Proportion, Pattern, Shape and Form
From DT Online
Proportion describes the relationship of one dimension, object, or space in relation to another. Well Proportioned shapes are perceived to be visually pleasing and harmonious. Guidance on what constitutes Good Proportion has been influenced by nature and the human form through the work of Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci amongst others and exemplified as the Fibonacci Series or Corbusier's Modulor.
Pattern is not confined to surface decoration but refers also to the arrangement of shapes within a designed object (e.g. drawers and cupboards in furniture, partitions in storage units and windows in a building) and patterns from nature (e.g. arrangement of seeds in a pod or the Grain in timber). Patterns may involve geometric, natural or random shapes and be symmetrical or otherwise. Some are Tesselations and create tiling patterns, others are Fractals, both geometric and natural (e.g. ferns and snowflakes).
- The Shapes we use include: regular and irregular shapes, geometric, random and shapes from nature.
- Polygons can be regular or irregular shapes. They can be constructed using Drawing Instruments, by drawing round a Template or automatically generated by a CAD program.
- Random shapes can be generated by scribbling on a sheet of paper or drawing a series of criss-cross lines, and identifying the shapes in-between them.
- Natural shapes are all around us in animals, plants and land forms for example. Others can be seen only with a microscope (and here there are many regular geometric shapes also). The shape of leaves, petals, seed pods and fish are used frequently, often stylised into a geometric version, and the commonly used Serpentine Shape is based on a snake.
Form describes objects in three dimensions and may be natural or manufactured. In either case, Form is a consequence of forces or processes acting on a material (e.g. the smooth rounded Form of a pebble is a result of constant weathering and erosion). Manufactured Forms result from the use of specific tools and processes and 'good' design will reflect this by using shapes and forms which are 'off the tool'.
- All manufactured Forms can be produced by:
- Addition - i.e assembling parts.
- Reduction - i.e. cutting out of a solid piece.
- Reforming - i.e. moulding or casting in some way.
Note: Considering how the design of a manufactured object or part may change if its Form is created by each of the 3 methods listed is a useful design activity sometimes referred to as a Morphological Analysis
For a more detailed (and richly illustrated) reference to this topic see Kurt Rowland's book 'Pattern and Shape' (from the excellent 'Looking and Seeing' series). Kurt Rowland published also a series of 5 booklets, complete with Teachers' Notes, entitled 'Learning to See' which can be used as a complete course on the subject. Although both series were first published some time ago they continue to provide a fascinating insight into how we might develop our visual literacy and understanding.
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