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Graphic Design Fundamentals: Form & Image

Lesson 2 of 5

Media & Stylization

Timothy Samara

Graphic Design Fundamentals: Form & Image

Timothy Samara

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Lesson Info

2. Media & Stylization

Lesson Info

Media & Stylization

This brings us then to talking about medium, since it just came up in one of those non-pictorial images. So, aside from the kind of form it is that you might be looking at to use. That is, whether it's a dot, whether it's a line, whether it's a plane. Whether it's pictorial or non-pictorial. That fundamental language can be reproduced or created, using any variety of medium. And so, the medium itself becomes yet another issue that a designer has to consider, because the medium, if it's wet or dry, or if it's cut paper, or if it's photographic, will bring a certain kind of enhancement or distraction to the subject matter, or to the fundamental form language. The form identity of whatever the image itself is. That is, you can make a line in a thousand different ways, with a number of different tools. You can make a line with a pencil up against a ruler, and it'll be a very very sharp, very mathematical, very neutral, crisp, perfect line. You can also make that line free hand, with a very...

very fat chunk of charcoal. They're both lines, they both express the same movement. They're the same form identity, but they will each deliver a very different kind of feeling, and that feeling is communication. So the choice of medium that a designer uses or decides upon to create the form element, whether it's pictorial or non pictorial, becomes really critically important. So of course there's photography. This is an image of a figure in a particular room with certain objects, standing in space, conducting a certain kind of activity, wearing certain kind of identifying clothes. There are certain color relationships involved in the image. There's a tremendous amount of detail. It provides an illusion of three dimensional space. Photography is a lovely thing. Photography is as close to representing the real world as a kind of truth that we can possibly get, in terms of a choice of medium. And it's because it's so directly close, so directly aligned with the real world, is that most viewers, most audiences, will assume that whatever a photograph shows is true. It's believable. There it is you can see it! I saw it with my own eyes. There's no mystery involved, and there's a lot of information to kind of dig into. So photographs offer a kind of a rich, very comprehensive bit of narrative in a very compact area. You can have a very small photograph with a lot of information in it, and people will linger on that element. That means that that element doesn't actually have to take up a lot of space, and it means that you don't actually have to think about a whole lot of other kinds of elements to bring. It can make the design process very efficient, and therefore also communication incredibly efficient. That is, it's all there. Here it is, boom! Right in the head. And then, into internalize that. Of course, what actually happens to be going on in the photograph, and the very specific details, what's been included in the image, and what has been edited out of the image, whether by the photographer, him or herself, or through the designers editing by cropping. What kind of lighting is involved? How the photograph is shot, from what angle? From low, from far away, from up close? Really close? Will also lend, a tremendous amount of additional information, or prevent the audience from knowing about certain information. So let us not pretend that the cause of photograph appears to be an example of real life, that this is actually real. It is an abstraction. So I don't know if you're familiar, and this is the kind of ultimate truth. This is not a chef in a kitchen cooking with a bottle of wine on a stove with some vegetables and other (mumbles) of the culinary world, it is not. It is a jumble of colors applied in very specific kinds of shapes to a surface, only because of the organization of those shapes in that particular way do we understand this to be an image of a chef in a kitchen doing those things. This is kind of like the idea that a painting by a famous surrealist painter called out. If you're familiar with Rene Magritte, and the painting of the pipe. Which, below it shows us a painting of a smoking pipe, and below it painted onto the canvas it says ceci ne pas une pipe, which means this is not a pipe. And the painting interestingly, is titled the treachery of images. That is, images lie. They're not showing you something that is true. Every image is a deception. What's interesting about that particular painting by Magritte, is that even though he is telling you explicitly that this thing you're looking at is not a pipe, it's just paint, even after you read those words, you still believe that you're looking at a pipe. So the power of representational image, and especially a photographic one, is almost unquestionable for the average viewer. Of course we can move into other kinds of media, and that would be drawing of various kinds. Whether it is something that is kind of expensive and expressive, classical in its nature and is very rich with detail, drawn from experience or from observation, or is something that is highly reductive. We refer to both of these items as drawings. This drawing is naturalistic, they're both naturalistic. But this drawing is rich with detail, rich with information. This drawing is highly reduced in its information. And that would apply to whether or not we were looking at a painting made with gouache or watercolor, either a very reductive kind of flat sort of posterized illustration, or a very rich sort of painterly academic approach, that could be also another option. Which brings us to this, that is the illustration. Which deviates in its conception from the notion of drawing or painting as a pure approach. Illustration invariably, the notion of illustration, implies that the image maker, the designer or illustrator, has actually imposed a certain kind of language upon the image. That is, that they have stylized it. They've intervened between the depiction, or the function of replicating reality, and the surface, the act of making that they've invented it to some degree, and of course there can be a range. So this is just really kind of a gallery of 30 or 40 different kinds of medium, and again when we're talking about drawing or painting, is that all of these really constitute drawing, even though some are