Concept: Descriptors: 7

Master Concepts List

Concept: Descriptors

Given the aspects of the visual field (figure/ground, motion, gradient), descriptors are structures that describe the interrelationship of the figures within the visual field. A given descriptor can refer to figure/ground, motion, or a gradient, though obviously the application will differ. It is possible to use size to create a figure/ground relationship, such as a grid of squares with one much smaller square. It is possible to use size to create motion, such as a square getting larger then smaller over time. And it is possible to use size to create a gradient, such as a row of ten squares, each one getting slightly smaller.


Related Concepts

Size – Size is the measurement of a figure relative to the person perceiving it and relative to the ground. The size of a figure can be defined absolutely (2” x 2”) or relatively in relation to its position within the format in which it will function. A square measuring 6” x 6” could be perceived as quite small on a wall but could be perceived as quite large in an 8” x 10” format.
* Alternate terms: scale

Proportion – Proportion is a correlation of size. It is the relative size of a figure on a given axis in relation to the other axis of the figure. For example, a rectangle that is 6” wide and 12” tall could be described generically as “taller than wide” or specifically as a “1 to 2 proportion.” Proportion can also describe one figure in relation to another figure: “twice as long” or “half as wide.”

Shape – Shape is a figure with individual identity enclosed by a line.

    Geometric – A shape derived from or suggestive of geometry. Geometric shapes are characterized by precise edges and mathematically consistent curves.
    Rectilinear – A shape composed of straight lines and angular corners.
    Organic – A shape that visually suggests nature or natural forces.
    Curvilinear – A shape whose edge is dominated by curves.
* Alternate terms: biomorphic, metamorphosis (in reference to motion)

Position – Position describes the relationship between a figure and the format in which it will function. Position can be described relatively, such as lower right corner or center, or described absolutely, such as two inches from left margin and three inches from top margin.

Direction – Direction describes the horizontal, vertical or diagonal representation of a figure. Direction of a figure can be actual or implied.

Orientation – Orientation describes facing such as front, back, top, and bottom. Orientation requires recognition of a figure in order to be described. A portrait with the subject looking directly into the camera would have frontal orientation while a portrait looking at the top of the subject’s head would have top orientation.
* Alternate terms: attitude

Texture – Texture describes the visual or tactile quality of a figure or object. Texture can be created visually through the use of multiple marks of sufficient similarity so as not to be initially perceived as individual figures. Texture can be created physically through surface variation or the inherent properties of a material, such as sand as opposed to porcelain.

    Physical texture – created through surface variation or the inherent properties of a material such as sand as opposed to porcelain.
    Apparent texture – created visually through the use of multiple marks of sufficient similarity so as not to be initially perceived as individual figures.
    Reflectivity – a property of texture that refers to reflected light. Reflectivity can occur in a physical texture or an apparent texture.

Speed – Speed is a descriptor specific to motion. Speed describes the rate of change in any given motion. Speed can be defined absolutely (3 seconds) or relatively (faster).

Stasis – Stasis is a descriptor specific to motion. Stasis describes a lack of motion or a figure at rest. Stasis is typically used to describe a period without motion within a larger period containing motion and could be described as a “pause.” (technically, any non-motion-based media exists in a form of stasis)

Continuity/Discontinuity - Continuity is the reference to ground, shapes, or objects that are perceived as similar or perceived as one. Discontinuity is a references to shapes or objects that are perceived as different that the surrounding ground, shapes, or objects.
* Alternate terms: similarity/dissimilarity, contrast, homogenous/heterogeneous





Discontinuity in Hue



Discontinuity in Brightness



Discontinuity in Direction



Discontinuity in Size



Discontinuity in Shape



Discontinuity in Texture


Light - Electromagnetic radiation that has a wavelength in the range from about 4,000 (violet) to about 7,700 (red) angstroms and may be perceived by the normal unaided human eye. (see also Physical Structures)


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