Thursday, 24 February 2011

It's All Too Much

This exercise asked for two posters to be created for a local event - one full of details, the other containing the bare minimum. It was then necessary to look at which one worked best and why. The poster then had to be redesigned in the light of this and needed to utilise the best points of both.

I chose a poster advertising a local jumble sale and decided that, to get an accurate idea of which approach worked best, it would necessary to make the posters as basic as possible: the differences, strengths and weaknesses should come from the information provided rather than any other design factors.

The design full of information looked better than I had expected. I crammed the poster full of information but in terms of pure pattern I quite liked the result. However, it was perfectly obvious that even with time to study it, the information required by its target audience (what, where, when, etc) was lost in a sea of words.

At the other extreme, the poster with the basic details (what, where, when) felt too stark in my opinion. I also felt that some of the information left off the poster also weakened its appeal to its target audience, namely the fact that refreshments were available, that there was a tombola and raffle, and that it was free entry. I also thought it would be useful to provide a contact name for people who wanted to donate items.

When I came to redesigning the poster I was keen to keep the basic design as I felt any improvement should be based on the balance of information rather than any embellishments/improvements. One small compromise I did make was to colour-in the lettering to give the poster a slightly more 'finished' look. I think this poster strikes a good balance between providing sufficient information for its target audience and retaining its aesthetic appeal/draw to the same audience.

Overall I felt this was a useful exercise that illustrated the balance that sometimes has to be made between form/aesthetics and function/information.

Friday, 18 February 2011


The exercise required a leaflet design inviting people to volunteer for a task via a leaflet with 120 words of information. A number of tasks were mentioned as examples and I really liked the idea of the community garden. The key aim of the exercise was to find a way of making people actually pick up the leaflet.

I hadn't completely decided on what people were being asked to volunteer for, but as I played around with the sheet of paper for a while I stumbled upon a plant pot shape - taking me back to the idea of the communal garden/guerrilla gardening. The space was big enough for sufficient information to be printed onto the front and back of the plant pot - with the front as the appealing 'sell' and the back containing the more mundane details. However, although relevant to the project, in itself I realised it would not make people want to pick it up - which was the whole point of the task.

I then came up with the idea of a flower growing out of the plant pot. A flower would be appealing - it is sufficiently different to make people stop, and interesting in itself - particularly to the very group that are being targeted (those who would give up their time to do some communal/guerrilla gardening). It would also lend itself to being plucked or picked. I looked at a number of flower designs and realised how subjective they were - giving me the idea of using a range of Flowers, thereby maximising the appeal of the leaflets.

Because the plant pot tapers in shape, I realised I had created a natural stand for the plant pot - although for it to work I had to reduce the length of the stem to make the whole leaflet balance. I then realised that to have all leaflets standing like flower pots would, in practice, take up too much room when displayed. Having the pots all on show would also remove the element of  mystery: one of the key aims was to get people to pick the leaflet up to find out why they were where they were. However, I retained the flaps so they could be displayed and kept when the person taking them got home: making it more likely they would volunteer.

Because of the communal nature of the project I decided that the project would work best if promoted in libraries and shops local to the proposed garden. To minimise the space required, and thereby maximise take up in libraries/local shops, I would have them displayed in a clear perspex holder. I would then have one leaflet laminated and secured to the front of the holder and have this laminated plant pot blank: it is more aesthetically pleasing and it ensures the leaflet is in the person's hand before they know they might have to do some volunteering. A range of flowers in a range of heights (sunflowers, poppies, roses, daffodils, daises) would then sit in the holder.

It was refreshing to use a physical object as the idea itself. I was surprised that, in a way, it made it easier as it was clear as I played around with different shapes of paper what was most aesthetically pleasing and what shape would be most likely to be picked up. It also made me constantly aware of the compromises that might have to be made between these two demands. I found it more useful working with the object itself rather than using thumbnails or sketches. I think this was because I was keen for the leaflet to work practically.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Paperback Writer

The brief for this exercise was to create cover and spine designs for three of HG Wells' novels. The books needed to work as a set and establish them as timeless fiction. The covers needed to include title, author's name, publisher's name and trademark.

I visited the library and a couple of local bookshops and looked at the titles available. The covers I found (Penguin) were drab and uninspiring. I then researched HG Wells' work in greater depth on the internet, using Amazon and Wikipedia for information of the novels written and their subject matter.

I felt that the social novels represented more of a challenge and were generally the worst represented. I decided to choose three novels that focused on aspiration: Kipps, Tono-Bungay and The Wheels of Chance.

