The Premise:

Line is the most expressive formal design element.


Using the basic elements found on a standard school notebook paper as your inspiration, create an original design in the same proportion as a notebook page, that includes inscribed (actual), implied (alignment) and psychological lines.

Design Elements and Organizing Principles of Two Dimensional Design


  • Point
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Plane
  • Volume
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Space
  • Principles

  • Balance
  • Emphasis
  • Unity
  • Harmony
  • Variety
  • Structure
  • Rhythm
  • Pattern
  • Repetition
  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Motion
  • Time
  • Composition

  • What do I see in the William Morris illustration?

  • Line – all three types
    • Implied
    • Inscribed
    • Psychological – the subject's gaze
  • Shape – varous shapes throughout
  • Texture - brushwork and pattern in the wallpaper and fabrics
  • Color – the primary blue red and yellow as well as white and black
  • Volume - in the folds of the fabric
  • Flatness – some objects offer no projection
  • Space – there I a frame of reference defined by the picture borders

  • Diagonal Line=Energy + Rhythm + Motion

    While watching the lecture video, I was reminded of a method that my friend Kevin uses when he shoots  photos or videos.  He often holds the camera at an angle to the ground plane while panning.the scene.

    This section of the video included an eamination of the Highly Manipulative Dog cartoon. Diagonal lines in the cartoon are related to the principles of motion, rhythm, and others from the list above.

    The fact that Kevin is  a video editor, led me to believe that there was something to this idea of diagonal lines providing “energy and a sense of movement” so I texted him my new revelation as to why he does what he does.  Plus he is totally devoted to his brood of 3 manipulative canines, making my notification to him all the more appropriate.  Within minutes he messaged back  the following video full of motion, rhythm and energy.

    Thanks Kevin for clearing this up for me!

    Following are three examples of line in my everyday life:

    Implied line – the actual, drawn, visible, and tangible line - Displayed on the pages of this website.  The bullets and text form vertical implied lines and both the text and bullets are in alignment.

    Inscribed Line - Revit, the BIM (building information management) software displays walls as inscribed lines.

    Psychological line – a line that presents an understand connection between two or more elements in the design space - “Time for more Starbucks?”

    What do I see in Before the Race by Edgar Degas?

  • Line –
    • Implied vertical lines on the legs of horses at rest and implied diagonal lines on those moving
    • Inscribed lines around the hooves of the golden horse
    • Psychological – the gaze of the golden horse is toward the horse galloping away indicating her desire to join
  • Shape – hind quarters of the horse on left lack inscribed line providing shape
  • Texture – vertical inscribed lines on the golden horses neck indicate texture
  • Color – fall colors of tans, browns, greens and brighter colors on vests of riders
  • Volume of the animals produced by the forced edges on the backs of each animal.
  • Flatness –raceway is flat with horizontal inscribed lines
  • Space – large design space constrained only by the hills in the distance

  • What do I see in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur by Ben Shahn?

  • Line –
    • Implied – the feet of those arriving and leaving follow implied lines to and from the church entrance
    • Inscribed lines defining the sidewalk, street, and church structure.  Set on the diagonal reflecting movement of those walking.
    • Psychological – the picture taker gazes off stage at the subject in his photo.  The lady with white neckware is looking for something in her purse
  • Shape – varous geometric shapes in the church structure
  • Texture -  tourist’s jacket is velvet or wool textured
  • Color – the primary color is black, appropriate for this sober occasion.  Whereas the tourist has white shoes and rust colored velvet jacket.
  • Volume – the man in black is presented as large and slope shouldered by the contouring of his jacket with forced edges at the top of his shoulders in the folds of the fabric
  • Flatness – the horizontal lines of the clapboards on the church provide flatness
  • Space – there I a frame of reference defined by the picture borders

  • What do I see in Circles in A Circle by Wassily Kandinsky?

