Design Matters: Depth Adds Life to Design - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Design Matters: Depth Adds Life to Design

 In February 2015 #216, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

01pwm0215designmattersUse moulding, carving and other details to add visual layers.

by George R. Walker
page 18

Have you ever gazed at a great painting and, for a brief moment, found yourself pulled into it? Almost like magic, a few well-crafted brush strokes can trigger memories like the haunting cries of a seagull or the briny smell of salt air.

It flips a switch in our imagination that allows us to experience the image as though looking through a window or imagining ourselves actually inside the scene. “Qualia” is a term to describe this, or simply “raw feel.” That raw feel in a painting might be the sum of many parts, but almost always there is a sense of depth.

Both furniture and paintings share some things in common when it comes to design. They both employ simple shapes arranged in a composition and they both rely on a sense of depth to engage the eye.

We use proportions to bring those shapes in relation to one another and to the viewer. Yet the one thing that brings a sense of life to a design is depth.

As humans, we key into depth with all of our senses, but especially with our sight. Our ancestors scanned the contours of distant hills searching for that green valley where they found food and shelter. They listened to the far-off howl of wolves and judged by the depth of sound whether their flocks were in danger. We are wired to understand our surroundings through our perception of depth, so it’s no surprise it plays a role in design.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store: “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings,” George R. Walker’s DVDs.

From the February 2015 issue, #216

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