Kipps is about a draper who discovers that he is related to a wealthy old gentleman. He inherits his fortune and, thrown into upper class life, struggles to learn the rules of etiquette. I focused on Kipps' original position as a draper and images of upper class society and felt that juxtaposing these images could yield some interesting results.

The first idea, and still my favourite, is a cover made up of a piece of draper's fabric. It is a dull, everyday colour (brown?), reflecting Kipps' life at the beginning of the novel. Cut into the fabric are the letters of the novel and author - and behind the fabric is a shimmering gold which reflects the wealth he is about to discover. On the fabric are various silver objects, including a spoon, a napkin holder, a pair of scissors and  a plate/platter embossed with the publisher's name and logo. The spine continues this theme with a roll of fabric. Woven into the pattern of the fabric is the name of the novel, the author's name, and the publisher's logo and name.

The second idea develops this theme. Kipp stands behind a counter in a top hat and tails with a roll of fabric bearing the details of the novel. In a slightly different version the details of the novel are displayed on an old style till. I do not feel this meets the brief's aim to provide an image of timeless fiction. The look is too dated.

One alternative on the spine that resulted from some mind mapping was of a silver spoon. In the head of the spoon is reflected the word 'Kipps'. Along the stem (?) is the name of the author. At the tip is the publisher logo and name. I prefer this to the original idea, perhaps because it has a stronger link to events in the novel.

Tono-Bungay is about a harmful stimulant that is promoted as a cure for all ills. The main protagonist is a science student drafted in by his uncle to help promote it. Their initial success results in a rise in social status and riches beyond his expectations.

I mind-mapped and the most interesting idea to come out of it was that of the pill box. When drawing it, it continued to seem a bit lifeless. I added a hand thrusting the pills out at the customer and immediately went with this idea. The book and author name on the pills was the easiest choice to make and I decided to have some fun and put the publisher logo on one of the pills. It was important that the 'scam' aspect was represented so I made sure the arm of the 'thruster' was suited and his hand was heavily ringed with cheap jewellery. I also added a sticker along the bottom of the pills saying '30 mins per day will relieve symptoms of stress and dumbing-down', which I think added to the contemporary feel.

I then decided to explore a much simpler image: a group of scattered pills, each bearing a letter that spells out the name of the novel and author. I liked the simplicity of the idea although felt it lacked something. I added a palm in the background holding the pills and I think this adds warmth whilst retaining simplicity.

I had two ideas for the spine, both pill-related. The first (above) takes a classic two-tone lozenge pill and divides it into book title and author name. I like the playful simplicity of this image. The other spelt out the name in a similar way to the cover shown directly above. It does not really offer anything new and I would certainly opt for the spine shown above.  

The Wheels of Chance is about the rise of the bicycle and how it gave people - particularly the middle and working classes - freedom, weakening the rigidity of the class structures. In the novel the hero is a draper's assistant who sets out on a cycling tour for his annual holiday. The hero is awkward and is constantly just about keeping his bicycle under control. Wells used real place names and the entire route can be followed on a map.   

In keeping with the first two designs I retained the idea of representing the events of the novel on the cover through objects. This was vital if I was to keep to the brief of keeping the three novels as a set in both theme and imagery. Mind-mapping the key words produced many ideas, foremost of which were maps, bells, pumps, bells and clips. Once I knew the route followed in the book could be mapped out, I thought a map with the route marked on would make an excellent background. I sketched the bell and decided this would be an ideal place to put the author's name. I placed a pump across the bottom of the cover and placed the title along this. Because he is quite a hapless character I tried to reflect this in the creases and oil stains on the map.  

I then decided to take the map idea to the extreme and sketched an Ordnance Survey-style map with the novel's details in the style of village wording next to villages on the map. I placed the publisher's logo at the top of an imaginary hill of contour lines and put quotes about the novel next to small buildings and landmarks. Although this was at the extreme of the ideas it is the cover idea I like the most.

I then thought it would be fun to veer off in another direction and use the bicycle as my focal point. My first idea tied into the clumsiness of the main character and had a buckled bike wheel spinning on a wet, muddy background. The heel of a foot print in the top left hand corner leaves the name of the author. In the lower right of the cover a puddle contains the title. These two points are divided by skid marks in the mud. I terms of layout, for me this idea produced the strongest result. 

I decided to take this ideas to the extreme as well, resulting in the image below - a wheel with the tyres bearing the name of the novel and author, and the publisher's logo sitting at the centre of the wheel.  It is a very simple image and would be a good companion piece to the Tono-Bungay 'tablets in the palm' cover.

