Composition: Extolling the Hero

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The first time I heard J.S. Bach’s composition, “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”, I was walking into a cathedral in Berlin, Germany. I had an instant physiological reaction. Goosebumps raced up my arms and back in response to the genius that is this composition. The grandeur of the minor chords brought tension and focus to the opening elements of the piece and then it was balanced by an equally grand but major chord.

The long, low, minor chords were subsequently contrasted by the higher, faster and airy notes in the interlude of the song. My attention was slightly diverted by this contrast because it was preparing my mind for the all important conclusion of the song—the D minor chords. As the ending of the song drew near, the goosebumps returned as my ears waited in anticipation for the D minor chord to resolve into a pleasing D major chord. The resolution never came because it was not the thesis of the composition.  

The hero of the song is the D minor chord.

Okay. We can admit that the composition of the graphic we are about to discuss does not compare to the genius of “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”—not even slightly. But you get the point. Whether you are teaching, marketing, entertaining, or storytelling, there is always a focal point or a thesis statement.

When we designed the graphic for our introduction to the Designing for Online Learning course, we worked backwards. We asked ourselves the following questions:

  • What is the content of this section?  
  • What graphic depicts and reinforces what we are talking about? 
  • Does this graphic cause our readers to think a little more in the abstract?
  • How do we tie the course book to the course website?

Once we settled on the answers to these questions, we were able to think about the design principles we have already talked about on our website.

The free picture we found on Pixabay displayed a perspective of teamwork and diversity of people and reinforced the introduction to Unit 1 in Designing for Online Learning.  Aesthetically, this picture had a fresh feel to it.

The cogs and wheels give the impression that each person has a unique contribution and is an integral part of the design process. Though each person is diverse, they can work in synchronization and they can form a machine that moves forward toward their goal.

While we liked the content of the picture, there were some changes that needed to happen in order to reinforce the content on our course and website. The background color was not consistent with the palette for our course and Horizon’s other professional development courses. Using Canva’s background removing tool, we removed the blue background and replaced it with a color from the palette we used in the Engagement posts on our website.

Looking at this graphic further, we felt that even though it is well balanced, it needed a gradient of color to make it feel less one-dimensional. Color gradient is also a graphic design trend at the moment.

This looked better, but the color gradient still was not reinforcing our website and color palette. The color palette is important because it helps our readers remember the Three Important Roles of our introduction and content of our website. We coded each of the Three Important Roles with a corresponding color: red for Engagement, blue for Technology, and green for Learning.

To prime our readers to correlate the colors with each category of the Three Important Roles, we chose to use these three colors in a gradient for our background. This also reinforces the color palette of the course and the main website color palette.

Since there was not enough contrast between the cogs and wheels and the background, we added a transparent white box that helped emphasize the cogs and wheels. This also added a little extra texture and dimension.

You do not have to love the artistry of this graphic in order to see the hero. You can even hate it. Art is most definitely subjective.

One of the major goals of art is that you see the hero. The hero of this composition are the cogs and wheels and the partnership that is happening between diverse people. The color palette, the gradient, the balance and contrast all contribute to the goal of the composition—to extol the hero.

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