3D Design Vocabulary

Vocabulary used in 3-D Design when discussing objects.

Abstract:  (adjective) referring to art that simplifies, emphasizes, or distorts qualities of a real-life image rather than art that tries to represent it’s details accurately.  In some cases, the intent is to present the essence of an object rather than its outer form.

Abstract: (verb) to simplify, emphasize or distort qualities of a real-life image.

Amorphous: having a shape without clarity of definition. Formless, indistinct, and of uncertain dimension.

Anthropomorphic: Having qualities reminiscent of the human form; referring, however remotely, to the human form or human gestures.

Articulated: attached with a flexible or movable joint, as in the digits of a finger.

Assemblage:  a work generated from a variety of objects and/or forms originally intended for other purposes.

Attenuate: make thinner, more slender (e.g. Giacometti’s human figures are attenuated.)

Axis:  a line, real or imagined, around which the material that composes an object appears to be organized.

Cantilever:  a structural member, as in architecture, projecting from an upright, and unsupported at the opposite end.

Casting: a sculptural technique in which liquid materials are shaped by being poured into a mold.

Composition:  an ordered relationship among parts or elements of a design.

Concave:  a negative area in a plane or surface, a scooped out or indented form or area.

Content:  the substance of a work of art, including its emotional, intellectual, symbolic, thematic, and narrative connotations.

Contour: the outline of an object

Convex:  a protrusion, or outwardly pushing form like a nipple or breast.

Craftsmanship:  aptitude, skill, or quality workmanship in use of tools and materials.

Disparate:  separate, distinct, dis-similar (often applied to objects or elements placed together in a composition).

Dominant:  refers to elements in a composition; the dominant volume is the largest element in a group, the most interesting and dramatic in character.

Elegant:  with respect to design (or mathematics): ingeniously simple and effective, free of extraneous detail.

Elevation:  in orthographic projection, the front, back, and side views of an object or architectural structure.

Fabrication:  the action or process of manufacturing or constructing something.

Form: 1. the visible shape or configuration of something. 2. a mold, frame, or block in or on which something is shaped. 3. to bring together parts or combine to create (something). 4. to make or fashion into a certain shape or form.

Found object:  any object incorporated into a piece of art but not actually “made” by the artist (e.g. Duchamp’s urinal — a thing from the “real” world transformed into a piece of art by the artist’s declaring it as art and placing it in a museum.)

Frontal/ frontality:  composition of volumes entirely from the front view.

Gesture:  a sense of direction or movement suggested by the arrangement of elements in a work of art

Geometric:  mechanical, human-made shapes (square, circle, triangle,) with regular edges.

In-the-round: the allusion to tri-dimensionality

Joinery: the system that connects two or more parts of a thing; usually refers to connections between pieces of wood.

Juxtaposition:  placement side by side; relationship of two or more elements in a composition.

Kinetic:  construction that contains moving elements set in motion by air, motors or gravity.

Linear:  involving or consisting of lines, looks like a line, narrow and elongated.

Malleable, malleability:  the capability of being molded, taking shape or being made to receive desired form.

Maquette: a small, scale model for a work intended to be enlarged.

Medium, media (pl): The material(s) and tool(s) used by the artist to create the visual elements perceived by the viewer.

Minimal:  in art, characterized by the use of simple or primary forms, structures, etc., often geometric and massive.

Modular:  involving the systematic use of a single unit of design, repeated and varied in position, angle, or combinations creating larger forms or units.

Object: anything that is visible or tangible and stable in form. A thing. 

Organic:  free forms representing living things that have irregular edges. Also, biomorphic.

Perforated:  pierced with a hole or holes (like Swiss cheese, for example.)

Planar: made of, or dealing with, planes (as opposed to lines or volumes.)

Platonic solids:  each of the five regular polyhedra (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron).

Polyhedron:  a solid figure or object with many (usually more than six) plane faces.

Radial:  compositions that have the major images or design parts emanating from a central location.

Relief:  sculpture in which forms project from a background, usually mounted on a wall.  It is classified according to the degree to which it is raised from the surface: high relief, forms moving out from the surface; low relief, forms remaining close to the surface.

Representational: presenting a subject (a person or object) in such a way that the viewer is reminded of “real” people or objects. 

Scale:  the relationship between the size of an object and the size of its surroundings.

Sculpture: the art of expressive shaping of three-dimensional materials.

Serial:  things in succession or installment, which vary from one another but belong together through form or content.

Subdominant, subordinate:  refers to the  “lesser” elements that complement or support the role of the “dominant” element in a composition.

Style:  the specific artistic character and dominant trends of form noted during periods of history and art movements.  Style may also refer to artists’ expressive use of media to give their works individual character.

Stylization:  The simplification of a form to emphasize its design qualities.  Also, referring to remembered “representations” of an object as opposed to what is actually present.

Symbol: something used for or regarded as representing something else, as in signs, emblems or tokens.

Tactile:  perceptible to touch, that which is tangible.

Three-dimensional: having height, width, and depth, a thing existing in space

Translucent:  allowing light to pass through, but not defined objects.

Transparent: a form or plane that can be seen through, such as glass.

Void: a hollow, concavity, or unoccupied space within a solid object or mass.