  • Line –
    • Implied -  None
    • Inscribed – all lines in the space are inscribed leaving little to the imagination as to the independence of each object
    • Psychological – few if any psychological lines connecting elements.  Only the intersecting swaths bear any relationship.
  • Shape –primarily spheres
  • Texture both brushwork and pattern in the wallpaper and fabrics
  • Color – Broad ROYGBIV distribution of colors further indicating the independence and all are contained in black line
  • Volume – piece is void of volume
  • Flatness – numerous flat planes are represented
  • Space – there is a frame of reference defined by the picture borders
  • Placeholder image

    The Premise:

    Loss of figure-ground definition flattens space


    Explore figure/ground relationships, positive & negative shape, integration and equivocal space.

    The Premise:

    Patterns are formed through repetition. Scale affects how a design element is perceived (optical fusion). Repetition of shapes creates pattern and allows the possibiity of new shapes and visual pathways to be formed.


    Manipulate positive and negative space, value pattern, shape relationships, continuity.

    Project Journal

    I chose the final design because the concept exploration process led me to it.  I found that the less geometric and freeform designs in my other concepts did not provide me the ability to include only filled shapes . The final design satisfies this requirement of the project.

    Initially I expected the chosen design to produce a cruciform composition. As I proceeded with filling in the spaces in the design, I found that I needed to modify the design in order to assure that only filled shapes were included in the final product. And finally a human figure emerged with hands on hips.

    There is a flattening of space and a softening of the design as the design proceeds through the reproductions. My eye senses a slight diagonal movement up and to the right side. The white sphere shape on each of the tiles provides a lightness to that side which seems to make the right side rise.  The increasing greyness of each subsequent reproduction lends a calmness via optical fusion.

    Comcepts to be Applied

    The solution shown above was created using figure-ground reversal concepts described below with respect to Decorative or Flat space.

    Space is measured by the distance between points and is the perceived result of the arrangement of formal elements. In the two dimensional realm there are two types of space:

    • Plastic space - provides pictorial depth and provides an illusion of volume
    • Decorative space - emphasizes a flat two-dimensional understanding or figure/ground ambiguity in which there are no clues to provide a figure vs ground understanding.

    The following Spatial Devices are used to create a sense of space, either plastic or decorative.

    • Plastic Space
      • Scale - a relational concept, the size of something, provides a sense of volume
      • Proportion - refers to relative size and and is measured against other elements according to some mental norm or standard
      • Overlap - creating an illusion of depth by overlapping figures in a design. The illusion is stronger when objects in recessive planes are smaller.
      • Vertical Placement - at eye level things are considered closer, above eye level they appear further away. Eye level is defined here as the distance from the ground plane to the viewer’s eyeballs
      • Atmospheric perspective - concept that things that are closer are really distinct texture is understood colors are brighter and with increased distance things get fuzzier.
      • Linear perspective - parallel planes will actually angle toward each other as they recede from you
      • Open form / composition - helps create volumetric illusion and allows the viewer to actually participate in what is going on in the image
      • Value - formal element of design that allows us to see form gives a sense of space
      • Planar Recession - creates sense of volume created by receding parallel planes going straight back in space and also uses value contrast
    • Flat or Decorative Space
      • Scattering - flattens space because randomness of pattern makes it impossible to discern neither figure nor ground understanding
      • Implied line - implied lines create a sense of flatness by aligning objects which are otherwise given depth by their value hue and color.
      • Repetition - helps create pattern and pattern flattens space.
      • Closed Form/Composition - putting a frame around a design calls attention to the two dimensionality and flattens space. Much related to closed composition where the viewer is separated from the design and not part of it.
      • Edge Tension - when one space butts up against another shape, the edge relationship flattens the space
      • Detachment - when all shapes are detached and not touching, this creates flatness

    The images on the left by Victor Vaserely relates to this project in that although it displays field/ground reversal characteristics, the increasing tension on the waves emanating from bottom, top, and sides, depending on orientation, provide both depth and elevation to the design.  My eye senses domes in the horizontal aspect and dishes in the vertical

    This design by Bridget Riley displays field ground reversal chararteristics.  Tension and blurring/vibration is created at line boundary which forms a wedge. Field and ground exchange elevation and oscillate throughout the circumference of the wedge.  The wedge is a guitar pick.

    The Premise:

    We see form primarily because of value contrasts which are caused by light and shadow relaionsnips


    Using a found image from a photo or magazine layout, use principles of light logic expressed as value contrasts to create the illusion of volume in a two dimensional plane. The image may be a person, animal, or architecture.

