Latest Entries »

Gestalt theory is something with which all people are innately familiar, but are unaware of its rules and principles.  I, myself, have known about the theories and principles for several years, but have not explored them in depth until the last couple months.

Gestalt has many definitions depending on the context in which it is used.  Official definitions from sources such as the Merriam-Webster dictionary state that gestalt is “a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts”.  Though this definition is obviously wordy and a bit formal for my purposes, it does describe the general theory gestalt well.  The online Free Dictionary extracts gestalt from the Collins English Dictionary and describes it from a psychological standpoint as “a perceptual pattern or structure possessing qualities as a whole that cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts”.  The two above definitions work well for gestalt in general, but, because I am delving into a design-related field, I find that the design-related definition of gestalt from usask.com, “how we perceive objects in our environment… the difference between figure and ground and…how various principles help us to decide which is figure and which is ground” applies most closely to how I think of it.  No matter what source is though, they all essentially describe gestalt in the same way.  Combining the definitions into a more digestible form, my definition of gestalt is that, by our way of interpreting, the whole of anything is more than the sum of all it’s combined parts.

From how I understand gestalt, I have illustrated a simple example of a couple of the principles below.

Girl and trees

In my above illustration, the girl on the rock expresses the gestalt principle of figure and ground since she is not visible by any other means than the night sky behind her.  The constellation of Orion, seen in the sky, shows the gestalt principle of proximity because of the closeness of the stars in Orion’s belt and because the configuration of the overall constellation is easily recognized by most viewers.  The trees illustrate both the principles of proximity and similarity – proximity because the black trees are all spaced close together and, therefore, seen as more of a whole group than the white tree, and similarity because all the black trees are together, but the white tree is separate and, thus, more noticeable.

Sources:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gestalt

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gestalt

http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/skaalid/theory/theory.htm

My personal visual aesthetic is hard to pin down.  As a natural eclectic, I have explored many different genres of art, music, movies, books, and anything else that inspires me.

Over the years, though, I have found that few things have really inspired enough of a sense of awe in me to make me want to create personal visions of my own as the fantasy/science fiction art genres.  Although they are both still filled with art I find distasteful (no genre is perfect), I have found that I get most of my inspiration from pieces that depict dramatic landscapes and grandiose pieces of ornately detailed architecture.  I also find art that incorporates other-worldly elements (usually things that can’t be found or experienced on this world or plane of existence) as key to inspiring me to create like visions from my mind.

It is for these reasons that I eventually aim to have a business of my own where I can create my visions without the restrictions of a client and sell my art online.

Prince of Persia Official concept art - copyright 2008 by Ubisoft

Integral Trees - copyright 1983 by Michael Whelan

Overall, though, my eclectic personality tells me that my personal aesthetic is all about life.  Burgeoning, creative, wonderful, expressive, incredible life.

With that, I leave you with a statement I think applies, not just to creative artists and designers, but to everyone:

There is but one secret to the universe…

…Thought creates.

All people have their own way of seeing and interpreting the surrounding things, ideas, and events in their world.  Although this is and always will be true, there are general ways and categories in which we can place our perspectives to make sense of how we see it all.  Otherwise, art mediums and the distinctive genres that we created for them wouldn’t exist.

A book I read in the past few months (which, fortunately, was one of the more interesting reads in those few months), called “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, explored some of the different avenues in which people view things.  It looked at ideas such as the mystification that paintings of the last several centuries have caused people to feel, the “real” perspectives photography gave people after it was introduced, and the intended meanings and influences early painters and later photographers suggested in their artwork.  Much of the book described John’s interpretations on how women are viewed and portrayed in artwork.  It explained how the artists of most of the paintings and photos in the chapters depicted women as mere objects to be looked at by the viewer for sexual appeal or for the viewer’s possession and ownership.  It explained that this intended perspective not only influenced the way the male viewers of the artwork saw women, but also how both the female subjects and viewers saw themselves.  The book later discussed that the main purpose of the oil painting movement, which was largely popular between 1500 and 1900, was to realistically illustrate objects the viewer could feel they could possess and own.  This idea of painting things for the sole purpose of making the viewer want to own them was a precursor to today’s commercial art, which the book detailed in the final chapter about publicity as the main reason art is created in the modern world.  The publicity present in all commercial art and design, now, combines the concepts of women as objects of sex and possession and of material wealth to sell the objects of desire they portray.

