Digital Media Technique


Design is organization (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.155). Organization is life. Life is about dreams and ideas. To some, a dream could be to walk the streets in the city of lights, others to swim among vivid coloured corals, surrounded by schools of fish. The idea of a “big dream” is: “What would you do creatively if you could take time off work?” We would talk to friends about our desires but never dare pursue them. Our creative fantasies and adventure only slip out as words and we can think of 101 reasons why we couldn’t go forward with them. There are always problems with money and family obligations and the issue of holding down a job.

I believe that many people hold similar dreams and have brushed away their own pursuits to some time in the future… “When I retire I’ll do such and such…” or “When I hit the lottery…” But what if tomorrow is the future? What if we could stop dreaming and start doing? The great thing about doing something new, whether it is a course or a trip or your life’s dream, is that we have not been there before.

The purpose of this report is to critique a visual piece according to the principles and elements of design and guidelines for visual composition and visual organisation.  I would briefly describe the selected photo, review it and explain why it can be a dream or wish to some child or how it can bring hope to someone by means of organization and design.

This review will explain the role of the principles and elements of design, including visual composition. I will also review how effective designs create emphasis and focal point through space and lighting.


Entitled: “A Depth of Wishes”

Design is a visual language that is built on fundamental principles and elements (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.1). The photograph has a few elements that make it a visual piece. It has both a primary principle that affect the design as a whole and a secondary principle that affect the internal relationship of each element (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.1).

The key features of the photograph consist of 2 boats, a silhouette of a man and his oxygen bubbles, fishes around him and some rays of sunlight emerging in between the 2 boats. The photo is set in a landscape format which gives it a concept of space and proportional scale to the entire composition.


Target Audience

The picture is possibly targeted at people who are adventure seekers and people who are in touch with nature. However, writers, advertisers and graphic designers may also want to use it as a promotional tool. The government might use it for some navy seal ads. It could also be agencies relating to travel and adventure where the very act of deep sea diving is not just a typical holiday but one that is filled with fulfilling desires to touch the unknown. The target audience can also be some scientific discovery programs or national geography, however for this assignment; I would like to use it to create an intersection where dreams and wishes meet with the needs and wants of a special group of audiences – Kids without a family. It is about selling of a specific idea to appeal to the desire and emotions through experience. It could be about branding a certain hope and creating a way of life, attitudes and passion of certain possible future for a group of under privileged kids. The message is simple: That there is more to life and that dreams can come true even if it is beyond the horizon of one’s vision.


Visual Communication

The message is about “wish” or “wishing” or “dream”.  It is visually on its own as it tells a story that there is a ‘ray of hope’ that shines even in the deepest ocean. There is life in the deep ocean; no matter how black your world is and that there are ‘boats’ which are opportunities and people that will come your way. Use of words can help support it and bring the message to another level. Visual thinking is part of the creative process that will help identify and enables us to research and solve problems, using information to develop and create ideas (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.204)


Principles of Design

There are a few principles of design at work in this photo. Firstly, the image is proportionate. The relationship within the composition includes a direction where light is coming from top, thus, the man is the subject and the focal point. There is also harmony towards the fishes and the boats above him. This harmony is an asymmetrical unity of balance between the fishes and the boat. This can be said to be ‘tension’ that has formed between the relationship of opposing elements or the interplay of elements (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.7).

The mid long shot of the diver also plays a significant impact on the second visual principle which is hierarchy and dominance. The diver is placed at the foreground making it the most important element of the composition. The shade of black set against the back lighting creates a mysterious effect, yet the perception effectively influences the overall composition. Taking the diver out will definitely make the image less interesting and lack in dominance.

Lastly, there is scale and emphasis. Note how each of the boats and the diver are shot at about 75% or 2/3 configuration. This aspect of space and a play with the angle of the shot creates a visually interesting and pleasing proportion and scale. The distance of each subject also helps with creating emphasis and re-establishes the hierarchy of the composition.

P. Evans & M.A, Thomas states that in defining the language of design, elements create a pattern that gives importance to each element (2008, p.11). The emphasis in using focal points to stress special attention is seen in the photo with contrast of the diver and the boats above him. This provides emphasis of prominent element. The balance of the 3 elements can be seen in picture 1C as each element is placed at the centre of the intersecting white lines.


Elements of Design

The effective use of lighting here takes on a form and volume.  Kress, G (1997 p.69-70) illustrates how visuals are spatially and simultaneously organized using the medium of light, and how materiality of certain substances create and develop a particular orientation towards our perception to engage the world. The shadows and highlights create a contrast, an element of design that has an emotional response and helps the viewer to visualize and imagine himself in that specific situation (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.75). This portrays a scenario in which the viewer can easily identify a depicted setting.

In her article Design = Heart, McCarron C.S. talks of Stefan Sagmeister as a professional provocateur and his simple question: “Can design touch someone’s heart?” (McCarron C.S., 2006 p.204). The fundamental question is: Can design do more than sell products? Can design move someone enough to change the course of events? Can design play a bigger role in solving social problems? It takes some soul searching to realise that design can inform, delight, provoke, support and simplify someone’s life. To make design work, it has to come from our own heart and understanding of passion, design skills, elements and good visual composition to make a difference to someone else.


Visual Composition

The photo can be improved to focus more specifically on the individual man by making the picture much narrower in 16:9 aspect ratios rather than the current 4:3. It can be like a film strip ad from a HD movie TV format to give a wider definition. This is true according to Richard Fitzpatrick that the general public hates ‘letterbox’ formats because they feel it is not the whole picture as compared to a panoramic 16:9 picture.


These grid lines provide a system or format for organizing the elements in the composition (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.161). This is useful to establish and manage proportions with a simple set of arithmetic and geometric grids. The 4 points where these grids intersect is usually where the hierarchy begins. The human eyes scan and perceive images to our brain. The tendency is for the eye to gravitate towards complex elements within the image. In this case, it is the 4 points of the 2 boats, the man and the ray of light. The visual piece conveys a sense of depth of field that the camera is focused on the diver. This creates an illusion of depth by blurring the background (i.e. the boats). Making them less textured and detailed as that of the diver also separates the importance and promotes an effective variation that attracts the eye.

Techniques Employed

To touch the emotions is about having recollections, reordering, reconstitution and reconstruction of past events (Kress, G 1997, p.69). The outline of the boat where the light shines brings an element of design. In that whitespace, we can see the texture of the deep blue sea. Although there is a majority of blue colour and no typography used in the composition, the element still enhances the composition. Additional colours may detract or lose the serenity and mystery of the moment and feel of fulfilling one’s dream in the deep blue sea. 

It is also very interesting as light and dark contrasts create distinct shapes and outlines which attract the human eye (P. Evans & M.A, Thomas, 2008, p.163). Thus, the diver, being the silhouette with the most distinct outline separates him from the other elements. The asymmetrical balance of the fishes and the boat works separately to enhance the overall photo composition. It creates a rhythm and energy. The rays of light bursting out from different gaps between the boats, fishes and diver create a beautiful moment of surreal depth.

Summary or conclusion

Visualization and connection to the audience can be more effective if text and pictures are in the right placements (G Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, 2006, p.186). Every photo has differentiation, diversity and personality. That is what makes it interesting and successful. In his book, Schriver (1997, p.420-432) illustrates a list of how words interplay with pictures to give representations of ideas. Juxtapositional relationships with prose and graphics are seen in many ads. I decided to push the boundaries of this photo to illustrate how a photo, when used effectively with words, can have greater impact and significance in society at large. The ad below is only a fictional example, probably for an organisation that grants wishes to poor kids without families.




Communications, by way of being simple and powerful with effective use of text placement, typography and composition will result in a successful end product. Designing the total customer experience can be a rewarding component of branding. I have increased my understanding in the concept of design in media. The love for culture, social needs and design is the intersection where we reinvent ourselves for the future.



Evans P. & Thomas M.A. (2008) Exploring the Elements of Desgin 2nd edn: An Introduction to the Essential Principles, Elements & Concepts of Visual Communication. Thomson Delmar Learning, Clifton Park, NY.


Kress, G and van Leeuwen, T 2006, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, 2nd Edn.,  Routledge, London & New York, Chapter 4, p.113 & Chapter 7, p.215


Kress, G 1997, ‘Visual and verbal modes of representation in electronically mediated communication: the potentials of new forms of text’ in Snyder, Ilana (ed.) 1997, Page to screen: taking literacy into the electronic era, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Chapter 3, p.53-79


McCarron, C S (2006) Communication Arts, Design Annual 47: Design Issues, p.204, Coyne & Blanchard, Inc, Menlo Park, CA.


Schriver, KA 1997, ‘The interplay of words and pictures’, Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub., New York. Chapter 6 p.361-441


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