Welcome to Art 101 – Introduction to 2D Design

Course Description

This course is for students with little or no experience in design for the visual arts. In general, we will explore practices, concepts, history and aesthetic impact of two-dimensional design. The organization of form on two-dimensional surfaces; history of type and practice of lettering: integration of imagery and type; traditional techniques of illustration using pen and pencil as well as collage and assemblage. We will also explore documentation of theoretical and/or historical issues relevant to contemporary practice.

Specifically, however, this semester we will be making connections between narrative concepts found in film – such as plot structure and mise en scène – and visual concepts found in art and design, and embodied in graphic design principles. This course will also explores confluence of modern art and design practices in film.

Syllabus

[Click here] to download the course syllabus.

 
Topics covered today:

Project #1 – Visual Plot Analysis – Due September 19th

Part 1.) Pick a film or tv show you've never seen before and watch first 10 min with the sound off. Pay attention to the visual language that forms. Describe what you think is going on the 10 min clip and analyse what is happening visually to communicate story development:
  • is it tense, is it funny, fast paced or slow?
  • Are the characters in danger? Are they at peace?
  • What visual cues are communicating the plot to you?

Part 2.) Now watch the last 10 minutes and answer the same questions. Has the story changed and what visual cues communicate this to you?

Part 3.) Find 2-3 frames each from both the first and last 10 minute sections that best illustrate your points. You have two class periods to complete this.  

(Why no sound? As was the case in Eisenstein’s day, silence will force you to pay more attention to visual language)

What should a visual plot analysis look like? There's no right or wrong way to create one. I created a very detailed one for Denis Villeneuve's Socario (2015), so [click here to download an example of my visual plot analysis.] I included many screenshots, whereas you only need to have a few – 2-3 from the first ten minutes, and 2-3 from the last ten minutes. 

Modernism continued.

In class exercise: Making an Event Modern

Project #1 – Visual Plot Analysis – Due September 19th

Part 1.) Pick a film or tv show you've never seen before and watch first 10 min with the sound off. Pay attention to the visual language that forms. Describe what you think is going on the 10 min clip and analyse what is happening visually to communicate story development:

  • is it tense, is it funny, fast paced or slow?
  • Are the characters in danger? Are they at peace?
  • What visual cues are communicating the plot to you?
Part 2.) Now watch the last 10 minutes and answer the same questions. Has the story changed and what visual cues communicate this to you?


Part 3.) Take screen shots to support your assertions. You have two class periods to complete this.  Use this [scene analysis template] to help get you started!


(Why no sound? As was the case in Eisenstein’s day, silence will force you to pay more attention to visual language)

What should a visual plot analysis look like? There's no right or wrong way to create one. I created one for Denis Villeneuve's Socario (2015), so [click here to download an example of my visual plot analysis.]
visual plot crits
midterm intro
begin sketches for minimals
minimal poster examples,
making a minimal poster in class

Part 2 – Maximal Movie Poster

For the second part of our final project, we are going to create a movie poster for the same film or television show, but instead of a minimalist design aesthetic, we will be going in the opposite direction: maximal.  To get you thinking about this, we'll be doing a tutorial today in class to discuss the processes of selection, masking, and compositing together a maximal poster. [Click here to download files to use for today's class].

Before we start, though, let's take a look at some maximal posters and analyze what's going on in them. As you'll see, the challenge here is to include as many elements as possible (characters, plot devices, locations, etc.) on one page, essentially throwing the entire contents of the story – or at least everything that will sell it – at a potential audience.  Examples of these types of posters can be seen below:



As you can see, the aesthetic of these posters is garish, outlandish, and often unsuccessful (not to mention objectifying to women…)  However, the successful ones achieve good compositional flow and structure by doing the following: 