While I read all of this material, I was always inclined to take a different stance on the topics, but I also understood the ideas John was effervescently explaining.  I saw some truth in his interpretations of all the various topics.  When he mentioned the perspectives of possession, ownership, and sexual attraction of women in artwork, I already knew that those perspectives applied to most men and some women who fell into that unfortunate trap.  When he mentioned that oil paintings of the past and commercial art of the present influenced and manipulated viewers of said art into wanting to buy and possess the material things in them, I agreed that many people also fell into that trap.  However, like anything in life, I also thought that John’s interpretations of those topics didn’t apply to everybody.  I believed that there were (and still are) some men and many women who didn’t see the artwork in the ways he described.  There were always debates and heated arguments over the objectification of women in any art medium and the importance of material wealth.  I was on the side of the argument that was against these perspectives (and I still am).  I was able to see that, because many societies over the last several centuries (and even millenia) have been patriarchal, these perspectives were only purported by arrogant males who intended to influence other males and females to view the world the way they did.  As a male who has seen past these perspectives, I have followed the push for more artwork to portray women in more meaningful ways and for there to be more substance in today’s art than the ownership of superfluous material objects.  Although there have been small strides here and there for higher quality artwork, the majority of art out in the world today has still fallen into the trap of sexualizing women and supporting material wealth.

From what I’ve learned from the book, I have looked past oil paintings and today’s artwork in slightly different ways.  I can see how John has interpreted the meanings and intentions artists have put into their artwork and how they have affected many people’s ways of viewing the world.  I know there elements of truth in what he says and can plainly see them in past an present artwork, but I don’t see those truths applying to as many people as he claims.

Cultural awareness has been part of every facet of human society since old cultures began mingling with other old cultures.  In recent decades, with the advent of international media and the proliferation of worldwide communication and influences, cultural awareness has dramatically become a higher priority for nations, businesses, and people.  The field of Design has been especially impacted by different cultures because much of design is subjective and can take many different meanings.  Because design is huge (containing many different sub-branches), there is always a high chance that designs might be misinterpreted or be offensive to a culture with which the original designer is not aware.

Video game design is no exception to this common fact.  While I only intend to be a simple environment artist (creating props, land, buildings, etc. for video game levels), my art may have cultural undertones I am not aware of and may be taken more personally by someone or a group of people who have knowledge of the art’s influence and take offense at it.

Differences in the cultural meanings of the sun

For thousands of years, the sun has played an important role in many religions and cultures.  Because of it’s necessity for lots of the life on this planet, cultures have most often revered it to the point that it has represented life-giving gods that need to be worshiped.  Although the idea of worshiping a god is a purely human notion, the significance of the sun in every culture, past and present, cannot be denied.

Most often recognized as an open circle with a small dot in the middle (more ancient times) or a filled circle with spikes or tendrils emanating from the center (more modern times)- representing light coming from within – the sun is both an icon and a symbol.  As an icon, the sun means the sun in every context and has no different assigned meaning.  As a symbol, it has many different cultural meanings.

Old cultures such as the Roman, Greek, Hindu, and Egyptian cultures marked the sun as the father and leader of all gods that created the earth.  In Islam, the sun is seen as more of a symbol of events than a god (since it only have one god in the religion).  In American culture, the sun has become more of a symbol for sunny days, joy, and happiness and has not represented any serious figure or played any important cultural role besides the aforementioned meanings.

Differences in the cultural meanings of the color, blue

As with symbols, universal colors have taken on different meanings in different cultures.  Because blue is a popular color, it was interesting to see the variety of meanings different cultures have assigned to it.

English: sadness, depression, happiness and optimism (both- like on a clear day with blue skies), male gender

German: drunk (derived from the ancient use of urine (produced by drinking lots of alcohol) as a dyeing agent for blue cloth)

China: immortality

Iran: mourning

Cherokees: defeat, trouble

Western: royalty, conservative-ness, corporations, soothing,

Eastern: wealth

The Sony controversy

Colors also tie into how different cultures perceive advertisements.  In 2006, Sony released an ad for it’s new, white Playstation Portable (PSP) that unintentionally caused a racial stir among the population of Holland (where the ad was originally run) and the neighboring United States.

The ad, shown on the right, depicted a white woman violently holding a black woman’s face in a threatening manner.  Because the original PSP was black, Sony introduced the ad for its new “Ceramic White” PSP, only intending to contrast the new and white, purportedly better, PSP over the older black model.

Critics were quick to point out the bumbling mistake on Sony’s part and Sony quickly discontinued the ad and took it down, apologizing for its oversight.

Sources:

http://www.sibagraphics.com/colour.php

http://webdesign.about.com/od/color/a/bl_colorculture.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue

http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/color2.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_in_human_culture

http://www.propertymanagementleasing.com/images/assets/clip%20art/sun_clipart_9.gif

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6153643.html

In today’s cultures all around the globe, signs are necessary for every person to function well within society.  Most signs are taken for granted because they are needed and are always assumed to be there.  If people actually took the time to study the different types of signs, they’d find out some interesting information about them.  Signs can be broken down into three categories: symbols, icons, and indexes.

Symbols are visual representations of, most often, abstract ideas or invisible concepts that don’t have any direct connection to the symbol that represents them.  Symbols’ meanings are often learned through cultures and are not immediately grasped by most individuals.  The meanings are assigned to the symbols by people or cultures where the symbols themselves do not often have those inherent meanings.

Icons are visual representations as well, but, unlike symbols, they represent ideas, physical processes, or physical objects directly.  Ranging from people being icons for a category to which they directly relate to small, simple visual pictures that represent a software program, icon meanings are found within their own visual display.

Indexes are visual representations of actions or complex messages that need to be expressed in a very simple way in order to be easily understood at a quick glance.  Like roadway signs and the cautionary signs seen in front of parks, indexes directly illustrate a message to the viewer to take some kind of action.

Examples of symbols:

Rolling Stones logo symbol (Kristi)
Russian Communist symbol (Duncan)
The “All-Seeing-eye” symbol (Nick)

Examples of icons:

Phone service icon (Kristi)
Coffee cup icon (Duncan)
Traffic light sign icon (Nick)

Examples of indexes:

Engrish sign index (Duncan)
Danger – shark-infested waters index (Nick)


Caution! Radioactive index (Kristi)

My examples:

Danger! Don’t swim with giant bees! index (Nick example)
Project Natal symbol (Nick-example)
Grass seed packet icon (Nick example)

Sources:

Icon: Traffic light sign: http://www.templeterrace.com/police/images/TrafficSignalSign.jpg

Icon: Coffee cup: http://www.clker.com/cliparts/d/4/d/9/1237562201214390563pitr_Coffee_cup_icon.svg.hi.png

Icon: Radioactive symbol: http://apps.co.marion.or.us/imagegallery/Recycling%20Images/photogallery/Radioactive%20Symbol_RGB.jpg

Symbol: The “All-seeing eye”: http://djkonservo.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/all_seeing_eye.jpg

Symbol: Russian Communist sign: http://www.freewebs.com/truesocialism/Communist%20Symbol.png

Symbol: Rolling Stones logo: John Pasche (Initial Designer)

Index: Shark-infested waters: http://lifesavingfoundation.com.au/inc/images/shark_sign.jpg

Index: Engrish sign: http://ares.chairmanlol.com/content/543/resized/engrish-funny-1221804809-16526.jpg

Index: Phone: http://www.clker.com/clipart-40845.html

Group E:  Kristi, Sylvia, Duncan, Nick
Topic:  Cross Tensions, Bridging Devices

Our subjects for this little in-class research project were Cross Tensions and Bridging Devices.  The definitions for these terms were a bit difficult to nail down during our library research but, by looking at various images in books and on the internet, we were able to piece together a rough estimation of what each of them means.

Cross tensions could have multiple definitions.

  • Criss-crossing or interweaving lines causing tension in an image.  More specifically, a series of horizontal lines with strong, interrupting vertical lines overlapping them.
  • Architectural design element using criss-crossing beams as designs

One example is as follows: (from Design Basics)

Cross tension is an element utilized in design to create, well, tension.  Under normal circumstances, horizontal lines imply stability, while vertical lines imply strength.  When overlapped in such a jarring fashion, or tilted to form crossing diagonal lines, tension is naturally created.

Here are some examples of Cross Tension in art/print:

On Points — Wassily Kandinsky

http://web.guggenheim.org/exhibitions/exhibition_pages/kandinsky/index.html

Circles in a Circle – Wassily Kandinsky
http://www.art.com/products/p10329573-sa-i775354/wassily-kandinsky-circles-in-circle.htm

Red In the Net — Wassily Kandinsky
ARTStor

Suprematism — Kazimir Malevich
ARTStor

Video Game Example:  Donkey Kong

Nick MacMichael’s Cross Tension Example

Kristi Walker’s Cross Tension Example

Next up we have Bridging Devices.  They can be roughly defined as:

  • An element used in painting or design to bridge an idea or theme
  • A horizontal element in an image that connects or bridges multiple vertical elements
  • An element in architecture that bridges two disparate elements of the building/buildings

One example of architecture is this image, which uses crossing arches to bridge two different buildings: (from Design Basics)

And…more Bridging Device examples:

Red Cross on Block Circle— Kazimir Malevich
ARTStor

Suprematism No. 50 — Kazimir Malevich
ARTStor

Sylvia Yu Bridging Device Example (also has Cross Tensions going on here)

Duncan MacMichael Bridging Device Example

Video Game Bridging Device Example:  World of Goo

Sources:

Books

  • Design Basics — by David A. Lauer/Stephen Pentak
  • Design Basics — by David A. Lauer
  • Making and Breaking the Grid — by Timothy Samara
  • Principles of Two-Dimensional Design — by Wucius Wong

Websites

We don’t need no stinkin’ accessibility for our video game contraptions!  Heh heh.  Actually, we do.  And there are games that have catered to the disabled crowd because quite a large portion of the population in America fall under this category.

After listening to a podcast on KUOW.org about web accessibility for everyone, I was prompted and curious to find out how my design field (video game design) tackled this topic.

For those of you who either haven’t heard or don’t have the time to go check out the approximately 16-minute podcast, it is about a web programmer named Wendy Chrisholm and her journey to make the World Wide Web more accessible to people with disabilities.  As co-author of the book, Universal Design for Web Applications, Wendy is passionate about making all websites universally accessible.  She tells her story throughout the podcast, mentioning that she became interested in college because she was interested in how to connect programming with people.  One of her assignments was to tutor a blind person in a statistics class.  She didn’t do phenomenally well at it, but that assignment was the catalyst to her interest in designing for the disabled.  She also describes how many websites, even today, are inaccessible.  An example she provides is of the Metro bus website is not built to accommodate screen readers for the visually impaired and that it could be improved if the timetables for the buses use a table-like format instead of just rows.  She concludes the podcast by encouraging web designers to include accessibility in their design processes and perhaps to include disabled people right from the start so that accessibility is not included in the design as an afterthought.

This epidemic of inaccessible design is not exclusive to web or print design, however.  It is an issue in game design as well.  In fact, video games may be one of the largest culprits when it comes to being accessible to disabled people.  Since video games are more a part of the entertainment industry than either print or web design, universal accessibility is especially low on many developers’ list of priorities.  Their main focus is to entertain the masses, many of which are not disabled in any way.  Accessibility is an issue that many of them consider to be an annoying afterthought that adds more time to their production schedules and wastes precious budget money.  The fact of the matter is that the disabled are not a small minority, by any means, and incorporating small changes to game design to make them accessible would not be a large tax on resources.

Many of the sites I visited focused mostly on the problems most games present to disabled people.  Those who have visual disablites may have trouble discerning the colors of the foreground from those in the background. They are also not able to understand visual cues that are based solely on color differences and, therefore, they get frustrated when they fail at a part of a game that relies on those differences.  Those with aural disabilities cannot hear instructions that are given them only by an in-game character’s voice, or they won’t be able to talk and strategize with friends online without any text-based way of communicating.  By far the largest obstacle of accessibility comes in the form of controllers and interfaces that are not made for those with limited motor skills.  The situation is made worse for those who are newly disabled due to some unfortunate accident.  Since they have not had to live with physical ailments all their lives, they usually have trouble adapting to the new lifestyle, especially if they played games before they became disabled.

Some solutions have already been found for these issues.  Many games include subtitles and closed captioning for players that are hearing impaired.  A few games that rely on differently colored visual cues to direct the player have been retooled to either provide different colors, greater contrast, or unique symbols to better direct players that are visually impaired.  Even different controller setups have been created to cater to players who are physically impaired.  As forward-thinking and progressive as these attempts have been, the solutions are few-and-far-between and usually only help players of one disability or another.  There are currently no solutions that are universally appealing to all gamers.

While I don’t believe there is any end-all solution to creating a perfectly accessible game (as there is no end-all solution to anything), I do believe that it’s possible to get close.  A solution I found in an article by the International Game Developers Assosiation proposes a device that uses brain waves as input.  Since all of our senses are controlled by our mind, it makes sense(no pun intended) to me to skip the middleman and go straight to the command center.  Unless a person is mentally unstable – in which case video games would be the least of their problems – any person with a sensory impairment or disability wouldn’t need to worry about their handicap to successfully play a game and have fun.  As ideal as this solution is, though, the technology required to create such a device would be expensive.  It is a long-term goal that would take years or decades to come down enough in price to be a consumer item.

At the present time, the solutions that have been implemented into games work very well for their respective audiences.  The only problem in the industry is that not nearly enough developers consider the needs of the disabled crowd when designing their games.  Like Wendy Chrisholm said in the podcast, if accessibility is involved right from the beginning of any project, the game will be easier to develop for a broader audience than it would otherwise.   Game designers play an essential role in making this happen.

To raise awareness of the importance of providing accessibility, lead game designers and developers can go out to disabled communities and ask gamers what they need from a game to make it playable.  They can also hire somewhat disabled employees as idea consultants and designers.  Once developers include accessibility in their games, their audience broadens by no small amount, which only adds more to their bottom line.

From what I’ve come across in this research, I can see where the problems are with accessibility in video games.  Since it is just a very small matter of budget and time for developers, it’s logical and safe to presume that the main reasons for the lack of accessibility in most games are laziness of the developer or publisher and ignorance of the enormity of the issue.  Solutions here and there have been attained, but there are not enough of them to fully resolve the issue.

Sources:

http://www.accessibility.nl/games/index.php?pagefile=auditory

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060920/zahand_01.shtml

http://archives.igda.org/articles/twestin_access.php

http://abledbody.com/profoundlyyours/2009/11/07/should-video-gamers-sue-for-better-accessibility/

http://videogames.suite101.com/article.cfm/game_over

http://www.gametrailers.com/user-movie/video-games-and-accessibility/321603

While diligently pushing my brain to absorb as much of the book, Laws of Seeing, by Wolfgang Metzger, as I could, I was able to recall what the overall theme of the book was after I read it cover to cover.

Metzger was a professor who specialized in Gestalt theory.  He wrote this book as if he was discussing many of his theories with colleagues and targeted it toward a psychologically-oriented audience that has yet to fully comprehend the complexities behind those theories.  Artists have also benefited from the gestalt principles explained throughout the chapters, even though the book was not written in a way that they could easily comprehend.  In the early chapters he merely discussed the basic principles of gestalt like Proximity – where we(humans) organize objects or elements in an image according to how close or far they are from each other; Closure – where we complete images using only a significant portion, but not all, of them; Continuation – where we follow a path through one image to another image; Similarity – where we cluster objects or elements of an image according to how similar or different they are from those in the rest of the image; and Figure and Ground – where we differentiate objects or elements in an image based on whether they are the main “Figure” in our vision or whether they are the back”ground” in our vision.  He supplemented these important principles with basic, two-dimensional imagery that were only intended to act as clear, black-and-white examples of them.   Later in the book, he delved deeper into gestalt to speak on the relative gray areas in which it actually exists in the natural world.  He elaborated on the topics of camouflage and spatial effects and how each of them incorporate advanced forms of the basic gestalt concepts.

One important highlight of the book (and believe me, a highlight is a highlight for this book) was the chapter on camouflage.  Until I read this chapter, all of the gestalt principles and concepts were only abstract ambiguities that had no practical applications.  When I saw how they were applied to something with which I was more familiar (animals using camouflage), I immediately connected with them.  That seems to be how I operate best:  once I can apply an abstract concept or process with something tangible and real, I can immediately make sense out of it.  When I saw gestalt being used in an everyday situation such as camouflage being used as a survival instinct, I was immediately able to extract more meaning from many of the simple gestalt principles Metzger was doing his best to explain.

