Exploring Visual Juxtaposition in-class exercise


Emily Kelley, Visual Juxtaposition composition, 2021

Emily Kelley, Visual Juxtaposition composition, 2021

Mikayla Henderson, Visual Juxtaposition composition, 2021

Vallencia Eyma, Visual Juxtaposition composition, 2021

Julia Reeder, Visual Juxtaposition composition, 2021

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Duration: 1 week
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Project Brief

Visual language is the process of communicating through the integration of words and images. Visual language utilizes its own unique vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. The basic elements of design, such as line, space, shape, texture, and color, and the basic principles of design, such as contrast, emphasis, balance, rhythm, grouping, and scale, are the vocabulary of visual language.

In this in-class exercise, students work with the technique of visual juxtaposition. Visual juxtaposition is inquiry through contrast, facilitated by the side-by-side positioning of two images, or images and text. In order to create a point of juxtaposition, the resulting image must contain at least two elements of equal visual weight. The viewer looks at the relationship created by combining the images and the meaning resulting from the contrast of the two images.

The challenge of this exercise is to create two visual juxtaposition compositions.
Each composition is 10 x 10 inches square. Split the composition into two equal halves (5 x 10 inches). The halves can be vertical or horizontal depending on the subject matter and the format the concept requires.

Using one image from the built world (objects made by humans) and one image from the natural world (humans, animals, plants, vegetables, water, etc.) create a juxtaposition of two images with the goal of revealing a possible third meaning resulting from the pairing.

Learning Objectives

In redesigning my Graphic Design 1 course curriculum for remote learning this spring 2021, I developed several in-class visual challenges to engage the students during their class time (our studio classes are 5 hours) as a break from zoom. Each of the in-class exercises is designed to be completed within 90 minutes. At the end of the 90-minute period, each student is required to present the results of their visual investigation. All of the in-class exercises have the objective to explore visual language strategies employed to convey meaning in messaging.



The students upload a PDF of their two visual juxtaposition exercises to my google drive. These exercises are not graded.



Design for Communication: Graphic Design Basics, John Wiley and Sons, 2003
Elizabeth Resnick


This is the first time I have assigned this in-class exercise. Many of the students were successful in creating two good visual juxtaposition compositions within the 90 minutes allotted for this exercise. All of the students managed to create at least one. 

In rethinking my approach to this exercise, I might create a listing of subject matter from both the built and the natural world, giving students more time to make connections encouraging more careful thought and the search for meaning.

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