    Comcepts Applied

  • Light Logic
    • Highlight
    • Local Value
    • Reflected Light
    • Core Shadow-the point where the shadow is as dark as it is going to be
    • Cast Shadow
    • Form shadows define what the form is

    Example Display of Plastic Spatial Devices

  • Linear Perspective - Parallel planes will converge when seen in perspective
  • Open form/composition - helps create volumetric illusion. No framing device around picture plane allowing viewer to participate in the composition.
  • Value - a part of color and therefore is a formal element of design.  Value is what allows us to see form.  Value gives a sense of space in terms of lightness emerges out of darkness and vice versa.  Lightness comes forward and dark things emerge out of a light background.
  • Stronger contrast indicates things are closer to us
  • Planar Recession - useful in understanding sense of volume.   The use of receding planes going straight back.  
  • Scale – The relative size of the human figures provide understanding of the size of the room.
  • Linear perspective – Madonna & Child, at viewers eye level and above the altar,9o are the focal point of all lines providing linear perspective.  These lines all converge on the painting and include the horizontal moulding at the bottom of the ceiling, the grout lines of the floor tiles, as well as others.
  • Vertical placement – The three people in discussion as well as the lectern are below eye-level and therefore appear closer than the altar which is nearer the focal point.  On the other hand, each one of the ceiling “staves” appear closer as the eye moves up from focal point.”
  •  Overlap – The balustrade overlaps the altar and provides depth by separating the nave from the altar.
  • Proportion – All forms in the picture are of realistic size and therefore in proportion to one another.

  • Light Logic Analysis

    J.D. Hillberry uses light logic in this drawing to show that the man is peering out through torn fabric or paper from a very dark space with the light source to the viewer’s left.

    In this Rembrandt portrait, the young man sits with the light source to his left.

    The Premise:

    Within the context of Goethe's tringle, we have a model for studying different color relationhips, as well as for demonstrating the fundamental differences between fully saturated hues and true neutrals.


    Using gouache, create a triangle color map based on Goethe's color triangle. Ise the three subtractive primaries to demonstrate the three subtractive secondaries, and the mixture of primary with its secondary complement to create a true neutral (a gray).

    Leon Battista Alberti - (Italian, 1404 to 1472)

    My understanding of the work and color theory of Leon Battista Alberti has as its source, varous blogs and his book, Leon Battista Alberti On Painting, where I find that he believed all colors are derived from four - red, green, blue and grey.

    “Through the mixing of colors infinite other colors are born, but there are only four true colors – as there are four elements – from which more and more other kinds of colors may be thus created. Red is the color of fire, blue of the air, green of the water, and of the earth grey and ash.”

    What Alberti refers to as a “genus” of color, today is referred today as “hue”. And his “species” are what we call tint or shade.He goes on to say,

    “In shadows colors are altered. As the shadow deepens the colors empty out, and as the light increases the colors become more open and clear. For this reason the painter ought to be persuaded that white and black are not true colors but are alterations of other colors.”
    Alberti was firmly of the belief that white and black were not colors but were derived from the four - red, blue, green and grey.

    Alberti, Leon Battista. Leon Battista Alberti On Painting Translation by John R. Spencer New York: Dodd, Mead, 1942.

    Isaac Newton - (English, 1643 to 1727)

    From 1670 to 1672, Newton lectured on optics. During this period he investigated the refraction of light, demonstrating that the multicolored spectrum produced by a prism could be recomposed into white light by a lens and a second prism.

    He showed that colored light does not change its properties by separating out a colored beam and shining it on various objects. Newton noted that regardless of whether it was reflected, scattered, or transmitted, it remained the same color.

    This led him to the observation that color is the result of objects interacting with already-colored light rather than objects generating the color themselves.

    This is known as Newton’s theory of color.

    Jacues Christophe LeBlon - (German, 1667 to 1741)

    Of Preliminaries.

    COLORITTO, or the Harmony of coloring, is the Art of Mixing colorS, in order to represent naturally, in all Degrees of painted Light and Shade, the same FLESH, or color of any other Object, that is represented in the true of pure Light.

