Zettl’s Keys to Success

forcesJust when you thought you knew all there was to know about making your presentation of images the best it could be, a new way to enhance your skills just came into focus. In Zettl’s chapter on “The Two-Dimensional Field: Forces Within the Screen”, he explains the six major types of field forces that are used to tame space we use in the field of images.

The first major field force type Zettl talks about is Main Directions. Here, he is referencing horizontal and vertical landscape. Horizontal pictures have a sort of stability and resting tone to them where viewers feel safe, unlike vertical images that reflect contemporary matters and are a bit more bold. We like our environment to mirror our experiences in life, which is why horizontal images are more common amidst our society. Think of all the power the producer of an image has just by selecting if the scene will be horizontal or vertical. However, there is another option to his or her selection; they can destabilize a scene by tilting an image. This in return results in us finding ways to seek a stable reference when things become unmanageable.


The image above is an example of a titled horizon, known as dynamism, the stage after stability, that captures the lack of stability here in this setting. Following dynamism is stress, which allows the tilt to intensify the physical or mental stress of others.

The next major field force is Magnetism of the Frame, or the frame or borders that attract objects near them. Certain positions in a frame determine the gravitational pulls that occur with an image. An example of a strong magnetism would be placing figures in the corners of the image; in this model, viewers are forced to look away from the central image, so it is not necessarily a good thing. However, another form of magnetism, although there is little gravity involved, is an even pull, or a centered object that is the most stable of the magnetisms because it equalizes all forms of gravitational pull, putting them at rest.

Assymetry of the Frame is the third field force that Zettl talks about, and one of the ones I found more interesting. He discusses the concept that we as humans tend to pay more attention to the right of images as opposed to the left side of images. Why is that, you ask? He describes is as a common perceptual response. So what he’s telling you to do is this: if you’re smart, you will use this concept to your advantage and put the main messages you’d like to get across on the right. Take the ad below for example; the one leg on the right is what the producers of the ad are trying to make known to everyone else: that if you drink and drive, your leg will look like this. This is what an asymmetric frame does and it is powerful.


The fourth field force is Figure and Ground, which represents a relationship between the figure (an object that is less stable than the ground) and the ground, one that is hierarchal and contextual. This video provides information on how it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the figure and the ground because it is often vague.

Physiological closure, or our coping mechanism to try and stabilize our complex environment, is another force Zettl discusses. He explains how we try to mentally fill in gaps of information to arrive at a complete and easily manageable patterns and configurations. In other words, we create figures and patterns in our heads, which has the power to take away from the individuality of a single figure. This is known as gestalt, a term that is discussed in the video above.

Lastly, the final field force type are Vectors. These directional forces lead our eyes from one point to another within or outside of the picture field. There can be graphic, index, or motion vectors, all which lead us in one or multiple directions. Next, there are continuing, converging, or diverging vectors that embody the way multiple vectors react with one another. For example, in the image below, the two figures are pointing away from each other, creating two different directions in which vectors are leading us to.

divergingZettl’s six major types of field forces have certainly given me something to think about when I create my slideshow and when I edit and arrange my pictures. I will definitely be using these six forces to help my project, what about you? That’s all for now!


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