pattern to be used as a logo or theme throughout your brand.
This isn’t a necessary element to all but it is a fun approach. See the work of Kokoro and Moi for examples of usage





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