High, Low; Soft, Hard

The Value of Artistic Intuition Over Technical Skill

It’s common knowledge that Mark Rothko didn’t paint The Birth of Venus. Yet, despite the dramatic differences between the two pieces, both The Birth of Venus and Orange and Red on Red are exalted as masterpieces in their own right, based purely on their own merit and for their own reasons. I’m sure most of us can admit that it is probably much easier to recreate a Rothko than a Botticelli, so what makes artists like Rothko so special? It’s certainly not the way that they paint fine details, rather the beauty of Rothko’s work lies in his concept and the intuition in executing his paintings. The same can be said for Warhol’s prints, Tony Smith’s Die or Kandinsky’s wild abstractions; these are exalted because they are intuition brought to life in pure and unique ways. So what does this have to do with design? Well, this semester I am taking a Concept Creation class with Prof. John Meza, and so far the class has had a much larger focus on ideas than the execution of any particular style or skill. It’s forced me to think in new ways when it comes to using space, color and imagery to make things that go beyond their literal meanings and to create bold, strong designs. I thought I would share my process for the last project we took on.

The assignment was to create a symbols that represented opposites of one another. So in order to start, we had to come up with twelve thumbnail drawings of things that symbolized the opposite of one another. For example, SOFT/HARD could be represented by a sheep and a lobster (spoiler alert.) The initial twelve thumbnails I came up with did not feel particularly strong, the designs were too literal, and there wasn’t much creativity involved with getting a recognizable message across.

After reworking the ideas, I came up with some other concepts. These ones felt much less like their literal meanings and more like the trajectory the thumbnails were supposed to head in: like creative representations of two juxtaposed themes. My personal favorites were the soft/hard combo, the young/old combo, the high/low. For some reason I also love the idea of electric guitars representing loud and hard representing quiet. (Also I know high/low is wrong, that’s why it’s a thumbnail!)


After narrowing it down to three, I was left with soft/hard, dry/wet and high low as the final concepts I wanted to develop into their final states. I wanted a stronger, yet more subtle representation of high/low so instead of two musical notes, I substituted musical clefs because they represent a larger amount of highs and lows. The dry/wet design changed very little aside from adding color as well as a combined ground and sky/sea for the two plants to live in. Finally, instead of an armadillo, I substituted a lobster as it felt farther are more opposite from the soft texture and overall image of a sheep. The exoskeleton seemed to be a more direct contrast to the sheep’s wool. Even though they are simple, like many of the “final” results in this class, I simply love how much thought went into developing them and how it will carry into future assignments.

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