Media Blog, VCD101

Final reflection on Design and VCD101

Task 2, about making the booklet, was a long one physically and mentally, and as a result, I learned a lot about design.

In the first portion of the assessment, we learnt about monograms and their uses. I started realizing that monograms still play an integral in consumer society today, we rely heavily on brand recognition and monogram designs have a huge factor in that. A monogram has to be distinct yet simple enough that if someone squinted their eyes, they would recognise the brand from the outline or colour alone. As such, the monograms I made had to simple enough to draw attention but also make a statement to people who saw it. I was conflicted with two different designs, a curvy design that linked the A and K together, and a straight line that linked the A and K together, reminiscent of a Norse symbol of sorts. I eventually chose the Norse symbol one, as it was more striking to the eye, and its simple shapes would catch the viewers eye. The colour version of it added more, as it was a bright red with a pattern behind it.

My two finished ideas for the typography shown

After that, we had to make a ransom type quote. The purpose of this part of the assessment was to create legible works with all different kinds of fonts, and make them work together as a coherent whole along with other components. I brought in comics that I hadn’t used and cut them up into pieces.

My front cover and ransom note quote

The comic aesthetic worked very well, and ended up informing the direction for the rest of my booklet, as I used the colours black and red to create the ransom note. I then put in more elements of red colour into my booklet as a whole. I was also inspired by the screen tone effect that comics have, and incorporated that idea into my back cover.

The ‘screen tone’ like back page

The typography was easily the hardest part of the entire assignment. I tend to ‘make up the rules as I go’ and the teacher noticed when she commented that I “hadn’t stayed within the grid lines”. Forcing the words into tiny restrained boxes is the opposite of my philosophy in life, but the design brief must come first! I had a similar problem when creating the poster for Assessment 1, and I was still learning to follow the rules in Assessment 2. Typography is hard for me to organise, so I mostly played it safe and followed the teachers instructions- with minor tweaks and experimentations to see if other designs fit. When I don’t feel confident in an area of Design or Art, it’s hard for me to ‘experiment’ or push my limits, since what is the point when I don’t understand most of it yet? You have to follow and understand the rules first before you can break them, is my understanding of most creative disciplines.

Alternate versions of a pattern with a different monogram design

One of the things that I took away the most from was when the teacher came over to my desk one afternoon, saw my frilly and wildly colourful designs, shook her head and said “This is unnecessary”. And it was. Design, as a focal point, is usually meant to emphasize text or an important word, since that is what conveys a message to other people in ads and marketing. I had filled the page with great big borders, a glaring hue of yellow, all a product of stumbling around in the dark trying to make it work. So I decided from that point on, that I would focus on the text, and only add in colour or shapes if I felt it contributed to the design. The result is that my booklet is barer that I am comfortable with, but am still happy with the end product. Regardless if I get a low or high mark, I have learnt a lot about design this semester, mostly on typography, stripping away needless details and successfully using Adobe products to shabbily put my designs together. Also can’t forget patterns, they have been very helpful for my monogram and has been the best pleasant surprise for my booklet.

Inside front cover
Two typography pages
Colour splash with alternate front cover colours
A more bold page with darker font and zigzags
Final page and inside back cover. The final page was a bit more experimental in terms of what I wanted to push, and it worked out well!
Media Blog, VCD101

Typography is a hidden tool of manipulation within society

“Typography is a hidden tool of manipulation within society.”

The designer- Neville Brody

About the Artist, Neville Brody- we need context to establish this quote in. Neville Brody was born in 1957 and is a British graphic designer and typographer. He did a BA in Graphics and his early work was inspired by the emerging punk rock scene. Once out of University, his name was popularised by his art direction on a magazine called “The Face” and completely changed the aesthetic of the times. He later sold a book on his graphic design work, which was very popular.

This all relates back to his quote, which is ‘Typography is a hidden tool of manipulation within society’. His success in the art industry and typography in general have made him a renowned figure, and his quote is speaking from experiences he’s had with selling his works and getting people interested in how to formulate typography. While on ‘The Face’ magazine, he played with the composition and typography of letters, and the new designs allowed him to ‘manipulate’ or entrance readers to buy the magazine for the front covers alone.

One of Neville’s works, ‘Free me from Freedom’

What it means to me is very different, and of course, depends on the individual person viewing the quote or work. What it means is that in typography, the typefaces and setting can mean everything. It can convey sadness, anger, happiness. Hell, even this font is conveying an emotion to you. There are groups of typefaces that can exude a particular feel, and can be used very well. For example, sans-serif fonts can feel businesslike or strict, while modern serif fonts can appear more decorative and free. There are some more obvious ones, like Monospaced, which is an imitation of the Typewriter and looks robotic as well as antique. The point is, typography can influence what you think about the text in subtle ways, and can manipulate the reader into thinking or leaning towards an opinion that suits the typeface. Even when reading a book, personally I prefer some typefaces more than others and the typefaces I don’t like, I am much less likely to read the book.

