Relations play a fundamental role in the perception of a composition. Objects in a composition interact with the viewer, format, and other elements within the composition to evoke emotion, create balance and harmony, imply direction and position, or create space and tactile weight.
Objects in a composition can be arranged in varying ways. If objects are grouped together they will either attract or repel one another, but a single object will be static, meaning that the influential forces are equally strong on all sides of the object.
Balance is created through the positioning of objects on a page in relation to one another. When objects are identically arranged on both sides of an axis, or spine of a two-page spread, they are symmetrical. However, balance does not have to come from the symmetrical layout of identical objects, it can be achieved in a composition through optical equilibrium. Think of a teeter-totter. Balance can be reached by two kids of equal weight sitting on either side, or by multiple children on one side and an adult on the other.
When you group objects together in a composition you can begin creating super-units which are named after their underlying structures. These super-units can then be positioned in a composition to define a structure in a layout, or reinforce space and tactile weight.
In this article, author Ester Liquori discusses how the six Gestalt principles; proximity, figure-ground, closure, continuity, common fate, and similarity, play an integral role in graphic design and creating a dynamic composition. Liquori focuses on the importance of the psychology of the Gestalt principles, “because design is all about emotion and perception from the target.”
Liquori states that, “how people visually perceive designs is of basic importance for designers. When creating a logo, website, or any other graphic product, designers have to take into consideration the whole and not simply the sum of the parts.” Liquori goes on to explain how it is the “complex totality of the elements and relationships among them, which creates the meaning.”
The article proceeds with Liquori explaining how the Gestalt principles have been applied to different corporate logos. The first logo she discusses is one in which proximity of line has been used to create an illusion of a shape. Like Leborg, Liquori makes note of how the designer has played with a common visual association of how people experience the world to create an illusion of a skyline through proximity.
Although Liquori’s article mostly focuses on the Gestalt principles, which relate to the psychological impacts of design decisions on the viewer, it is a good article to accompany the section on Relations in Leborg’s book Visual Grammar. While Leborg uses the section on object relations to highlight using objects to build a composition, Liquori’s article discusses how those object relations impacts a viewer’s perception in corporate design.
This poster design is an example of figure-ground. The artist has used a cooler color for the background, with a highly saturated white color for the foreground figures. The artist has also used overlapping to create a sense of depth.
In this poster circles have been repeated to form a group. They have been repeated along the form of a circular structure, so the above units would be called circular groups. However, Leborg also makes note that “the points at which a unit is seen as an equilateral polygon instead of a circle is a question of definition.” Therefor, because the above image seems to be grouped along both the curved lines of a circular form, and along the straight lines of a polygon, as implied by the lines within the circles, I would argue the above image could be considered either kind of group.
According to Leborg, balance is when all elements in a composition have optical equilibrium. In this poster, optical equilibrium is achieved through the use of color, and the symmetrical contour lines used to frame the figures faces.
SPACE AND WEIGHT-thinkingform.com
In the image on the left, the artist has used dense and open areas to create space. By grouping the objects in the upper left corner of the poster, the artist has created an illusion of sky. This illusion has been achieved due to our association of up with sky, circles with clouds, and the color yellow with the sun or moon.