The Vector, A Form Of Contemporary Art

Nowadays, when we talk about Graphic Design, we can’t avoid talking about vectors, an essential part of the digitization process. We could start by finding an academic definition for the term, in which vectors are defined as ”geometric lines controlled by mathematical calculations and formulas, using points of the image as a reference to build the rest of it”.

However, I much prefer Victor Perkins’ definition in the movie Despicable Me: “I’m Vector, it’s a mathematical term, a quantity represented by an arrow with both direction and magnitude. Vector, that’s me, as I’m committing crimes with both direction and magnitude.”

One of the standout features of vectors is that, as they are based on mathematical formulas, they connect points through lines and they can be enl,arged, or reduced without any loss of quality.

Vectors are created using vector-based editing software or programs, like Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Freehand, as well as others such as Autocad, etc. However, they also work with the same features in bitmap editing programs, such as “smart objects” in Photoshop.

When it comes to printing, vectors have a major advantage, because they don’t lose resolution, which does happen with bitmaps. A vector graphic is defined by the position of its start point and end point – the vector modulus would be the distance between the start and the end – and by a function that describes the path between them.

Each line that forms a vector graphic is delimited by points called nodes. Curved lines are called Bézier curves, and they get their shape from the handles that come out of each node.

But it’s not all good, because vector graphics don’t contain as much detail as bitmaps. There are great artists who are capable of turning a vector into a realistic portrait.

What are vectors used for?

Uses of vectors in graphic design

Vectors are something that all graphic designers need to master, as they are used for such things as:

  • Creating animations and illustrations thanks to their versatility and because they are small in size and easy to use.
  • Logos. Scalability is essential because they are often used to illustrate everything from a part of a pen that is just millimeters in size, to fences or tarpaulins that measure several meters.
  • Fonts and lettering. We can increase their size without losing quality. So, an 8px font would have the same quality as 200px.
  • Video games. Because it’s easy to simply create 3D environments.
  • Web applications and development, because they can be scaled up and down to suit the resolution of the device, without losing the chosen proportion.
  • Digital documents. They’re usually smaller in size and use less memory. They’re also quicker to load, duplicate, etc.

Can a vector design be a piece of contemporary art?

Vectors with isometric design

Our answer is a resounding YES. Vector design was introduced over 30 years ago and it has evolved over the years to become a tool for artistic communication and a source of inspiration.

Details thanks to the scalability

We’ve been particularly inspired by some of the projects shown here, such as the Vector City project by the Belgian designer Bert Dries and his Musketon studio.

His project consisted of creating a city containing 100 houses with different people. He completed the project using nothing but vectors and, as no quality is lost when it’s enlarged, we can find plenty of little details and modern homages to movies, literature, and the like.

No doubt, good old Bert inspired many of our designers as they created their isometric vector designs. Maybe we inspired him. Or, more likely, a little bit of both.

Realism in vectors

One of the problems with using vectors is that it’s difficult to achieve the level of detail that we can achieve with bitmaps. While this is true, it’s equally true that there are artists who can achieve such a level of detail that anyone would find it hard to tell them apart from photos.

Many artists use gradient meshes to obtain very realistic results. Doing photorealistic work in Illustrator takes a long time and requires a lot of attention to detail. We may not all be capable of creating such detailed vector art, because it requires many years of practice.

Advertising posters

Whether movie posters, commercial posters, posters for events, or similar, this field of vector art is widespread. Poster art combines creativity with functionality. The composition is created with the aim of catching the attention and arousing the user’s curiosity for further action.

In this case, Disney hired the Mexican-Cuban creator Orlando Arocena to design the premier poster for Tim Burton’s Dumbo. According to the artist, he was inspired by the Carnival era and style, and he wanted to mix in a bit of his pop deco style.

Geometric vector art

In geometric vector art, basic shapes like circles, squares, and rectangles are used to create a very modern look with gradients and textures. One good example of this is the Animals project by Braća Burazeri.

Realistic font style

Different vector design styles

Floral patterns and elements are also very popular in vector art. Also, if they are combined with typography elements, stylish and elegant work is created. One notable work was Habana for the ShowUsYourType project, in which designers from around the world took part, contributing their art for the suggested cities. In this case, the Canadian designer Ferdinand Mark Basa used the realistic style.

Vector art is very much on-trend at the moment and, although it still has a long way to go, it has a solid base of experienced artists who are achieving amazing results. We hope that some of the pieces we’ve mentioned in this post have inspired you and you can start bringing your vectors to life.