A summary/response to a reading about abstract objects in Visual Grammar by Christian Leborg.
Point. Line. Surface. Volume. Dimension. It feels like math class all over again, except instead of trying to find out how many cubic centimeters an object is or how long a triangle’s hypotenuse is, I now will be asking myself what can I make with these?
But before building, there must be understanding. There must be an understanding that these building blocks don’t physically exist in two-dimensional design – it’s merely an abstract representation that only appears to exist. These are not tangible blocks. On my computer screen, they’re pixels. Perhaps that gives us freedom as designers, especially in our computer-based world. If we don’t put the blocks together in quite the right way, we can always take them apart and rearrange.
We must also understand how these elements work together. Connecting two points gives us a line, even though every spot on the line is still technically its own point. Putting multiple lines together creates a surface (where again, individual lines and points are still at play, just not necessarily visible). Combining or stacking surfaces in a particular way gives us volume. And volume gives us the illusion of dimension. But all of these elements are still only illusions if they exist in two dimensions.
A culminating understanding needs to be about format. Leborg asserts that we would be unable to make sense of anything visual if we cannot interpret it within constraints about time, surface, and space. Dimension is a perfect example that Leborg gives of these limits in our perception. The fourth dimension exists, but because we only live in a three-dimensional world, it is impossible for us to perceive.
Leborg’s definitions of these abstract principles were just that: definitions. His reading is technical, but requires the readers to think critically to apply it (at least based on the reading in this section). Steven Bradley, a web designer, delves deeper into the principles found in Visual Grammar, especially in relation to line, in his blog post called “The Meaning of Lines: Developing a Visual Grammar.” *
Bradley reasserts Leborg’s definition of lines merely being adjacent points, but then delves into the different kind of lines: thin, thick, dashed, implied, curved, long or short. He also explores how a combination of lines arranged in a variety of ways creates pattern (which sometimes can be an implied surface, as well).
More importantly, though, Bradley examines the meaning that can come from different visual treatments of lines and patterns. He explains that thick lines suggest strength and give emphasis, while thin lines are fragile. Vertical lines have upward motion, while horizontal lines are more static and stable. Understanding that meaning is inherent in all things visual is critical for us to realize, so that we not only focus on the aesthetics of our work, but also the implied meaning behind it.
For us to be successful designers, we cannot neglect these basics. Doing so would lead to thoughtless and unintelligent work.
*His post can be found here: http://www.vanseodesign.com/web-design/visual-grammar-lines/