A Crash Course on Graphic Philosophy 101
Novice and professional graphic designers, we are aware that you know the basic principles of graphic philosophy. But then, as workers of art - though digital and graphic art already borders in commercial arts, there's no harm in continuously improving our craft through constant study and practice, is there? Really great graphic designers I know have come to their status because of painstaking application and study of their past works.
We'll review the theoretical concepts of graphics and graphic forms as a foundation on how we have to go about our graphic designs. To begin with, a graphic form is the shape that embodies a certain idea. We can take a tree and use it as an example. How many ways can we depict a tree? We can depict by a photo of a tree, or the silhouette of a tree, or even its outline. By having these forms that represent a tree, we are therefore conveying the idea of a tree.
A word of caution, though, the effectiveness of which the idea is communicated depends upon many levels of context.
The abstraction of an idea into a flat space, to make it a graphic form, is an integral part of Graphic Design. Usually, the goal is to communicate the idea as clearly as possible. So why not depict the apple as close to reality as possible with a photo? This clearly depicts an apple and leaves no room for misinterpretation. So why not use photos of everything?
The idea is usually not as simple as just an apple. The graphic form is merely a component of an entire design. In a design of a poster for example, the existence of multiple forms and large amounts of text can compete with one another for the reader's attention. To increase readability, graphic forms are usually simplified into basic shapes, and flattened into a limited amount of color. They are made to work with type more harmoniously and further refined to convey the layers of information with clarity.
The concept of contrast also defines the graphic form of an idea. In a field of 10 squares and 1 triangle, the form that will be noticed is the triangle. A design placed on a wall, on a billboard, or on the internet, are usually lost in a field of other designs. In order to help define your idea over the others, forms that contrast those around it are effective. Basic factors such as typeface, color, scale, and form are elements that can easily help get a design noticed.
The representation of an idea goes beyond its place on the page or its place on a wall. There is the larger context to consider the audience. The ability of the audience to interpret your design is based on the ability of the audience to understand the forms in which an idea is embodied. Preferences of form, and the ability to understand form, can change by age group, location, and through time. We all understand the representation of dollars by a symbol: $. Though symbols universally communicate, they are become ordinary by usage. As the audience becomes visually educated and aware of these forms, the visual language of graphic design expands. However, the evolution of forms must also take place in order to keep interest.
In the overall scheme of things, fresh ideas and interesting graphic forms have always been able to attract attention. New ways of representation strike curiosity. But the goal is to communicate and the form is part and parcel of visual communication.
Lala C. Ballatan is a 26 year-old Communication Arts graduate, with a major in Journalism. Right after graduating last 1999, she worked for one year as a clerk then became a Research, Publication and Documentation Program Director at a non-government organization, which focuses on the rights, interests and welfare of workers for about four years.
Book reading has always been her greatest passion -- mysteries, horrors, psycho-thrillers, historical documentaries and classics. She got hooked into it way back when she was but a shy kid.
Her writing prowess began as early as she was 10 years old in girlish diaries. With writing, she felt freedom - to express her viewpoints and assert it, to bring out all concerns -- imagined and observed, to bear witness.
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