Though I didn’t undergo any dramatic transformations or revelations from the contents of this book, I did come away from it feeling a bit different about the way I view the world around me.   Because of how Metzger meticulously described the gestalt principles and how they applied to the real world, I no longer took the way I saw things for granted.  He has ingrained gestalt into my subconscious so that I have now been trained to see the world in terms of the different gestalt theories and rules.  Although I may not consciously see the world in gestalt vision all the time, I do a double-take whenever I observe some phenomenon to which gestalt would most readily apply.

As an environment artist, I use gestalt every day, whether I am consciously aware of it or not.  Just like the complex uses of the principles in the real world, my environment designs that make use of certain principles are not always obvious.  If I need to make a particular object or building stand out from it’s surroundings, I use gestalt similarity by creating a texture that would be discordant from all of the textures of the surrounding environment.  If I need to guide a player’s attention to a certain point in a level, I use gestalt continuation by creating models or textures that naturally lead the player’s eyes to that focal point.  If I need to camouflage a hidden item within the environment so that the player can have an ah-ha moment of discovery when they find the item, I again use similarity and camouflage to blend the texture or shape of the hidden item in with the background enviroment. 

If I had chosen psychology as my future profession, I would have used gestalt rules and principles when considering how best to treat my patients (not to mention I would have been able to grasp more from the book).  However, as an artist, I have mostly used gestalt as a common sense guide to how I illustrate environments and have created levels that use underlying gestalt priciples to let the player know how to progress through them.

Since I have learned of the value of gestalt, not only in my design profession, but also in my every-day experiences, I have done reading elsewhere to discover other perspectives on these theories.  A similar book which was written in a different way that was a bit easier to swallow than Laws of Seeing was Ways of Seeing, by John Berger.  From the first two chapters I read, the book itself didn’t  focus on explaining the principles themselves, but instead talked about how they are implemented into the way we perceive the world around us. 

Upon the completion of the book, I concluded that, while there are probably books on gestalt that are easier to read, Metzger was at least able to make me aware of many of the strange phenomena that occur as a natural part of our vision.  His theories reminded me to not take our visual perceptions for granted.  I may not remember the details of his writing years from now (heck, I had a hard time remembering them before I wrote this blog post, but that’s neither here nor there),  but I will always remember the principles he discussed and apply them effectively to all my future artwork.

Gestalt theory bases itself mainly on optical illusion, but it is more about making our minds complete a picture using different methods of seeing images.  It is summed up by many people as focusing on the concept that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”; in other words, a whole image or idea can have many meanings or interpretations that are not always drawn just from the functions of the individual parts.  Every observer can take away a different meaning of a particular combination of images.  Many of the methods used by Gestalt experimenters are widely different and test different cognitive functions within any given test subject’s brain.  This is how gestalt principles and methods mess with people.  By using concepts such as closure, where a sufficient amount of an image is shown for us to complete the entire picture, even when not all of it is shown, and grouping, where an image is completed from certain elements being arranged to form a cohesive whole to our minds, gestaltism is able to present our minds with associations to reality in an abstract way.

An experiment I conducted on some co-worker friends and my mom (nothing bad, I promise) involved a series of pictures that preceded a seemingly random assortment of blobs that gradually formed a semi-cohesive shape of a rider on a horse.  The first of the two conditions for the experiment contained pictures that did not relate at all to animals or people before it abruptly launched into the real test of finding an image in the blobs.  The second condition showed a series of animal pictures that were supposed to ease the subject’s mind into seeing the rider on the horse at an earlier stage of the formation of the image than the first condition.  As a requirement, all of my subjects weren’t allowed to know what they were supposed to be finding; each one had to say at which step of the twenty they saw a distinct image from the combination of blobs and what it was that they saw.

My first guinea pig was actually my mom, as I was able to see her before I saw my co-workers.  Of the three unfortunate victims of this confusing gestalt experiment, she was the artistic/visual one and, therefore, the most successful at recognizing the image.  In condition one, it took her time, but after fifteen steps, she said it looked like an animal.  She wasn’t specific about the species, but that it definitely had the legs of an animal.  In condition two, she said the image melded together more and identified it as a horse, though without a rider, at step ten.  I asked her if any of the preceding photos helped shape the image into what she thought it was and she said that they didn’t; only that her mind was working on the problem of completing the image in the time between the end of the first condition and step ten of the second condition.

