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Visual Literacy Part 3: Space in Design

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Space is the first and most important element of design language. Space in design is more important than any objects flying in it. It’s an endless abyss encompassing all design elements and existing before object/subject separation.

In traditional visual art, the most important element is the main object depicted, while the less important is the background. In industrial art, the object has no importance as such — it’s abstract. There is no top and bottom, left and right in this space, only in and out. And this space does not equal a background.

This concept of space in visual arts was first introduced by the suprematist movement — instead of being positioned relatively to the ground, objects are floating in the air. The position of an object relatively to other objects, as well as its other parameters like form, size, or color, is defined exclusively by its role and meaning.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Supremus_55_(Malevich,_1916).jpg

Space is not empty, it’s charged with energy. Every object placed into this space activates this energy and creates force vectors by interacting with the frame and other objects.

Forces

We can say that the use of this kind of space is an important characteristic of good design.

Our perception needs free space to balance the information overload we meet — that’s why they say «Less is more» in good design: less content with more space and stronger visual emphasis works better than the other way round.

That’s why a good book layout uses space generously for margins and line spacing.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristoteles_opera_aldus_1495.jpg

That’s why a good website layout uses space generously for sections, columns, buttons, distances between elements.

lewismalpas.co.uk, 2013

It should be noted that design elements can be organised in space differently depending on whether a designer uses a constructivist or an expressionist approach, but the role of space is equally important in both cases. We will talk about this in more detail in one of my next posts.

First published on Steemit

Free Verse Poem: Your Time is Now

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Your time is now,
pink cherries blossom.
You are the truth,
are you still true to it?

My train runs faster,
raindrops slide down the window glass,
and the thick rain stirs a pond,
my soul, as I pass along.

A boundless sea splashed once
where horses are plucking grass,
and wet tiled roofs.
on hillslopes bathe in clouds.

In childhood, tears flowed without shame,
and laughter was a sincere joy.
The rain poured down, you waltzed with her
and were just friends.

And now you write poems,
not crossing out anything,
free as a bird
and waltzing with your soul.

Raindrops slide down and blur the spring
where horses are plucking grass,
where hillslopes bathe in clouds,
where your path disappears.

The smallest hills are ancient mountains.
The tiniest pond connects to the sea.
The most faithful way is hidden in clouds.
You are the truth; your time is now.

First published on Steemit

Visual Literacy Part 2: How Graphic Design Has Been Born

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Graphic design in its modern version is a phenomenon not known until 20th century. By this time all the elements of graphic design language have matured. Beautiful book layouts which existed since time immemorial are good examples of book layout, but not of graphic design. They appeal to the perception of a pre-industrial man (who is still certainly alive in all of us, that’s why we’re still capable of enjoying classic art). On the other hand, graphic design isn’t an art in a classic sense, or let’s say it’s an art by engineers, for users.

The birth of graphic design has been very rapid in terms of historic time. The whole transition started with the impressionist movement in the second half of 19th century and ended with the Black Square by Kazimir Malevich and abstract compositions of Piet Mondrian in early 20th century.

The language of graphic design has evolved in four stages departing from objective art which reflected the outside world to subjective art reflecting our inner world.

1. Color

Before the Impressionists, the art was closely tied to observed reality (while never identical with it of course). On the other hand, graphic design is abstract in its nature.

The emancipation of art which led to the birth of graphic design started with color:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_-_The_Houses_of_Parliament,_Sunset.jpg

Color freed from the need to correspond to an object became pure emotion and established itself as one of the primary elements of graphic design.

Here’s an example of poster design using color (and form):

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julius_Klinger_-Hermanns%26_Froitzheim_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

2. Space

The next step was space emancipation. Moving away from the laws of perspective and distance, space turned out to be an encompassing abyss, sky, cosmos, the basis of the new expressive language.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gandalfsgallery/4811188791

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vassily_Kandinsky,1923-_Composition_8,_huile_sur_toile,_140_cm_x_201_cm,_Mus%C3%A9e_Guggenheim,_New_York.jpg

submethod.com

3. Form

The departure of form from object became the next step of evolution leading to modern graphic design.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fresnaye_conquest_of_air.jpg

4. Object

At the fourth and final step, object has disappeared altogether, ceasing to be the focus of artist’s attention and giving space to a free expression of ideas, thoughts, messages. Graphic design has been born.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kazimir_Malevich,_1915,_Black_Suprematic_Square,_oil_on_linen_canvas,_79.5_x_79.5_cm,_Tretyakov_Gallery,_Moscow.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Composition-with-red-yellow-and-blue.jpg

tumblr.weandthecolor.com, 2013

Summary

The four key stages of development of the graphic design language radically transformed the most important of its basic elements, namely color, space, and form, and laid out the foundations of modern visual design.

