(Just keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’)
This is a blog post that will be periodically updated with additional information, as well as any thoughts/examples I may have on Visual Communication (Vis-Com) – This will include dates of editing, as well as references where applicable.
As a foreword, many people have drawn similar comparisons to the following, given, simply to the nature of Colour Theory and ‘personification’ of shapes and colours – as such, much of my work may seem copied or cloned from other sources E.G – https://simonmjli.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/compare-shapes-to-personalties/ which is near verbatim to my initial notes.
However, I aim to expand on my initial ideas with unique ideas and commentary.
Without further adieu, the contextual studies of Vis-Com.
Generally speaking, shapes and colours are seen similarly, regardless of cultural differences around the world – some of the more general ones are as follows:
Spiky shapes are generally seen as loud and aggressive – and in many cases, masculine – Conversely, round shapes are seen as quiet, soft and effeminate. Arrows and points (within most cultures) also represent dynamic/fluidity. Height, too, represents elegance, status and authority.
Wide bases on shapes, represent solidarity and independence – a willingness that someone/thing can stand by itself, conversely a narrow base can be seen to represent almost a knife edge situation, where the shape could fall with a simple nudge.
Nowhere else is any of this more perfectly articulated then with architecture. A prime example is that of The Parthenon and it’s effects on most of the western world.
It’s solid base of steps shows the wide based rectangle – solidarity. It’s pillars stretching high, show it’s elegance, grace and ambition. It’s pointed roof, show it’s dedication – upwards, to the kingdoms of ancient gods. The simple fact it remains standing even to this day is a living testament to it’s sheer power.
Many would consider a building such as The Parthenon the ultimate testament to powerful and commanding architecture. Clearly, given it’s inspiration in powerful western buildings, this is revealed. Buildings such as Court houses and even The White House itself draw inspiration from it.
Comparatively, the seat of England’s power – The Buildings of Parliament were inspired by ancient Gothic works. Clearly seen in it’s stone masonry, as well as it’s high, cathedral inspired… spires…
While on the subject of Westminster, it is important to mention the lighting featured around the building. As seen in the image, the building is illuminated in a warm golden light. While the purpose of this is up to interpretation, I feel that the colour alone is meant to accentuate the points, arches and finer details of the building – giving it an almost ethereal/godlike glow. The lower angled lighting also provides a feeling that the building is much higher than it actually is – adding to it’s importance, power, scale and sheer awesomeness.
Turning away from real world examples momentarily, fictional architecture can provide just a big an impact as real-life. I find a good example of this is in the sheer scale of the architecture found within the Warhammer 40k universe.
The whole universe of 40K is that of intimidation, fear and faith. Nowhere else quite shows this of as within the architecture found within in – classical features, such as large – ornately constructed pillars would inspire fear and respect into those which viewed them.
Immense hooded statutes depicting featureless ancient warriors – inspiring both faith and empowerment – leaving the person behind the hood a mystery, meaning that any citizen passing it by could potentially see themselves as that great holy figure.
Departing back to reality, while shapes can effect people’s opinions and feelings, colours perform this feat far and a ways more efficiently.
Typically, colours are seen as follows:
Red is seen as: passionate, sexual, violent, dangerous and angry
Orange: Warm, fuzzy, child-like and comfort
Yellow:Hazardous – when combined with black – warmth, summer, spring, cheer and heat
Green: Balancing, nature, sinister, decay and health
Blue: Ocean, sky, distance, authority, cleanliness, depression
Purple: Sensuality, intimacy, spirituality, authority, command
Black: Class, High-end, Occult – untouchable/hidden
White: Hygene, common, purity, , virginity
Temperatures of the colours can also determine the effects on people. While a bright green may make people think of young child, a darker green may make people think of A parlour or a snooker table – often associated with the elderly.
Colours when combined with one another can also make people think of inter-twinning feelings. A prime example of this can be found when examining the outfits of the German SS soldiers. Their primary outfit colour is black, or grey. Associating the ideal of ‘untouch-ability’ with the high ranking soldiers – this combined with the red arm-band, typically associated with the officers and higher ranking Nazi officals, makes people think of them as dangerous on an almost instinctual level.
This is only furthered by the Officers. Officers of the SS – as well as almost any other army at that point in history – were always seen with a distinct, peaked cap. This of course was primarily there so soldiers could identify their leaders in combat – however, it also serves as an intimidation tactic, by the mere shape.
Designed as angular caps – their wearers would be seen as violent, masculine, potentially explosive, the sight of one of these caps within the ranks of soldiers was meant to both uplift the side they were fighting for, and de-moralise the other.
Colours and shapes can form varying opinions within the minds of people who view them. A personal example of colours and shapes affecting viewers was something I made for a map, during the 6 week holidays, inspired by this. – I designed a police station for my map – which was to be set in an alternately history 1870’s England; ruled by a tyrannical government and threatened with a second plague.
I looked at buildings of the time – as well as various other source materials set at that time, such as Dishonoured – and noticed several similarities:-
Narrow Alley ways:
High, imposing walls
Old Shop fronts:
and finally, the ominous looking Police Station:
I made it angular specifically to over look the player – with the only real light being provided by the blinding light found at the front of the station. It was built with the express purpose to make people feel uneasy. This is furthered inside, with the main room being tinted ever so slightly, in a sickly green hue:
The prison cells are also an unnerving situation, being lit by light from the main hall, if at all:
The idea of most of the station was not taken from a prison at all, rather, mental asylums.
Back in 1920, there existed The Bauhaus – A haven and school for artists, architects and craftsmen alike. The Bauhaus was home to many a strange experiment into human perception, and ways that that perception can be altered – even going so far as one class; then dubbed ‘Mysticism’ was just taking LSD and painting whatever images you saw. The building itself also became the basis for most architecture of the 60’s and even some ot the modern day!
Now where was The Bauhaus?
Only in Germany… At the start of Hitler’s rise to power…
…So, how did The Bauhaus remain so influential, despite the Nazi party wanting to censor creativity adn left-wing ideals? Well…
First, let’s look at what The Bauhaus was.
The Bauhaus was an art college and was home to some of the brightest and most forward thinking artists, craftsmen and engineers at the time and was made with the ideal that all forms of art could come together to work together and benefit from one another’s influence. It was formed with the merger of both ‘The Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts’ and the ‘Weimar Academy of Fine Art’. The name Bauhaus came from what it was, literally being translated as a ‘House of building’. It’s name was also in reference to a guild of German stonemasons known as the Bauhütte.
“…because of its similarity to the word Bauhütte, the medieval guild of builders and stonemasons out of which Freemasonry sprang.” – Whitford, Frank, ed. (1992). The Bauhaus: Masters & Students by Themselves
But to really understand The Bauhaus, it is best to look at the tutors, more so, the practises used by said tutors.
While already mentioning the Mysticism class, other tutor’s such as Wassily Kandinsky had alternate methods.
Kandinsky was a sufferer of Sythanasia – a condition where one sense bleeds into others. This often manifest’s in many forms, in fact, I even have a friend who experiences it with ‘words and colours’. Kandinsky experienced it in a ‘music to imagery ‘ form, to a very high degree.
Kandinsky utilised what many would have considered a mental illness at the time, into a powerful and limitless source of inspiration. Painting while listening to compositions, singing and mere conversation – creating surrealist and often psychedelic artwork – becoming later heralded as a pioneer of 70’s psychedelic artistry.
So, inspired by Kandinsky, another tutor at The Bauhaus experimented with Synthanasia – this time, with normal ‘un-afflicted’ people.
This man’s name was Johannes Itten and he asked his class a simple question: “What colour is this note?” and he played them a note on a flute.
Most of the class were – understandably – confused, some insisting that he must be going crazy, however, Itten convinced his students to draw what they thought of the colour – what came as a result was suprising. Almost every student had chosen the same colour for the note. Itten then repeated this, several times with different notes with near consistent results. Next, he tried both shapes and angles – both of which followed trend.
This proved to Itten that everyone experiences Synthanasia, to some extent, but some are more attune to it’s effects. Inspired by Itten’s investigations, I have drawn several pieces to several various songs –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvy2_7d_VmI “Les Commandos”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmkHqUwa4zg “Love Bites”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXYIxJScSik “House of The Rising Sun”