Use Your Good Eye

As graphic designers, and interpreters of the visual, we must be able to view an image for its formal compositional elements. We must be able to put aside our bias, our beliefs, our mindsets and even our moods to view and interpret an image for what it is regardless of how it makes us feel. For some, depending on the image, this can be extremely difficult because we as humans are so affected by our emotions and beliefs. However, chapter 3 shows us how to put all of those things behind us so that we can think about, examine, and in this case discuss, how an image looks visually. It covers; content, colour, spatial organization, light and expressive content. All of which are things that should be considered when analyzing the composition of an image. The image of the water flame has all the formal compositional elements. As with any well thought out and well designed image, each of the elements in the image work well together to make up the compositional whole.

The content of this particular image is a zippo lighter with a flame that is made out of water rather than fire. The image content in this case is producing a new concept, and is provoking thought. A zippo lighter is a normal everyday item and an image of just a zippo lighter with a flame coming out of it would not have near the same compositional effect. The content of this image takes something that would otherwise be seen as nothing out of the ordinary and makes it into something foreign and new. Another example are the gatorade sweart ads:

Sweat is a normal thing, there is nothing about it that catches peoples attention, or changes the way they see it. However, Gatorade makes sweat the color of their sport drinks and suddenly you have an entirely different image compositionally and visually. People are looking twice instead of once. The same occurs with the water flame. The content causes people to wonder and consider the irony of having a flame made out of water which is the very thing most widely used to put fires out.

We as designers know very well how color can take an image from mediocrity to masterpiece. We also know how quickly color can destroy an image. In the water flame image the colors most definitely work very well. They are highly saturated, but they need to be. The high color saturation allows the image to look very rich. You can feel the texture of the water and the metal. Whether they were enhanced or not they appear to be the normal colors of water and metal. Leaving the original colors was very important compositionally. If the color of the water was changed it would have left the viewer wondering if it was in fact water that was coming out of the lighter. Changing the color of the zippo lighter would have taken the viewer’s attention away from the flame, which is the point of the picture. The gradient color that was placed in the background also works well. The value change highlights the water flame and also gives the affect that it is actually giving off light. Value change is very important when it comes to composition because it is a way to focus the eye. In the image below we see a value change from the edge of the image to the center. As you look at this image notice how your eye is constantly drawn back to the center point:

Spacial organization could quite possibly be the most important element when it comes to composition. It does not matter if the image is the best drawn image this world has ever seen, if there was no thought put into spatial organization its going to be a terrible image. The image is at eye level. Placing the image at a different viewpoint would have ruined the composition The lighter was placed just off center of the image horizontally. It  was placed that way because of the lid. This technique convinces the eye that the lighter is centered even though it is not. Only so much of the lighter is revealed. The reason for this is because the lighter is not the focus of the image. By having only half the lighter showing allows for a closer shot and more emphasis on the flame. The nice angle that is formed between the lid and the base of the lighter really frames the flame. No matter how hard you try your eye always ends up back at the flame. That is a sign of a good composition.

If you can see something in an image, there is a light source. Unless someone decides to make an image of nothing but black, they have to take into consideration what direction the light source will come from, how much light is needed and what kind of light is needed. The light source in the water flame image is coming from the left. The light source needs to come from the left so that it can highlight the lid. If the light source were coming from the right the lid would be left in the dark causing the lighter to lose visual appeal. The lighting used was artificial. Artificial light allows for more intricate focus on details such as the texture of the metal and the flame itself. Natural light would have been too much. It would have taken away from the affect of being someplace dark, lit up by the flame.

This image has a certain level of mystery to it. You do not really understand why the flame is made out of water, nor do you know how. However, you do not really question it either. The image is peaceful. Everything is centered and balanced. The flame being made out of water does not implicate the same feelings that a normal flame does. The metal is smooth, shiny, and without imperfection. Even though the image is dark, you feel safe because of the light coming from the flame. There is nothing to disrupt your eye. You are simply left staring at it with a certain level of awe.

With every mark, brush stroke, and/or click of the mouse there is thought. Because in order to make a good composition and to include all the compositional elements, one has to think very hard about every move they make in the creation of an image. Everything has a purpose. However, this is not only the case for us as creators of the visual, it is also the case for us as consumers of the visual. It is imperative we be able to see and analyze an image for its “face value” regardless of how it makes us feel. If we cannot acknowledge and recognize a good composition through disagreement and/or dislike then we may as well have lost our sight all together.

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