While I genuinely enjoyed bonding and exploring the city with my commune members, I found the whole project unnecessary on a purely outcome/ research generating standpoint. I felt that most of us already had a vague idea of potential themes to look into prior to commune, and we were just utilising the planned gallery visits to look for the specific references we needed. However, it was the branding museum we visited on the last day that allowed me to finally consolidate my ideas. I've always loved constructivist design- the powerful duo of red and black, the use of diagonals and geometry etc. but our visit to the branding museum made me consider expanding on my ideas, rather than narrowing it down. I was captivated by how packaging and advertising had evolved over time, from the delicate hand drawn letterings and pictorial images of 20s to the rise of print advertising which built on the consumer boom of the 70s. The place was a designers dream- as I walked through the corridors lined with memorabilia, I automatically started to pick out the key features of each design era, for example 80s/90s print advertising had a distinctively more stylised and simplistic look, while its album covers were plastered with the organic, free flowing dots contrasted with straight lines pattern typical of that era. While the later 00’s displays were lacking, it was interesting to see packages adopting certain design features from past eras. Even though I had looked briefly into pastiche while brainstorming ideas, seeing it in real life brought my ideas to life; I was going to look at contemporary design, how it does not have the distinct style as past eras did, how it often borrows from past eras. I immediately discussed this with my commune members who really liked the idea, but I was warned about tackling such a broad ranging brief. I agree that there will be a high degree of analysis required, it is after all looking at the evolution of graphic design/packaging up until this point, but I feel that it is a project that is definitely worth exploring. For now, I need to work on condensing my thoughts into one single coherent question (I find myself constantly rephrasing my project proposal question when asked) and setting up some objectives in terms of areas I plan to look into.
Later, one of my commune members was discussing her project proposal question (something in regards to geometric shapes and their impact on graphic design) and this made me realise how geometric forms do not tend to be associated with a specific era- they play such as prominent role throughout design history that it is seen as something timeless. This applies to my own proposal thinking because I would need to find out what the 'successful' elements of each design era are, as it is their success which makes designers constantly go back to it.
I went around looking for sources of visual inspiration today and made a note of words that came to my mind when taking the pictures. I came across this man who was painting tiny cartoon figures on the Millennium Bridge floor and this made me realise how ordinary people (non graphic designers) have always used the public sphere as their canvas/ screen for design and it didn't make sense to not turn to them for inspiration instead. It was fascinating because it would have gone unnoticed had he not been painting nearby when I walked passed.
A few things I noted while walking around:
-Rather than big commercial advertising, I saw a lot of self promotion: people promoting their own instagram pages, hashtags, individual records etc. through vinyl stickers placed on lampposts, scrawled onto walls with markers or chalk
-Some of the places I was walking around were student areas so there were a lot of posters from societies- most of them ripped off in order to post new ones on top of them, creating visually very interesting layers and textures.
-This idea of blocking/ exposing played around in my head for a while.
I created a typeface inspired by the colours and textures of typography found on the city walls. I used cmyk colours to show the slight glitch/ bleeding typical of ink jet printed posters and distorted the letters of the second typeface to resemble the ripped and weathered stickers found on the lamp posts. I feel that I have managed to successfully translate these textures digitally, although it would be more interesting to try these out using more analog/ hands on processes.
I created these experimental album cover designs to see how well my typeface would work against a coloured/ slightly textured background. The compositions and colour schemes are a development from the abstracted images I produced last week from the photographs. I wanted to work with a more consistent colour palette, even if I had several to choose from. The text on these designs were taken from graffitied walls, having decided to base my subject matter purely from my surroundings rather than content that has been already been generated by other designers, musicians, authors i.e quotes from stories, movies. While it could lead to some highly ambiguous and subjective designs, it would ensure more original outcomes.
I feel like I'm coming down from a creative high from last week. As soon as I became familiar with the photoshop tools and effects, I lost interest in creating these outcomes. The 'wave' effect has been especially overused- my work is all starting to look similar despite combing several effects at once (layers). I feel that I need to either a) gather more research to base my work on- primary i.e recording more street surfaces and colours through photography and secondary research, or b) revisit working hands on with materials. Similarly to how my practical experiments have aided the digital processes, these same digital processes may lead to some new interesting experiments as well.