It is called a hidden tool of manipulation because many people do not realise the value of typography in everyday life, when it consumes them on a daily basis, everything from the soap you buy, to election ballots, to movie titles. There are an endless list of possibilities to encounter the typography, since written text is ingrained to our society.

Brody goes so far as to call it a ‘manipulation’ but not in the evil sense of the world. It is more the subtle changing of environment, or text layout, or font that can shift your mood ever so slightly. This manipulation is small, but can catch on with the rest of society in a big way. For example, we all recognise the Comic Sans Font. There have been lots of uses of the font, and discussion on how ‘ugly’ the font is on internet forums and social media. This discussion by society led to almost everyone disliking the font and it unanimously standing for a representation of a ‘bad font’. Ironically, it is a very good font for dyslexia readers as the word is weighted just enough that they stay grounded. I only use the “Typography is a hidden tool” portion for my booklet as it is shorter and allows more space to play around. To sum up, typography is extremely important in the world around us, and allows us to subtly influence what people are thinking, and attracting attention when we need it.


Influential Historical Artists

Wes Wilson

Artwork poster by Wes Wilson, showing the typography

Graphic Artist Wes Wilson was a pioneer of the psychedelic and created numerous poster artworks that remain popular today. These artworks are a response to what Wilson felt while at a rock festival in the 60’s, the thumping of the music, hordes of people, being drunk and being on drugs. Wilson said that he had tried LSD and had incorporated that into his own work by recreating the colours used in the image. After he started working for a company that allowed expressive freedom, he started playing around with increasingly creative patterns and styles to draw attention to the posters. His typography style was very unique and creative, with the fonts being wavy and distinctive at the same time. The colours he used were bright and contrasting, reflecting how he felt on LSD. The extreme contrast of the different colours and lines drew your attention to the pieces. Culturally, the period in the 60’s was characterised by the sudden explosion of Rock Music, thanks to the ‘British Invasion’, mostly the Beatles and other bands arriving on the scene. There was also a lot of Folk music around at the time, and they overlap in terms that Rock and Folk are both suitable audiences for a concert. In the 60’s there was no way to listen to them except on a live stage, so many people attended concerts when they toured in their area. Being in San Francisco, there were a lot of poster opportunities for the bands and touring acts that came to the area. This cultural phenomenon was of importance to Wes Wilson, who sought to convey the energy of a live show through his posters to encourage people to come. Wes’s work can be categorized as a ‘Psychedelic’ style, which many artists imitated afterwards, so he can be considered a pioneer of the ‘Psychedelic’ aesthetic of art.

More examples, showcasing Wilson’s typography usage

In the beginning, he started out as an assistant for a small printing company, that sold their works to small coffeehouse poetry and jazz scene in San Francisco. Wilson self-published his first poster, which included a Swastika within an American Flag motif, sending the message about the American involvement in Vietnam. He then designed a poster for the Trips Festival, which he then attended himself, loved the festival which then kickstarted his rock and concert poster designs that he was so known for. He was inspired by the style of Viennese Artist, Alfred Roller, that was similar to his typography style, and expanded upon it, creating even more daring typography designs. Wilson managed to create psychedelic pieces with interesting typography, clash of combining colours and a flow to it that captured your attention. His only goal was to explore the concert scene and the creative freedom that rock posters would allow him to express. Culturally, he is ingrained into the 60’s scene and his posters are seen as a cultural icon. He also put his style into the mainstream by doing work for notable brands such as Time Magazine, Life and Variety. It helped to establish a connection with rock music and festivals, and to today, has become history of the scene.

Alexander Rodchenko

An Alexander Rodchenko work depicting guns

Rodchenko was a Graphic Designer who was born in St Petersburg in Russia in 1891. He was part of the constructivist movement and was know for his politically aware works in many mediums. He studied in the Kazan School of Fine Arts and Architecture at Stroganov School of Applied Art. His photography works mostly revolve around capturing black and white photographs of people at unique and interesting angles and usually focused on the subject’s face. Russia in the 1910’s and 1920’s was a different time. Events such as the February Revolution in 1917, where over 1,00 people were killed, and the time Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate in the political turmoil. The revolution led to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFS) or simply Russian Soviet Republic.

