I just read a wonderful book titled Picture This: How pictures work written by Molly Bang. In it Bang, an award winning children’s book artist, explores color, shape, size and proximity to find the emotions hidden within the picture frame. She invites you into the experiment while she moves and changes simple solid color cutouts. Together you discover the following principles on how pictures work:

  1. Smooth flat horizontal shapes give us a sense of stability and calm.
  2. Vertical shapes are exciting and active.
  3. Diagonal shapes imply motion or tension.
  4. The upper half of a picture is a place of freedom, happiness and triumph
  5. The center of the page is the center of attention
  6. White backgrounds feel safer than dark backgrounds
  7. Pointy shapes are scary; rounded shapes are comforting. [And I thought I came up with this myself when I finally drew the right wolf for my 3 Little Pigs sketchnote.]
  8. The larger an object the stronger it feels
  9. We associate shapes with the same color more strongly than shapes with the same shape
  10. Contrast enables us to see
Just ’cause I’ve written the points down here doesn’t mean you’ve gotten it all. There are many nuances that she covers that aren’t included in the points above. It’s a brilliant book that covers a complex subject deeply. . . in 96 pages. And that’s the beauty of a children’s book illustrator. She can tell a complicated story simply, preserving all the story’ complexity.