Despite this, I have managed to create a few pieces before I move on to further experimentation. Instead of using a single colour composition, I combined several of them to produce more visually (and technically) more complex pieces. While I am pleased with the outcomes visually, I feel like I am falling into the trap of producing work purely based on 'aesthetics', these digital prints have become so abstracted that they no longer bear any resemblance to the original photographs they were inspired by, and the fact the side by side comparison just confirms how the effects are starting to become overused. I need to find a new mode of working soon. This block has made me realise the importance in carrying out regular evaluations, especially in such a crucial stage of the project (midway). I guess I will have to wait for next week's tutorial and group crits to see how to move on.
I wanted to print my typeface as a concertina initially as I wanted the letters to be displayed in a way that the person would be able appreciate them all at once, however I was informed when I went to print them that it would cost way too much (as it would be printed on amazon, as a0 size paper couldn’t be printed back to back) so I had to go with a publication format instead. While I was slightly disappointed, making a publication gave me the opportunity to design a front cover (as my concertina didn't include one) which I ended up really liking, and I feel it would tie in well with the other pure white publication when placed next to each other in the exhibition.
I’m really pleased with my publication- it looks and feels exactly as I envisioned it to be. The only issue is that the perfect binding makes it a little difficult to open, and I’m worried that the pure white cover would become dirty before it even makes it to the exhibition. The latter can be solved by making a dust cover, but the binding will have to do. Seeing the prints- both digital and analogue- in a physical publication made me really excited because I can definitely see these being used in real life, whether as book or album covers, or even textiles. While I have been ensured by both tutors that my experimentation has been meeting my proposal, I didn’t fully see it myself until I flipped through it.
I have also created a page for my digital outcomes as Joao pointed out how I should explore the screen as a format- after all these pieces have been created through digital processes.
I printed a selection of my digital prints to be pasted on the city walls today. I had to go to a few different locations to test out how the prints looked against the different surfaces, and it was crucial that they possessed some visual similarities- similar colour scheme, textures to show how I derived my visuals from them. I wanted to place them back into their original locations to show the similarities between digital renderings and more man made ones (chipped paint, ripped posters, stains etc). This is how I envision my visual language to be- a mix of both digital and analogue processes, one informing the other.
Did I achieve what I set out to do in my proposal?
Yes and no. While I had initially set out to answer an almost impossible and highly subjective question of what contemporary design looks like and the effects of borrowing from the past, I ended up innovating a visual language inspired by the colours and surface of the city instead. I shifted my focus from exploring the wide field of design movements and adopting these styles to generate outcomes, to producing purely work of my own, and this is where I failed to investigate the effects design appropriation. I have also come to realise that what constitutes as 'contemporary design' is in constant negotiation, and the persistence of various forms of imagery and symbolism from past eras may reflect the tastes of people, rather than the lack of a distinct style or innovation from contemporary graphic designers. On creating a new visual language, I feel that I have been successful from the feedback given from both tutors and peers.
Did I explore my project theme in enough depth?
I found it quite difficult to incorporate research into my work as the project itself asks for innovation- in terms of media and processes, as well as external sources for inspiration. In this sense, primary research became key, and while I feel that I had enough to generate outcomes with, I could have found more ways to record my surroundings. Keeping a visual diary/ mood board for instance, or using different means to record the surfaces of the city, rather than just taking photographs. The initial secondary research gave me the opportunity to analyse the features and motivations behind designs of different eras, which in turn helped me establish a framework for my visual language i.e scale, texture, colour. However, a visual language involves both a process of revision and diffusion so there will always be more for me to explore within my project, especially across multiple disciplines.
Has my project changed from what I initially proposed? If so, why and how did I do that?
My initial project proposal was 'What does contemporary graphic design look like and what are the effects of borrowing from previous design eras’. While my project has not strayed far from this first proposal, the way I approached this new proposal, on creating my own visual language, has been more straightforward. I realised that it was not necessary to produce outcomes that reflected key design movements or to explore this idea of design appropriation in order to understand what constitutes as a ‘visual language’ and to produce one that reflects contemporary design. I approached this new proposal in a very visual manner, relying heavily on the primary research gathered, mainly photographs of textures and colours that I later turn into digital or analogue prints. In this sense I was innovating, rather than reproducing something in order to better understand what makes something ‘new’.