My second guinea pig was my manager at work, who was not a very visually-oriented person.  She told me right from the start that she was no good at these kinds of tests, even though I didn’t tell her the exact purpose of this one.  She obliged me, though, and proceeded to take the test, anyway.  On condition one, she stopped at step twelve and said the image looked like a strange-looking pair of snowboarding goggles.  On condition two, she paid little attention to the animal photographs and directly saw the goggles again; only, this time, she stopped at stage eight.  I surmised that this was because she had already made up her mind as to what the shape was going to be after she saw that the blobs were moving in the same directions and at the same rates as the ones in the first experiment.

My third and final guinea pig was my assistant manager, who is not visual either and wants to go to medical school.  He never observed any cohesive image from the random, yet purposeful, blobs.  Then again, he was also a little tired because of the long day at work we had, so I can’t blame him.  In condition one, he looked at the photographs and the formation of the gestalt whole and said that he couldn’t see anything that made sense to him.  In condition two, he looked at all the photos of animals and still didn’t connect them with the shape of the blobs.  He just said that the new shape looked like a smaller, random assortment of blobs than they did in the first step of the process.  Hmmm.  I guess not everyone sees something from a gestalt experiment.

My reactions to the responses of my test subjects were far from surprising.  I fully expected my artistically-oriented mom to understand the visual tom-foolery of these gestalt principles better than my more logically-minded co-workers.  Although the goggles response a took me by surprise, I saw what she meant when I looked at the picture the way she did.

I’m slightly ashamed to say that, while I consider myself to be an artistic and visual person, I couldn’t see the horse and the rider until I saw the gestalt video that explained what they were and how to look at the image to see it that way.  I took the condition one test first and couldn’t see any sort of representational shape, no matter how hard I looked.  When I took the second test, I didn’t see the horse and the rider, but I did see the back of someone’s hunched-up shoulders.  It wasn’t until I watched an associated video that explained what was being shown that I was able to discern the horse and rider.

Now that I can see how gestalt principles can truly alter how people see images and the world around them, I understand the importance of the preconceptions people bring to the experiments.  The photos that came before each condition of the experiment had little to do with the outcome each person concluded about it.  The main influences on everyone’s perceptions of the experiment were the previous associations with other objects or images that each participant brought to the table.

Oh, we’re talking about perspective here?  I thought we were talking about some “men” in a “well-drawn” picture, if you catch my drift.  Mmmmm.  Heh heh.

Jokes aside, the drawing, found on p.17 of “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, portrays a few men looking in different directions.  Lines are drawn from their eyes to a location on the “ground” of the image.  The purpose of this illustration is to show that, until the invention of the camera, which displayed the world in a purely objective fashion, peoples’ perspectives were the only resource that could be relied upon to tell any kind of truth about the world.  Until the camera, truth was only in the eye of the beholder because every person in the world had a different perspective on any given subject.

Though it’s not the picture in question, the photograph below the drawing of men seeing the world with different perspectives has a similar but different message to tell.  It depicts a photographer who is larger than the crowd among which he stands.  The intended message is that photography has created a completely new way for us to see the world.  The crowd symbolizes the centuries of thought where each individual’s perspective of the surrounding world reigned supreme in defining how that individual lived.  The photographer symbolizes the new, non-subjective way of seeing that changed the way many of us view the everyday world.

Since I am on the topic of perspective, I can safely say that, no matter how much a designer tries to convey their intended message in the most direct way possible, the interpretations or “perspectives” of the receivers of the design will always vary.  Literal perspective in a design makes little difference in the message when all it does is provide another element through which a designer may or may not get his/her point across to the recipient of the design.  The key focus of a designer is to convince the intended audience of the message they want to send through the best blend of elements and principles possible, though no one will succeed 100% of the time.

In my designs, depending on the particular format of them(2D or 3D), the best ways to which I emotionally or intellectually express my original ideas is either through the use of color, value, contrast, and other elements and principles (2D) or through the technical accuracy, proportion, and proximity (3D).  As an environment artist in the game design field (creating props, terrain, architecture, and 2D painted renderings of game levels), I would be required to include literal perspective in my work.  Perhaps more important in 3D, the literal perspective of the game world directly affects the perspective of the intended audience: the gamer.  It would be my job to use all the elements and principles of 3D level design (atmosphere, lighting, texture, color, balance of objects, proximity, etc.) at my disposal to make the gamer feel and think about my levels in the way that I feel and think about them.  I couldn’t please everyone, but a successful designer always has to make compromises between what they want and what the audience wants.