There is so much to learn about art, design, or music. Most of it deals with interaction: you present your work as close to your ideal as possible using whatever means or skills you either have, will have, or can afford.
If you focus on your handiwork you increase the chances that whatever you want to get across gets across. Hopefully it creates some conversation, internally and externally. Ideally it makes genuine contact with someone you might never meet. (You might not even live in the same country. Or in the same time in history.)
If, for example, you like to paint (I like to paint) you can learn about:
There is lots of fascinating stuff related to each area. Every time you learn something new that applies to your creative process you shorten the distance between what you experience and your ability to express it in the future. In fact, consciously changing the ways you express yourself will end up changing the things you say. It will, at least, make for a more nuanced statement.
When I’m focused on what I enjoy about art, design, and music (the engagement side of it), I’m making connections about how it relates to my life. I’m not much of a storyteller, other than the one I tell to myself between my own two ears, but we are naturally narrative animals. Our view of the world is really the story of ourselves.
A narrative has to start somewhere though. And the first bite, if it’s coming in through your nerves, is entirely perceptual. This is why “impressions” are so important. We have some “control” over some of our perceptions, like how culture plays a role in some illusions, but others seem to be totally neurological or due to how our eyeballs are built and work.
Basically: pre-cognitive awareness, the things you’re not conscious of that you’re seeing, is how we immediately start to evaluate what we’re observing.
As much as we can direct our attention to what we’re seeing (once we’ve seen it) our brains make a lot of calls about the quality and content of what we’re looking at before attention is even required. We all have emotional responses to things before we start thinking about why that is or what it means.
We know we can’t control how people respond to something, especially when we’re talking about content or experience, so thinking about illusions and perceptual stuff might seem like busywork. But there are a lot of “real life” examples where illusions of some kind have to be dealt with, like shoulder checking because of blind-spots when you’re driving. There is one due to mirrors and there is one in your eyes.
Driving without checking your blind spots is probably more dangerous than any of the illusions that occur within art, design, and music but there is a similarity in their effect: decisions you might not be aware of change the impression you have on others.
Having said all of that some illusions are fun for their novelty and inventiveness (who wouldn’t want to turn out a personal Escher once in awhile?) but the ones I am most interested in are the ones that we don’t notice.
- Which is the true square?
The one that I check the most is the horizontal-vertical thickness discrepancy. I don’t know a better name for it so I just call it 4Y.
You probably know that when you wear vertical stripes you’ll appear thinner than when you wear horizontal ones. This is absolutely true even when the lines intersect: we perceive vertical lines to be thinner than horizontal ones. (Probably won’t help you look skinny though.)
A 4% difference on the Y axis is about right: that’s why 4Y.
In Image 1 the square on the right, Square B, is the true square.
- Here Square B has been put under Square A so you can see the subtle difference between the two. Square A has a taller opening in the middle but the perimeters of both squares is the same.
Because we sense the horizontal lines are thicker, Square B feels heavier and more like an enclosed area. It is the true square but, if I needed a square, I’d probably use Square A.
Since I use Adobe programs 90% of the time I can just copy/paste either:
To the W/H values in your Transform box and get a rough idea if it’s worth it right away.
Does this matter?
I think in some cases. Especially when you need control of impressions at small sizes; like in logos. My rule of thumb is that if it’s perceived it’s probably worth at least toying with. And a 4% difference is visually notable in high contrast images.
Most of the time the easiest way to do this is optically since things like colors, gradients, and angles will skew your perception a bit. The best way to judge is your eyes: if you think something you’re making is feeling too heavy, especially top-down, thin out your horizontals a hair and see if it doesn’t “fit” better with itself that way.
So though 4% might not matter in terms of what you’re saying, it probably won’t change your content too much, it may change how your content is perceived. Our biology calls for a little subterfuge now and then.
Here is a really quick example that show, even with blocks and circles, you can get better feeling letters with a couple pixels.
- hot hot hot.
HOT SHIT RIGHT?!