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Classic Graphic Design Theory Principles of Design: Movement

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Copyright © 1999 by Bonnie Skaalid

Classic Graphic Design Theory
Principles of Design:Movement

Pic:Unstable position

Anticipated Movement 

Live figures portrayed in unstable body positions cause us to feel that motion is imminent. We know from past experience with these positions that some kind of movement will occur. This heightens the feeling of motion. 

Fuzzy Outlines 

When figures move past us at very high speeds, we perceive that figure as somewhat blurry. This experience leads us to interpret blurry or indistinct outlines as conveying motion. 


PIc:Blurred motion

Pic:Multiple image

Multiple Image 

Similarly, showing multiple overlapping images gives us the impression of motion. We can see that the person or figure has moved through a series of poses. 

Optical Movement 

In optical movement, the eye is forced to move around the picture dynamically in order to see all the different elements. Optical movement can be enhanced by curved forms that keep your eyes moving in a circular pattern throughout the picture. 

Pic: Optical movement

Pic: Vibrating circle

Optical Illusions 

Certain optical illusions based on the repetition of geometric forms will cause your eye to produce motion where none is present.  This picture really seems to move, doesn't it?

Rhythm and Movement 

Rhythm refers to the way your eye moves throughout a picture. Some pictures move you throughout in a connected, flowing way much like a slow, stately rhythm in music. Other pictures move you from one place to another in an abrupt, dynamic way much like a fast, staccato rhythm in music will give you the impression of movement. Rhythm in art is created by the repetition of elements. Similarity of elements, or flowing, circular elements will give a more connected flowing rhythm to a picture, while jagged, or unrelated elements will create a more unsettling, dynamic picture. 

Pic: optical movement-MatissePic: dancer

Look at the two images above. The painting by Matisse [1] is full of sweeping circular areas which move your eye around the picture (it is a good example of optical movement). The elements are flowing and circular and give you the impression of a calm quiet rhythm. The line drawing on the right is more dynamic due to its incomplete nature and the feeling of motion is much more evident.

[1] Matisse, Henri. Two Figures Reclining in a Landscape 1921 (150 Kb); 15 x 18 3/8 in; Barnes Foundation

Elements & Principles of Design: [Line] [Shape] [Texture] [Value & Color] [Space] [Movement] [Balance] [Emphasis] [Unity]

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