If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
~ Gautama Buddha, circa 563 B.C.E
No one understands this miracle in one, more so than trade show designers and exhibit visual designers. The perennial philosolphy "Pick the best and use it everywhere" is usually the foolproof rule of exhibition and gallery graphics. However, it would be impossible for an institution with rich heritage and artifacts ranging from hundreds of years to focus on ONE. For exmple, British Galleries at the V&A contained 400 years of the ﬁnest British furniture, art, and interior design ever collected. Picking one was going to be tough. So Michael Johnson picked few instead and let the visitor imagine what wearing, leaning on, or snogging in front of all these treasures might feel like.
Every artist have slightly different list of principles. Usually, the four below works for me.
Emphasis - "Center of Interest." It is about dominance and influence. Most artists put it a bit off center and balance it with some minor themes to maintain our interest. Some artists avoid emphasis on purpose. They want all parts of the work to be equally interesting.
Harmony - As in music, complementary layers and/or effects can be merged to produce a more attractive whole. The composition is complex, but everything appears to fit with everything else. The whole is better than the sum of its parts.
Unity - "When nothing distracts from the whole, you have unity." Unity without variation can be monotonous. Unity with diversity generally has more to offer in both art and in life. Of course, some very minimal art can be very calming and at times even very evocative. A simple landscape can have a powerful effect.
Opposition - This is my favourite. Usage of contrasting visual concepts. That plains of Dakota with "big sky" landscape becomes very dramatic and expressive when a storm builds in the southwest.
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Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka