VC-Triangle, Tool To Evaluating Quality of Visual Aid

By on September 16, 2013 – Updated on September 11, 2013

Finally, we are now on the Part 5 of our series on the basics of visual communication. To recap, please read our Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 just in case if you missed them.

Principles of visual communication describe the various concepts that are used to arrange the basic structure of the elements of visual aid.

How these principles are used in the art or design defines the content or message being expressed, meaning one principle can be used in different ways to express different messages.

There are several principles of visual communication that are applied in art, web or any other design, and they help a lot in portraying the specific message being relayed.

Special Note: I decided not to put illustrative image on each of the points below to reduce the loading time of this page — more images will take take time to fully load the page.

Emphasis – show the subject

Emphasis is putting stress on certain on your subject to be prominent. It is concerned about drawing the viewers’ interest to a particular part of the design by ensuring it stands out among other areas.  It is sometimes called dominance.

This can be done by varying the color, texture, weight, size, shape and many more instead of using equal element emphasis which would make the art look flat.

In visual merchandising, it is focused on your product or on the message of the campaign that a visual merchandising is trying to show to the audience.

In Photography , techniques like panning, aperture manipulation and narrow lighting are only few ways to emphasize your subject. The well-known rule to emphasis your subject is the Rule of thirds.

Variety – get raid of monotony

Variety is used when do not want monotony and you want to obtain diversity to increase the visual interest in the artwork. A visual aid which makes use of different elements like lines, textures, shapes, form and color would show  the artist’s or designer’s desire for variety.

Variety also addresses the different needs and presences of the audience. Everyone is unique.

One person may like color yellow, the other one likes red, and the other likes blue. If you only use color yellow on your display, you missed to get the other two interested (but I am not saying that you have to put all the colors in your display every time you create one).

Unity – avoid clutter

Unity is the oneness of composition. This principle is used to keep elements together, by pulling the similar ones together and keeping those that are different apart. It is used to ensure the elements fit together to create harmony and completeness in all the parts of the design.

Do the major elements on the frame are connected to the other in terms of color, texture, line, value and so on? Are they seen as single undivided thing? If they don’t, you photo has no ‘Unity’.

Balance – maintain the equilibrium

Balance is the one which maintain the equilibrium in you composition. Its three major types are the proper (symmetrical) balance, the improper (asymmetrical) balance, and the radial balance. Symmetrical balance is sometimes called formal or Mathematical balance and asymmetrical balance is sometimes called Informal or visual balance.

Symmetrical balance describes designs which have equal and same elements on either side while asymmetrical balance is used to describe designs with different elements, though still looking balanced visually; radial balance applies an arrangement of elements around a central object.

Harmony – make it pleasing

Harmony is the pleasing combination of element. It is the agreement of each entity. It is like honey and pancake, coffee and cream and put and dinuguan (a Filipino delicacy).

Awkward combination of elements also ignite an awkward feeling from the viewers. It is sore to the eyes. It ruins the message that you are trying to deliver.

Harmony tells how well the elements within your frame are visualized to produce a stunning view.

Proportion – do not distort

Proportion is sometime replaced by the word ‘scale’ in the list of principle of composition. It is used to describe how one part of the design or art compares with other parts in the artwork.  These parts should balance well to create a good visual representation.

When comes to photography is usually done by estimation base on the real world. This principle could help you identify the distance of each object in the frame from the camera.

Rhythm – stay on the move

Rhythm is the harmonious repetition of composition elements to depict movement. It can be used in various forms such as linear, repetition, alternation or gradation to create an exciting movement which is easy to comprehend. Using a variety of contrasting elements makes the rhythm more exciting.

Contrast – show the difference

Contrast simply means difference between or among the elements in your composition. This is important when you want to capture improper balance out of the scene. It could be contrast between lines, shapes, colors and textures or contrast between sizes. Contrast usually goes together with ‘variety’ when used in art or design work.

All of these help define the structure of the various elements of design and how they are used. They give the work more value and appeal when used appropriately.

How to Use the VC-Triangle

VC-TriangleYou notice that the emphasis is first on the list and it is followed by variety then unity and followed by the rest of the rest of the principles. This means that when evaluate the quality of your design, you are not advised to immediate jump into checking whether the design it balance or not.

You need to consider first your subject or you message, and when you are sure that subject is on the focal point, you can proceed to evaluate whether the design is not boring or monotonous then proceed to the next criteria.

It is a step by step process. Start from the bottom side of the triangle then move clockwise. After that, proceed to the fist layer, which is balance, then move upward to harmony and so on.

I hope that this tool can help you to produce better and effective visual aids.

Thank for reading this series. Godspeed!

Photo By Grzegorz Wysocki (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons



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About Jyppe A. Quidores

A graphic designer and visual merchandising specialist. He provides visual communication solutions for retailers.

One Comment

  1. Ronan White

    September 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I have waited for this part and it is finally published. This is good presentation. Actually, I have read these basic principles before, and this post is a good review.

    The arrangement is more organized and it leads the designer or the artist which thing should be checked first.

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