Sunday earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.
Getting Started with Graphic Design
So, you've decided to try graphic design. Perhaps you've taken art classes in the past, or maybe you just have a bit of a talent for art. Either way, graphic design requires you to use the elements and principles of visual art to convey a message, whether it is a concrete idea like ''Eat At Joe's,'' or creating a mood to associate with a product. While other lessons will discuss different elements of design, we'll take a look at form, for today.
What is Form?
To understand form, we must first look at shape. Shape is an area of an artistic composition with defined borders. Basically, you can tell what is considered inside and outside of a circle or triangle when you see it. Form is the three-dimensional development of a two-dimensional shape. For example, a 2D shape like a circle could be transformed into a 3D form like a sphere. In most graphic design, the addition of a third dimension is an illusion because we are still working on a two-dimensional art form. The illusion of form is created when we add shading, or other visual aspects, to a shape to indicate depth.
There are two basic types of forms we see in graphic design, geometric and organic. Geometric forms have uniform properties and proportions that we just cannot get in nature, making them look manmade. Think about all the shapes you learned in kindergarten. These are geometric. When we use them in graphic design, we can create a sense of order, or control, in a visual composition. They seem clean and even sterile, which can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on what message you wish to convey. Would you use a bunch of building blocks in a poster advertising a birdwatching group or a nature hike? Probably not.
Here are a few of the ideas and/or feelings express, by some of the basic geometric shapes, to help you decide when or if you want to use them in a particular design.
- Circle: Circles convey both gentleness and continuity. Lacking angles, they have no point at which your attention is caught. They also have no clear beginning or end, so your eyes continue to go around their edges.
- Rectangles: Rectangles, and even squares, represent solidity and stability. Basically, they seem to convey a sense of seriousness and durability, as well as sensibility.
- Triangles: Triangles express motion, tension, and even aggression. This is because of their association with arrows for motion, and pointed objects are often associated with sword points. If they rest on their bases, they can convey stability, by looking like a mountain, but if they are askew they represent instability, as one could imagine them tipping over.
Organic forms, however, have no set proportions or properties restricting them. They appear exactly how a three-dimensional object would look in nature, with all its irregularities. The forms can convey a sense of being natural and relaxed. However, you might not want such expression when advertising a construction company, or computer programming firm, where precision is important.
Why Should You Understand Forms?
In graphic design, knowing how to use forms effectively will determine how well you convey your message, and if your overall design is pleasing to your client and audience. The different uses of forms are closely tied to the meaning conveyed by their underlying shapes. Are the edges curved or straight? Do you have sharp angles or wide angles? All of these can make your audience feel something on a subconscious level.
When turning these into three-dimensional forms, you can also create a sense of texture, which is how an object might feel if you could touch it. Say you were creating a design for a dermatologist focusing on acne treatment. The forms you include in your design will probably need to have a smooth texture. If they had a rough texture, with the appearance of bumps all over the surface, you might associate the dermatologist's work with the exact condition you're trying to get rid of, rather than the desired result of the treatment.
So there you have it. Forms, are the three-dimensional versions of shapes, which are two-dimensional areas with a clear boundary between what is in the shape, and what is outside the shape. We have geometric forms, which appear manmade because they have perfect or regular dimensions and principles, like the shapes you learn in school.
We also have organic forms, which appear in nature, and are freer to just form as they wish without all those rules and regulations. It's important to understand how graphic designers use forms because they can convey messages, or moods, that could enhance or negate the message you want to share. The inherent mood of a shape can also be augmented by texture, the way shading, or color, hints at how an object might feel if we could touch it in real life. Would you rather touch a smooth apple or a ball of broken glass? Which would you use in an advertisement for a skincare product?
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