There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.


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Journey from Concept to Creation

There is far more to the creative process than learning how to use software and configure hardware. This blog addresses them.

"Divine Proportion."

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One of the best ways to understand the last of my five principles of design -- proportion -- is to study nature. When you look across a landscape, you don’t typically see one tree that is precisely one half as high as another… or one cloud that is one quarter the size of the next one… or stars and galaxies that are equidistant from each other. Nature cares little about such obvious mathematical relationships and good design follows the examples of nature in this regard.
    That is not to say that nature isn’t mathematical. The elements of nature -- clouds, plants, geographical features, animals, stars, galaxies, etc., do have pleasing proportions and the proportional relationships are based on what mathematicians call “irrational” mathematics.

    There is a “divine proportion” that occurs frequently and abundantly in nature. It is generally referred to as the “golden ratio.” When a line is divided by the golden ratio (Phi -- the “irrational” number 1.6180339887...), the resulting proportions are visually pleasing. The Pythagoreans (circa 500 BC) believed this to be divinely inspired.
    The history of the golden ratio goes back at least to 500 BC. [If you create a sequence of numbers (starting with 0, 1) by adding the last two numbers in the sequence together you will have what is called the Fibonacci sequence -- 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and so forth. As you divide each resulting number into the previous number, the result resolves into the golden ratio.] But, as recently as 1854, Adolf Zeising discovered that the branches along stems of plants and the veins in leaves were expressions of the golden ratio -- so are the dimensions of the human body, other skeletal forms, sunflower florets, seashells such as the Nautilus (a Fibbonacci spiral). and countless other occurences in nature ranging from the logarithmic spirals of hurricanes and galaxies (completely unrelated phenonoma) to the flight pattern of a falcon diving on its prey.
    When the length of a line is divided by the golden ratio (rounded to 1.62), and split into segments based on the resulting length, the length of the shorter segment is to the longer segment what the length of the longer segment is to the entire length of the line. Renaissance artists used this “divine proportion” to design paintings, sculpture and architecture. It is believed to have been used in works ranging from the Mona Lisa to the Parthenon (and the great pyramids). The Parthenon is considered to be the finest example of proportion in the history of architecture.
    In art school, one of the layout styles I learned about is called the Mondrian layout. It is named after the Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) who is considered to be the father of advertising design. He used grids extensively… with the grids following the tenets of the golden ratio or divine proportion. In the Mondrian tradition, contemporary graphic designers often use the “rule of thirds” to create layout grids which result in these universally pleasing proportions.
    This is achieved by first dividing your layout dimensions into thirds, and then to divide the top most resulting dimension by thirds again. Then dividing each column in halves. This grid is then used as a guide in determing the placement of the elements of design -- according, of course, to the principles of design that I have been discussing in this blog.
    Speaking of the other principles, proportion is closely related to balance and emphasis… and sequence. Different proportions of visual to copy, for example, can send uniquely different messages, even when using identical elements of design. The use of proper proportion results in unequal dimensions -- without obvious mathematical relationships -- which help to create a lively, interesting and pleasing design.
    The golden ratio is seen in musical compositions from Bartok' to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Stradivari used the golden ratio for the placement of the f-holes in his famous violins. On the piano, there are 13 musical notes separating each octave of 8 notes (the golden ratio). The keys of a piano also consist of the golden ratio -- a scale of 13 keys, 8 white, 5 black split into groups of 3 and 2.
    Contemporaneously, the ubiquitious golden ratio is used in abundance -- at least in its approximate form. If you use the "a" and "b" lengths from the example above, to create a rectangle, you will have what is referred to as the "golden oblong" -- considered to be the perfect rectangle. Visa® and Mastercard® aspect ratios are close approximations, as are the aspect ratios of some popular video screens… including cinematic aspect ratios (1920 x 1200 and 720 x 480).

    If you go back to my previous blogs you will find that I have referred to Bill Bernback's "Think Small" ad numerous times. It is a remarkable example of practically everything I have discussed. In the great Mondrian tradition, it is not too surprising to find that Bernback also used the rule of thirds when creating what is considered to be the most divine ad of all time.


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Journey from Concept to Creation said:

<< Previous | Next >> The fourth graphic design principle I will write about is the principle

December 6, 2008 2:55 AM

Balance. - Journey from Concept to Creation said:

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August 18, 2010 5:54 PM

Balance. - Journey from Concept to Creation said:

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February 8, 2011 5:27 PM

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About Adman

After developing his artistic abilities from an early age, Robert Davis (Adman) started his advertising career as a graphic artist for a commercial printing company while in 10th grade. He later acquired degrees in Commercial Art and (later) Business Administration (Marketing with focus on computer science) while working in various advertising agency capacities. Robert started his own agency in 1989. He added an in-house Pro Tools® recording studio in 1999 and an Avid Xpress® DV video editing suite in 2002. He now also has two Avid Media Composer suites and an Xpress Studio HD suite in a fully equipped studio which also features SoftImage|XSI and Pro Tools. He believes that his company, Davis Advertising, Inc., represents a new model for the 21st century advertising agency…”a small, agile and responsive agency with comprehensive, in-house capabilities.” He says, “Avid® software provides the creative freedom and flexibility I covet.” His focus is on developing effective creative ideas via his own strategic planning process. He loves being surrounded by cameras, lights, props and other creative professionals who share his vision. He also, of course, loves working with Avid® software to bring his ideas to life. Currently residing in metro-Atlanta, Robert is an accomplished writer, producer and creative director. His advertising agency has served Fortune 500 accounts and has received several international awards. His work has been exhibited at the prestigious Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. When not riding his vintage Italian racing bike, or working out with free weights, Robert can often be found in the late evening singing or playing drums, guitars and keyboards in the studio.

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