How has my research influenced, informed and shaped my project outcome?
I feel like I lacked secondary research once I changed my project proposal to creating my own visual language. The nature of this proposal itself and its emphasis on the 'new’ suggests innovating new processes so this may largely be the reason why. However looking back, I could have looked a broader range of sources outside graphic design. Research on different types of materials and its uses for example, could have added this level of technical sophistication to my work. In regards to contextual research, I have definitely explored the motivations behind and the impact of key design movements, which may not have directly influenced my final outcomes, but have definitely prompted me to produce one of my own.
If I could start my project again, what would I do differently and how would I go about it?
While I wish I would have come to the realisation that my project does not have to an answer such a hard to tackle question as to whether or not graphic design is being held back by borrowing from past aesthetics (which is both subjective and unavoidable) I don’t think I would have changed much If I could start my project again. The short time frame after Easter improved my decision making abilities as I had no time to second guess what I was doing, and ensured I was only going forward with experiments that were successful and worth investing time in.
What is the most successful and what is the least successful aspect of my project?
What are my strengths and my weaknesses?
I think the greatest success of my project has been the consistency in my work, I always go back to my primary research as a reference so I don’t get carried away by producing something purely based on aesthetics, all textures and colour schemes have been derived from a source. While digital and analogue processes have always been seen as polar opposites, through working with both I’ve innovated a way of having one inform the other. This is evident in the way my analogue visuals take on an almost digital aesthetic through a more methodological way of working i.e physically building up textures in a way I would create layers on photoshop. A weakness in my work is a lack of exploration into different formats and ways of presenting my work. This did not occur to me until I carried out a peer evaluation towards the end of the project and was told that the use of the publication as a format itself is something of the past. I could have explored screen based design or interactive design, which would have also allowed me to test out people’s reaction to this new visual language. It would have also been interesting to see how hand made visuals are translated across digital platforms, similarly to how I digitalised my prints on photoshop.
As a designer, my biggest strength is the ability to work across, and embrace, different pathways. Although the digital outcomes, post production editing, and layout for the publications are all graphic design, I felt like the surface pattern designs and analogue prints were very much textiles or fine art. While I was hesitant at the beginning to get into hands on experimentation after working digitally for the vast majority of the course, I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with all the different processes and the way I approach design software such as Illustrator or Photoshop has definitely changed. While I would have described my ‘aesthetic’ as purely geometric and minimalistic in the past, after embracing such organic and unexpected ways of working, I would say my style has evolved, as I expect it to do so throughout my design career. As for my greatest weakness, it is the way I respond to advice during critiques with either my tutors or peers. While I have no problem with criticism, and even embrace it to better my work, I always feel the need to take it on board instead of going with my own instincts. While it has not been a prominent issue in unit 7, there were several instances, especially during the group tutorials, where I had to reassess why I was changing my ideas in order to meet the preferences or expectations of someone else. I need to find a balance between taking peoples advice and trusting my own design choices.
Assuming I have achieved my intended outcomes, could I now take these concepts and ideas further if I had more time? If so, in which way?
In an ideal world I see my work being printed on a large scale and posted on public spaces, the very surfaces they have been inspired by. I managed to try this out on a smaller scale by printing out A4 posters of my digital prints and placing them around the city, stepping back to look at them made me feel far more excited than when I printed my posters out for the final exhibition. This is because I see my work as being more subtle, blending in with the surfaces and to be appreciated as part of this man made fabric, rather than hanging in an an ‘artificial’ environment.
Looking back on my project, are there additional research, development or design outcomes I could have come up with to improve my submission?
Although I had set out to create the visual language, rather than its application, I would experiment with applying them to the film title sequence, book cover, album cover, poster formats I initially intended to create with my first proposal.
How well did I organise myself and manage my time during this project?
I feel that my time management has not been the best throughout the duration of this project, unit 7 has definitely been a wake up call for me in terms of keeping my reflection and records of research up to date so I wouldn’t have to rush it towards the end. In terms of design outcomes, I feel that the duration it takes to complete each piece cannot be measured, it was impossible for me to set achievable deadlines because of unforeseen factors such as a sudden creative block, or periods where I was producing more outcomes at once after a breakthrough. The best thing I could do was to set a limit, for instance, to stop producing new digital pieces after the end of this week. This was done more to ensure I was being innovative and producing exciting work, rather than a way of managing my time, but it did help nevertheless.