I struggled with a spine idea for this novel and found it difficult to get my original idea of a bicycle pump out of my head. If I was submitting these pieces for assessment I would avoid using this idea with my first cover to avoid repetition of idea, and would probably go with the third cover as this most strongly represents the spirit of the book and works best as part of the overall set.

Overall this project has been very useful as it has taught me the importance of taking a range of creative directions and utilising ideas created by mind maps and lateral thinking. It has also been interesting taking ideas to extremes - not just because of where they take you, but where they lead you back to.  

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Long and Winding Road


I decided to start with the postcard reflecting my wider cultural influences or interests. I had already decided on the cover of Revolver, so found a picture of the cover and used this as my starting point.

As I had already decided who was going  to occupy the four main pictures it was just a matter of finalising who would occupy the photographs and smaller illustrations.

As Thom Yorke was going to replace the face of John Lennon it seemed natural to put the four remaining members of Radiohead in the illustration of The Beatles to his left. The strange figure on Lennon's ear in the original immediately suggested Alison Goldfrapp to me. I'd already decided on the White Stripes and they were perfect for the two faces in Lennon's hair. I also thought Jarvis Cocker would be well-suited to replace the striped, reclining figure. Equally, the smart, preppy look of Mark Ronson was a perfect replacement for John Lennon's upright figure - and then the idea of Amy Winehouse's face just above him naturally suggested itself.

Next to Amy Winehouse, I thought that the Pet Shop Boys would be relatively easy to draw and could fill the illustrated faces nicely. When I thought of McCartney's screaming face Kurt Cobain was the obvious choice and I thought it would be more arresting if contrasted with Fat Boy Slim in party mode. To their left I was then left with a group of four with one prominent amongst them - a perfect spot for Blur to occupy, while in the corner I had thought about grouping the trio in The Prodigy and decided to stick with this idea.

I had decided early on that it would be a nice touch to include a picture of McCartney as he is now and was pleased to find a recent picture of him in almost exactly the same pose and with the same expression as he appears above his ear. Replacing the illustration of the head in his ear - mainly because of the similarity of the hair - I decided to draw Kate Bush. I was left with the main area between the heads of Ringo Starr and George Harrison. In the original this seems very laddish and larky, with nine heads in a ball of activity. Because of this, and the importance of including someone wearing a hat to keep continuity with the original, I decided on two Manchester bands to fill this space - The Stone Roses (with hatted Reni) and The Smiths. To just subvert the laddishness slightly I decided include Nick Drake. The final places, on George Harrison/Brian Eno's head were always going to be for the Chemical Brothers. Because of his almost total baldness I knew this might have a slightly comic aspect to it and was really pleased when I found a photograph of the Chemical Brothers that I felt suited this feel.                   

I then began work on the main illustrations, starting with Badly Drawn Boy. Showing the naivety of the novice I spent a number of hours trying to draw Badly Drawn Boy in the style of Paul McCartney on the original sleeve. I then realised that I could just open the photograph of Badly Drawn Boy I was using, create a new layer, and draw over it. I was aware of the different hair textures used by Klaus Voormann in the original and was careful to vary the pen width when moving from hair to beard. Once I had completed the picture I copied the image on top of Revolver, placing it as close as I could to the original. I was pleased with the result, particularly the woolly hat which I was concerned wouldn't work but which I now think adds a nice twist on the original. Using different shades on the hat really brought out the pattern and helped add some texture.

I then went to work on Thom Yorke. I found a photograph which suited my purposes - front-on and smiling faintly. After the Badly Drawn Boy picture, this seemed relatively straightforward. My only concern was whether his drooping left eyelid might look forced or accentuated in line drawing, drawing too much attention away from his other features. Fortunately I don't think this is the case. I also didn't feel the need to do too much with the hair textures with this drawing. Thom Yorke is a much rawer character: I wouldn't have wanted to soften him or take attention away from his facial features. Brian Eno was also fairly straightforward. I chose a photograph that had Eno looking out at the view questioningly - in keeping with George Harrison on the original cover. My only regret is that I didn't keep the photographic image of the eyes in keeping with the original - although I did colour in the lips, which is a nice echo back to Eno's days in Roxy Music.

The final picture, of Noel Gallagher, was the most difficult and it's the image I'm least satisfied with. Although I'm pleased with the eyebrows and face I now wish I'd spent a couple more hours on his hair - perhaps weaving more gray into the gaps between the strands of black. However, I'd set myself 10 days and was running out of time. Scaling the photographs and changing them to black and white was relatively straightforward - as was cropping them. Drawing the smaller illustrations was also fairly straightforward, and all I was left with was the Parlophone logo and the Revolver type. I stuck with my idea of the Adobe  'A' and added 'Adobe Photoshop' underneath in place of the original text. I was still undecided on what to name the cover. I had been thinking of  'Revector' all along but this now seemed a bit forced (I was also aware that virtually all the work had been done in Photoshop, not Illustrator) and decided that 'Evolve' was better suited to the nature of the piece - which was more about the evolution of music and my musical interests than anything else.

