Materials needed for THIS CLASS (see Supply List for details):

** Note: if you are unable to afford these items due to financial aid delays, please make arrangements with a classmate to borrow or share supplies.


The Elements: basic components used as part of any composition, independent of the medium.

  1. Point: An element that has position (x,y), but no extension or mass. A series of points forms a line, a mass of points becomes a shape.
    Malevich Black Dot| Seurat La Parade detail | Seurat La Parade du Cirque
  2. Line: An series of points, which has length and direction. It can be the connection between two points, the space between shapes, or the path of a moving point. A closed line creates a shape.
    Mondrian | Klee
  3. Shape: Created by line (contour) or a grouping of points, it is an area that is separate from other areas, defined by its perimeter.
    | Gris | Gris
  4. Organic shape: is one that resembles the flowing contours of an organism.
  5. Geometric shape:  such as circles, triangles or squares often have precise, uniform measurements.

The Principles: basic assumptions that guide the design practice.

  1. Frame: This boundary (rectangle, square, circle) is represented by the edges of the paper or the margins drawn within.
  2. Figure (positive space): The shape of a form that serves as a subject in a composition.
    Craig Stephens | Matisse
  3. Ground (negative space): The space surrounding a positive shape or form; sometimes referred to as ground, empty space, field, or void.
    Matisse | Rubin’s vase
  4. Figure/Ground: The relationship between positive and negative space.
    MC Escher | GDBasics
  5. Obvious (stable) Figure/Ground:  A figure/ground relationship that exists when a form stands clearly apart from its background.
  6. Reversal Figure/Ground: A figure/ground relationship that occurs when positive and negative elements are equal and alternate.
  7. Ambiguous Figure/Ground: A figure/ground relationship that challenges the viewer to find a point of focus. The figure and ground seem unclear.

STUDENT EXAMPLES: Can you determine which image demonstrates Obvious and Ambiguous Figure/Ground? And why? Are they all successful or could some be improved? How?
Example 1 | Example 2

Let’s look at some professional design examples from 2015.

OpenLab Refresher

  1. Create an OpenLab account and/or sign in.
  2. Join our OpenLab Course: PLAY WITH YOUR PROBLEMS

Design Process Introduction

Project 1: Urban Artifacts

Phase 1: Discover

Post to the Class Blog:

  • Create a new blog post called Urban Artifacts: Phase 1 on PLAY WITH YOUR PROBLEMS class site.
  • Upload images of the three objects you discovered on the Urban Archeology Walk to the PLAY WITH YOUR PROBLEMS course site. Add captions to each image, including the location of each object.
  • Include a link to our shared Google Map in your post:
  • Add Category and Tags:
    • Category = COMD1100 Project #1
    • Tags = Phase 1: Discover, Urban Artifacts

Add to the shared Google Map:

  • For Monday’s HOMEWORK, you should have emailed me your gmail address or signed up for one.
  • Login to Google and open our shared Google Map.
  • Click on the Placemark tool and then on the location where you found an artifact.
  • Enter the artifact name in the Name box (example: rusty bottle cap).
  • Enter your name and the year in the Description box.
  • Click on the paint bucket to change the style to an orange (rgb 230, 81, 0) camera icon.
  • More info from Google Support.


  • Look at the images of the three objects you discovered on our Urban Archeology Walk to the art supply store.
  • In your sketchbook write the heading: ‘Urban Artifacts’ and compose a minimum 1-paragraph description of the three objects. Describe the shapes. Are they geometric or organic? Observe and describe the points, lines and shapes created by the objects. Note the figure and the ground and the figure/ground relationship. Is it stable or ambiguous? Describe where you think these objects came from.  Describe their relationship to each other. Create a 1-2 paragraph story about these artifacts, imagining how they happened to turn up in the location that you found them.

Documentation and Feedback

  • Refine and spell/grammar-check your writing.
  • Edit your blog post Urban Artifacts: Phase 1 to include your reworked writing.
  • Include the hours that you worked on this part of the project.
  • Then comment on at least 3 other student’s posts.


  1. Complete Design Process Blog posts for Project #1: Phase 1: Discover
    Please don’t wait until the night before!
  2. Materials Needed for NEXT CLASS (check Supply List):

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