I had a chance to discuss my project proposal with Tim today. I explained how I was going to carry out in depth research and produce experiments inspired by key design movements- from abstract expressionism to constructivist design- and this understanding of the visual language would inform my creation of a contemporary visual language. The question is whether I would borrow elements from the past, or come up with something that is free from any influences. Each experiment will take the following formats: a film title sequence, book cover design, album cover design, and a poster. The gif I am currently working on for this week is highly influenced by 60’s design such as Saul Bass, so this would be included as one of my outcomes.
Tim was against the fact that I was basing my work on existing content i.e my film title sequence gif based on a scene from the 70s remake of ‘The Gambler’. He suggested I create for something that is entirely my own. While I agree with him, I think that would come far later into the project. Having to come up with a new visual language, to be then used on a film/book/music or any kind of narrative that does not exist yet seems too much of an impossible task at the moment. The focus for the next week or so are going to be just picking out key elements of each design movement and making outcomes to see how the colour scheme, use of abstract shapes etc make it distinctively from that era. These outcomes will be based on movies and books I enjoy because the prior understanding of the tone, mood, context will give me something to work with.
In regards to a ‘contemporary visual language’, I want it to reflect the kind of society we are in. 60s design was highly influenced by the psychedelic movement- concert posters, album covers, murals etc derived from the kaleidoscopic and colourful patterns produced by LSD hallucinations- but it was also a reaction to revolutionary political and social issues at that time and the insights from these 'psychedelic states of consciousness’. It also touched on many aspects of youth culture, not just music but styles of dressing, philosophy, art literature etc. Tim used the word ‘textures’ when I was describing all of this to him, as in the ‘textures’ of society, and this immediately gave me the idea of man made surfaces, from graffiti to the posters that people place all over the city walls. This will be my starting point when I begin gathering primary research for my contemporary visual language.
My project has taken the greatest turn this week- I have gone from working purely digitally to delving into very hands on processes in search for a unique and new visual language. The crit made me realise that my outcomes are still very much influenced by suprematism, and this is largely due to my own style and preference of working i.e using minimal forms, geometric shapes etc. Even with a more contemporary colour scheme and the application of textures, the resemblance to Malevich is apparent. Working digitally also does not help with my proposal at the moment because these tools and effects already exist, it is a language that other designers have created and adopted themselves, rather than something I create on my own. I feel like I'm stuck on autopilot- sticking to my own safe and predictable way/style of working.
While I have begun to generate content from my surroundings i.e colours inspiration, using seen words, I am still relying on existing presets rather than coming up with my own techniques. Joao pointed out how it is the processes you don't have control over and the mistakes encountered that will allow you to create a new language that has no connection to past styles. For example, misusing ink jet printing, or manipulating code to create glitches, looking at objects in a different way when photographing them (zooming in and thus abstracting key elements of light, shadow, texture) etc. He also suggested I impose some of my own restrictions to ensure I don't fall back into my own style of working, for instance only working in black and white for one day, or challenging myself to work in large scale. I gathered a wide assortment of materials from shaving cream and pva glue, to chalk and inks to begin experimenting with the printing process. The beauty of working this way is the infinite combinations of materials and techniques- printing over and over on the same sheet or shifting it to create whatever effect I wanted. While there was so much control in terms of laying the paper down, creating the patterns on the shaving cream, there is also so much uncertainty over how each print would turn up, and this made the whole process so exciting for me.
I looked at the contemporary glass collection at the V&A for some texture/ colour inspiration. I initially visited for the early 20th century collection, but I found that it was more for contextual reference and didn't really aid with my current experimentations. Looking at sources outside of the graphic design field has made me question why designers want to borrow from existing forms and colour schemes in the first place.
I feel that I have to start to wrap up the first stage of my experimentation- simply playing around with the materials and processes without any real reference. Some of the processes used have become more refined, I have learnt to manipulate it to achieve certain looks or textures. I am going to experiment with combining these processes, and incorporating photography/ ink jet printing which will be more digital/ technical than what I am currently doing.
