In this latest installment of Wonderland Cafe, I'm going to be talking a bit about my figure/ ground exercise for EdTech 506. And while I don't claim to be anywhere near Escher in the way that I execute figure/ ground in my work, it does seem appropriate to mention an artist who breaks the figure/ ground or positive/ negative space rule in order to understand how it works in more "normal" design settings.
Cognitive Processing & Figure/ Ground
Additionally, given the funky nature of the concept of Wonderland, I think it's also good to talk about ways that I bend or break the rules of design to get the message across. It not only fits in with the Wonderland Cafe theme, but it serves as a good reminder to me as a designer to stay true to the spirit of what I want to create even as I try to create designs that are more than just clever-looking.
As we learned in our book "Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance: Lessons in Visual Literacy" by Linda Lohr, the figure/ ground principle helps people with selection. While the book defines selection (p. 100) as
The cognitive process of attending to particular visual and auditory stimuli.
I find this definition a bit vague. I think it's more helpful to say that selection is a cognitive process in which the mind uses various filters in order to prevent information overload. For the instructional designer then, the use of figure/ ground or positive/ negative space is one way to cut down on the amount of information coming into the eyes.
This in turn helps the learner focus on only the information that is critical to the lesson in front of them. It's a principle that sits at the cornerstone of multimedia learning theory.
Focusing on M.C. Escher
One of the most famous examples of figure/ ground is the vase illustration. Depending upon how your eyes focus on that drawing, you either see a face or a vase. Very often in traditional design, white plays the role of ground and black or colored material is the figure. However, this visual exercise shows that this isn't necessarily always the case.
I'm bringing all of this up because this is the route that I chose to take as I developed my figure/ ground assignment this week. Those of you who are following my design process for the Wonderland Cafe project know that I normally include some sort of graphic from the old "Alice in Wonderland" books like I did here and here and here.
However, as I considered the scope of the assignment, I decided to go back and revisit the graphics that I did for the fonts assignment for the Wonderland Cafe.
Smile/ Predator - Positive/ Negative
I modified the "smile" and "predator" graphics to make them look like playing cards in keeping with the Alice-in-Wonderland theme. The words "smile" and "predator" were created originally to look like a smile.
I played with positive/ negative space by making the lettering white and the background black. By doing this, I wanted to further emphasize the idea that predators hide in the dark. I took it one step further by making a verbal message about predators hiding behind smiles in the dark.
In the case of some of the lettering, I went against the "norm" and made it white instead of black so that it would stand out. I felt that if I didn't do this, that the message would get lost due to some of the graphics I felt I needed to use. This is particularly true of the gray heart off to the side of the wording. I added the heart to repeat the form of the hearts on the playing cards and to visually balance out a hole in that side of the graphic.
As with most of these assignments, I also repeated the checkerboard design. However, I made the squares gray and black instead of white and black. I did this for a couple of reasons. I wanted the playing cards to stand out. I also wanted the seriousness of the message to be emphasized.
Finally, I positioned the playing cards so that they not only emphasized the verbal message, but they also provided a visual play on the word "hiding." The "predator" card is hiding behind the "smile" card, the idea being that Internet predators come in the guise of friend, but really they're foes.
Here's how the design for this week's installment of Wonderland Cafe ended up:
M.C. Escher Day and Night, 1938 - The amazing world of M.C. Escher. (2015). Retrived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVOCM4d4MV4
Henderson, S. (2012). Vase face optical illusion - Looks like they're talking. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_79TI6L2o18
Lohr, L. (2003). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
Positive & negative space. (2013). Retrieved from https://artdocents.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/positive-negative-space/
Standard 1: Design Standard 2: Development Standard 3: Utilization Standard 4: Management Standard 5: Evaluation