Modern visual design is characterized by a systematic approach aimed at effectively attracting attention, influencing the viewer and manipulating perception (regardless of cultural values or personal ideas) within the framework of the task. This is the result of an analytical process using certain elements and algorithms for the most effective solution to the problem, and not a purely creative process.
The purpose of these guidelines is to give a theoretical summary in order to form a general idea of visual design. And so, in the first part, we will consider some fundamental aspects, without which no visual system can exist. These aspects will range from printed materials to digital content.
Visual elements are the simplest components that, in combination with each other, form many different visual systems. In terms of their dependency on each other, they can be divided into three categories: base, primitives, objects.
The only basis for visual design is canvas. Within its frame, the process of forming a visual system proceeds with the help of primitives: points, lines and planes. It is a combination of primitives that forms the imaginary structure of the canvas and the variety of visible objects - shapes and figures. The concept of imaginary and visible primitives will be discussed below when we come closer to this topic.
As has already been mentioned, canvas is the basis of visual design. It is a limited plane, within which all intensive processes proceed from beginning to end. The borders of the canvas can be of any shape, but from the point of view of practicality, the most common ones are rectangular shapes with various proportions - square, horizontal, vertical.
The choice of the desired canvas format may be determined by various factors and depends on the manipulation that must be performed on the viewer. The shift of the center in the rectangle forces you to look along, while the square fixes all the attention to the center.
Primitives are (a point, a line, and a plane) the simplest elements from which the canvas structure, complex objects, and the visual system as a whole are formed. They can be imaginary, i.e. absent from the canvas, but present in perception, and visible. Examples of imaginary primitives can be a compositional center as a point, a lower line border in the form of a line, or a paragraph area within the boundaries of a plane.
Primitives are primary in relation to objects because the latter consist of primitives. The deeper the designer’s understanding of primitives, the more expressive and effective their visual system. Their simplicity is misleading, so you should always study them in order to intuitively cover all kinds of aspects of their manifestation.
A point is a basic primitive, the basis of other primitives. Moving a point forms a line, and moving a line forms a plane. This is a static visual support, capable of provoking a sense of balance and imbalance only by its location on the canvas.
Objects are converted to a point with a decrease in size or an imaginary distance, and vice versa - objects can arise from a dot with an increase in size or an imaginary approximation.
A line is a secondary primitive formed by the movement of a point. It has a pronounced length, so it can be infinite, limited on one or both sides. This is a dynamic element that can describe motion in space and time.
Imaginary and visible lines
Limited and continuous lines
The intersection of two visible lines forms an imaginary point.
The imaginary point at the intersection of two visible lines
If the line is visible, then it can be of various thicknesses, continuous or discontinuous, straight or curved.
Lines create a sense of depth through the use of various types of perspective techniques.
Lines of perspective
A line describes structures and boundaries, and can also connect, separate, and highlight.
The contours of a shape and figure can be a visible or an imaginary line.
A plane is the last primitive that is the result of a line moving, so it has not only a pronounced length, but also a width.
Imaginary and visible plane
The intersection of two visible planes forms an imaginary line.
A plane describes structures and boundaries like lines and can also connect, separate, and highlight.
Plane of shapes
Connection, separation, and plane highlight
The shape and figure are visual objects. Visible elements that are formed by primitives and serve as a means of expressing a certain image. Shapes are primary in relation to the figures, because the latter can exist only in the contours of the shape.
Objects can be characterized in three categories: organic, harmonic and abstract.
Organic objects are images of the elements of nature and real life, which should clearly express the desired element and emphasize the most important aspects of it, e.g. plants and animals, people and objects, mountain landscapes, and so on.
Harmonic objects are images of geometric shapes and figures that obey certain laws and are not usually found in nature itself, e.g. circle, triangle, square, ball, cube, and so on.
Abstract objects are shapeless images that do not have explicit associative support. This is their difference from organic and harmonic objects, which evoke a clear association in the mind of the viewer.
A shape is a simple visible object, a plane that is bounded by the contours of the line and has a width and height.
Due to the ease of perception, simple shapes are used to form signs: numbers, letters, hieroglyphs and so on. For example, grapheme, as the smallest unit of writing, is a shape of concrete outlines. It is able to convey the inherent meaning, regardless of the nuances of its presentation.
Shapes can be simple and compound. Simple shapes are homogeneous elements, a peculiar silhouette of the image. Composite shapes are several dissimilar elements, two or more, combined in one common image.
The figure is a complex visible object that has a width, a height and a depth. It has an imaginary volume, achieved through the use of various expressive means (light, shadow, perspective, and so on).
The degree of approximation to the object of the real world allows you to display it from any angle, without losing the associative support in the perception of the viewer. This is another difference from the object, which, being a flat object, has a limited number of angles while maintaining the semantic content.
Different angles of the same body
At the end of this part of the guidelines, we would like to reiterate that visual elements are fundamental aspects without which no visual system can exist. In the next part, we will consider the properties of visual elements and compositional means.
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