I received slightly mixed responses from my tutor and peers on how to take my project further during fridays crit. My group felt that the intentions were not clear with my experimentations and that there's a lack of designer/ contextual research. They suggested I revisit the research and outcomes I had done in response to the past design eras such as the film tile sequences and analyse reasons for those design choices i.e colour influences, reasons for those forms (psychedelia influenced by 1960s psychedelic drugs such as LSD). While I agree with this, I feel like the work I have done so far is purely just to see what produces the most visually interesting outcomes and more importantly, try out processes that have not been really tested out by graphic designers before, rather than requiring any context/ substance i.e references to psychology, the current political climate etc. This will have to come later.
Joao agrees that the experimentation is still key at this stage of the project, and would probably be carried out right to the end of the project as there is always going to be more techniques discovered, more to refine etc. He gave me some ideas on how to take it further, such as scanning the prints and trying to turn them into three dimensional typography, playing around with the more fluid properties and turning them into animations.
I had a bit of a block at the beginning of this week. I struggled with ways of refining the processes I had experimented with last week, and I found the effects I produced so vastly different i.e marbling with ink and ripped collages that I didn’t know how to combine them to produce one coherent visual language. However, I took Joao’s advice and began to create a new typeface from these experiments as a starting point, and this ended up inspiring a whole series of new, digitalised outcomes.
The letters are composed of bits of tissue, magazine cut outs, dried paint, ink, and salt which have been left over from my other work. I’m pleased with the colours and textures of this typeface, but I feel that there is a lack consistency in terms of the structure of each letter. Although each letter is meant to vary slightly in it’s size and shape, resembling the typography found in street graphics, I should have introduced some basic guidelines. Some letters look slightly out of place because of their considerably longer x heights, such as the R and S in comparison to the A and U. I took pictures of each letter to be uploaded and arranged next to each other, but as I was editing them on photoshop (in terms of exposure, shadows, contrast), I began to play around with the filters and effects. I typically use illustrator for my outcomes so I’m quite unfamiliar with photoshop effects, but I thoroughly enjoyed exploring each one. I feel that there is so much more scope for distortion/ glitch like effects on photoshop- I really wish I discovered this sooner.
The effect I used on each letter depended on its complexity i.e lots of layers, fragmented pieces, colours composed of etc. as I didn’t want to overcomplicate each letter, which would not only undermine the digital effect, but also the existing natural, organic texture of the tissue/ glue. My strategy was definitely ‘less is more’ when it came to applying the distortion effects. I recalled Umberto’s advice from the part 1 grid project- he had pointed out how the impact of my experimental layout would be far greater if I limited this 'breaking of the grid’ to specific areas, rather than just going all out and not having any solid structure to begin with. Similarly to my letters, I chose specific areas to edit. For instance, only highlighted areas or applying it to specific colours in that letter. The fact that I was working on photographs meant that there were some three dimensionality to the letters and I feel this made the effects look far more interesting than it would on a scanned image of the letter.
I wanted to continue exploring these photoshop effects so I turned to the colour compositions I had developed in the second week of the project. Unlike the letters where I knew exactly which areas I wanted to distort to achieve a certain look, the flat colours proved difficult to manipulate. However, I tried to replicate the textures of the photographs the compositions were based on i.e the torn/ ripped paper as a starting point, before freely manipulating. These outcomes were based on a lot of trial and error- similarly to how my physical experiments were carried out. A lot of them did not turn out the way I planned, and there is no real way of telling when a piece was finished or if I should continue editing.
Visually, I am very pleased with these set of outcomes, with their bold saturated colours and alternation between jagged and wave like formations which could almost resemble a painting of a landscape. They capture the exciting imperfections of street graphics- layers, asymmetry, colours that a graphic designer may not even consider putting together in the first place, a clashing of different textures etc. I am even more pleased with the means in which I have achieved these designs. In a way, being an almost first time user of photoshop has enabled the whole trial and error way of working, ‘happy accidents’ which have produced some of the most unexpected, but wonderful effects. There is a drastic change in the way I work digitally now, and this newfound appreciation for textures is undeniably due to the hands on work I carried out previously. While the compositions are loosely based on the photos of street graphics, creating some of these formations relied on an understanding of how the media reacts in real life i.e the marbling on shaving cream and the liquify effect on photoshop.
