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Writing Samples

OC’s Guide to Visual Elements, Part 2: Shape

OC Creative

April 26, 2019

written by Erin Nolan

edited by: Justin Difazzio

Have you ever stopped to think about shapes? If you’re like most people, probably not. Shapes are something that are often overlooked. Sure, some geometric shapes have specific names that we have to learn in preschool, such as a triangle, a circle, or a rhombicosidodecahedron. And yes, that’s a real thing. Look it up and impress all your family and friends! But for real, take a minute to look around. How many shapes can you find?

You are going to look at everything differently after reading below. Steady yourself ‘cause shape is about to rock your world. But first, cue the old-timey music and read the following definition in your best radio voice:

Shape is defined as a two-dimensional, enclosed area of space which shows height and width (but no depth) and is viewed as an outline, as in a silhouette.

In order to have a shape, there needs to be a defining edge. An edge is made through use of contrast. Contrast shows differences. It could be any difference: color, texture, lighting, anything. For example, the horizon line is a contrast between the ground and the sky.


Some color combinations are strongly contrasting while others are barely there. Some create an edge with a difference in intensity. Intensity is the level of saturation in a color. Edges can also be hard, such as those found in a machined aluminum cube, or they can be soft, like the diffused shadow of leaves on a hazy afternoon.


But wait! There’s more!

Now that shape has been defined, we need to talk about its qualities. All of the above elements can describe a shape. In addition, there are other qualities such as transparency, reflectivity, or opacity. Envision the rectangular glass of a window. It is transparent, yet it also reflects its environment like a mirror. The blinds that cover the window are opaque, meaning it is solid and no background images are visible through this shape.

Shape can be biomorphic (organic) or geometric. The natural world does not have sharp geometrics or perfectly straight lines, so a river stone or a cloud or waves on a lake would be made of biomorphic shapes. This type of shape is perceived as welcoming and gentle. There are exceptions of course, but primarily it suggests a restful sensibility.


Geometrics are also perceived in a specific way. Squares and rectangles portray strength and stability due to their base weight. Circles and ellipses represent continuous, even, unending movement. Triangles point directionally, providing eye movement within a composition. Inverted triangles create a sense of imbalance or tension because the weight is at the top and the viewer is waiting for the triangle to fall.

All shapes convey a feeling. Artists use shape, among other visual elements, to control how the viewer relates to composition within their artwork.

Shape may be representational. A triangle resting on top of a horizontal rectangle serves as a house. Separate the two shapes and now they are abstract, without meaning. Look at all the shapes that make up this building:


Because shapes are formed by perceived edges, there are optical illusions that create shapes where there are actually none. Remember the image where there are two profiles facing one another? What do you see? The profiles or the cup between them? In this example the profiles are positive space—they represent a solid object. The vase, however, is a negative shape—the space between two or more positive shapes. It is an empty space that our mind fills in.

And today only, we’ll throw in an bonus quality of shape!

Objects shown as shapes change depending on where it is in relation to the viewer. This is called perspective. A dinner plate is round. We know it’s round. Place it on a table, walk some distance away, and look at the plate. Voila! Magic! The plate is now an ellipse! When a child draws a table set for dinner, they might draw the table legs in profile, but the dishes are drawn circular because that is the most familiar form to them. Hold your phone out at arm’s length. Now tilt the phone and watch as the edges change its outline. Sometimes a shape has to be altered in order for it to look realistic when drawn.


Now, look around the room again. Does anything look different to you? Do you see more shapes? Does color or opacity or perspective reveal more than you saw before? Pay attention to shape, and you’re one step closer to seeing the world like a designer.

What Can OC Do For Your Not-For-Profit Organization?


February 15, 2019

written by Erin Nolan

edited by: Justin Difazzio

One of the tenets that OC Creative prides itself on is our commitment to lifting up our community as well as our clients. This consideration extends to assisting not-for-profits whenever we are able. The list of people we’ve helped reach their potential include such local organizations as Family Service Agency, TAILS Humane Society, Safe Passage, DeKalb County Community Gardens, and more.

With our help, these particular agencies have increased their brand recognition and their reach within the community— and stayed within their budget. With professional, cohesive, and organized visuals, their website looks like their print material, which also matches their social media presence. All of this results in a greater level of confidence in their services, because if their overall LOOK is organized and put together, people assume their processes and services are equality well-organized. And we’re willing to create a solution that matches your not-for-profit, too!


OC Makes Friends with Your Not-For-Profit’s Budget


As we’ve said before, we’re not a cookie-cutter solution kind of place. Hence, we offer several levels of options to fulfill your needs. OC will provide a comprehensive consultation to give your organization direction with some helpful guidelines. You’ll get informational tools that you can implement yourself. This is the most cost-effective option, yet it requires you and your volunteers to learn some technical skills for producing digital content and physical products so that the work can be completed in-house.

OC Matches the Pace of Your Not-For-Profit


If your not-for-profit has a small budget, yet requires comprehensive branding, OC will assist by providing a plan that’s full of options. We’ll work with you to identify which products are urgently needed based on their level of effectiveness and which ones can be put off until funds are available again. We’re as flexible as you are, and we’ll work towards your branding goals at a pace best suited to your budget.

OC Helps Your Not-For-Profit Race to the Goal


If you are one of the lucky not-for-profit organizations that has just received a grant, congratulations! You can hit the ground running. OC will work with you to provide exactly what you need, whether it be developing a visual standards guide, shooting and editing videos for fundraising or outlining your services, marketing print & digital materials, writing assistance, website redesign or update, social media graphics, or even lifestyle photography. We do it all, and we’re ready when you are.

Visual Resources to Help Your Not-For-Profit Today!


We understand that not everyone can leap right into a comprehensive rebranding, so in the meantime, here are some of our tried and true resources. These will provide your not-for-profit with free, royalty-free, copyright-free images, graphics, and fonts to use in your print materials and on the web. Some require attribution when using the asset free of charge, so do the right thing and add that bit of info to your site. A little copyright karma goes a long way. Do yourself a favor and add the following links as bookmarks to help access them in the future.





Feel free to share this with your other not-for-profit friends. We hope these resources will diversify the visual options for your organization. If you have any questions and you are involved with a not-for-profit, call OC Creative today at 815-756-8000. Come for coffee or tea, and together we can discuss developing flexible, affordable options for your branding, marketing, and advertising needs.


Success comes with using all the tools available to you, so let OC be your one-stop tool shed for not-for-profit improvement


Types of Color Schemes in Design


December 30, 2014

by Erin Nolan

Put on your little yellow hard hat with the light on it and delve deeper in the world of complimentary colors and the different methods of combining color schemes.

Have you ever had an idea of how you would like your environment decorated, but didn’t have a clue how to make that idea a finished product? I’ll tell you a secret: it’s a strong art composition.


Remember back in grade school when your art teacher tried to teach you the elements of art? Each of those elements play off one another and are intrinsically connected to make something “good.”

In addition to proportion of color (suggested 60-30-10), there are also palettes based on the color wheel which offer further color suggestions.


Monochromatic color schemes are all of a single tint, shade, and hue. Because they lack definition or focal areas, they tend to be relaxing. They are really easy to manage, as there are no more decisions to be made concerning color. However, depending on which hue is chosen, it could be stimulating as well. Imagine a room entirely of coral! Yikes! This is the easiest color guide. Just choose one color and go!

Analogous Palette
This palette uses harmonizing colors, either in the warm or cool spectrum. For instance, red-orange-yellow combinations or green-blue-violet are more appealing than violet-green-orange. Again there are exceptions. Try not to use too many analogous colors because it will ruin the flow of the area.

Ok. Choose two colors. Now create shades, tints, and tones of those same colors. Congratulations! You just created your own complementary color palette. Using shades creates depth and character to your room. In this palette, the tints are used for focal points.  This can create everything from a bright, cheerful style to a soothing, formal look.

Split Complementary
On the color wheel, these are exact opposites. Red’s opposite is green. Violet’s nemesis is yellow, and the anti-blue is orange. Here is where it gets difficult, so I’ll break it down. 1. Choose a color (I’ll choose blue). 2. Find its complimentary (orange). 3.  Now choose colors on either side of orange on the color wheel (yellow-orange and red-orange). This allows for nuances of color, yet still maintains strong focal areas.

Triadic Complementary
Have you ever played cat’s cradle with a piece of string?  Working with a triad complementary color scheme is kind of like that. It looks easy if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you just end up with a mess. The fundamental idea is that you take three colors which are evenly spaced around the color wheel. When everything is working, the palette provides a rich, balanced, and harmonious style that the others do not have. Because of its nature, it is used by many artists.


Tetradic (Double Complementary)
Don’t. Just don’t…unless you like the sound of “triadic double split complementary.” Yeah. I thought so. Google it if you really want to know.


Now go and create a color scheme yourself using one of these palette generators:

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