Aw10 Form and Space


In graphic design (or any design I suppose), the concept of negative and positive space exists. The negative space, or “white space” is empty space, and a common expression is that white space gives the positive space place to breathe. In this lesson task, I’m going to explore the relationship between positive and negative space to see when the distinction between positive and negative space becomes unclear. Is it dominant colour? Shape? Location? Let’s find out.

In the first example, I placed a black square in the middle of the paper. The distinction is clear: the background is white and the foreground element is black.
Would a dominant colour make the relationship more unclear? Maybe. Here I have a large rectangle, only a little smaller than the outer white. On this one, there are two interpretations: a large black rectangle on a white background or a white frame on a black background.
In the next try, I tried to fill the canvas with elements. Would many elements make the background dissapear? Not in this example, it didn’t.
I tried adding more elements to the background to see if more black could contribute to unclear distinctions. In this case it didn’t either.
Then I moved elements closer to the edges. Now the distinction got a lot less clear, but the black is still the foreground and white is the background.
What if it is not only about elements to the edges, but also the shape of the elements? In this piece, I removed the circles. Now the distinction got really unclear. I believe it is because the white shape is a manageble shape. It is not too complex and it makes sense on it’s own.
To explore that further, I replaced the square with arrows. Now the figure-ground relationship is back. The white shape makes no sense as a shape anymore, or at least the arrows dominate.

The conclusion I draw from this is that a combination of shape, dominant colour and location contributes to the distinction between foreground and background.

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