Posts Tagged ‘ Gestalt ’

Who wears the pants?

THIS CLEVER PIECE of typography is the opening spread for a magazine feature about erotic photography.

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Harper’s Bazaar Spain July 2013

THE SPREAD BELOW is a fascinating exercise in balance and unity. The type initially looks almost random, but does it pick up on the quirkiness of the model’s somewhat awkward pose? The placement of the initial capital letter A, looks a bit like the model’s head as it perches on top of the shoulders of the two columns of type.

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Harper’s Bazaar Spain July 2013

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 ]

The sum of the whole is greater than its parts

The sum of the whole is greater than its parts is the definition of gestalt as we in the design industry understand it.

When I saw this image of a VW Beetle in an exploded view I was struck by how well the image illustrates that definition. Here we see all the parts of the VW Beetle, but it’s not a working car. We can fairly easily recognize that it is a VW Beetle … but is it?

The artwork illustrates an article in Harvard Business Review about reinventing your business.

The article discusses how businesses, no matter their success, eventually run out of room to grow and are forced to reinvent themselves: To jump from the maturity stage of one business to the growth stage of another.

I’m not at all sure how the image is meant to reinforce those ideas, but the magazine has an explanation for the choice of this particular image:

Each month we illustrate our Spotlight package with a series of works from an accomplished artist. We hope that the lively and cerebral creations of these  photographers, painters and installation artists will infuse the pages with additional energy and intelligence to amplify what are often complex and abstract concepts.

[ Harvard Business Review January 2011 ]

[ The artwork is by Damián Ortega. An installation entitled Cosmic Thing, 2002. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles ]