Elements Of Design

This masterfully animated spot by Matt Greenwood playfully showcases key elements of design. I asked Matt if he could tell us more about his approach:

“I wanted to approach a specific idea and focus on animation using a very simple framework of visuals.
The main creative challenge was identifying the most effective way to illustrate each individual element of design.
Another big challenge was figuring out how I could combine shapes to create one continuous fluid animation through the use of transitions. I did a lot of planning and sketches before I moved into production.
The minimal style also proved to be quite unforgiving because the graphics and animation had to be very precise.

Most of the animation is made with Cinema 4D, with a couple of After Effects transitions when they made sense. I wanted to push myself to learn new techniques with Cinema 4D, so in each section I tried to tackle something new such as dynamics simulations or creative ways to use the MoGraph module. I didn’t use any plugins and wanted to create a flat, simple look in Cinema, using lots of textures with full luminance to eliminate any shading.

Just move things around until it feels right.

The conclusion – “Design is not a science. Just move things around until it feels right” suggests that using creative intuition cannot be rationalized using a scientific formula and I wanted to encourage using intuition as a guiding force, but only after understanding the basic principles of design. I didn’t intend to underestimate and disregard the practice and history of design – obviously there’s more to it than just randomly moving things around, but sometimes it’s difficult to understand why something isn’t working so It’s meant as an encouragement to worry less about the established set of rules and trust your gut. I think the statement is ambiguous enough that it’s sparked debate which is a good thing”.

  1. John Dickinson

    Being able to move things around until they look right is also something that comes with experience. With experience comes the ability to trust your judgement and let the design process flow more than it may in the early years.

  2. Charlie Pabst

    Hey John!

    Such a slick video.

    And yes, I’m definitely in the “move it around until it looks good” boat, but that’s not the whole design process for me. It’s more like the 10% towards the end of the polishing stage.

    I usually start off my designs (primarily websites and book covers) with an understanding of what will generally always work. Like comfy margins, padding, and leaving things room to breathe. Also, because color is my achilles heel, I tend to use color combos I already know will work. I also really like to overlap elements, like text on top of an image. But if you overlap too much, you lose a bit of subtlety. And if you don’t overlap enough the overlap can look accidental, like something got nudged out of place. These are sort of the “rules” I apply without really thinking about stuff.

    But that said, any time I design something I always sort of sit back and just look at the maybe-final piece. Sometimes squinting helps, as it will blur details and give you an idea of the balance and weights involved.

    I’ve also made (and seen) a bunch of mistakes by sticking too rigidly to such things as the Rule of Thirds and Golden Proportions. They’re classical “rules” but they don’t always work well. Sometimes they work out beautifully. But sometimes placing design elements at an exact intersection of thirds ends up looking really unbalanced, so you fix it by eyeballing until you’re happy.

    Thanks for posting! Good topic for discussion. Hope you’re well, man!


  3. Heri

    “Just move things around until it feels right.”
    this could be my latest inspiration, although i believe experience is my best teacher..

    Good find, John
    Have a great day !

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