Forms, fields and flows

Forms, fields and flows

A short video introduction to some basic principles of visual language.

By Dave Gray

9:53 pm
Tue, Apr 8, 2008

In this short video (about seven minutes) I introduce some basic principles of visual language: Forms, fields and flows. I think of this as the “alphabet” of visual language. This set of principles is the primary set of marks you need in order to create visual meaning.

As always, your comments, thoughts and feedback are much appreciated.


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10 comments

  1. saxotomy commented on April 10, 2008 | Permalink

    This is wonderful!!
    The way you explained it made me feel like it was so easy to communicate visually. It led me to a path to try communication visually.
    Wish for more of these kind of lessons for faster improvement of my communication, Thank you :)

  2. Formulate commented on April 17, 2008 | Permalink

    Loved it.

    I was initially excited because I am a form & questionnaire designer and thought you were going to talk about my profession. ;-)

    I suppose that’s an unavoidable overlap in terminology.

    But seriously, I thought this was a really clean and simple but comprehensive model for understanding visual language. Great stuff!

  3. Dave Gray commented on April 20, 2008 | Permalink

    Formulate: That’s funny. If we were using visual language there would have been no ambiguity there :)

    Glad you enjoyed the video.

    It would be interesting to explore how these ideas could be helpful when designing the kinds of forms you specialize in.

  4. Formulate commented on May 31, 2008 | Permalink

    Re: “That’s funny. If we were using visual language there would have been no ambiguity there :)”

    I suspect we would have still needed some words to clarify the images, but you’re right that using words on their own is what lead to confusion!

    Re: “It would be interesting to explore how these ideas could be helpful when designing the kinds of forms you specialize in.”

    I design any kind of forms but for all, the idea of “flow” is central. I have a model for forms that divides them into 4 layers (see http://formulate.com.au/articles/layers-of-a-form/) of which one is Flow – the relationship between questions on the form. Get the flow wrong and you have a form that doesn’t make sense and/or creates unnecessary burden.

    To really complicate things, applying your model to my model, we could say that the questions are forms (each has it’s own “shape”, “colour” and “meaning”)!

  5. Dave Gray commented on June 2, 2008 | Permalink

    Formulate.

    This just highlights the need for some shared language that we can use to talk about these things!

    Dave

  6. Michelle Lemons commented on September 1, 2011 | Permalink

    HIDave,
    I was wondering if you could explain why you use these terms of (Flow, Form and Field) in stead of the visual art terms of line, shape, and composition?

  7. Dave Gray commented on September 10, 2011 | Permalink

    You could substitute line and shape for flows and forms, but when I talk about fields I mean something very different than what is typically meant by composition.

  8. David Valín commented on February 1, 2012 | Permalink

    A-W-E-S-O-M-E content Dave. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it!

  9. Lisa commented on January 7, 2014 | Permalink

    I wish this vid were still available. From the comments, it seems like it was very good. Author–any new links?

  10. Dave Gray commented on January 9, 2014 | Permalink

    Hi Lisa, Blip.tv is stupid, they took my stuff down because they are moving in some kind of strategic direction that requires them to abandon their users. Sorry about that. I reposted the video. Hope you like it!

22 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Dave Gray » Forms, fields and flows introduce some basic principles of visual language: Forms, fields and flows. I think of this as the “alphabet” of visual language. This set of principles is the primary set of marks you need in order to create visual meaning. (tags: GraphicDesign visual visualization) [...]

  2. [...] linked to this screencast by Daver Gray “Forms, fields and flows”. Watching it, I realized how little comics take advantage of “fields” that are not or a [...]

  3. [...] Dave Gray » Forms, fields and flows A short video introduction to some basic principles of visual language [via Stephen Downes] (tags: flows visual linklog via:downes) [...]

  4. [...] Dave Gray » Forms, fields and flows — A short video introduction to some basic principles of visual language [via Stephen Downes] [...]

  5. [...] Dave Gray » Forms, fields and flows — A short video introduction to some basic principles of visual language [via Stephen Downes] [...]

  6. [...] http://www.chriscorrigan.com/parkinglot/ http://www.jackmartinleith.com/?p=184 http://www.davegrayinfo.com/2008/04/08/forms-fields-and-flows/ http://faraportal.blip.tv/file/712868/ http://www.gadget4all.com/prod_detail.php?prod_id=00061 [...]

  7. [...] Les bases du langage visuel : une vidéo passionnante (en plus il dessine!) sur les codes du langage visuel. [...]

  8. [...] do you get better at doodling? It’s a delightfully easy task. Learners can start with the Visual Alphabet, a series of six flows—the point, line, arc, angle, spiral and loop, and the six forms—the [...]

  9. What we learn from doodles on September 2, 2011

    [...] do we get improved during doodling? It’s a delightfully easy task. Learners can start with a Visual Alphabet, a array of 6 flows — a point, line, arc, angle, turn and loop, and a 6 forms — a oval, [...]

  10. [...] do you get better at doodling? It’s a delightfully easy task. Learners can start with the Visual Alphabet, a series of six flows—the point, line, arc, angle, spiral and loop, and the six forms—the [...]

  11. What We Learn From Doodles on September 5, 2011

    [...] how do you get better at doodling? It’s a delightfully easy task. Learners can start with the Visual Alphabet, a series of six flows—the point, line, arc, angle, spiral and loop, and the six forms—the [...]

  12. [...] she observed great improvement from her students. Near the end of the article, it talks about the ‘Visual Alphabet’ and how this twelve ‘letter’ alphabet can be used to help individuals learn how to doodle more [...]

  13. [...] -David Gray [...]

  14. The Designer’s Toolbox on February 28, 2012

    [...] Visual Language. Dave Gray inspired us to Just Draw It. This is vital. We were all sketching like mad throughout the weekend. Anyone can draw. JFDI. It will open your mind. And help you open other people’s minds. [...]

  15. [...] Visual Language. Dave Gray inspired us to Just Draw It. This is vital. We were all sketching like mad throughout the weekend. Anyone can draw. JFDI. It will open your mind. And help you open other people’s minds. [...]

  16. [...] check out the design tool I call the semigram, and its inventor, my friend Dave Gray, calls “Flows, Forms and Fields“: Rate this: Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreStumbleUponTumblrLinkedInDiggPinterestRedditLike [...]

  17. [...] take is here, from Sunni’s collaborator Dave Gray. It’s really visual AND conceptual…and kinematic! So [...]

  18. [...] same lines, I ran a class today in how to use the 3D printer at school, and I taught seven kids the drawing schematic suggested by Dave Gray (which I call the Semigram).  If you haven’t taught yourself this basic set of drawing [...]

  19. [...] you can get up to speed by using some tips and tricks like Dave Gray’s approach to drawing things and people, choosing a framework or template to structure your notes, or using different types of [...]

  20. […] do you get better at doodling? It’s a delightfully easy task. Learners can start with the Visual Alphabet, a series of six flows—the point, line, arc, angle, spiral and loop, and the six forms—the […]

  21. […] important to teach kids the basics of drawing. You can use Mike Rohde’s five-shape method, or Dave Gray’s Forms, Fields and Flows, but you still need to reconnect kids in middle school with their native drawing skills, and […]

  22. […] take is here, from Sunni’s collaborator Dave Gray. It’s really visual AND conceptual…and kinematic! So […]

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