Friday, March 18, 2011

Schoolism Sale

In case anyone's interested, the self-taught version of my Schoolism class is $100 off for a short time!  The self-taught class has all the lectures from the full version, but doesn't include the personalized critiques,  instruction, and paintovers.  For more information, go here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Order and Chaos

One of the objectives of good design is to create something aesthetically appealing.  Aesthetic appeal does not necessarily mean beauty in the traditional sense---so appeal could be awkward, or even "ugly," if it strikes the right chord and your audience likes the result.  That said, there is an element of beauty to every great design, even when "ugly" is the purpose.
Purpose, premise, and story are intuitive (but not necessarily automatic) parts of the appeal equation, because most people can sense when a story is interesting, or when a premise is new, or when a personality resonates with them.  But what about all these seemingly arbitrary rules about the visual relationships of lines, shapes, and colors?  Are these universal rules or something that is a product of our art culture?
My answer (and this is a working hypothesis so feel free to chime in) is that while the current trends in visual design aren't universal, the thing driving those trends is.  The universally appealing law underlying the use of design principles is the age-old conflict between order and chaos.

Order versus chaos is a fundamental struggle of the universe.  Creation struggles against entropy, explosive stars struggle against gravity, life struggles against plague and famine.  Convection, which life on earth depends on, is the byproduct of systems seeking stasis, but the result is incredibly chaotic.

Original file here
Order and chaos are also a fundamental human struggle.  We seek stasis in our lives, but then we're not happy for long once we achieve it.  This is one of the major forces driving industry, war, and politics---people, societies, and countries endlessly striving against each other either in the attempt to reach a sense of security or to sate their dissatisfaction with the security that they enjoy.

I believe this is what makes great designs appeal to something deep inside us.  When something is too ordered it becomes boring, but when it's too chaotic it's overwhelming.  This struggle is such an integral part of life that when a design balances this struggle in a way that parallels what we experience in nature, it can resonate with us in the same way that a great story can.

The idea of order vs. chaos has a huge variety and depth of application in design and painting, so that's what I'm going to talk about in the next series of posts.