Ambiguous Design

My designs can be seen as ambiguous as the symbol lacks clearness or definiteness in the dark sections (, 2013), therefore I wanted to look further into Ambuguity within art and design to see if I can develop this perspective further.

With ambiguous design I feel it is very important to get it right because when portrayed correctly it can be very effective due to making the viewer think, which in turn could assist them to remember. This is similar the McAlhone & Stuarts (1996) argument “…idea’s which happen in the mind, stay in the mind”. The risk is that if the designer does not represent ambiguity successfully the viewer could  see it as confusing and it will not encourage them to remember it, therefore the design being ineffective.

Hofmann (1983) states the following quote in an article regarding Ambiguity:

“Visual symbols cannot escape multivalance without written clarification and precision, but the congenial deficiency of the image becomes an asset when used with esprit and imagination – when the artist defies the boundaries of factual precision and draws upon the metamorphic qualities of his vocabulary. Only then does the image assume it’s total autonomy.”

From this statement Hofmann states that symbols should have clarity and precision, which is what my symbol of the cyclist has. He then goes on to say when the artist disregards the boundaries of precision the image becomes something independent and ambiguous.

I think ambiguous design could be effective for my posters but I just need to ensure that the design is not so ambiguous that it does not fulfil its purpose!

Some practitioners have incorporated ambiguity into there work using shadows and silhouettes. As my current designs incorporate dark elements this is something I could look into developing.

Here are a couple of examples that I thought were interesting.


Source: Pommier, A (2012) Graphic Surreal Silhouettes.

animal shadow

Source: (2013) Shadow Creatures Image.

shadow person

Source: Human Shadow Sculptures.

By looking at these I has made me consider adding a silhouette of the cyclist that has been hit by a vehicle due to wearing no reflective clothing. Therefore I could show a cyclist with the reflective aids and underneath show a faint silhouette or shadow of a bicycle with damage from a car accident. I am not 100% sure about this idea, I will have to play around with a few designs to see if it is effective, however, this shows that this research has allowed me to develop my thinking process and stay open minded to new ideas.

References: (2013) Ambiguous. Available at: [Accessed 2 January 2013]

Hofmann, W. (1983) Ambiguity in Daumier (& Elsewhere). Art Journal , 43(4) Winter, pp. 361-364. JSTOR. Available at [Accessed 3 January 2013]

McAlhone B. and Stuart D. (1996) A Smile in the Mind. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.

Pommier, A (2012) Graphic Surreal Silhouettes. Available at [Accessed 3 January 2013] (2013) Shadow Creatures Image. Available at:!__creatures [Accessed 3 January 2013] (2012) Human Shadow Sculptures. Available at: [Accessed 3 January 2013]


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