In this chapter, Leborg explores how objects relate to one another or a composition as a whole. Though it may not seem like it, these relationships are complicated and multi-faceted, so much so that even a standalone object has relationships at work on it. Leborg examines quite a few relationships, but I was particularly interested in the relationships that affect visual weight.
For obvious reasons, visual weight is strongly affected by the amount and dominance of a particular object. Naturally, a group of many large objects together will have more visual weight than fewer, smaller objects grouped together. These objects fill a space, and the denser the arrangement, the less open the space feels – and consequently, the heavier the visual weight is.
Closely relating to this is how coarse or fine a structure, and consequently the objects within the structure, is. In a finer structure, objects are closer together, and even though the objects might be physically smaller, their close proximity can create a more dominant visual weight than larger objects spaced farther apart in a coarse grid. Structures don’t need to be uniform, and the irregularity of diffusion can create stronger visual weight and emphasis in certain areas of a composition, and less intense visual weight in others.
A final component of weight is the illusion is weight itself, based on an object’s position in a composition. Objects in the bottom part of a composition feel grounded and stable and add weight to a composition, while objects in the top feel unsteady or light. This is largely due to how our perceptions of space are defined by the natural constraints of gravity in our world.
To create a harmonious composition, it’s important to consider balance, especially in terms of visual weight. To explore this idea further, I found an article by Steven Bradley on vanseodesign.com* that examines different ways to achieve visual balance through relations. He lists 14 different components that affect visual weight and are necessary to understand in order to create balanced compositions. Many of these are the same relations Leborg examines in this chapter, but Bradley also explores several other elements that contribute to visual weight, including:
- Intrinsic interest – more complex objects will appear to be heavier.
- Volume – a 3 dimensional object appears to have more weight than a 2 dimensional object
- Direction – in order of least to most visual weight: a horizontal object, a vertical object, and a diagonal object
- Perceived visual weight – an object that is heavier in real life, like a car, will appear heavier than a lighter object in real life, like a feather.
Understanding what elements have an effect on visual weight is critical so it’s possible to create dynamic yet balanced compositions – and not just based on visual symmetry. Explorations with different ways to add and balance weight in our compositions is critical so we can create interest in a variety of ways.