One of the most famous examples of a Constructivist work, done by Rodchenko

Rodchenko was influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, who he even lived with for a short while. He was influenced by all of the great Russian masters before him or around his time, such as Vladimir Tatlin, who he was a pupil of, and Kazimir Malevich. Wassily was into abstract art, Vladimir in Avant-garde and Kazimir into a collection of styles. So Rodchenko was influenced by many Russian artists but didn’t follow their styles and went into a different concept altogether, and was eventually at the head of Constructivism when it started to gain traction. His experience with Russian revolutions, political strife and death led to a more personal view of human life and believed that his design work showed people new ways of seeing, that would in turn open up new ways of thinking. His experiments showed a simplification and deconstruction of forms, shapes and lines, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of the Soviet Union and its many iterations. His work reflected the close-mindedness and sameness the Soviet Union sought to achieve with their control. By exercising his design and art skills, Rodchenko sought to question the beliefs and tactics by using minimalist images, as well as up close and extreme close-ups of people’s faces. Its also why Rodchenko joined the Productivist movement for a time, which was a movement that incorporated artistic works with the daily life of people, by using household materials like rugs, textile patterns tables and chairs to express his design.

An example of Rodchenko’s unique photography work

From 1923 to 1925, he collaborated with an avant-garde poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky and illustrated some designs for the progressive Soviet writers of the time. However, it was through his photography that he gained the most recognition for his political messages, as he was picked up for a number of Soviet magazines and newspapers, and as a consequence, his photography was now all over the world. The late 1930’s is when the Communist Party started to change- In the way that Joseph Stalin was introduced as a key figure. Now that artistry was repressed, particularly free minded sections such as avant-garde and even constructivist was constricted of freedom of ideas as the Communist Party had other ‘officially sanctioned aesthetics’. Rodchenko himself was lucky to not perish at the hands of Stalin, as he had great purges that were mostly for the people that came to prominence at the time of the February Revolution, as Rodchenko did. His work was considered ‘Formalism’ and condemned by authorities of the Soviet Union. In the end, Rodchenko was known for his painting, photography and design skills, that elevated him further after experiencing the February Revolution and the deaths of people.


The Process of Creativity

This project lasted 6 weeks and involved creating letterforms and a poster image. When I was defining and observing the project, I wasn’t sure if I could manage to get all of the letters of the alphabet just by taking photos. But when we had the exercise to take photos, I realised it was a lot easier than I thought to find letters in the natural and built environment. It forced me to change my perspective and rethink the landscape in terms of letters. I decided to photograph more of the built environment, as they provided more opportunities for me to find letterforms. Then I recorded the information through photoshop, I realised that some letters didn’t fit with what I wanted to do, so I had to reshoot them and select my images again. I planned reshoots for some images when I got into the city on the weekend.

A comparison of the Before and After shoot for J

While refining the image in Photoshop, as I haven’t used the program before, it was difficult finding the settings and making the images what I wanted them to look like. I figured out a process of editing the image, and it would involve using the geometric lasso to only edit the ‘Alphabet’ portion of the work, then saturate and make it brighter and distinctive. Then I would invert the selection and work on making the background desaturated and lowering the gamma and brightness settings. I repeated the same process for all the images, as I wanted them to feel consistent, and not edit it to the extent where I can’t recognise the individual letter. I wanted the letter to stand out so that people can see it from far away. For most images it worked, but for some, it turned out messy and amateurish, so I am redoing those ones by doing the reshoots. I found using the selection tool and magic wand a new exciting way of editing an image selectively, and I wanted to explore that while editing the image.

My methodology for creating the colour of the letterforms

Setting up the proof sheets for the refinement process was not a hard task, except for fiddling around with InDesign Settings, and having to be helped by the teacher to navigate the settings and how to speed up the process of duplicating all of the images into the sheet. I also ran into a problem with the file sizes, as I had accidentally set them to 72 dpi, when it was supposed to be 300 dpi. I also made the mistake of saving the images as a PNG and not as a JPEG, which was needed for the assignment and is a larger file size for printing. So that problem in itself was easy to fix but took around 25 minutes to convert them all into the correct resolution and file type.

The difference letterforms by adjusting the contrast and using the lasso tool.

Here is an example of how the finished work would turn out on the right. Even though the colours are very different from the original, the contrast stands out more and highlights the alphabet more than the original. I figured that using this method would help for consistency, otherwise I would spend lots of time just fiddling around with one image while getting nowhere. After establishing a method that seemed to reliably work, I used it and I am happy with the majority of the results!


