Visual Design in Action by Ladislav Sutnar

Graphic Design, Resources

Ladislav Sutnar, born in 1897 in Czechoslovakia, is called by some the father of information design, which is a discipline of graphic design.

Following his country occupation by the Nazi in 1939, he emigrated in New York where his contribution to American graphic design brought him an AIGA medal in 1995, almost 20 years after his death.

He was the one adding the parentheses around the American telephone area code numbers when they were first introduced by Bell Telephone Co. and as such, most of his work focused on communicating information by making it clear and accessible to the users.

Without efficient typography, the jet plane pilot cannot read his instrument panel fast enough to survive.

With the same objective…

A designer’s aim is always to intensify comprehension.

While he was the art director of F.W. Dodge’s Sweet’s Catalog Service, he wrote two books together with Knud Lönberg-Holmin on the information flow in industrial catalogs: “Catalog design” (1944) and “Catalog design progress” (1950).

He is though best known for the book “Visual design in action” published in 1961 and considered an iconic book of the mid-century, really informative and still relevant today. It reveals Sutnar’s directions on how to use colours, typography, scale and repetition based on his approach to graphic design:

resolution of the polarities of function versus form, utility versus beauty, and rational versus irrational

And now it can be yours 😉 as Designers & Books started a campaign on Kickstarter for reprinting this wonderful book, which has been successfully funded a week after the launch. Therefore, if you make your pledge of $62 by June 4th, a facsimile edition will arrive at your door this October, yay!

How do you feel about this project? Excited about the opportunity of having your very own “Visual design in action” by Ladislav Sutnar on your bookshelf?

function-complex-victor-papanek

Design for the real world by Victor Papanek

Resources

Even if written in 1971, “Design for the real world” by Victor Papanek is still relevant today and probably will always be since it’s advocating responsible design in a world where the resources are getting poorer. He strongly believes that design must be used to shape the society in a positive way by improving the life quality of the ones in need.

Design is the conscious effort to impose meaningful order.

Anything that does not add functional value is considered by Victor Papanek as a perversion of design. In a more elaborated definition of Louis Sullivan’s simple principle that “Form follows function”, he enunciates six parts of the function complex.

function-complex-victor-papanek

  1. METHOD: the interaction of tools, materials and processes which need to be used optimally by appealing to creativity
  2. USE: answering to the question “does it work?”
  3. NEED: genuine need (economic, psychological, spiritual, technological, intellectual) vs. instilled one by fad and fashion
  4. TELESIS: the design must reflect the times and conditions that have given rise to it and must fit in with the human socio-economic context
  5. ASSOCIATION: our psychological condition determined by environment, education and culture comes into play towards or against a certain value
  6. AESTHETICS: a tool that helps to transform shapes and colours into elements that move and please us

I do encourage you to read this book and share your opinion in the comments.

picture_this_points_and_curves_shapes

Picture This by Molly Bang

Graphic Design, Resources

Molly Bang shows us in a wonderful visual book how emotions can be very well represented only by abstract shapes with a series of principles in mind.

The key of how emotions are brought on the canvas stays in the associations of colours, shapes and placement of the elements forming a picture with our own experiences from the day to day life. Therefore, this kind of associations determines our emotional response to a picture.

I have gathered all the principles and represented them by shapes as showed in the book not to get away from the point made by Molly Bang. All these principles work together, they impact one another and are also linked to the context and content.

Gravity
  1. Horizontal shapes give us a sense of stability, even more if they are wide & flat (grounded)
  2. Vertical shapes are more exciting and inspire energy (skyscrapers)
  3. Diagonal shapes are very dynamic and signal motion by expressing objects moving from one state to another and tension due to balance challenge
  4. An object placed on the upper half of the picture looks like it’s floating which makes you think of happiness, spirituality, freedom.
  5. An object placed on the bottom half of the picture looks heavier and more constrained

picture this gravity

Frame

  1. If you put an object in the center of the page, then it will be the greatest point of attraction. To be avoided when the picture is meant to be explored.
  2. When there is no object on the centre of the page and even more, when there are objects crossing over the page, then the picture takes a more dynamic form.

picture this frame

Light and Dark

White/ light backgrounds feel safer than black/ dark backgrounds. White signifies brightness & hope and is used to represent the day while black signifies the unknown & fears and is ideal for showcasing night moments or twilight or bad weather like a storm.

picture this light and dark

Points and curves

Pointy shapes look threatening to us while curved shapes look like they embrace and protect us giving a sense of security.

picture this points and curves

Size

The larger an object in the picture, the strongest it feels.

picture this size

Colour associations

We associate the same or similar colours seen within a picture frame much strongly than we associate shapes.

picture this colour

Repetition & confusion

We prefer repetition over confusion as the first gives us a sense of stability while the latter is frightening for most of us. In the same time, too much repetition is monotonous so either extreme is not preferable.

picture this repetition and confusion

Contrasts

We notice a contrast. This can be between shapes, sizes, colours, placement or any combination of these elements.

picture this contrast

Space

  1. If an object is separated by an empty space from a group of objects, it will look alone, free or vulnerable.
  2. The shapes may imply movement but also may the space between them.
  3. Overlapping two or more objects will blend them together.
  4. A sense of depth can be created by keeping a regular geometric progression rather than an arithmetic one in the space between the objects i.e. if space is 1/2 smaller than the preceding one rather than a fixed amount.
  5. Space implies time, therefore in a situation of danger it will be more tension between two objects farther away than closer as you have the time to become aware of what is about to happen. It’s true that very little space can create the feeling of tension as well.

picture this space

The book also has, in the end, some exercises that invite you to play around with shapes and colours and apply these principles in order to tell a story and communicate a feeling or mood. For example, situations that represent danger like a group of birds attacking a victim or a person trapped in a cage or illustrations of emotions expressed in a poem, painting or song.

I love it that there are so many ways of exploration and the recommended limitation to 3 colours plus white and the usage of sole circles, rectangles and triangles, only make it more interesting.

I gave it a try and exposed myself in the playground area, so you can check mine here. And I am super curious to see yours so please do not hold back from sharing your experiments! 🙂