First published on Steemit

Poem: Your New Spring

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Beyond the threshold of the known,
in misty fields where herds graze,
in wet forests where snowdrops whiten,
your new spring is born.

Everything is familiar and everything is different.
In every drop of the dew, life is pulsing.
You don’t yet know your might.

There’s no story like your story,
there’s no power like the one you’ve been given,
there’s no way like your way.

Neither straight nor crooked,
neither by foot nor on horseback,
neither by land nor air.

No man, the messenger of peace,
has set foot here for thousands of years,
but children play here every day.

For thousands of years, dark mountains have risen
where the hills were once covered with blossoming cherries
and horses lazily pastured on green grass,
where a boundless sea splashed before
and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters.

The first spring of the world,
your new spring.

Birds soar into the sky,
wheat roots grow into the ground,
fields burst with colors.

First published on Steemit

Prose Poem: The Spring of Life

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The fields are sown, and green sprouts stretch towards sunlight.
Crosses mark trees to be cut down this year.
A gentle-gray overtone of warmth pervades the sky.
A few more twilight chords, and the May song of love and roses will begin.

I bow before the mystery of life
filled with light and shadow, like a sunny forest,
like a sparkling pond where nothing happens,
with the overturned sky shivering in it, and a merman smoking his pipe.

Things are good the way they are.
The gods live here, in the ordinary world,
and the stories our grandchildren will retell are rooted here.
The fields are sown, and the invisible work progresses underground.

A paradise garden where songs, games, and dances fill the time.
A boundless womb of ​​the possible,
where whales and dragons, mermaids and monsters
are performing their eternal play.

When stories are born into the world, they flare with glory,
and one small deed becomes a miracle bigger than all things possible.
And yet the everyday life is still the Mother of all
I bow before.

First published on Steemit

Visual Literacy Part 1: The Language of Visual Design

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With this post I begin a series of posts dedicated to the language of visual design. I believe it could prove helpful to visual designers of all kinds.

The series will combine my 20+ years experience as a graphic designer, later web designer and now frontend developer, my design school studies, my own learning and my experience as a teacher of Design Director online course.

In this first post, we will start our design journey by talking about what design is not. My point here is that good visual design couldn’t be reduced to any single aspect of it, be it illustrative art, decoration, composition, or anything else.

Design ≠ Layout

A mere organisation of information isn’t yet visual design in a modern sense as it lacks emotional impact. Nevertheless, the art of giving the information a correct structure is the basis of good design (while not the substitute of it). The information structured correctly and using other elements of the language of visual design, like space and typography, becomes a masterpiece even without using imagery. Klassegrafik website is a brilliant example of it:

http://klassegrafik.de/

Design ≠ Illustration

This one is harder to accept but still easy enough. A quality illustration adds a lot to a good design but again isn’t the substitute of it… Even if it’s a pretty girl 🙂

http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/8199966989

Design ≠ Decoration

This is the trap many unexperienced designers fall victim of most often. Randomly adding decorative elements to a design doesn’t make it any better, quite the contrary.

http://thegraphicsfairy.com/free-victorian-clip-art-advertising-with-pretty-girl/

Summary

Quality visual design in modern sense of the word is a play of many single design elements. I selected seven elements of the language of visual design for this post series: space, form, color, type, imagery, composition, and logic.

In the next post you will learn about how they were introduced to the graphic design scene and what impact they have on a good design. Stay tuned!

First published on Steemit

Facebook, Steemit and Social Media’s Decentralized Future

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A thoughtful article mentioning Steemit has recently appeared at CoinDesk. The author reflects on how social media can be transformed for good from their current state which he describes very vividly with the words I can only agree with:

The platform he [Zuckerberg] oversaw has killed inquisitiveness and open-mindedness, promoted form over substance, undermined the journalistic pursuit of facts and damaged our democracy — all in the interest of gathering and organizing our data so that we could be sold off as packages to platform advertisers.

Blockchain can be part of the solution by fixing the problems of centralised online media, such as the unashamed exploitation of user content and personal data with zero reward.

In my modest opinion, sometimes things are even better than the author supposes. He says:

Any truly decentralized blockchain won’t have the on-chain capacity to handle the masses of data and billions of posts that any large-scale system would run.