  • Unity: the good posters seen here unify their elements somehow, so they appear to be part of one big, awesome family. This gives the impression that – whatever the situation these characters are in – it will be altogether entertaining to watch. The Star Wars poster below, for example, exhibits a good amount of unity:The main characters here are unified by proximity
  • Variety: obvious variety is at play here because there literally a bunch of different characters and other scene elements (cars, explosions, machine guns, etc.) all piled up on top of each other. If nothing else, variety is essentially the one defining principle of these maximal posters!MPW-54785
  • Balance/Imbalance: there is no right or wrong way to use balance or imbalance, but whatever you do in regards to balance, do so with intention! The poster below is for a movie you should never have any reason to see (aside from the presence of Bill Murray). However, though it is mostly balanced, this composition also has an interesting imbalance – the nerdy girl on the right, and the two boys under the fence – which perhaps foreshadows their off-kilter positions in the story. We may never know, as we should never ever watch this movie...meatballs-poster-artwork-harvey-atkin-bill-murray-kristine-debell
  • Content Flow: good content flow is achieved in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most common
    • Uneven spacing
      • 27114ed141e95e152a83ee17ad9014ad
    • Rhythm
      • d6458ade6925e8756dc71235fde04f6b
    • A strong focal point
      • MV5BMTc5MDM1Njg2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE1MjUxNjE@. V1 UY1200 CR90,0,630,1200 AL
    • graphic elements that move your eye along
      • 197ecc3eb728ff988ff77c6e8b8aae0c
    • varied size relationships (which helps create a meaningful hierarchy)
      • f90a329bbcf8e69e2dc45031463f09c3
    • visually interesting negative space
      • 8540609db78aa80c11001b67337c14cc
You will be expected to incorporate as many of these principles into your project as possible, and to explain to us at the time of the final where you have done so. 

Project Guidelines

The good news? The guidelines for this project are very similar to those outlined above for the minimalist poster. In fact, you’ve already done much of it! You have thought about your film’s story and have identified important elements: the indices. You have made a list of these story indices.  You have, or will have, drawn thumbnails of the more iconic elements from your film that can be indexes for the whole story.  Now your job is to sketch examples of compositions that include many or all of the indices!

Here is a really rough sketch I did…
maximal-sketch

And here is how my final version turned out:

My final execution of the original design concepts above...

In Class Exercise: Making a Maximal Poster

[Click here to download the files for this exercise]

work in class
preliminary crits for midterm

[The Midterm project presentation is October 31 at 1:00Pm

 

Part 1 – The Minimalist Movie Poster

For the first part of our midterm project, we are going to be creating movie posters. In this case, we will be exploring a recent trend in poster design called minimalist movie posters. These posters are incredibly pared down 2D designs that succinctly capture the films they were created for. They can often be a sort of visual one-liner as well. Take a look at these examples:



Project Guidelines

1.)Think about your film’s story. What’s important? What are the pivotal moments in the film can represent the entire film. Likewise, what scene elements (props, costuming, people, and other details) can stand for entire scenes or events in the film? Examples include: the spinning top in Inception; the creepy face-mask from Silence of the Lambs; the bench from Forest Gump, and so on.

These examples are called indices. One of three types of signs, along with icons and symbols, the index points to – or indicates – the presence of the object it represents, without representing it directly. Here are just a few of the stills from 2001: A Space Odyssey that jumped out at me as being representative of the entire film. They helped influence my later sketches below:

2.)Make a list of these story indices. Here is my list:

  • Apes fighting
  • Spaceships and space stations
  • The Monolith
  • The space pod
  • the man in the spacesuit floating dead in space
  • the face of the astronaut in the space pod as he travels through the monolith
  • the fetus and sphere
  • Discovery One
  • The planets aligning
  • HAL (the red eye)

3.)Draw thumbnails of the more iconic elements from your film that can be indices for the whole story. Which of these can – either alone, combined, or somehow reconfigured – be used to tell the whole story, or a powerful moment from the story?

Thumbnails are very quick and dirty drawings that help you explore a subject quickly. Don’t spend a lot of time on these (I sure didn't): 

IMG 0268

Speed is the key when you're trying to brainstorm as many ideas as you can!

4.)Create composition sketches to help you work out ideas! Here are some of the ideas I am roughing out based on some of my thumbanils and some of the screenshots shown above. 


5.)Final Compositions: based on class critique of your sketches and rough drafts, and conversation with me, choose your most successful sketch and work it into a finished composition.

