What is the difference between symmetrical balance and asymmetrical balance?
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Asymmetrical balance refers to a design that has dissimilar elements but still appears balanced, dividing a picture in half won't have the exact same elements however the elements they do have are varied and seem to balance one another out.
When you are looking balance, such as in a statistical graph, and you are looking at symetrical balance you are looking at a graph that has a even number of people before and after the mean. This is what a standard normative deviation will look like with standardized deviations.
When you have a asymmetrical balanced graph the graph will have an uneven number of data points either before or after the mean. This will mean that the data is grouped in either a positive or negative deviation from the mean which is the middle of the data set.
When you are looking at a Standard Normative Deviation you are looking at data that has been placed into a bell curve with a mean of 0 and the deviations to the left of the mean are -1 and -2 and to the right of the mean are 1 and 2. When you are looking at a bell curve with symmetrical balance the data to the left of the mean (below the mean) falls in the same pattern (deviation) as to the right (above the mean). When you have an asymmetrical balance the data will cluster either above or below the mean caused the data to skew in one direction or the other.
For example if you have collected data on what age someone first traveled on an airplane a symmetrical graph may have a mean age of 20 with 9 data points falling below the mean to indicate they were below 20 and 9 data points falling above the mean to indicate they were above 20. However if you have 16 data points above the mean and three below the mean you have an asymmetrical graph as more people traveled on an airplane after the mean age.
Symmetrical balance is easiest to see in perfectly centered compositions or those with mirror images. In a design with only two elements they would be almost identical or have nearly the same visual mass. If one element was replaced by a smaller one, it could throw the page out of symmetry. To reclaim perfect symmetrical balance you might need to add or subtract or rearrange the elements so that they evenly divide the page such as a centered alignment or one that divides the page in even segments (halves, quarters, etc.).
When a design can be centered or evenly divided both vertically and horizontally it has the most complete symmetry possible. Symmetrical balance generally lends itself to more formal, orderly layouts. They often convey a sense of tranquility or familiarity or elegance or serious contemplation.
Vertical Symmetry — Each vertical half (excluding text) of the brochure is a near mirror image of the other, emphasized with the reverse in colors. Even the perfectly centered text picks up the color reversal here. This symmetrically balanced layout is very formal in appearance.
Vertical & Horizontal Symmetry — This poster design divides the page into four equal sections. Although not mirror images the overall look is very symmetrical and balanced. Each of the line drawings are more or less centered within their section. The graphic (text and image) in the upper center of the page is the focal point tying all the parts together.
Asymmetrical design is typically off-center or created with an odd or mismatched number of disparate elements. However, you can still have an interesting design without perfect symmetry.
With asymmetrical balance you are evenly distributing the elements within the format which may mean balancing a large photo with several small graphics. Or, you can create tension by intentionally avoiding balance.
Uneven elements present us with more possibilities for arranging the page and creating interesting designs than perfectly symmetrical objects. Asymmetrical layouts are generally more dynamic and by intentionally ignoring balance the designer can create tension, express movement, or convey a mood such as anger, excitement, joy, or casual amusement.
This page uses a 3 column format to create a neatly organized asymmetrical layout. The two columns of text are balanced by the blocks of color in the lower left topped by a large block of white space. In this case, because the white space is in a block shaped much like the text columns, it becomes an element of the design in its own right.
Asymmetrical/All Over Balance
It can't be neatly sliced in half like a symmetrical design but most of the elements have only small differences in shape and mass. This page achieves an overall balance by use of an underlying grid that spreads the many pieces out over the entire page, more or less evenly.
Like a wild, unruly garden, the elements of this brochure cover are barely contained on the page. The plants spring up primarily along the left side but with a few stems escaping and arching across the page. The text, although randomly placed, follows the lines of the plants keeping them anchored to the overall design. The off-balance design creates a sense of freedom and movement.
On square and rectangular pages we generally place elements in orderly rows and columns. With radial designs the elements radiate from or swirl around in a circular or spiral path.
Parts of the design must still be arranged so that they are balanced across the width and length of the page unless you're intentionally aiming for a lack of balance.
Here we have an example of radial balance in a rectangular space. The year represents the center of the design with the subtle color sections radiating from that center. The calendar month grids and their corresponding astrological symbols are arrayed around the year in a circular fashion
Colors and text radiate out from the apple in the middle of this CD cover design. The effect is almost one of spiralling down into the center of the apple. The apple itself looks nearly symmetrical but the curving text and the outlines edging off the page to the top and right throws it all slightly off-balance.
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