Figure/Ground: Kathleen Zimmerman

Graphic design composition of a iceberg and city scape. An example of figure/ground reversal. Piece titled “Hidden City” By Tang Yau Hoong

In Graphic Design: The New Basics, we learned about the importance of working with figure and ground and how it can add interest to a composition. Figure is the main subject while ground is the area surrounding the subject. In figure/ground reversal, figure is what the eye is instantly drawn to but after a second our mind switches and ground becomes apparent. Artists use this trick to meld two different subjects into one cohesive image. In this example, we see an iceberg floating in the water, but upon further inspection, the base of the iceberg takes the form of a city scape. The base of the iceberg is very detailed and looks exactly like a city. This is a prime example of figure-ground reversal. The artist uses two different subjects to make an image that is visually interesting.  The negative space takes up a lot of room around the iceberg, which makes it the focal point. Because the iceberg is directly in the center, our eyes are immediately drawn to it as well. The bottom section of the image takes up more space and is darker than the top, which grounds the image. The line splitting the image in two creates the sky and the ocean. This piece is interesting to me because it integrates nature as well as civilization. The composition is blue to represent the ocean and sky and then inside the iceberg the lighter blue is ment to represent the sky of the city. From what I can tell, this image is purely ornamental. Although there could be an underlying meaning showing the mix of nature and civilization, but it isn’t too clear. Figure/ground reversal is a design technique that is very powerful and can display two different or similar ideas simultaneously. It is useful for graphic design, company logos, posters, and many other types of art.

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