Figure/Ground: Travis Thomas


This is an example of the ambiguous relationship between figure and ground called Sky and Water II made by M.C Escher.

The pattern that I have represented on the left side of the page is a great example of figure-ground ambiguity. If you pay attention depending on what color you choose as the foreground and the background the primary shape changes from a bird if you choose black to a fish if you choose white for the foreground. Foreground or figure is what your eye sees as the main topic and most important element in a design causing you to focus the most on that element. The background or ground is what your eye sees as the base of the design, automatically making it less important than the figure or foreground.  As your eye adjust what you see as the foreground the background becomes unimportant to you and it is hard to see the other shape in the pattern. The ambiguity makes the pattern more interesting because it gives it another dimension. Depending on what you see first or maybe even your interests, the pattern will stand out more as birds or fish making the viewing experience different for each person. At a quick glance, one person could not even see the other shape depending on what they saw as the foreground vs background making the pattern have a totally different impact on them. Also, I think how in the middle of the poster where they switch from detailing the bird shape to the fish shape makes the pattern more functional overall because it tasks your mind to see the relationship between figure and ground even if you are not aware of it at first. The transition forces the viewer to try and figure out how and why the detailed shape changes as you go down the pattern. This pattern is definitely an ornamental piece. It doesn’t serve any specific purpose, but it is a very eye-catching design due to the ambiguity between figure and ground causing the viewer to stop and think about the pattern more than they usually would.


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