Fundamentals and Foundations

I’d like to stress again that there is no single correct way to do a layout or compose a shot. Design, layout, composition or anything dealing with aesthetics is fluid and a little subjective (not as subjective as beginners wish it was, but a little bit). There is also a continuing debate on what “good” design is. A mid-century Swiss designer would likely argue that anything that breaks out of a grid is poor design and on the complete opposite spectrum you have the reaction to that thinking that argues that design should completely break out of all grids to become an unrecognizable free form. Most designers will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

Before you’re tempted to claim that your work is free form and exceeds all the rules and conventions, let’s take a moment to talk about fundamentals. In everything, fundamentals are the foundation of the structure. Take Pablo Picasso for example. Picasso is know for his cubism and surealist distortions of the human form, but he didn’t start that way. He said of his own progress:

“It took me four years to pain like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso

Even Picasso started with the fundamentals and studied the old masters. Consider these early paintings from 1896 and 1897. In Picasso’s early years and during his education, he learned and applied the fundamentals of his craft well before he started to break, and reinvent, the rules of the time.

To see more of his progression, see this discussion of his art periods:

I bring this little art history lesson up to encourage you to avoid using the buzz words of style or creativity to excuse a foundational lack of fundamental principles. Start with the fundamentals. Become expertly familiar with them until they become second nature. Then begin to branch out and build a structure on that foundation.