Anna Hergert, Art & Design

Principles of Design Applied to Working in 3-D

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My one-day seminar last weekend raised some great questions. I want to take time today to share and elaborate on one that deals with 3-D work. Last October I wrote several  posts on design, its elements and principles and how they apply. It seems so long ago now. You can find the posts here if you missed them or misplaced the information:

 – Design Decyphered: The Elements of Design

– Design Decyphered: Line

– Design Decyphered: Shape

– Design Decyphered: Color Part 1

– Design Decyphered: Color Part 2

– Design Decyphered: Texture

– Design Decyphered: The Principles of Design

I recently realized that I did not elaborate on how the elements and principles of design apply to 3-D work. As painters, photographers and fiber artists we are mainly concerned with two dimensions. As soon as we introduce folding, inserted panels, that may or may not button back, or plan a sculptural piece we must consider the additional dimension.

My own work often incorporates the third dimension. I regularly insert panels into a two-dimensional piece and my wearable pieces embody the best example of a 3-D sculpture. Elements and principles of design apply here as much as in two dimensional work. I am dedicating a special post to this topic because sometimes we are unable to “wrap our head around” how to make the 3-D sculptural piece as strong as the 2-D version.

Let’s turn our attention to architecture for a moment. Envision a newly designed building, or better yet, visit such a building in person. I am thinking back to my visit to Ottawa last summer. The Canadian War Museum and the Museum of Civilization are captivating structures. Lines are important design elements in both buildings. They are so different and yet each architect took into consideration the function and structural details of the building. What makes the museums so unique and interesting is that line, straight and/or curved adds a dynamic element. The onlooker’s eye travels, first outlining the building and then searching for details to support the overall presentation.

I have walked around each of these buildings, spent time climbing stairs, ramps and exploring the various levels inside and out. Each museum struck a chord within me not only when it came to the content of the building, but especially when I navigated the well thought out structure.

The point I am trying to make today, when designing for three dimensions it is vital to carry specific elements throughout and across the work. A line cannot simply stop because it encounters a corner, or may be seen from one particular angle. In the case of a wearable art piece, an embellishment must carry from front to back, across one or both shoulders. Try to avoid large applique designs centered on the chest, vary the scale and repeat shapes and color, creating rhythm and a path the eye can follow with interest. Integrate embellishments so they support the overall work and read as a cohesive unit.

I know this all sounds so clinical but here is a tip for when you think you are done and/or want to evaluate your progress: Suspend the piece from the ceiling, if possible, or use a dress form. Ensure you have room to walk around the work without obstruction, ideally you should be able to step back and view it from a distance. Walk around the piece, take notes on what works, what may read as a disconnect. Take your camera (any camera will do!) and take several images of each view. Download the pictures to the computer and evaluate. Print out the images and begin to draw additional elements on the images. I call this auditioning stitches and applique without actually doing the work. If it doesn’t work – just discard the print outs. And always: don’t make any rash decisions – take time away, enjoy a cup of tea, a short visit with a friend or take the rest of the day off. The next time you set foot into your studio the work will still be there and in most cases, so will be the answers…

I have spent the better part of Monday composing this post and taking pictures. At this time I hope that I was able to convey the information without confusion. It is so much easier to teach in person…. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions on how you design in 3-D.

This entry was published on March 12, 2013 at 6:40 am. It’s filed under Art, Design, Studio / Workshop / Creative Space Challenge and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Principles of Design Applied to Working in 3-D

  1. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for this 3D advice. I find myself using mixed media and ‘constructing’ this type of art more and more. MY SAQA Copper project is coming along, but slowly – can’t rush wire and metal!


  2. Donna Tremblay on said:

    Morning…you have really helped me with a couple of my projects. I thought I was just postponing doing the work, but now I know I was just taking time off to finger out what else I should do because each project just doesnt look finished. Thank you again and again. These postings are great mini classes….Best wishes..Donna


  3. paulajolly on said:

    Thank you so much for your BLOG! Because I am away all winter and can’t take your classes just reading your blog gives me mini lessons!!


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