 Here are few of my final compositions:


Part 2 – Maximal Movie Poster

For the second part of our final project, we are going to create a movie poster for the same film or television show, but instead of a minimalist design aesthetic, we will be going in the opposite direction: maximal.  The challenge here is to include as many elements as possible (characters, plot devices, locations, etc.) on one page, essentially throwing the entire contents of the story at a potential audience.  Examples of these types of posters can be seen below:



As you can see, the aesthetic of these posters is garish, outlandish, and often unsuccessful (not to mention objectifying to women…)  However, the successful ones achieve good compositional flow and structure by doing the following: 
  • Unity: the good posters seen here unify their elements somehow, so they appear to be part of one big, awesome family. This gives the impression that – whatever the situation these characters are in – it will be altogether entertaining to watch. The Star Wars poster below, for example, exhibits a good amount of unity:
    The main characters here are unified by proximity
    The main characters here are unified by proximity
  • Variety: obvious variety is at play here because there literally a bunch of different characters and other scene elements (cars, explosions, machine guns, etc.) all piled up on top of each other. If nothing else, variety is essentially the one defining principle of these maximal posters!
    MPW-54785
    Beyond just being insanely awesome, this poster also has a good amount of variety: every single elements is new and exciting. If you haven't seen Machete, you haven't really lived...
  • Balance/Imbalance: there is no right or wrong way to use balance or imbalance, but whatever you do in regards to balance, do so with intention! The poster below is for a movie you should never have any reason to see (aside from the presence of Bill Murray). However, though it is mostly balanced, this composition also has an interesting imbalance – the nerdy girl on the right, and the two boys under the fence – which perhaps foreshadows their off-kilter positions in the story. We may never know, as we should never ever watch this movie...
    meatballs-poster-artwork-harvey-atkin-bill-murray-kristine-debell
    Balance and imbalance in perfect opposition...
  • Content Flow: good content flow is achieved in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most common
    • Uneven spacing
      • 27114ed141e95e152a83ee17ad9014ad
    • Rhythm
      • d6458ade6925e8756dc71235fde04f6b
    • A strong focal point
      • MV5BMTc5MDM1Njg2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE1MjUxNjE@. V1 UY1200 CR90,0,630,1200 AL
    • graphic elements that move your eye along
      • Star-Wars-VI-Return-Jedi-affiche
    • varied size relationships (which helps create a meaningful hierarchy)
      • 27114ed141e95e152a83ee17ad9014ad
    • visually interesting negative space

You will be expected to incorporate as many of these principles into your project as possible, and to explain to us at the time of the final where you have done so. 

Project Guidelines

The good news? The guidelines for this project are very similar to those outlined above for the minimalist poster. In fact, you’ve already done much of it! You have thought about your film’s story and have identified important elements: the indices. You have made a list of these story indices.  You have, or will have, drawn thumbnails of the more iconic elements from your film that can be indexes for the whole story.  Now your job is to sketch examples of compositions that include many or all of the indices!

Here is a really rough sketch I did…

maximal-sketch

And here is how my final version turned out:

My final execution of the original design concepts above...



How you'll be graded:

  • Thumbnails and sketches – 25%
  • Initial Drafts of Compositions – 25%
  • Final Compositions (2 posters) – 50%

Final Project: Film Reconstruction

I want to begin the class with a brief discussion of the [final project].

Color Theory

Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts and design applications - enough to fill several encyclopedias. However, there are three basic categories of color theory that are logical and useful : The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used.


The Color Wheel

A color circle, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the field of art. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept. Differences of opinion about the validity of one format over another continue to provoke debate. In reality, any color circle or color wheel which presents a logically arranged sequence of pure hues has merit.

Three color wheels - Harris, Today, Goethe 


There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on the color wheel. We begin with a 3-part color wheel.
 
Primary Secondary Tertiary Colors

Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue
In traditional color theory (used in paint and pigments), primary colors are the 3 pigment colors that can not be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues. 

Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple
These are the colors formed by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That's why the hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.