As the first piece of work I've completed I'm pleased with 'Evolve'. I think the photographs are well-chosen, if a bit roughly edited in places, and - apart from Noel Gallagher's hair - I'm pleased with the main illustrations. If I was submitting the piece for assessment I would also spend more time on the smaller illustrations, which lack uniformity and - in the case of the Pet Shop Boys - any resemblance to the actual artists. Finally, I was gutted to realise that the piece was 56cm x 56cm, not A6 as requested. However, I realise it was probably a good thing to make this mistake now rather than later.

Too Much Symmetry

As I had decided on the idea of the saucy postcard, the main aim was to come up with a caption that had something to do with graphic design and was an innuendo: not easy. I decided to look through a few postcards for inspiration and found the one posted below:

I liked the image and it immediately suggested asymmetry to me - something I had been reading about. I played around with a few ideas and needed a tension within the postcard. When I saw the postcard below the idea of symmetry suggested itself.

As it was a postcard about myself I decided that it would be fun if I was the man holding the rock and my wife, Sarah, was the woman with the puppies (so to speak). I was initially hoping to add a pun on the name Jan Tschichold (graphic designer and leading exponent of asymmetrical design) - something along the lines of 'Think Tschichold' 'Cold? It's bloody freezing.' However, it became clear that there wouldn't be enough room for this and I limited myself to asymmetry. I used the rock picture as my main template and added the picture of the girl above.

I enjoyed this project, particularly employing all the different colours. I made a key mistake when starting out in Illustrator by not creating closed paths - as a result I was not able to fill shapes and areas as I would have liked. I also found that I had to use Photoshop more than I would have liked, as I was more used to the painting tools. 

Once I'd completed the image the final challenge was to fit the text in. I looked up some more postcards and found the one posted below, which had a good range of letters.         

I copied the lettering as well as I could, although given more time I would have liked to have replicated it more accurately as the irregular capitals were always one of my favourite aspects of the seaside postcard. Ideally, I would also have liked to have more closely captured the wash effect of the originals. However, I do think that the block colour in my version is okay in its own right.

Overall, I'm pleased with the result. It is a postcard that says something about me and one of my earliest interests in graphic design - although I do wish I'd checked the spelling of symmetry. Once again, it's a good mistake to make at this stage! 

Designers Underground

I went with my idea of the map of the London Underground, with each line representing a different movement and each station a designer within this movement. Although this postcard took the most time in terms of planning, it was the most enjoyable. I went back to a couple of graphic design books and grouped the designers around eight main movements: Art Nouveau, Modernism, Bauhaus, The International Style, Corporate Design, Poster Art, Postmodernism and The Digital Age.

I looked at the Underground Map and started to think about which movements should occupy which line. I decided that Postmodernism would be perfect for the Circle Line - going round and round picking up influences from all the other movements. I also wanted Modernism to have a strong presence, and decided on the Central Line, running through the middle of the picture. This meant I could also give it a strong linear feel, beginning with Picasso on the left.

I then wanted to put Bauhaus and The International Style close together, but not on the same line. It was at this point I came up with the idea of splitting one of the lines into two with Jan Tschichoold at the meeting point - and the Piccadily line was perfect for this. I had already decided I wasn't going to use the Metropolitan Line and so was able to use the nice shade of Maroon for The International Style section.

I wanted to counter-weight the Central Line of Modernism and went for The Digital Age in a top to bottom movement in black along the Northern Line. My priority with Poster Art and Corporate Design was then to balance the elements already in place and the Jubilee and District Lines seemed best suited to these ends. Once this was done all I needed to do was pick the typefaces to suit the movement and do the project.

Once I had completed the planning, the actual work itself was relatively straightforward. As I started to complete the project I added a few extra touches, such as the 'Logo by Edward Johnston' under the 'Underground' sign, and replacing the 'Thames' text on the river with names of various movements and developments that have influenced the history of graphic design. It was also about this stage that I decided to add the National Rail sign to particular designers of note.

This is the project I am most happy with and it was good to revisit some of the names I had been studying. If I had a bit more time I might have added the Ferry sign to famous emigres. I might have also have spent a bit more time choosing the designers of note and on the accompanying logo. However, as only my third completed piece of work, overall I'm very happy with the result.