Project Example: Figure/ground Re-reversal

AD 175: Visual Structures

Project Example: Figure/ground Re-Reversal

Title of Project

Figure/ground Re-reversal

Methods and Concepts

Figure/ground, color, physical-visual structure, planar-motion interpretation


Figure/ground, motion descriptors, gradient, color, grouping, figure/ground reversal, rhythm, tempo, stasis, speed


Using the auto-play function of Powerpoint or Keynote, create an animated sequence of shapes with fast playing presentation ‘slides.’ The shapes to be animated may be made directly in Powerpoint/Keynote or may be created in other software. The sequence should last at least 15 seconds when played and will explore the idea of figure/ground reversal but using time as an element. Figure/ground reversal can occur, and over time, diminish and reoccur in another portion of the visual field. The reversal can happen twice or twenty times, fast or slow, using the same shapes or new shapes. The emphasis of the project is on how time and motion can be used to generate and manipulate a figure/ground reversal.


Laptop computer with Powerpoint or Keynote; other software such as Illustrator and Photoshop are optional

Physical processes

1. Using Powerpoint or Keynote (or similar presentation software), create an auto-playing presentation that lasts at least 15 seconds. This will take at least 30 slides, probably more. If too few slides are used, there will be no motion (just a fast slideshow). If too many slides are used, the computer will not play the presentation properly.
2. Create motion between slides by creating basic shapes (rectangles, circles) in the software and moving the shapes a little between the slides. Test the motion frequently. Possible descriptors to animate include size, position, color (hue, saturation and/or brightness), and shape.
3. Through the animation, create a dominant figure on a ground and then, through motion and time, create a reversal the figure/ground relationship. For example, a black circle on a white ground could grow larger and, in time, eventually fill the entire computer screen. Simultaneously, the white ground could shrink and become a white rectangular figure on the (now) black ground.
4. Test the slideshow frequently. Speed of motion can have different effects on figure/ground reversal (shrinking a shape for 3 seconds is different that doing it in one slide, which creates a flickering result).

Critique approach

The final project should be assembled into a folder or booklet for submission. Critique is individual between faculty and student.

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