 Color Harmony

Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, color, or even an ice cream sundae.

In visual experiences, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience. When something is not harmonious, it's either boring or chaotic. At one extreme is a visual experience that is so bland that the viewer is not engaged. The human brain will reject under-stimulating information. At the other extreme is a visual experience that is so overdone, so chaotic that the viewer can't stand to look at it. The human brain rejects what it can not organize, what it can not understand. The visual task requires that we present a logical structure. Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.

In summary, extreme unity leads to under-stimulation, extreme complexity leads to over-stimulation. Harmony is a dynamic equilibrium.

Some Formulas for Color Harmony

There are many theories for harmony. The following illustrations and descriptions present some basic formulas.


1. A color scheme based on analogous colors

ctheory leaf 

Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.
 

2. A color scheme based on complementary colors

ctheory orchid  

Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green. In the illustration above, there are several variations of yellow-green in the leaves and several variations of red-purple in the orchid. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and maximum stability.
 

3. A color scheme based on nature

cteory nature

Nature provides a perfect departure point for color harmony. In the illustration above, red yellow and green create a harmonious design, regardless of whether this combination fits into a technical formula for color harmony.

Color Scheme Generators


Color Context

How color behaves in relation to other colors and shapes is a complex area of color theory. Compare the contrast effects of different color backgrounds for the same red square.

ct 4redsq

Red appears more brilliant against a black background and somewhat duller against the white background. In contrast with orange, the red appears lifeless; in contrast with blue-green, it exhibits brilliance. Notice that the red square appears larger on black than on other background colors.

Different readings of the same color

ct 3 4

If your computer has sufficient color stability and gamma correction, you will see that the small purple rectangle on the left appears to have a red-purple tinge when compared to the small purple rectangle on the right. They are both the same color as seen in the illustration below. This demonstrates how three colors can be perceived as four colors.

ct 3 4 proof

Observing the effects colors have on each other is the starting point for understanding the relativity of color. The relationship of values, saturations and the warmth or coolness of respective hues can cause noticeable differences in our perception of color.

Examining Color Interaction

Now that we have a basic understanding of color theory, we are going to do a few hand-on exercises that explore design elements and principles surrounding color. First we will explore the Josef Albers Homage to the Square series, wherein he experimented with basic form and color relativity.  Color relativity is the concept that the same color will appear different depending on the colors it is juxtaposed with, and it permeates many aspects of 2D design. This phenomenon is also called, more generally, color interaction.
 
albers
 
Albers explored color relativity and color interaction in many ways during his impressive career, but chief among these explorations was the Homage to the Square series, begun in 1949. He painted hundreds of these homages over a period of years, each composition featuring three or four nested square forms of solid colors.  His gameplan? To understand how colors appear differently when they overlap, and to see what kinds of emotions, movement, and meanings the juxtapositions could create.
 
Today we will begin exploring color interaction and relativity by using colors found in our favorite films or television episodes, and then using these found colors to build our own homages. These will be useful for finding which colors we could use in our final projects, but also how these colors interact with each other and how they should be juxtaposed.  I found some interesting colors in stills from the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey:
 
 
Below are the interaction studies I created from the colors found in the above images:
 
2001-Albers-Color-Study_04.jpgalbers-2001-square-02.jpgalbers-2001-square-03.jpgalbers-2001-square.jpg

Examining Color Interaction

Today we are going to do a few hand-on exercises that explore design elements and principles. First we will explore the Josef Albers Homage to the Square series, wherein he experimented with basic form and color relativity. Color relativity is the concept that the same color will appear different depending on the colors it is juxtaposed with, and it permeates many aspects of 2D design. This phenomenon is also called, more generally, color interaction.
 
albers
 
Albers explored color relativity and color interaction in many ways during his impressive career, but chief among these explorations was the Homage to the Square series, begun in 1949. He painted hundreds of these homages over a period of years, each composition featuring three or four nested square forms of solid colors.  His gameplan? To understand how colors appear differently when they overlap, and to see what kinds of emotions, movement, and meanings the juxtapositions could create.
Today we will begin exploring color interaction and relativity by using colors found in our favorite films or television episodes, and then using these found colors to build our own homages. These will be useful for finding which colors we could use in our final projects, but also how these colors interact with each other and how they should be juxtaposed.  I found some interesting colors in stills from the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey:
 
