Designing the West

While researching designs, I compiled a few examples of what seemed to be common themes in western art. The colors, compositions, and subjects of western-themed designs run along similar veins. They stick to warm colors and try to capture as much of its subject as possible, not necessarily focusing on any minute details within an image. And, most importantly, the main subjects are the landscapes of the West.

Design Adams

Ansel Adams had taken this photo with a beautiful composition that leads the viewer’s eye from the top of the cliff down the river and into the vanishing point to the right. The photo itself doesn’t follow the warm color ideal simply because it is black and white, but the composition consists of trees, cliffsides, distant mountains, water, and skies. Everything within the photo is important and necessary to see in order to understand its full design.

Design Big Country
This movie title starts similarly with a vast landscape, although this one is significantly less busy. The dominant color is a warm brown with darker shades within it and highlights against the dusty ground. The main focus is the road that runs through the center, just above the title, with horses running across it. While there is not a whole lot of visuals to take in, the picture still captures a large composition.

Design Ride Lonesome

This title screen shows a mix between the first and second designs: predominantly brown color with mountains, a valley, and a sky. The words here are at the center of the screen and demonstrate a warm yellow to blend in with the image upon which it sits. Again, there is a lot to look at within this image.

Design Rio Grande

Once again, this landscape is in black and white, but continues to capture a vast area of land with some sky, plateaus, shrubs, and rocks. A color version of this image would presumably be brown in a dominant sense. The words are also carefully placed so as to not override the busier parts of the image, such as the tops of the plateaus or the shrubs. They only lay over areas to which the eye would not normally be attracted.

Design OKeeffe2

This painting, “Back of Marie’s No. 4”, by Georgia O’Keeffe shows another warm landscape, once again with layers of ground and sky and vegetation. The visual design of this painting has the eye view the image in distinct layers of color and depth. From the yellow-green vegetation to the pale snow and up the mountainside into the little clouds of the blue sky, the viewer sees the West as O’Keeffe saw it.

Each of these examples effectively reflect the principles which Vignelli outlined in design. With the color balance and the tracing of the eyes from the capturing point to the main focus, be it words or a vanishing point, the designers of these images knew well how they wanted their work to be seen. They applied depth and space to ensure that these pictures could be visually appealing for those who would see them.

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