Figure/Ground: Cody Li

Figure/Ground (Gestalt Principles), is essentially, a form of technique that challenges our past experiences of perceptions and sensory; to the point that we try to find the underlying meaning of how the piece was created. Figure is defined by which it is the forefront of the image, it essentially is the main object/point of direction that we immediately fixate our eyes on. Ground is then the background, in which the figure is apart of – but is usually not as emphasized because it just creates a sense of environment for the figure to be apart of.

But when an artist puts the same amount of emphasis for both the ground, as they did for the figure – it starts challenging the viewer’s sense of direction. They start to create this tension that pulls on one’s consciousness, forcing them to challenge and re-evaluate the purpose(s) of the piece.


Graphic art using the negative space technique from figure/ground. Prominently displaying the word ‘Dead’ in black, whilst hiding the word ‘Alive’ within the white spaces. Art by:

In this graphic design piece, the illustrator used the technique of ‘optical interplay’ to create this piece. At first, our eyes are fixated at the dominant word of ‘Dead’ in black (the figure), and then we slowly transition to the negative white space; where we then see the word ‘Alive’ (the ground). This optical interplay challenges our sense of judgement because one would automatically assume that it’s just the word ‘Dead’, but with extra ornamental features. Only then does the viewer realize, that the extra black features added onto the word ‘Dead’, act as a functional purpose to outline and conceive the hidden word of ‘Alive’. It’s technique such as this that are used in art pieces, that further engage the viewing audience to further dive into the piece.


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