Bridges 2010 Short Paper

The Visualization of Flow
Joel Varland
(Proceedings pages 503–504)


Flow has been brought to philosophical and popular attention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book of the same name. However, it is also a critical subject in both the math and art disciplines. In art, movement, visual or real, is a critical element. It is the single most important of the seven Elements of Design in regard to referencing energy. Without movement a work of art can have many masterful qualities and yet still appear lifeless. Flow is the catalyst of movement, visual or otherwise. In Math/Physics, flow is represented by a variety of systems – Vector, Hamiltonian, Ricci and Geodesic. Each of these flow systems has a counterpart in the visual art and design worlds. In design, 2D, 3D or 4D, flow lines run through a work of art and create visual pathways for the eye to follow. They operate in a variety of fashions with their own set of mechanics, rules and conditions. This paper will look at art flow mechanisms of calligraphy, gesture, alignment, and continuation.