The universal laws of artistic experience

For my essay ‘An investigation into possibilities of Street Art as a medium for resistance’ the literary investigation led me to the idea of beauty. What is beauty ?

To understand more about the power of beauty I looked into a recent field of experimental science: Neuroaesthetics which aims to understand the human aesthetic experiences at the neuro-(phsychological) level.  Here brain activity associated with art and design is measured. Ramachandran and Hirstein claim to have found a set of universal laws that guide aesthetic preferences.

In my essay there is no space to go into this in-depth. I only mention the universal laws of artistic experience to state that street artists do not follow the dominant aesthetic rules, as they  primarily want to attract the attention of passers by.

But I do find this rather fascinating. It could give artists a new understanding of how arts impact the human mind. I think artists and designers already unconsciously use theses techniques. I think it would be beneficial to any designer to consciously know about these laws. To asses if they use this in their practice, maybe subconsciously on intuition or from experience and check which of these laws they would like to work with, concentrate on or deliberately avoid.

The 10 universal laws of artistic experience are:

Peak shift (how your brain responds to exaggerated stimuli such as caricatures).
Isolation (limit our attention to the object to a single “modality” for example colour)
Grouping (appeal to our desire to group the fragments of an object into a whole)
Perceptual problem solving (making elements less visible)
Generic viewpoint

I personally find peak shift an interesting one. It refers to magnifying what is distinctive in the object to draw our eye to it. That is maybe why sometimes a very realistic representation can be simply boring. It does not give us anything that is pleasing, exaggeration is what we like to see. Isolation has I think more to do with the idea that less is more and perceptual problem solving with the idea that the brain would like to work to solve something. We do not like it when something is too obvious. Symmetry and Balance are important as this gives the mind a rest. I think it would be interesting to asses my work  (the FMP)  to these laws.