2.2 Visual dynamics

The purpose of this research task was to read the chapter of a book through the filter of visual dynamics, and write up notes of anything interesting for use later.

Key words from the brief:

  • Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips’ essay ‘ Point, Line, Plane ’ published in 2008
  • Read this at the OCA library resource
  • Make written notes on the essay in your learning log.

Essay notes

‘ Point, Line, Plane ’ is a chapter in Graphic Design: The new basics (2008) that describes the basic build block of all two dimensional images, points, line and planes.

The essay can be accessed from the OCA Library here: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4518455 

The chapter is structured around a number of topics: points, lines, planes, space and volume and drawing with code.

Each topic is treated in the same way:

  • A description of what is is
  • How it’s made
  • Visual examples

As you would expect from a book about graphic design, most of the references relate to page layout and typography covering both physical and digital examples.

Apart from the overarching concept, I didn’t find this content or information about the different image components particularly enlightening.

However, the chapter also contains two interesting visual dynamics related exercises that are process lead tasks designed to lead students to new insights/realisations.

These are described below:

Exercise 1 – Three objects, thirty-three ways

This is an exercise in observation and representation. The purpose of the exercise is to expose designers to “the iterative design process, building individual capacity for patience, endurance and an open mind” (Phillips, J. C. and Phillips, J. C., 2014).

The process:

  • Visit somewhere where you’ll find unusual subjects
  • Select three objects and draw a substantial number of observational drawings of each focusing on form, colour, texture and materials
  • Develop these using a word list exercise
  • Develop these further by drawing from memory
  • The output of the exercise is 99 studies of the three objects
  • Produce a total of thirty three representations of the same object

Exercise 2 – Spatial translation

This project designers use close and expansive observational drawing as source material to create a series of ten images using a limited set of materials to represent dots, lines and planes.

The process:

  • Chose a space
  • Observe it from multiple physical points of view (different camera angles)
  • Observe it from multiple psychological points of view (different personas)
  • Produce images using diverse media and mediums
  • “Representations can be literal, abstract, iconic, indexical or symbolic”
  • Use this source material to create ten representations using dot stickers, tape and cut paper (dots, lines and planes)


Doing the two exercises sounds like it would be a valuable experience. It looks like some elements such as a word list exercise will be explored in later PART 2 exercises.

It is interesting that patience, endurance and an open mind are called out specifically as desirable qualities in a designer and things that can be learned.

I really like the distinction in Exercise 2 – Spatial translation between a physical point of view and psychological point of view. Israeli based reportage illustrator Marina Grechanik describes a psychological technique she uses to get ‘under-the-skin’ of her subjects. “I’m more interested in what people are doing, and making up stories about them – it makes my sketches more personal and helps me to draw their expressions and postures better”. (Hobbs, 2014:120).

Items added to my glossary:

  • iconic representation Is the use of pictorial images to make actions, objects, and concepts in a display easier to find, recognize, learn, and remember (Rogers, Y, 1989)
  • indexical representation Is the use of pictorial images to show evidence of what’s being represented i.e. the use of smoke to represent fire
  • symbolic representation Is the use of pictorial images to represent something where there is no logical connection between the image and what it represents. The connection must be learned and generally has a cultural association. The hamburger icon used to signify a menu is an example.

Items added to my practice research backlog:

  • Exercise 1 – Three objects, thirty-three ways
  • Exercise 2 – Spatial translation


Hobbs, J (2014) Sketch Your World: Essential Techniques for Drawing in Location London: Apple Press

Phillips, J. C. and Phillips, J. C. (2014) Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York, NY, UNITED STATES: Princeton Architectural Press.


Rogers, Y. (1989) ‘Icons at the interface: their usefulness’ In: Interacting with computers 1 (1) pp.105–117.


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