3.1 Illustrating visual space


The brief was to explore image composition by re-scaling and re-positioning the same limited number of visual elements in a number of different pictures.

Keywords from the brief:

  • Select a number of images from a defined list
  • Cut them into individual items to work with
  • Work with a square format
  • Use distortion of scale
  • Create an image which is visually interesting
  • Move fragments so they are not always vertical or horizontal
  • Compare the visual impact of one with another


I chose four elements to use in the different images:

  • A standing figure
  • A building – a ruined church
  • A tree – reused from a previous exercise; Using black and white
  • An iron railing

I wanted to use the exercise to explore different compositions for a story illustration. The final illustration will be a visual metaphor for the state of mind of the lead character who is emotionally broken after experiencing the breakdown of a difficult relationship.

After creating the images I manipulated them in Photoshop using layers, and scaling to rapidly explore different combinations and layouts.

The actual creative orchestration of the images was really quick and was completed in under an hour.

What I learned from the exercise

What went well

  • Having a predetermined set of visual components allowed me to very quickly try out different layouts and push things in surprising ways
  • It also allowed me to share ideas quickly with other collaborators in the project to get quick feedback without making the mistake of getting too precious too early
  • Photoshop gives a lot of flexibility to work in this way
  • I liked the results. They pushed my thinking in ways I wouldn’t have considered using my usual approaches
  • I like this technique and will use it to quickly share and refine ideas going forward

What I could do better/differently

  • The final images are quite flat. I think this is because the visual components are all presented at the same ‘volume’ i.e. the visual marks, density and use of colour is all the same no matter how important a visual element is to the overall picture; there is no clear visual hierarchy. I know this will be explored in later exercises.
  • The character illustration is not strong enough. She does not express a sense of angst/turmoil that is the key to the reading of the image.
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