The Visualization of Flow

Joel Varland
Proceedings of Bridges 2010: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2010)
Pages 503–504 Short Papers


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.