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Elements of Visual Design
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Composition and Layout
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Light and shadow are everywhere; they are a part of everything. All objects cast shadows and reflect light.
According to Smashing Magazine, "visually, light and shadow help us make sense of what we see and help us understand texture, dimension and perspective." To demonstrate lighting, I'm show three examples of lights through architecture, photography and design.
UKEssays.com states that light creates a feeling of emotion. "Light controls people's behavior and emotions. It can make people even happier." In the image below, you can see that the use of light is being used to create an open and welcoming environment.
Figure 1.1: Helix Bridge
The bridge is actually a linkway featuring a double helix structure inspired by the yin and yang concept in Asian culture, the architecturally unique bridge is said to bring wealth, happiness and prosperity to Marina Bay in Singapore (yoursingapore.com).
Light plays and important role in photography. Proper lighting can help with highlighting and filling dark areas of a photo. HowStuffWorks.com list five ways that lighting can improve your photographs.
1) Take It Outside - Taking photos outside has the advantage of using the sun as a lighting source. However, too much sunlight can wash out a photograph and cause strong shadows. Cloudy days work best because they diffuse the light.
2) Get In Position - While you may not always be able to control your light source, you can usually control where your subject is in relation to the light. If the light is behind your subject, you won't get any detail. You should not have your subject staring into the light source because the photo will come out badly and your subject will be blinded by the light. When lighting is off to the side, it produces the best results.
3) Your Flash is Your Friend - Flash can be used to eliminate shadows and for red-eye reduction.
4) Don't Refuse to Diffuse - Diffusers can be almost anything, light dropping a clot over the harsh light of a lamp, clouds, trees, or an umbrella.
5) Hold Still - Using a tripod is the best way to keep a camera steady. When you need more light in a photograph, you need to keep the shutter open longer. Using a flash here would not be useful because it would only illuminate a small part of the photograph.
Lighting in design is similar to lighting in photography, except that in design, you use artificial light. Adobe Photoshop has a function that allows you use artificial light sources. You can have a light source to one side of the image or both sides of the image to eliminate shadows. In the image below from Smashing Magazine (2009), you can see how the appearance of the light and shadow affect the surface of an apple.
Figure 1.2: Appearance of light and shadow show us about the surface and texture of the image.
In this image we can see the light source is off to the side and cause the left side of the apple to have a highlight while the right side cast a shadow. Highlights are used to make a surface stand out. Shadows, like a drop shadow, can also be used to show depth and texture. Sites such as LinkedIn and Google use drop shadows correctly to create depth.
Morris, Rob. (April 20th, 2009).
5 Simple Tricks To Bring Light and Shadow Into Your Designs
. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from
Laneri, Raquel. (October 29th, 2013).
Illuminati: 12 Shining Examples of Architecture + Lighting
. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from
An architectural marvel. (2013). Retrieved September 22, 2014 from
Deaton, Jamie Page. "5 Tips for Photography Lighting" 07 December 2010. HowStuffWorks.com. <
> 22 September 2014.
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