Using Artwork in Design. Introduction | WebReference

Using Artwork in Design. Introduction

[Dmitry's Design Lab]
Dmitry Kirsanov's monthly column
December 1998
Using Artwork in Design
Using photography is a short, sure, albeit perhaps too common way to add a touch of class to your design.  But to give your page a truly unique, artistic, flamboyant feel, what you need is a piece of professional artwork.

The idea that design is a "second-order art" created out of contributions by other arts may sound familiar to the readers of last year's articles.  Of the different art genres or element types participating in a design composition, I have so far researched photography, fonts, and geometric figures.  Now, let's explore the use of art in the proper sense of the word, i.e. drawings or paintings that a designer can outsource to an artist or borrow from some old classic work.

The first rule of using artwork is: Treat your image respectfully.  When working with fonts or stock photography, you have a wide range of source elements to choose from, and you are relatively free to make any adjustments to these elements in order to make them carry out their function.  Not so with artwork; for most designers who are not at the same time artists, a piece of art is a "black box" that can only be accepted or refused as a whole.

You have to display the art you've got large enough, so that the minute details of its shape and texture are visible, and you cannot make any significant changes to it for fear of damaging it beyond repair.  So, it is of little surprise that a piece of artwork often assumes the principal role in the composition, with other elements having to align all their aspects with respect to this visual core.

When writing this article, I found the dichotomic approach to be the most fruitful: The material was easy to arrange in a coordinate system defined by several binary oppositions.  First, I explore the counterdistinction of drawing (form) and painting (texture) as well as the closely related opposition of generalization and distortion.  The second pair of concepts to explore are symbolic vs. decorative imagery, illustrated by a practical example.  Finally, when investigating the ways of including a piece of artwork into a design composition, I describe the two main techniques used for this, displaying and embedding.


Created: Dec. 11, 1998
Revised: Dec. 11, 1998