Guidelines for Combining Forms

In creating form compositions, the designer must also consider the relationships be­tween adjoining forms and their component parts. These relationships are referred to as form-to-form relationships.

Figure 10-18

A modular grid can be created within a square as the basis for design compositions.

When any two or more forms are combined, attention should be given to the re­lationship established among the forms’ components. Figure 10—20 shows two differ­ent compositions, each consisting of the same forms. The difference between these compositions is the relative positioning of the forms within each composition. It should be obvious that composition “B” seems more organized, whereas composition “A” tends to suggest random placement of forms. The organization of composition “B” is based on a conscious application of four sound guidelines for combining forms. They are (1) aligning component parts, (2) avoiding acute angles, (3) establishing form identity, and (4) form domination.

The first and foremost guideline is that the component parts of each form coin­cide, or be aligned, with the location of the component parts of adjoining forms. For example, notice the alignment of the various components in the composition on the right side of Figure 10—21. An extended radius of the circle (C) also serves as a side to the isosceles triangle (B) and is aligned with a side of the rectangle (D). Also, two sides of the triangle and two sides of the rectangle are extended radii of the circle. A corner of the rectangle is also the center of the square. By contrast, the internal relationship of the components on the left side of Figure 10—21 has an absence of

Figure 10-21

Component parts of adjoining forms should coincide and align with each other.

sensitive form-to-form relationships. Here, none of the forms’ components align with each other. This composition is, of course, considered to be very weak.

The second guideline for combining forms is to avoid the creation of acute an­gles. An acute angle is one having less than 45 degrees. Figure 10—22 shows a variety of form compositions with acute angles. Although some of the compositions may at first seem fairly well organized and visually acceptable, some of the relationships of lines and shapes within them create disturbing acute angles. These acute angles should be avoided for the following reasons:

1. They create visually weak relationships between forms and are points of visual tension.

2. When created within or at the edge of pavement areas, they create areas that are structurally weak and subject to breaking and cracking (Figure 10—23). The narrow, angular piece of material in this area has the tendency to crack, especially in the cycle of freezing and thawing.

3. When acute angles are formed at the edge of a planting bed, they create areas where it is difficult, if not impossible, to grow shrubs or even ground cover (Figure 10-24).

4. When acute angles make up a portion of a space intended for people to use, such as an eating space or an entertainment space, they produce a wasted and useless area because of their extremely narrow dimensions (Figure 10-25).

The third guideline for combining forms is to establish form identity. Form identity refers to the ability of individual shapes within a composition to be identifiable

and legible as distinct forms. For example, the circle and square shown in the com­position in Figure 10—26 can be seen as identifiable shapes, with each lending some of its character to the overall composition. On the other hand, Figure 10—27 illustrates shapes within the composition that do not lend adequate visual support to the total composition. Some of the forms are nearly “lost” inside others. When this occurs, it is best to either eliminate the lost form or increase its identity by changing its size or position.

One last guideline for combining forms is to have one form dominate in a composition. This provides greater form identity and adheres to the principle of dominance discussed in Chapter 9. A dominant form establishes a visual accent and provides a resting place for the eye (Figure 10—28).

In summary, these four guidelines for combining forms in a composition are valuable in organizing forms. Although there may be some instances where these guidelines will not be suitable, in most cases they should be considered.