Graphic Depth Factors – Linear Perspective, Relative Size, Overlapping Planes, Height In Plane

Graphic Depth – Linear Perspective

Linear perspective was something that took a long time to conceive of and was neglected in medieval artwork, as was graphic depth altogether. Leonardo DaVinci, among many others elaborated on the principle of vanishing points, which suggest that all lines (graphic vectors) associated with objects converge to a common location which disappears in the distance, which is why we perceive the world as such. This point is on the horizon line at eye (or camera) level. When creating architectural or technical drawings, one uses one, two and even three point grids to determine the various vanishing points of a three dimensional object/location. This notion evolved in to drawing techniques commonly known as 1, 2 and 3 point perspective. When things are farther away, they appear closer together, which is called the crowding effect. Placing background objects closer together can also enhance depth. Texture refers to objects that repeat and more of them are closer together, the farther away from the camera they are. This results in crowding through texture. The faster the points meet, the greater the distance. This artificial tactic is referred to as forced perspective.

Imagine the edge or outline of a snow patch getting thinner and nearer to the center of a frame, the farther away it goes. Z-Axis = Depth. This is a great example of a vanishing point.

Graphic Depth – Relative Size

In the world of graphic design and visual design, we can compare the relative size of objects in a scene to one another in order to determine the approximate size of the objects and their distance from the screen. Objects that take up more space in the frame appear to be larger. Relative to screen borders, the smaller an object, the further away it appears. If you know that two objects on separate screens are the same size, if they appear larger on one screen, you know it is a closeup. If it appears far, you know it’s a longshot. If the moon fills the screen, we can assume that the director chose to zoom in for a particular effect. However, if we seen the same moon on another screen portrayed as a tiny, insignificant speckle, we know that the producer did not wish to put emphasis on this subject. In both shots, we can safely assume that the moon did not fluctuate in size. We can compare the size of a person to a building, in order to conclude that the person, is in fact, much smaller. If we see an apple takes up most of the screen, and we see a man sitting in a chair far away in the background, we know that the apple is still smaller than the man, but it is closer!

A tree in the front is larger than one illustrated further away.

Graphic Depth – Overlapping Planes

In order to achieve graphic depth, one can overlap background images with something presumably closer in the foreground. This technique was widely used in medieval artwork in order to achieve graphic depth. We can simply overlap planes which give us the illusion of distance or separation of objects on the same ground. If we have curtains overlapping a window (on a set), even though they are all made of cardboard and are stuck together, on pretty much the same plane, we perceive that the curtains are in front of the window.

A great example of overlapping planes would be a picture of trees overlapping a background.

Graphic Depth – Height in Plane

Presumably, if we are looking at something from an angle, parallel to the ground, the further an object goes from the camera, the higher it will go (from the horizon). The concept of height in plane is no longer applicable when shooting from other angles (that are not parallel to the ground). If shooting a person from a bird’s or worm’s eye view, this concept is no longer valid. However, if we shoot a truck vanishing down a road, it is very useful visually and compositionally, to apply this principle.

The further an object goes from the camera, the higher it will appear. Notice that graphically speaking and in terms of depth, the area that is nearest to us is the ground (the lowest vertical point on the page).

Hopefully you have a better grasp on some of the visual composition strategies for optimal graphic layout, and are prepared to implement them in your artistic and creative graphic design projects.