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Chapter 3. Finding Objects

Chapter 3. Finding Objects

Joseph Albers could make colors dance or retreat: “I see color as motion ... To put two colors together side by side really excites me. They breathe together. It’s like a pulse beat ... I like to take a very weak color and make it rich and beautiful by working on its neighbors. I can kill the most brilliant red by putting it with violet. I can make the dullest grey in the world dance by setting it against black.” Albers, one of the great graphics artists of the twentieth century, was a master at making visual imagery emerge from form and color. By careful juxtaposition of colors, textures, and shapes, the artist can make images leap off the page. Albers calls this the “1 + 1 = 3” effect. A good design is more than the sum of its parts. A bad design muddles what should be emphasized. Chartjunk—misuse of bold lines and color or addition of pretty stuff that adds no value—shifts attention away from vital information. In graphic design, composition, form, and focus are everything! An object design poses similar challenges. It is strengthened by vivid abstractions and well-formed objects that fit into an overall structure. It can be weakened by glaring inconsistencies or muddled concepts.

The abstractions you choose greatly affect your overall design. At the beginning, you have more options. As you look for candidate objects, you create and invent. Each invention colors and constrains your following choices. Initially, it’s good to seek important, vivid abstractions—those that represent domain concepts, algorithms, and software mechanisms. Highlight what’s important. If you invent too many abstractions, your design can get overly complex. Not enough abstraction, and you’ll end up with a sea of flat, lifeless objects.

Your goal is to invent and arrange objects in a pleasing fashion. Your application will be divided into neighborhoods where clusters of objects work toward a common goal. Your design will be shaped by the number and quality of abstractions and by how well they complement one another. Composition, form, and focus are everything.

A graphics designer enhances important information by layering and separating it, giving focus to the data rather than its container, and by using multiple signals to remove ambiguity.


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