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Geometry of Design: Studies in Proportion and Composition [Paperback]

Kimberly Elam
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Geometry of Design, Revised and Updated: Studies in Proportion and Composition Geometry of Design, Revised and Updated: Studies in Proportion and Composition
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2001 Design Briefs
At last, a mathematical explanation of how art works presented in a manner we can all understand. Kimberly Elam takes the reader on a geometrical journey, lending insight and coherence to the design process by exploring the visual relationships that have foundations in mathematics as well as the essential qualities of life. Geometry of Design-the first book in our new Design Briefs Series-takes a close look at a broad range of twentieth-century examples of design, architecture, and illustration (from the Barcelona chair to the Musica Viva poster, from the Braun handblender to the Conico kettle), revealing underlying geometric structures in their compositions. Explanations and techniques of visual analysis make the inherent mathematical relationships evident and a must-have for anyone involved in graphic arts. The book focuses not only on the classic systems of proportioning, such as the golden section and root rectangles, but also on less well known proportioning systems such as the Fibonacci Series. Through detailed diagrams these geometric systems are brought to life giving an effective insight into the design process.

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About the Author

Kimberly Elam is chairperson of the Graphic and Interactive Communication Department at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

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First Sentence
Within the context of the man-made environment and the natural world there is a documented human cognitive preference for golden section proportions throughout recorded history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! July 5 2002
Format:Paperback
Why do we instinctively admire the 1997 update of the Volkswagon Beetle? Why are Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chairs of 1929 still relevant in twenty-first century interior design? Why have everyday Braun kitchen products achieved iconic status in museum settings?
In her pithy (101 page) essay, GEOMETRY OF DESIGN: STUDIES IN PROPORTION AND COMPOSITION, Kimberly Elam admirably succeeds in illuminating fundamental concepts underlying successful modern design. Through the elegance of Elam's arguments, readers are painlessly introduced to a set of mathematically-based compositional elements developed in classical antiquity and reflected in acknowledged masterpieces of later design. From the Parthenon and Notre Dame de Paris to Mies van der Rohe's Chapel at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and from Leonardo's "Man Inscribed in a Circle" and a chambered nautilus to Le Courbusier's "Chaise Lounge", selected works succumb to Elam's acute analysis of successful proportioning and composition. Her exploration of these fundamentals, including the dynamic rectangles exemplified by the Golden Section and the European DIN Root 2 system (so different from the sectioning system used in American design), is aided by the excellent vellum overlay diagrams.
So much of our response to art and design is intuitive, and we categorize as outstanding those works from which we derive intense aesthetic pleasure. The efficiency, the very orderliness which form their basis is a revelation. Elam's book is a classic and very readable summation of the foundation of successful design.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT BOOK!!! Nov. 8 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
At the concept level this is a great book, very well thought out and a nice layout. It is well worth the price. Very nice!!
A great book!!!
So why did I give it only a 2.
Because the beauty and logic of the book are only demonstrated in very simplistic designs which already would have geometric thinking built in....cars, building, furniture, commercial posters, fish, shells, etc. Symetrical snowflakes.
These objects would be driven to good design because of utilitarian functioning which is required by their physical nature. One example is A coffee maker, A car, A building . Kim is on to something great with this book,but I think she should have tackled more creative and complex objects and compositions where utilitarian value is secondary. She walks down the usual Leonardo and Greek path but the analysis is only of primarily singular objects. She does a great job but most of the objects are isolated objects or poster graphics which are already contrived on a pure geometric basis.
The great value of this book would be in the context of the evolution of design, proportion, and compostion with some of an Art aesthetic bent.
Analysis of complete compostions would be of value, some Durer engravings, some Raphael, some Petro da Cortona, some Poussin, some Raphael, Baroque, Neoclassical, Rococo, Cubist, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, etc. The books concept is great but the interaction of objects in paintings, or multi-group sculptures within the spirit of the books intent would have been a nice addition. The analysis objects are mostly trivial cases. The analysis methods are wonderful but I mean .........a chair by itself!!!
Great design problems are worked out by the interaction of objects, not just singular static objects.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classical Principals, Modern Design. Oct. 2 2001
Format:Paperback
I've been looking for this book for years now. I would wander the aisles of book stores looking for a concise treatise on the geometric elements of design. I open book after book in the design, architecture and art sections looking for a description of this "Sacred Geometry" passed down from master to student, used by Leonardo DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Greek sculptors, the Parthenon, and countless other masters and imitators, but which is sadly missing from many of the fine art and design curricula throughout the country.
Judging from the title, I thought this book would be wordy and academic. Or on the opposite end, written by ... a protractor, a compass and little else. I couldn't be more wrong. What I found is, after a section describing how certain geometric relationships exist in nature, and what their mathematical properties are, page after page of designs analyzed.
First the design is reproduced for you to see, unadorned. Then the author shows you the same picture, but with red grids, circles, diagonals, stars, etc. covering it to show you the precise geometric relationship, of say, the Clestory Window in the Cathedral at Notre Dame to the building as a whole. Or how the Eames Chair conforms to the geometry of the Golden Section. Breif text accompanies each picture.
The text "The typography of the poster forms a triangle which serves to anchor it to the format and enhance visual interest" is found next to a small reproduction of the poster with a red triangle drawn on it. Some pages even have translucent overlays so you can see the picture with a grid, or circles, or both - "an overlay comparison... reveals that the... proportions in both drawings... are almost identical."
This book gives you the tools to evaluate design.
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