       PAINTING can represent all visible Objects with three colors, Yellow, Red, and Blue;  for all other colors can be compos’d of these Three, which I call ‘Primitive; for Example,






    make an Orange color









    make a Purple and Violet color









    make a Green color

       And a Mixture of those Three Original colors makes a Black, and all other colors whatsoever; as I have demonstrated by my Invention of Printing Pictures and Figures with their natural Coleurs.

       I am only speaking of Material colors, or those used by ‘Painters;  for a Mixture of all the primitive impalpable Colors, that cannot be felt, will not produce Black, but the very Contrary, White;  as the Great Sir ISAAC NEWTON has demonstrated in his Optic studies.


    White, is a Concentering, or an Excess of Lights.

    Black, is a deep Hiding, or Privation of Lights.

    Johan Wolfgang von Goethe - (German, 1849 to 1932)

    In 1810 Goethe published his Theory of colors in which he states that light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color. Those colors arise from the ‘dynamic interplay of light and darkness through the mediation of a cloudy medium.’


    Goethe systematically studied the physiological effects of color. His observations of the effect of opposed colors led to arrangement of his color wheel, ‘for the colors diametrically opposed to each other... are those which reciprocally evoke each other in the eye’


    The following from Goethe’s ‘Introduction - Theory of colors’, summarizes well my new understanding:


    ‘Next to the light, a color appears which we call yellow;


    another appears next to the darkness, which we name blue.


    When these, in their purest state, are so mixed that they are exactly equal, they produce a third color called green.


    Each of the two first-named colors can however of itself produce a new tint by being condensed or darkened. They thus acquire a reddish appearance which can be increased to so great a degree that the original blue or yellow is hardly to be recognized in it:


    but the intensest and purest red, especially in physical cases, is produced when the two extremes of the yellow-red and blue-red are noted.


    This is the actual state of the appearance and generation of colors.

    Albert Munsell - (American, 1858 to 1916)


    In 1905, Munsell published, A Color Notation, and in it described the Color Theory he developed while an instructor at the Normal Art School, now known as Massachusetts College of Art and Design.   Later he would publish Atlas of the Color Solid and finally, Munsell Book of Color which contained the results of many years of studying color.  He sensed the need for a new paradigm for defining colors and that system would have a notation of color, rather than just color names.

    In creating this new paradigm, he used various tools, many of which he invented, to make measurements to organize his system.  With these tools he was able to define three dimensions that define color.

    Munsell Hue - The principal hues are red  yellow  green  blue  purple and are arranged in a circle as seen here.  Each hue can be mixed with the same amount of the neighboring hues to create intermediate hues: yellow-red   green-yellow   blue-green   purple-blue   red-purple.

    Munsell Chroma – Before the Munsell Color Theory, chroma was not a term used in the are or scientific community.  Chroma defines the difference between a pure hue and a pure grey.  A color with a chroma of 1 would be very close to grey, as noted in the Munsell Color System image.

    Munsell Value – Defined as the lightness of a color or how much black or white the color contains. White has the lightest value; black has the darkest. The value halfway between these extremes is called middle gray.

    The system classifies any given color according to 1) the closest full or “saturated” color, 2) the closest grey, and 3) the visual difference from that grey, as displayed below:

    Johannes Itten - (Swiss, 1888 to 1967)

    A chronology for Johannes can be found elsewhere in the site...


    The Encounter, Johannes Itten, 1916. Kunsthaus Zürich

      From 1919 to 1922, as a Master at the Bauhaus, Johan Itten taught students his “preliminary course” in the basics of material characteristics, composition, and color. Itten identified seven types of color contrast and devised exercises, found in his book The Elements of Color, for his students to learn them. The seven contrasts are:


      1. Hue
      2. Light-Dark
      3. Cold-Warm
      4. Complementary
      5. Simultaneous
      6. Saturation
      7. Extension


      Itten was heavily influenced by German painter and artist Adolf Holzel (1853 - 1934) and in his book, , he presents his “color sphere” as a furtherance of Holzel’s color wheel.

      What follows are extremely cogent how and why step by step instructions for constructing his 12 hue color circle displayed to the left, as only he could and straight from the pages of his The Elements of Color.


