Illusion Poster, Assignment 2

  • What is Magic?
  • What makes something Magical?
  • What influences Perception?
  • What is an Illusion?
  • What is isomorphic Correspondence?
  • What does it mean to Suspend Disbelief?

Illusion Poster Assignment


What is magic? Illusion, wonder, the unusual, the unexpected, the hidden, the revealed. Choose an aspect of magic that appeals to you. Make the rest of us feel that aspect by how you visually capture the essence of that magical quality and represent it on this poster assignment. This quality of evoking feeling, not simply representation, is referred to as isomorphic correspondence, and is a major goal of this assignment.

By placing emphasis on either figure becoming ground or figure & ground reversal the designer can use visual “trickery” as one method of doing this. In addition to this major requirement of employing dynamic figure and ground, you should also make use of color, style, symbols, composition, words and typography as additional means of evoking a psychological response—isomorphic correspondence.

The three main states of the figure and ground visual relationship are:

1.   clear figure on ground—may be described as generally having all or most of the following characteristics:

  • it is possible to name the shape (ie. 4 or S or square or triangle, or house, etc.)
  • central within the ground (centered)
  • it is a completely closed shape (not cropped)
  • primarily convex
  • if colored, is usually warm in color
  • textural, patterned, or detailed
  • is vertically oriented
  • object-like
  • regular shapes

2.   figure becoming ground examples (mostly identified by the use of implied line)—may be described as generally having all or most of the following characteristics:

  • usually makes use of implied line in some way
  • some parts of the ground contain elements of figure (see above)
  • light color nuance
  • some shared elements
  • illusion of transparency
  • coincident line

3.   figure/ground reversal examples (mostly identified by the use of shared contour) This version of the figure/ground relationship is what we will focus on in this assignment.—it may be described as generally having all or most of the following characteristics:

  • shared contour, shared or adjacent edges
  • tends to become an overall flat pattern
  • sequential alternating of attention
  • heightened sense of visual tension
  • both are equally namable shapes
  • MC Escher-like tessellation pattern
  • optical illusion

Joanne Kwan, 2011

You may interpret the general subject of magic in a variety of different ways. Joanne Kwan did the version shown above. It successfully incorporates all the requirements of this assignment by making creative use of shared contour or figure ground reversal.

Examples of possible subjects/topics for your  poster include, but are not limited to the following:

  • a magician
  • illusionist
  • magic show
  • event involving multiple magicians
  • “Black Magic”, Voodoo, Hoodoo
  • Cultural spiritual beliefs where superstition is a major aspect
  • or any other topic/subject where some aspect of “magic” would apply

Whatever your interpretation of magic happens to be you will need to visually explore the relative ambiguity that can be suggested through the manipulation of images and/or text. That type of presentation requires the viewer to mentally complete what is not actually there. It is the result of manipulating figure and ground. Use these effects to emphasize the ideas and concepts that are inherent in magic (illusion, sleight of hand, misdirection, supernatural, superstition, etc.) In other words, use the effects of visually interesting figure and ground to illustrate and convey a magical feeling (isomorphic correspondence).

In this case we want the look to evoke the feeling of magic is some way by manipulating the figure and ground relationship between the shapes, patterns, images, and words that are used on the poster. (an optical Illusion would be an example).

The theory of Gestalt identifies very specific areas of design which can be manipulated, and in turn, affect our visual perception. Among them are the use of implied line, continuation, closure, color, & contrast. Consider their effects on the viewer’s sense of Isomorphic Correspondence (their emotion or feeling in response to seeing your poster.)


  • advertising or promotional poster
  • Size is 13 x 19
  • Color or black and white, your choice
  • Medium is your choice, by hand or using digital techniques, photography or in combination
  • Include factual/practical information such as names, dates, locations, tag line or catch phrase. This information will vary from person to person depending on the subject or direction you choose to take. Generally it is information that should answer the questions, Who? What ? Why? Where? When? How?
  • You must make dynamic visual use of Figure and Ground (either fig becoming ground or fig/ground reversal)
  • You must evoke feeling or emotion (isomorphic correspondence)


  • Decide on the feeling you will be trying to communicate
  • Decide on the subject/topic of your poster
  • Thumbnail versions
  • Rough refinements
  • Decide on the version of figure and ground you will be using
  • Decide on the style and medium
  • Final Print

Examples of visual vernacular, Vintage Magic posters:

This posters use a specific visual vernacular and may give you some ideas about the classic subjects of magicians and their acts of illusion. You may choose to create a poster which references this vintage vernacular but it is not a requirement. Certainly you should be aware of the symbols involved/used in this specialized visual language.


Examples, Figure Ground:

These are not necessarily about magic, but demonstrate some of the possible effects that either figure/ground reversal or figure becoming ground can achieve.


Examples, previous student solutions:

Examples, other illusion:




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