Design History of Two Artists

El Lissitzky

‘Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge’ by El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky was a Constructivist Artist, Designer, Typographer who designed lots of propaganda for the Soviet Union. His development of ideas helped shaped Bauhaus and Constructivist movements. He has made lots of work in the Constructivist Field especially one of his works called ‘Beat the whites with the Red Wedge’. The design was made in 1917 and the purpose was to send a message to their allies and enemies about their intentions. This composition gives the impression that the red triangle is invading the circle, or even ‘stabbing’ it. This context can be understood by the fact that Lissitzky was making designs for the Soviet Union and the likely representation being the red triangle as the soviet allies and the white circle as killing the anti-communist army. This design piece uses Hard Shapes, Warm Tones, Overlapping, Clustering together of letters, Repetition and shapes among others. The Hard shapes are noticeable in the Red wedge and the white circle, making it the central focus. Warm Tones are use in this piece because of the red, which is a warm colour, and the unintentional yellowing of the paper gives it a warm atmosphere. The overlapping is present in the small squares besides the circle and give the impression that the circle is in the foreground. Clustering is also used, with the red objects clustering near each other to create the sense of unity through colour. The repetition of rectangles on both sides makes the painting feel more whole and can represent infantry level soldiers in the war. There are also some elements of Kinetic Sequencing that can come from the small rectangles, representing a busy force of people. There is a lot of contrast between the colours that make it stand out. Geometric forms, and a minimal colour palette of Black, White and Red solidify the image. It also has elements of a collage piece with the forms overlapping. The image has a visual hierarchy of seeing the darkest colour first (black) and then the most vibrant colour, which is the red.

Another one of El Lissitzky’s works

There is an implied circle around the object and it is very abstract in its design The Visual Pathway of the image flows straight from the triangle’s direction to the big circle. The Circle shape creates a point of focus for the viewer and leads us to look at the red triangle entering the circle. The Circle is also a great example of Negative Space, as the white background is the circle, and the foreground of black creates the impression that it is a circle. The Soviets were known as the “Red Army” in the war and the colour white can be seen as a “pure” colour so it represents the Allies. The image has Implied Space, as it draws comparisons to viewing an old specimen under a microscope and feels like an extreme closeup. Altogether, El Lissitzky sought to represent the struggle of WW1 and to depict his version of the war through his design knowledge, as thus became one of the pioneers of Constructivism, outlining its distinctive tri-toned colour and geometrical shape.

Max Bill

Advertisement for the Munich Games by Max Bill

Swiss Modernism in general is characterised as a very minimalist style, with emphasis on orderly typography (if there are words) and orderly sequence of items resembling the form of a grid or straight lines. Background is usually a single colour. It has clustering of different colours, sometimes to create a 3D effect on the text or background. This style mostly uses a grid to separate the information in a structured alignment. No bleeding or layering effects are used. The structure aims to give clarity to the expression. Max Bill is a Swiss Modernist Artist born in Winterthur, Switzerland, and has created many objects and artworks for Design. He had also studied Bauhaus and one of his teachers was Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer an abstract art, not Swiss Modernism. Max Bill has made a variety of items relating to the style, including Junghans Clock and a Pavilion Sculpture and is a known architect, sculptor and designer.

Max Bill’s version of Junghans Clock

However, the one I am looking at today is an artwork he did for the Olympic Games in Munich. In Max Bill’s Image, he created an image that was high in saturation and contrast, and all of the colours immediately draw your eye. The tone is very bright in this image, but a scale cannot be measured as it is a more abstract work. The point of focus is in the centre white diamond, as it is the brightest. Bill uses Shapes, Structure, Cropping, Implied Space and Perspective in his Olympic Poster work. The shapes can be seen as rectangles, triangles and one diamond in the middle. This gives his artwork a clear look by sectioning it into categories. The Structure is unique, as it is completely symmetrical except for the colours. It can also have the effect of being cropped with the thick lines, but as it is a geometric image it is hard to tell if it was intentional, also correlating with Implied Space. The image also does a great job of conveying perspective to the viewer, as it could resemble a wall of a house or the rectangles can appear to come closer or further away to the viewer and can create a 3D effect. No texture is used in the drawing as it is completely flat. Bill uses very bright warm colours, that can uplift the viewer when they look at it. The work can also resemble a colour wheel in that it is slowly changing colours from one side to the next, creating a harmonious image. There is no black and white in this image. There are no distinctive lines in this image that make up the shape, it is purely the border between the colours. Bill was also very politically active and was known as an educator and incorporated them into his body of work. This work was created for the Olympic Games, and the goal was to create a vibrant work that people would see and recognise as a staple of the games. The work is intended to be an advertisement for the games and with the Swiss Style, it gains recognition as a unique artwork.