      “By way of introduction to color design, let us develop the 12-hue color circle from the primaries - yellow, red, and blue. As we know, a person with normal vision can identify a red that is neither bluish, nor yellowish; a yellow that is neither greenish, nor reddish: and a blue that 1s neither greenish, nor reddish. In examining each color, it 1s important to view it against a neutral­gray background.


      The primary colors must be defined with the greatest possible accuracy. We place them in an equilateral triangle with yellow at the top, red at the lower right, and blue at the lower left.


      About this triangle we circumscribe a circle, in which we inscribe a regular hexagon In the isosceles triangles between adjacent sides of the hexagon, we place three mixed colors. each composed of two primaries. Thus we obtain the secondary colors:


      yellow + blue=green

      red + blue= violet

      yellow+ red=orange


      The three secondary colors have to be mixed very carefully. They must not lean towards either primary component. You will note that it is no easy task to obtain the secondaries by mixture. orange must be neither too red. nor too yellow; violet neither too red. nor too blue; and green must be neither too yellow, nor too blue.


      Now, at a convenient radius outside the first circle, let us draw another circle, and divide the ring between them into twelve equal sectors. In this ring, we repeat the primaries and secondaries at their appropriate locations, leaving a blank sector between every two colors. In these blank sectors, we then paint the tertiary colors, each of which results from mixing a primary with a secondary, as follows:

       yellow + orange=yelloworange

       red + orange=redorange

       red + violet=redviolet

      blue + violet=blueviolet

      blue + green =bluegreen

      yellow + green =yellowgreen


      Thus we have constructed a regular 12-hue color circle in which each hue has its unmistakable place (Fig. 3) The sequence of the colors is that of the rainbow or natural spectrum.


      Newton obtained a continuous color circle of this kind by supplementing the spectral hues with purple, be  tween red and violet. So the color circle is an artificially augmented spectrum.


      The twelve hues are evenly spaced, with complementary colors diametrically opposite each other.

      One can accurately visualize any of these twelve hues at any time, and any intermediate tones are easily located. I think it is a waste of time for the colorist to practice making 24 hue, or 100 hue, color circles. Can any painter, unaided, visualize Color No. 83 of a 100-hue circle?

      Unless our color names correspond to precise ideas, no useful discussion of colors is possible. I must see my twelve t0nes as precisely as a musician hears the twelve tones of his chromatic scale.


      Delacroix kept a color circle mounted on a wall of his studio, each color labeled with possible combinations. The Impressionists, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Signac, Seurat and others, esteemed Delacroix as an eminent colorist. Delacroix, rather than Cezanne, is the founder of the tendency, among modern artists. to construct works upon logical, objective color principles, so achieving a heightened degree of order and truth.”

    Josef Albers - (German, 1888 - 1976)

    Josef Albers was a student of Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus.  With the closure of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, Josef moved to the US where he took up residence as head of the Art School at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.  In 1950, Josef became head of the department of design at Yale.


    Josef would walk into a classroom and became a master at conducting the performance.  One word that was absolute anathema to him was self-expression.  He maintained that one does not express oneself.  He believed that one has to learn and gain the skills and then create something void of emotional outpourings.


    In his masterpiece work, Interaction of Color, Albers was not interested in creating an exposition on color.  He was not providing rules on color.  He was providing tools to unlock what he considered the magic of color.  He gave many lectures at the time of the release of the book and the core lecture he gave was called “The Magic and Logic of Color.”  The title of the lecture sums up well his approach to teaching as Interaction of Color describes a logical process that advances in steps and unlocks the magic of color.  Albers primary intention in teaching was to provide his students the tools to advance their learning and understanding of how color really behaves.

    The Premise:

    Unity is expressed through the relationship of the parts in a design to the whole. Every element must work with all the others to create a unified whole.


    In the context of ceramic tiles (surface design), create 4 original designs which depict 4 different abstractions of a natural form. The 4 designs will unify into a single larger design.


    Antoni Gaudi's iconic catenary arch is presented in the complementary colors of the four primary colors exhibited in the abstraction of the Sagrada Familia.

    The Process

    For Consideration