Courses Design Principles page 3


3 Defining Space through Scale and Value

A Using no more than four squares of varying dimensions, show space using scale. Exaggeration of small to large creates the most dramatic effect.

B Using four squares of varying values of gray to black create a spatial composition.



4 Illustration Two Shapes as One, as Two or in Tension
The next series of exercises has to do with different manifestations of tension. Tension is a very important design tool that has numerous interpretations. An old painter once described tension as a very important something between two points where there is nothing.

Tension exists in color, drawing, relationship of shapes, and it is extremely important in any kind of composition – typographic or otherwise. Tension is a principle that is manipulated for numerous effects or purposes. As such, it is one of the most important design tools a designer can exploit. It is essential to recognize and to know how to use tension.

Divide the 10 x 10 inch picture plane horizontally into thirds with lines using a rapidiograph pen.

Top section: two squares placed next to one another to appear as one shape.

Middle section: move the squares to opposite edges to read as two shapes.

Bottom section: slide the square back and forth until you ind that exact point where it cannot be determined if it is one or two shapes – that will be the tension point.


5 Tension Relationships
Using one four-inch black square (or a four-inch square from a photograph) and one linear unit (or a line of 10 point type) 1/8 x 3 1/2 inches make three arrangements – either static or dynamic:

A Relate linear unit to square as one shape.

B Put linear unit into tension relationship with square.

C Make linear unit and square two separate entities that are visually related.

1/8-inch strip must align with left side of the larger square in all three exercises.

The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how captions can relate to photograph, illustration or any other element. This is of particular importance because too many designers do not recognize the importance of the visual dynamics of this relationship.



6 Tension to Achieve Visual Balance
Using three squares and one 1/2-inch red circle, activate the entire ten-inch picture plane using tension. Arrange squares into an unbalanced format, and then create a visual balance using the red dot; at the same time, activating the entire picture plane. It works best if the red dot is slid up or down the edges.

A Using one red dot

B Using two red dots

C Optional: You can use dots and three lines of type.



7 Preserving Integrity of a Shape with Tension
A four-inch black square is cut vertically into three sections, one of which will be one-eighth inch wide,and the other cuts are made at the student's discretion.

Squares can be placed in either a static or dynamic relationship to the edges. Sections can be rearranged.

The sections are slid back and forth to ind the greatest amount of tension between the sections. Top and bottom edges must always align with all sides parallel. The objective is to retain the integrity of the three shapes as one shape through tension.

8 Figure-Ground as Tension>

Download PDF

Exercise 3A

Exercise 3B


Exercise 4


Exercise 5A, B, C


Exercise 6A, B


Exercise 7

Site Index




. 1 2 3 4 5 6