The generally accepted/postulated “principles of design” are of course something like, paraphrasing for the sake of my own interpretation and internalisation:
- Balance: The relation of elements towards stability.
- Contrast: Difference of elements, typically affording structure and or articulation.
- Emphasis: Isolation (of attention).
- Movement: Change, often resulting in dimensionality
- Pattern: Connection through repetition and variation, may establish sense of unity, and consistency… often evokes relationality, a kind of field.
- Proportion: Scalar relations between parts and with the whole and context, i.e. as with the included, also with the excluded.
- Rhythm: The qualitative and quantitative character of relations, something like a kind of vector.
- Unity: Coherence and completeness.
Those are quite common in the literature on art and creativity I’ve explored, and while useful in terms of having a language or vocabulary through which to begin to make some kind of sense of composition, they seem somewhat limited to a kind of technical or phenomenological level. There is also a ‘chicken-or-the-egg?’ kind of question around them, to what extent do they determine the success of composition versus being an after-the-fact imposition, a kind of rationalization?
Wasilly Kandinsky in his 1905 book “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” argues that:
~“…true artistry involves the creation of art that transcends mere spectacle or novelty, and instead taps into deeper spiritual and emotional forces that have the power to move people on a profound level. He argues that art that is primarily concerned with fashion or style may have more short-term appeal, but ultimately lacks the enduring power of true art. He believed that art had the potential to transform society and help individuals connect with their inner selves, and he saw this as the true purpose of art. He argues that artists have a responsibility to create works that are honest, authentic, and spiritually meaningful, rather than simply pandering to popular tastes or commercial interests.
While this idea of art as a spiritual practice was arguably a major influence on the development of abstract art in the 20th century and much of the western discourse and framing of art and its framings, it was also arguably much corrupted, emphasising the supposed uniqueness, mysterious, possibly divinely provided talent and-or “genius”, not at all unlike prominent discourses around the notion of ‘leadership’ and its many flavours – as some of the reading suggests is apparently explored and considered in the field of Critical Leadership Studies (CLS).
A question this raises for me is; to what extent do, or how, do the dimensions or principles he emphasises relate to the common principles of design and composition? Towards possibly exploring that further I’ll just posit the following 3 additional “principles” of composition:
- Familiarity: Accessibility, typically relates to style, fashion and convention.
- Salience: Spectacle, novelty, surprise.
- Artistry: Skilful quality.
I am not sure to what extent artistry can be as evident, at least directly, as the principles of salience and familiarity – yet I believe it does have the same kind of value-affirming effect as those – perhaps more indirectly and perhaps that is what makes achieving it, artistry, so difficult to achieve and maintain…
Thinking about this morning (while doing my neck stretches – that whole business seems to be going well enough) what intrigues me is; the common “principles of design” – while they entail some overlap with each other, somehow remain quite flat. This is where they differ from these last three things, Familiarity, Salience and Artistry – I’m thinking these explicitly build on each other. You can only have salience once you have familiarity, and perhaps you can only have artistry where and when you have both familiarity and salience?
Perhaps “principles” is not the right word, if then what is? Perhaps, even probably, someone has already developed this stuff much further than my little meanders, if then who and where?
PS. Yes, I’m still pondering much of what I encountered at first year in university and before, doesn’t everyone?