BALANCE in DESIGN – Part 1

Post 596 by Gautam Shah

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Death of Socrates art by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

Balance is a phenomenon that we experience within our body system and perceive with reference to objects beyond the body. Balance is stability essentially related to the gravity. In this, the absence of balance has strong relation to the vertical, and the presence of balance is equated to the horizontal. Balance, we perceive beyond our body is a perceptual composition. Its lack unnerves our sense of regularity, but its oddity excites us. Compositional balances are also related to force de majeure, the gravity. Compositional balance is also related distribution of mass across the perceptible zone. The composition is a time slot of a happening, a frame. The perceptible zone varies in extent, scale and intensity, and so the segment of the experience is very fluid. The perceptible zones have mutually related elements within the field, or are equated with the past experiences. The elements within the perceptible zones have many possibilities of relationships and so balance structures.

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Girl on a swing > Wikipedia image by Luiz Carlos

There are several mechanisms in the body that detect, and some auto correct the physical balance. The sensory system involved in balance is called the vestibular system located in the inner ear. ‘These detect head rotation, linear acceleration, and the direction of gravitational force to attain and maintain postural equilibrium and balance’. Senses are locational and some are directional so provide perception data to detect unusual positions and movements.

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Composition by Gjelosh Gjokaj 1997 (Oil on Paper 70x100cms) Wikipedia image by Kosova National art Gallery

A composition is a natural or structured occurrence. A composition is part of a perceptible zone, segments defined by sensorial capacities. The sensorial capacities operate individually and coherently and as a result a perceptible zone could be very complex system. Compositional balances manifest within such a perceptible zone. The perceptible zone is ever changing and the perceiver rarely static, and both are continually in a flux.

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Complex composition of Spiral stairs > Flickr image by William

Movements are experienced in compositions as actual and apparent changes, former as a varying distance between objects, and the later as an indication or a possibility. The direction of the movement is related to the foreground or background of the main happening. Without the frame of background or foreground the movement in a composition is not evident. While traveling it becomes difficult to perceive if own or the other train is moving.

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The Meeting Art by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)

In art and design, the pursuit of creativity is in combining several elements into a holistic system. A formal’ composition has ‘striking’ arrangement, appreciated for the ‘balanced’ placements, or the arrangement is exciting and discomforting one leading to new possibilities.

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Sunday afternoon on island of La Grande Jatte Art by Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

Primarily a composition is perceived to be sitting or resting on a ground, and where none such exists, the bottom of the perception zone becomes one. Elements at the lower half of the field are perceived closer to the ground and perceived to be little more stable. The stability is enhanced by elements with mass wider in the lower parts. Inclusion of lighter elements such as air, water, sky, flowers, develops a sense of ethereal floatation. Some form of equipoise is sought for space occupation between objects and non objects. This is done by extent, weight, massing through sensorial intensities (colour, textural gradients, noise, serenity, axial steadfastness, duration etc.). An object that stands or greater verticality is perceived as post struggle phase. The height of the vertical is always referential to the horizontal of the ground. The depth of perception stretches the ground, and proportionately reduces the vertical.

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Notre Dame du Haut Ronchamp by Le Corbusier > Flickr image by Rory Hyde

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Interior of a Tavern Art by Brouwer Adriaen (1605/6-1638)

The symmetry in a composition is more balanced, as elements around vertical have same effect of gravity. A similar situation on horizontal is naturally unbalanced, as the lower half is under greater effect of gravity. The symmetry around the vertical, however, is affected by the position of the vertical in the field of perception. Symmetry is more apparent in visual fields as two eyes can focus to a single object. Two ears need some attenuation to perceive the balance. For the sensation of touch balanced localization is difficult to achieve. Smell and taste buds have singular identity but spatially too close for distinctive perception of balance.

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Blind leading the blind Art by Pieter Bruegel the elder > Wikipedia image by Curly Turkey

Non symmetrical balance results from several equalizing factors, such as extent, weight, massing through sensorial intensities (colour, textural gradients, noise) etc. and so could have very personal relevance. Non symmetrical compositions are very important for creating visual perspective or depth of field. Non symmetrical balance is used to prioritize and sequence the elements in composition. Stories are stretched from a start to an end, revelation to realization or consummation to nirvana. The story telling relies on asymmetrical arrangements as these add to the movement and passage of time.

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Simourd Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem Jerusalem > Flickr image by Kyle

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Circus bath UK Wikipedia image by Christophe Finot

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3 thoughts on “BALANCE in DESIGN – Part 1

  1. Pingback: BALANCE in DESIGN – Part 2 | Interior Design Assist

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