86 aspects of composition︎︎︎
This list is handy for writing about composition. When talking about a work, it's great to have some clear vocabulary to push off from.

  1. abstraction: To what extent would two people from the same community agree about the meaning?
  2. appropriation: How precisely and in what proportion to the whole have the ideas and constructs of others been incorporated into this creation?
  3. balance: How do the qualities and relative importance of the constituent aspects counteract each other, both inside and outside the system?
  4. breath: Where is the alternation between tension and release, inhalation and exhalation?
  5. center: Which areas, events, or ideas does our attention revolve around or return to?
  6. coherence: How well do the elements involved maintain their physical or conceptual connections to each other?
  7. collaboration: If there is more than one person or element involved, how are they cooperating?
  8. color: What shades, tones, or spectral qualities do these particular combinations of vibrations and their reflections create or evoke?
  9. community: Who is involved with the making and perceiving of this work?
  10. complexity: How many different streams of meaning, gestures, or materials are there, and do they interfere with each other?
  11. Context: What are the circumstances surrounding creation and perception, and what bearing do they have?
  12. continuity: How does this move from idea to idea, from place to place, from beginning to end?
  13. contrast: How different is one thing from another?
  14. control: How tightly is the outcome predetermined?
  15. conviction: To what extent is there an absence of doubt or hesitation, and how big a role does this play in the potential to inspire?
  16. definition: What features distinguish this from everything else and are they expressed clearly?
  17. density: How many elements are present simultaneously or in close proximity in a given area or at a given time?
  18. detail: How finely are the small qualities and features chiseled and how important are they to the functioning of the whole?
  19. development: What changes as time and space extend and how does this affect coherence?
  20. diversity: What degree of variety is present among the components and what effects does this variety produce?
  21. duration: How much time goes by from the beginning to the end of each event? of each subdivision? of the whole?
  22. emotion: Which human feelings can be found in this creation or perception and what importance are they given relative to the other ingredients?
  23. emphasis: Which aspects are meant to draw our attention and how is this achieved?
  24. exertion: How much physical and/or mental effort is involved and to what extent is it important for this to be visible?
  25. expectation: Do assumptions held by the creator or perceiver influence continuity or predictability?
  26. familiarity: How important is it to maintain or evolve recognizable situations, ideas, environments, or feelings?
  27. frequency: How fast and how often do the events and the materials vibrate or occur?
  28. function: What role does this play in the world, and what roles do each of the ingredients play relative to each other and to the whole?
  29. generosity: What is being given freely?
  30. geography: Where do things happen?
  31. gesture: How is movement of the materials organized, and what shapes and qualities do the trajectories of this motion create?
  32. hierarchy: How are importance and power organized?
  33. humor: How do factors such as smiling, laughter, surprise, lightheartedness, or delight contribute to the nature of this work?
  34. hybridization: Is there an intentional (or unconscious) blending of forms?
  35. imitation: How much do internal elements seek or exhibit similarity among themselves, and how much do they or the whole seek or exhibit similarity with external models?
  36. innovation: How great a role do new ideas play?
  37. inspiration: How does this work give and receive motivating energy?
  38. intention: What desired state or outcome is motivating the decisions that predetermine the nature of this process?
  39. interpretation: How do history, personal opinions, emotions, and skills affect the transmission and reception of the original message or intention?
  40. intuition: What percentage of creation/perception occurs spontaneously or without logical explanation, and how does this component in the composition interact with the intellectual component?
  41. language: What conventions, rules, methods of organization, or vocabularies distinguish this communication from others, and who understands them?
  42. leadership: Who makes the decisions?
  43. limits: What kinds of restrictions help to focus the expression?
  44. logic: What intellectual paradigms or conceptual maps are determining the basis for decision making?
  45. memory: How does the ability to store, label, and then retrieve impressions from the near and distant past impact creation and perception?
  46. mystery: How much reference is being made to not-knowing; how big a role does conscious (or unconscious) not-knowing play in conception and execution, and how necessary is knowing or not-knowing for appreciation?
  47. mythology: What roles do heroism, archetypes, folklore, and oral history play?
  48. organization: On what basis are the materials ordered, and what effect does this order have on the way they are perceived?
  49. originality: What percentage of the content is unique, and how does that affect the value of the whole?
  50. palette: What collection of physical and conceptual materials is being combined in this particular case?
  51. perception: How do the attributes and mechanisms of the human senses and mind color this process?
  52. perspective: From which physical or mental position was this created, and from which vantage points are the various elements and qualities best perceived?
  53. planning: What role does advance thinking, organizing, and deciding play?
  54. precision: Which ideas, gestures, or aspects must manifest in an exact way and which can be more general or approximate?
  55. preference: What proportion of qualities or choices is guided or determined by personal affinities or taste?
  56. process: What is the sequence and nature of the physical and intellectual events that determine the outcome?
  57. proportion: What are the relative quantities, sizes, and importance of each aspect with respect to the others and to the whole?
  58. proximity: What importance does the degree of nearness of players or elements have, internally and with respect to the perceiver?
  59. pulse: How much of the organization involves the regular marking of time or space with a steady placement of weight or events?
  60. punctuation: What devices help to delineate and separate units of meaning and activity?
  61. purity: How much allegiance or adherence to particular styles, ideas, traditions, or methods is present or necessary?
  62. reference: Toward which other elements, relationships, meanings, or memories is our focus directed when an element (or the whole) points outside of itself?
  63. relationship: How do these materials, organizers of the materials, and observers interact with each other?
  64. repetition: What happens again and again, how often, and with what intentions or results?
  65. reproduction: To what extent and how precisely are these materials or characteristics meant to resemble something from the past?
  66. resolution: How and when does this balance itself enough to start a new chapter or begin again?
  67. resonance: How do the effects of sympathetic vibrations play a role in the transmission of energy and inspiration, internally and with the environment?
  68. responsibility: How do social and environmental conscience influence the process of the creator, the perceiver, and other elements of the composition?
  69. scale: How large is this, relative to its conceptual and physical context?
  70. sensation: How does physical interaction with the medium, through the senses and systems of the body, affect the process and the nature of the experience?
  71. sequence: What events or ideas or materials follow each other, and in what order?
  72. shape: What are the qualities of the outline or contours created by the relative positions of materials in time and space?
  73. speed: How quickly do things happen?
  74. spirituality: What importance is given, either in the creation or in the perceiving, to contemplation, kindness, and matters of the soul?
  75. spontaneity: How much of the composition is determined by gestural, organizational, or conceptual decisions made in the moment?
  76. stability: Is there a sense of underlying predictability or steadiness, and how is this achieved?
  77. story: Is the series of events or the arrangement of elements such that it narrates or describes a human situation or perspective?
  78. symmetry: What types of correspondences exist between opposing sides or halves, either of the whole or of the individual ingredients?
  79. technique: What skills are necessary to clearly transmit and receive these energies or ideas, and how important is the mastery of these skills?
  80. Tension: Where is there a physical (or other kind of) pull or push between elements or ideas?
  81. Texture: What overall consistency or surface quality is created by the arrangement of material?
  82. Timing: When do things happen and how important is precision in this regard?
  83. Tradition: What lineage of creators, styles, philosophies, politics, methods, context, or other factors have influenced this composition?
  84. Transition: What manner of bridges or connectors serve to span the gaps between ideas, chapters or arenas?
  85. Variation: What proportion of this process involves change, manipulation, or evolution of material or energy?
  86. Vibration: When and how does cyclical alteration (of position, qualities, states, etc.) play a roll, and how do the relative speeds of these oscillations interact?
︎︎︎from 86 Aspects of Composition by Mike Vargas