Form Follows Emotion


We have talked about some parts of how our brain processes information. Everything we see in life can be visually simplified to its core essence through analysis of its shape and composition using lines that are then processed into basic and familiar objects and shapes that are registered and saved in our memory, the Hippo. When you try to draw your hand, you start by drawing the lines that form the shape of your hand and your fingers. A unique combination of lines, curves and shapes makes the composition of what we call hands and that visual construction of the composition combined with the words "hand" and a lot of other associations are registered in our brain. Our eyes then play a major role in how we see things and how we experience life. In this article, we will learn a little about technical parts of how our eyes see and how we develop a visual construct as our eyes, brain and heart work together to shape a memory.

Lines and how our visual recognition and memory association perceive them are a very interesting and complex topic and while we intend to cover key elements here, we encourage everyone to further research and broaden their knowledge reading about lines in 2D and 3D dimensional aspects.

The Light & The Eyes

photo from National keratoconus Foundation

Our eyes are composed of key elements of Cornea, Pupil, Vitreous body and Retina, all of which work together one layer after another to transmit and process light and images captured by our eyes (Cornea) to build visual construction.

Cornea is the clear and transparent front layer of the eye that transmits light and starts the process of analyzing light. Light enters through the Cornea which is then carried into the interior of the eye (Vitreous body) in the form of light waves. Being the front window of our vision, the Cornea gathers and focuses visual images. Because Cornea is the front gate of our eyes, it is an important part of our vision and any impairment to the Cornea will impact the quality of vision.

When light enters the Cornea, the Cornea bends the light rays so that the they can freely pass through the Pupil (in the center of the Iris in a normal eye) as Iris adjusts to the light depending on how much light is entered through the Cornea while the Pupil controls the intensity of light permitted to enter the lens.

After the light has passed the Iris, it then enters the Retina through our internal crystalline lens, which just like the lens in a camera controls the focus of the light rays. The light rays enter in the Retina through the Vitreous body which is a dense and transparent gel-like environment that supports the Retina and gives the eyes their spherical shapes.

The Retina which is a thin layer of tissue then receives the light that the lens has focused and transforms the information to brain through converting the light into electrical impulses that signal visual recognition to the brain. The role of Retina can be described as the role of the film in a camera that captures all the light waves and turns them into impulses that can be signaled to the brain.

We will address the technical and structure of the eye in depth in the later articles as we will cover important particles and elements of visual concept.

All pictorial form begins with the point that sets itself in motion.. The point moves and the line comes into being- the first dimension...  A summary of the kinetic energies which move the point into a line, the line into a plane and the plane into a spatial dimension. -Paul Klee  

The Lines & The Emotions

Paul Klee 1922

Line is a very important element of visual concept in both design and visual expression of objects and experiences. Lines are perceived in relationship with one another, proportion of each compared to the whole and how they interact with each other. Everything we see can be put in terms of lines, points and shapes. A line is a critical element in the formation of any visual construction as it expresses path, direction, movement and growth of what our eyes see. A cluster of points moves in a specific direction to form a line and lines interact with each other to form shapes and objects. The character of a line supports the visual construction and recognition, which is determined by perception of its length, continuity, thickness, direction and its contour. These characteristics can change the meaning of a line and manipulate our visual perception and the associated emotions and experiences registered in our brain.

The Retina and our brain work together to give meaning to the repetitions and continuous formations of visual experiences. One example of this phenomena is our visual recognition of abstract elements. We can recognize a circle if there are enough dots moving in a circular motion, even if the abstract shape of a circle is distorted or manipulated (to some degree). A continuous repetition of similar elements in a row can be generalized in our visual recognition as a line. Below we will cover some of the big characteristics of lines and how our perception of their visual appearances impacts our emotions.

Stephen Antonakos. Incomplete Circle- MoMA

The Direction of a Line

- Oblique lines are dynamic and often associated with giving direction and signaling a rise or a fall. If a line is falling towards a point on the ground plane, then it signals a fall. If it's moving in an upward direction, rising towards the sky, then we associate the line with positive energies and a rise or addition or improvement.

Energy of a Line

A line carries a lot of energy and can impact how we feel about an object and our own level of energy.

- Horizontal lines are low energy static motion and express a sense of calmness and rest. This is extremely important when designing a room for an important function like sleeping.

- Vertical lines express movement across space and stability especially if lines are thick and placed parallel to each other in the same intervals. Vertical lines give a sense of order and formality and is associated with masculine energy and sometimes dignity.

- Curved lines are gentle on the eyes and often associated with femininity, movement and smoothness and free-form or free-spirited. Curves have a softening effect on the composition. The bigger the curves, the calmer and more relaxing they make us feel. On the opposite side, 90-degree angles and sharp corners are associated with stiffness, lack of motion or change.

The Axis

- A line can be a visual connection of two points in space that are in a symmetrical arrangement. Our eye (our brain) can "connect the dots" from point A to point B without a physically presence of a line due to the phenomena that we mentioned above.

The associations in our brain play a huge role in how we analyze lines and shape visual construction. We have mentioned before that we always want to associate ourselves with things that we know and are familiar to us. If an abstract, modified and manipulated composition has the necessary material strength, we can still recognize and recall the characteristics of a shape without having the full story. Even the most complex compositions can be visually constructed into familiar and basic shapes and forms (circle, cube, triangle) if they were designed properly to give a sense of belonging and that "feeling like home" emotion that we covered in our previous article.

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