 
Below are the interaction studies I created from the colors found in the above images:
 
2001-Albers-Color-Study_04.jpgalbers-2001-square-02.jpgalbers-2001-square-03.jpgalbers-2001-square.jpg

Today we are going to recreate the following compositions in class:

  • still-of-apes-huddled-in-morning
  • still-of-apes-huddled-under-monolith

The making of these two compositions will cover a lot of the basic concepts that you will need to make your own compositons, such as a.)masking, b.)compositing, c.)adjustment layers, and d.)collage. [Click here] for the exercise files, and see below for a tutorial video on how I made these compositions:

reconstruction discussion
in class exercise: creating the reconstructions in photoshop
work in class
preliminary critique for reconstructions

Directions

Project due December 19 at 1:00pm. Choose one of your favorite films or episodes
  1. Write a 1-2 page treatment
  2. Analyze scene composition for visual rules
    1. [click here] for an example
    2. EG: In Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, I noticed that he and his production design team used circles and rectangular shapes to punctuate certain plot points and heighten the pacing of others. The following screenshots are good examples of this:
      • Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 9.58.13 AM
      • Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.14.57 AM
      • Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.21.06 AM
      • Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.38.01 AM
  3. Make note of angles, color, shape, proportion, scale, texture, etc. As you can see from the above, I saw the circle emerge as a kind of thematic shape. Your film might use proportions, or space, an interesting color palette.  
  4. Choose new visual rules – or rethink the originals. Now that you've analysed and identified some of the more striking visual rules used in the film you chose, try retelling this story – or a particular scene in this story – visually, in 30 storyboards or less. Below are some methods you might think about using to reframe a visual story:
    • If a particular shape or form reoccurs, use a different shape.
    • If a particular focal length (camera angle) is used, try a different angle.
    • For example:
      • If close ups are common, try wide.
      • In the camera angle is notably high (i.e. from above, looking down), try a sideways/profile instead.
    • If you notice a striking use of a particular color: use that color somewhere unexpected.
    • Look at the positioning of elements (e.g. people and other focal points) on screen. Are they centered? In one of the rule of third intersection points? Or something else entirely? Try rethinking how to tell a scene or sequence using alternative positioning. If the filmmakers often center a character, try placing them just on the edge of the frame.
    • Or try a combination of these ideas!

Examples:

As I mentioned above, I noticed a clear usage of a circular theme in 2001 that I wanted to explore more deeply. I wanted to see if it were possible to tell this same story with a triangle. To do this, I picked a few scenes and reimagined them through sketches, trying to incorporate the triangle theme into each of them. Here are a few of my sketches:

Finished Compositions

Finally, here are three fleshed-out compositions, inspired by the above sketches:

 

How you'll be graded:

  1. Treatment – 5%
  2. Visual analysis – 10%
  3. Plot mountain – 5%
  4. Sketches – 30%
    1. Maximum of 30 sketches of re-designed scenes 
  5. Final Compositions and Critique on March 31st – 50%
    1. Minimum of 3 fleshed out re-designed screen compositions, arrived at via your sketches.

 

Material Guidelines

You might assume I want these done digitally, in Photoshop, Illustrator, or some other computer-based design application, (because that is what I did for my own). This is untrue: You are free to create your final compositions in any and all mediums you feel comfortable working in, including:

  • Paint (oil, watercolor, tempura, etc)
  • Pen and ink
  • Photo collage
  • Cut paper
  • Found 2D objects (aka garbage)
  • Anything i haven't thought of...like pancakes:


Please email me with any questions or comments. I'll see you next week!! 

Composting Exercise: We'll making these compositions in class, as they cover a lot of the basic concepts that you will need to make your own, such as a.)masking, b.)compositing, c.)adjustment layers, and d.)collage. [Click here] for the exercise files, and see below for a tutorial video on how I made these compositions: