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Figure/Ground

Howl: good contrast Howl: low contrast
Figure 1
Figure 2

Our visual system simplifies what we observe into a figure that we look at and a background. Gestalt psychologists call this a figure/ground relationship. Poster artists make decisions that influence this relationship.

In the poster Berkeley Conference Center & Visitors Bureau (Howl) (fig. 1), the artist uses high contrast and color to bring the central figure to the foreground. Even though we are conditioned to look in the center of an image for the figure, altering the area of high contrast can change the figure/ground relationship (fig. 2).

Compare the posters Victor Bicycles (fig. 3) and Orient Cycles (fig. 4).

Victor Bicycles Orient Cycles
Figure 3
Figure 4

In each poster, which image is in the foreground and which in the background? What clues did the artists provide? The posters Victor Bicycles and Orient Cycles urge the viewer to purchase a product. Is the image in the foreground important to the perceived customer in each poster?

Two of the four digital Post Card Exhibits at the Exploratorium's web site employ the figure/ground relationship. Can you tell which two?

| Artist's Intent | Typeface | Line & Movement |
| Color | Paper | Figure/Ground |

| What's the Idea | That's Saying a Lot | Try This at Home |

| More to It |