Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Negative and Positive Space in Relation to Composition

I began teaching another course at Brainco last week. This quarter, I am teaching the Principles of Design and Layout. Even more than my previous Type 1 class, I find this general subject matter very difficult to fit into a 12 week course.

I ended up dividing my weeks into categories of understanding design when creating my syllabus. This was a great way I found to keep the information organized while still trying to incorporate the elements in design that come into almost every situation. They include but are not limited to: grid systems, form and shape, color theory, inconography and concepting.

For my second class on Thursday, I decided to start out with some general understanding and experimenting with form and shape in relation to negative and positive space. How does this simple idea translate itself into interesting and narrative compositions? Understanding design and layout is about more than the complex elements (typographic content, photography, etc.), which can sometimes overshadow the overall color and flow of the composition.

One trick I was taught while I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design was to squint at a composition in its beginning layout phase to see its color. The color was not literally its color, but more how the white space and content were interacting with each other. I was also trained to turn a composition on its side or upside down to see the piece from a different perspective? Was it really balanced?

One of the most influential assignments, even if simple, I ever had was to create abstract compositions out of a single letterform. These were created out of only black and white and it took hours of Xeroxing and tracing paper experimentation to create a piece that used the letterform, but without being able to recognize what letterform it was. Does the composition become more or less effective when you add another element?

This assignment really helped me to understand not only that the right composition of positive and negative shape is not always the most obvious or the one you think of first. It always helped me to visualize the different elements in a layout as shapes that would clutter or clear the space.

I decided to assign this to my class on Thursday and worked on recreating the assignment with some example compositions. I chose a Bodoni S letterform and played with white on black and black on white. It is always a great refresher to take design back to its basic form and understand the roots of all the elements we use every day. Below are a continuation of some of the compositions I created.

Maybe as a bonus at some point, I will photograph my original paintings from that past assignment. I still have all the gouache compositions!

1 comment:

  1. I love your compositions—so striking, so simple, so compelling.