literally drawn with either pencil or stippling with a pen, or a wash of ink, or cut out of the wood cut, or engraved, or drawn with colored pencils, or made with an illustration program software. A vector form or photograph, which you can also consider a photograph as a kind of drawing or painting, but with light. And then to this side, these very highly stylized kinds of forms. These sort of are more classical, more conventional in terms of the use of the medium. That the medium is not really there to get in the way of the depiction. Here the medium or the choice of kinds of form elements used to assemble the subject matter of the pear, has been very purposely pushed beyond a kind of invisible sort of curtain that we've moved into the realm of fantasy for the most part. And as the image becomes more stylized, where the act of its making, the way that its been put together, and the difference between the form elements that are making it the image, and what those form elements would be if they were depicting reality, becomes very extreme. So there are no stars and blasts of energy typically that come out of pears, but we may attribute some kind of special meaning to that. The dot formations here give us kind of a sense of volume, but its not sort of a volume that we would really find as described by the play of light over the surface of the pear, because the light and dark areas that are creating tone are not really distributed around the shape of that object in a way that seems like they're made in life, or that they come from real life. Here the pear element has been replicated, or created out of some very hard angular geometric kind of cut out shapes. And here, in a similar way but more organically, cut out of paper. So here, the medium and the choice of form element that the tool makes, or that the tool can make, sort of supersedes or takes over, becomes much more important than, as part of the image, than what's happening in these cases. The medium, you can tell it's drawn by a pencil or by charcoal, but its really the form and the subject matter that is the most important thing. The act of its making is kind of diminished. Of course there's also collage, is yet another possibility that is to take found items, whether papers or cloth material, sometimes hardware, nuts and bolts, things you find on the street, something stuck to your shoe, or things that you find out in the world that are three dimensional can be combined into very powerfully compelling, and very visually exciting kinds of compositions. So that offers another kind of approach, rather than drawing or replicating by contour, or in a kind of volumetric way, that collage offers the possibility of generating, as we just saw with the pear, something that is recognizable, or something that is completely non-pictorial as these are. And it's really about the kind of joy of the textures, the shapes, their tonal relationships, their color. The contrast of the natural against the artificial. Of matte or non reflective surface against highly reflective and very varied surface. So there's a lot of richness that can be found within sort of found materials that have been compiled together. And let us not ever forget, that type, letter forms, words, can also be images. Type is always visual, and we're gonna look at the visual qualities of type, in addition to its informational qualities in the afternoon. That is that, typography, a column of text and a bold headline, both exhibit the same kind of visual qualities as other kinds of lines, or texture in line. But in a conventional text setting for reading, the visual qualities of those are diminished or downplayed in favor of their information or verbal qualities. Here on the other hand is a situation where by altering the form of the letters that make a word as well as their arrangement is that, one can express the meaning of that word as a kind of a symbol, as a kind of pictorial reference. Even if there's no literal pictorial reference to some kind of a building in this case, we understand the qualities or the nature of architecture simply by virtue of the fact of the combination of being able to read the meaning which provides context for understanding why the forms are organized in these ways. So every word of course has multiple sense, or there are many aspects to what a word means, to the subject that it encapsulates or conveys. So any single word is likely to be able to be manipulated in its form, in hundreds of different ways, to pull out very specific kinds of nuances relative to that word's meaning, or what is the treasure trove of meaning contained inside that word. And by virtue of the form change, which meaning are you calling attention to? Even those other meanings may surface, they may be there, the specific relationship like the one that the designer needs to emphasize, because of the context in which that image is going to appear. That is, what is the intended message about architecture? In a brochure for an architectural firm, where you're using the word architecture for example, as the headline, or as a kind of an idea, to sort of qualify what the architectural firm does. There can be many different kinds of nuances, and that might also play then into issues of branding. What is the kind of meaning or feeling, what kind of mood is to be evoked? On behalf of communicating about that particular architecture firm.

Class Description

You only need basic understanding of line and form to appreciate art and design, but you need a lot more than that to create it. Deepen your understanding of these fundamentals in Graphic Design: Form & Image with Timothy Samara.

In this class, Timothy will teach you about the primary form categories and how they apply across mediums. You’ll learn about:

  • Geometric vs organic forms
  • Pictorial vs non-pictorial images
  • Form relationships and meaning
  • Juxtaposition and sequence

You’ll learn how the medium you are working in affects how the viewer interprets your work and get tips for getting the results you are after.

Graphic Design: Form & Image will help you confidently create images that are visually balanced and sophisticated. 

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Santosh Sharma

I am a big fan of Tim since I started reading his books long back. Its good to see himself teaching, though its a video. This course made things more clearer about concepts and image making. Thank.

Indumathi Manohar

Tim is just SO much fun!!! I love his lectures. He just packs information in, but the material just flows intuitively from one subject to the next. He clearly knows his stuff!