EOS claims it has this capacity. In fact, it’s being built with Facebook-size apps in mind. In its recent release, Dawn 3.0, they have moved from a Steem-like 3 second block interval to a 0.5 second interval, and announced that «Dawn 3.0 only implements a fraction of the potential optimizations that will allow EOSIO to scale.» So, in my view, scaling is only a short-term problem.

Another point I don’t fully agree with is related to Steemit’s «Trending» tab:

One limitation can be seen with the upvoting model in Steemit, which rewards top voted stories with steem tokens and which invariably results in posts about Steemit itself rising to the top of the trending ranks.

My point of view is that Steemit (as well as Facebook by the way) isn’t a «best content first» platform at all, unlike Medium for instance. Steemit’s «Trending» tab shows the balance of powers inside the community, as well as our Facebook feed shows the «balance of powers» in our friend list (which also includes Facebook itself). Don’t forget that one of Steemit’s core ideas had once been one of a Mutual Aid Society. With the coming of paid voting bots things have changed, but not towards displaying best content anyway. But that’s another story.

I deeply recommend to read the article to discover many important questions with no evident answers that need our thinking.

First published on Steemit

How to Succeed on a Content Platform: Enter a Community, not a Talent Show

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The path to success is like a road with an unknown destination hidden behind a turn. Our typical behaviour is to try guessing the destination and then deduct the road. We want maps, instructions, recipes, or even enlightening, but not the work with unpredictable results. When there are no maps, we are often driven by myths and illusions.

My biggest illusion back when I joined Steemit was that authors are rewarded for their literary talent in the first place. But then my eyes opened on how things really work.

A community rewards its members in accordance with the role played and the value produced by them. Authors are rewarded not for their content itself, as if in a talent show, but for being useful to the community, for taking a specific role and offering a needed service.

Sometimes being useful really means producing quality literature, but more often than not it answers other community needs, like for example the need to see how others cope with the difficulties of life, or the need to connect to an expert, or the need for optimism, or the need to get feedback on their writing, and so on.

Everyone is entitled to perform a role, to offer a service and to get a reward. The size of which depends on one’s fortune, on what the performed role is, and, first of all, on what resources the community has available.

Don’t think by the way that it’s easy to be a millionaire, or a YouTube star, or a community leader. Focus on this: your role should fit you. Sometimes people mistakenly take high roles without having the resources, and it hurts back. You will pay a dear price for every incompatibility between the actual you and the role you perform, and if the role doesn’t really fit you, you will fail.

Or, as Plutarch put it,

We do not expect a vine to bear figs, nor an olive grapes, yet now-a-days, with regard to ourselves, if we have not at one and the same time the privilege of being accounted rich and learned, generals and philosophers, flatterers and outspoken, stingy and extravagant, we slander ourselves and are dissatisfied, and despise ourselves as living a maimed and imperfect life.

My approach is:

  1. Be yourself. Don’t try to figure out what they want, just be authentic.
  2. Find a community you really like and make connections with interesting people. And yes, be interesting, too.
  3. Take a role you’re capable of and offer a useful community service, however small.
  4. Be consistent. Someone once wisely said that the path to success is like a snowball, small in the beginning but growing steadily if enough effort is constantly applied.

First published on Steemit

Prose poem: Sunbeam

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On the snowy horizon, a sunlight stripe is glowing, contrasting sharply with the black edge of the forest and dark thick clouds in the sky. Unstable, like an early waking, it now appears, then disappears, until dissolving in the sunshine that floods all around.

Life is a sequence of awakenings, a blinking of light on a forest road, a break in the clouds reminiscent of clean sky, a quiet sleep of grass under the snow ready to sprout, a forgotten thought hidden in a secret place where all are alive.

The bones of peoples who inhabited this land before us lie in these fields the sun gleams over, on the slopes of the hills where sprouts of spring slumber, in valleys where cities spread out, shrouded in fog.

The word collects together what is alive, and even when it dies down, it’s still here, hidden under the snow of nonexistence, silently waiting for a spring sunbeam.

First published on Steemit

Prose Poem: Spring in the Air

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The spring is in the air, still imperceptible, like a subtle smile, like a fresh young voice barely audible above the buzz of the crowd.

We don’t know what we’re asking for, but the Spirit himself pleads for us silently, in a breath which has yet to find the right words, as the soul finding the body.

The voice of the Spirit is heard from afar, a song with only scraps guessed: the time has come to heal the brokenhearted, to set free the oppressed, to return sight to the blind.

Just as mountains rise on the horizon at a sudden turn of the road, so too a time comes in life when the hidden becomes manifest.

First published on Steemit