Posts Tagged ‘ figure ground ’

Natural figure ground

This beautiful figure-ground illustration is by Noma Bar.

Body and Soul figure ground illustration

Vogue Spain November 2011

[POSTSCRIPT: Feb 2, 2012]
Originally I credited these pages as coming from Spanish Vogue. They are actually from Spanish Harper’s Bazaar.


These pages remind me of figure ground studies students from my typography class undertake. Spanish Vogue’s pages are so much more interesting to look at than American Vogue. See for yourself.

Contrast assignment

These nine squares nicely demonstrate the purpose of the assignment which is creating contrast.

The best squares are those that show multiple elements of contrast simultaneously. We discussed those elements of contrast in class: size, weight, design, structure, direction and texture.

Another aspect of the assignment is concerned with space, the second holy grail of composition after contrast.

By space I mean the shape that is not the letter. This is usually the background, and frequently referred to as counterform, the opposite of the form (or letter in this case). In gestalt terminology this is known as figure and ground.

What will be most enjoyable is when there is some ambiguity. When the counterform and the letterform are indistinguishable from one another, when it becomes uncertain if the foreground is the background or vice versa. For example I see two arrows in the examples above, do you see them? But those arrows are the result of a juxtaposition of two letters or of an intentional cropping.

When doing the assignment, you will reveal either deliberately or accidentally shapes which were not there in the beginning. Often you recognize them because they have names like rectangles, squares or triangles. The hardest part is “seeing” them. Typography is about managing space and when you start to see space as something intentional, rather than what’s left over after you have moved something, then you are beginning to understand composition.

In all these examples space is an active part of the composition. It has been created deliberately.

[ The arrows I see are in the top right and center squares ]