#131 Get some perspective!
Trompe l'oiel jumpers and other design tricks 🪄
This week’s Design Lobster is exploring how our eyes perceive things. We’re discovering what canonical perspective is and how to make use of it when designing. Plus a detour into some surreal eye-tricking knitwear 👁️👁️
Question: What is canonical perspective?
When you imagine a coffee cup in your mind’s eye, what do you see? Chances are, you're seeing it from a specific angle – angled slightly to the side and from just above.
This angle is known as canonical perspective and research has shown it’s the angle from which we form most mental images. The theory goes that this perspective gives us the most visual information, which makes identification of a given object easiest for the brain.
Understanding canonical perspective is especially important when designing pictorial representations like icons and illustrations. A designer can make icons more easily recognisable by adopting this perspective or add visual interest and a bit of edge by departing from it.
Design takeaway: Do the icons or illustrations in your design follow canonical perspective?
☕️ Researchers also believe we recognise objects by assembling them from 24 basic shapes called “geons”
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Object: Bowknot sweater
At a society lunch in Paris in 1927, Elsa Schiaparelli shocked and delighted a crowd of friends by arriving in this striking knitted jumper. At first glance, it appears to be black with white cuffs and a flouncy white bow, but a closer look reveals the white elements to be an optical illusion formed by a pattern of black and white stitches. The subtle shadow beneath the top loops of the bow is especially well done 👏
Reportedly Schiaparelli worked with an Armenian knitter known as “Mike” to produce the first jumper, and it took several attempts to get right. The lunchtime debut lead to almost overnight commercial success, with order rushing in from both Europe and America. The playfulness of the design struck just the right note for 1920’s womens’ fashion which was rapidly becoming less stuffy and more casual.
The geometric, almost pixellated quality of the bow’s outline is a result of the hand-knitted production method. Curiously, this gives the jumper a digital quality, not unlike the early bitmap icons produced by Susan Kare for the original Macintosh.
Design takeaway: Where could you use an optical illusion in your design?
👠 This video from the V&A Museum shows other designs by Elsa Schiaparelli, including her legendary shoe hat
Quote: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
– Wayne Dyer, author and motivational speaker
This quote, which originates from the world of self-help, seemed like a good fit for this week’s theme. I’m always fascinated by the way a new perspective can transform how we approach a design problem. To design something better, we first need to see the world with fresher eyes.
Hope you can see things in a new way this week,
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