2D Principles & Squares

This is the project that introduced us to the Design Elements and Principles. We took six basic words and turned them into visualizations using only four black and white squares. In the end, we condensed 72+ iterations into six that fully represented each word in an abstract way. The specific requirements were to…

  • Illustrate complex ideas using essential elements such as Shape and Line
  • Explore rapid iteration exploring effect of compositional selection and manipulation as part of the design process
  • Analyze observations and investigations with the goal of selecting ideas to bring to completion
  • Participate in self and class critiques


Starting Out

To start off this project, we had to read up about the design elements and principles. Within my first few weeks of college, doing this type of research got me super excited because things like proximity, alignment, hierarchy, etc. already made so much sense in my head! After that, we had to do our 72+ iterations which was at first very overwhelming. At this point I was nervous but optimistic about what this project had in store.


This process really pushed me. The sheer creative capacity needed to make this many iterations was huge, I didn’t know I had it in me! After my iterations were reviewed, I learned that a lot of them were too representational. This threw me for a loop and really forced me to dig deep to represent the base meanings of these words in not the most obvious ways. In a lot of cases, I tried to compose the squares in ways that made you think, how is THAT made of only four black and white squares?


Out of all of those iterations, these were initially my favorite six. I went through a long process of narrowing everything down until I got here. I felt that these compositions most obviously and accurately represented each word. After some collaboration and a mini critique, it was decided that the two on the right (bold and tension) were my weakest. Bold was too representational and didn’t convey the meaning of the word using elements and principles like it’s supposed to. Tension wasn’t uncomfortable enough and conveyed balance more than stress or pressure.

What you see here are my revised versions of bold and tension. Here I really tried to focus on elements on principles. For bold, I used the line and movement to draw the viewers eye to the center black square. This emphasized the centerpiece of the composition, therefore making it bold! For tension, I used the bottom right square to break a clear pattern. The unity of the three regular squares make the fourth one stand out by being much larger, darker, and breaking the outline. These choices were made to make the viewer uncomfortable and therefore tense.

The Final Six

These ended up being my final square compositions. I started off pretty weak but was able to take all of the advice and critiques into consideration. Using the elements and principles of design, I created six combinations of four squares each to represent words. In the end, I think I was successful and really stuck to the project’s guidelines and suggestions!

What I Learned

Starting off with a bang helped prepare me for the amount of work that was to come throughout the rest of the year. Throughout the iterative process, I learned how to dig deep and think more creatively than I ever have before. Looking back at this project, it was really the basis of learning how to use some pretty major aspects of design like the elements and principles. I’m glad that I was forced to look so deeply into them so early on because they have been such an important of each project thus far.