I discussed outcomes for the exhibition with Joao- format, what to include etc. He suggested I turn my typeface and designs into publications, and had 2/3 of the refined designs as typographic posters.
I spoke to Tim today. He doesn’t think I should include the typeface or the digital designs into the exhibition. As it was a one on one tutorial I had the opportunity to go through my sketchbook work and he was really drawn to the physical experiments I had done previously, not so much the recent digital outcomes. While I thought the digital manipulation process led to something quite exciting and different, Tim saw it as quite generic and cold, not exactly meeting the criteria of a new visual language. This made me realise how important it was to have both graphic designers and non designers to evaluate my work as while the people I had asked saw the work as exciting and unique, it may be because they have not been exposed to the culmination of work that has already been produced in the graphic design world. I think because the photoshop filters are something new to me, I took it as being able to produce a new language of digital art, but forgetting that they are still presets and filters that exist, no matter how ‘creative' I get with them.
Tim however does feel that I have met my brief, through my experimentation process, although I didn’t see it at the time. I think its because I’ve been so accustomed to producing posters, typefaces, layouts etc for the part 1 and 2 briefs, and even my initial plan of producing an album cover, film title sequence, and book cover- that I see an outcome as having to convey some message/ answer a question or have a function, when just presenting the texture itself is enough as an outcome. Going back to my brief, what he says does make sense, because I am after all producing the visual language- how designers would adopt it is not part of my project. I explained how I had to use shaving cream to replicate the kind of distortion effects that you would achieve with an ink jet printer (because I didn’t own one)- and he pointed out how it this very process, having to find other means to achieve such effects, that contribute to the development of a new visual language.
While I mostly agree with Tim, I believe digitalising my work played a crucial role in the process and will still include a selection in my publication. However, I will have a lot of work to do this week, going back to the hands on experimentation to produce prints for both the publication and posters.
While I was initially hesitant about Tim’s advice on going analogue for my publication (time restraints) , I took the challenge and went gung-ho on the printmaking. I found it challenging to go back to working hands on after 2 weeks of producing purely digital outcomes, but I eventually got into the flow again and to be honest, I was getting bored of working with the photoshop filters. I thought I was productive with the digital work over the 2 week break, but the 5 days following my tutorial with Tim had been the some of the most productive days in my life. I did the same thing as I did the last time with experimenting, a day dedicated to each type of media- shaving cream and ink printing, chalk and water, collaging with tissue and glue. As I had become quite familiar with these processes, I was able to produce more technically complex and sophisticated prints by combing techniques, and using the specific colour schemes or textures I needed. The only thing I found frustrating was the fact that I didn’t have access to the studios over Easter, and the lack of space (and ventilation) in my room really turned me off from working. Scale was also an issue, I couldn’t find an a3 baking tray so I was limited to a4 prints, until I just went ahead and printed directly from my room desk. However, the challenges I faced this week were mainly practical constraints- having to buy materials, space for working, the quality of the prints after scanning, rather than creative challenges. I knew what I had to do, but just needed to make sure I utilised my time well. I had quite a lot of post production editing to carry out which only reduced this time, and my eyes were deteriorating very quickly at this stage. I only had roughly 2 days to go through and select from the masses of prints, and then work out the layout for my publication. Luckily I had already decided to go with a very minimalistic layout, as playing around with grids would only distract from the prints. Tim approved of the mock up of the publication, the only suggestion was to make sure the size of each image was consistent which I could easily sort out.
Even though Tim didn't see the point in me including the digital outcomes in my publication, I chose to put quite a few in as I felt that they played an integral step in the process of creating my visual language. Instead of referring to the original photographs when creating my analogue prints, I looked at their digital 'glitch' renderings. While some of the similarities between them are intentional, the way I approached the print making this time has unintentionally mimicked the way I had been working digitally the last 2 weeks. For example, I would create layers on my collage the way I would create layers on photoshop. There was definitely much more precision and control in the way I was working, and I felt I had more direction in this analogue process the second time around because I had clear references to work from (rather than just messing around to see what looks good as I did previously).
After my progress tutorial with Tim I carried out my final evaluation with feedback forms for my peers.