TEST PIECES – GRIDS & MODERNIST APPROACHES & RULE BREAKING

STAGE 1. Here I have conducted an experiment by creating my own very basic font within a square grid using only horizontal and vertical lines. The idea was to use a process system similar to what Wim Crouwel used to create his NEW ALPHABET font in the 60’s, Crouwel was conducting an experiment also, his new alphabet font was produced in a response to the digitisation of type (using straight lines only to avoid letter distortion) The purpose of this experiment is not to assess the aesthetic but to try and understand and analyse the process of using grid systems on a practical level; to see if they are restrictive, rigid, controlled etc.

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Evaluation: Using a grid offers a very rigid structure to work within, this provided a sense of clarity when I was drawing the letters in my alphabet ‘Dawn’. I was surprised at how quickly I produced the alphabet. The grid absolutely provides a sense of uniformity and it is now clear as to how the Swiss School designers, the Bauhaus and modernists like Crouwel developed a very strong identity and prominent style through the use of the grids. The test piece experiment even at this basic stage is fascinating for a student designer like myself who often takes a freehand approach to my commissions always conduction audience based research to specifically tailor a design for the proposed viewer. I would consider myself to be a postmodernist designer, with a strong belief that design must be specific and targeted towards a specific audience based on social, political, geographical factors etc so that the work can carry some meaning and so that hopefully the designer can also add something themselves. Although I really enjoyed creating the letters using the grid! However and ultimately from a political and moral stand point I strongly believe that this style of design is a thing of the past. Designers like Crouwel have produced magnificent work over the years, significant and very influential at the of production. But I cannot justify the replication of work from the past in the modern day as it lacks meaning and substance. For this very reason I believe like Jan Van Toorn that the society that we live in, the generic, consumer driven, with mass production of music, art etc must absolutely be challenged. The modernist approach no longer represents that imagined post war social utopia but very much the opposite in today’s society… Maybe because of its universal, wide reaching potential, it now seems to reflect the ‘corporate sheen’ of consumption and capitalism that Rick Poynor so rightly points out.

It has however become very apparent to me how experimentation is incredibly important for progress and the production of new things, thoughts and ideas. The Cranbrook Academy, Fuse Magazine, the Anti-Design Festival, Add Busters; all significant and important in the progression of graphic design in the modern day.

STAGE 2. In the second stage of the test I wanted to interrupt the regularity of the letters and so instead of interfering with each letter, instead i placed a symmetrical grid over the work that didn’t fit with the structure of the text. I wanted to create a sense of discomfort in the very comfortable, controlled and secure world of the grid. The circles, layered many times create a sense of  one form that sits within another form, that it does not fit into. Maybe a representation of multicultural society. Is it a deconstruction of uniformity or an attempt for uniformity to be maintained?  Although the circles are very structured and symmetrical, they still do not fit with the angular structure of the font. Multi layered, the circles appear quite chaotic. The idea of layering contrasting shapes however does appear to have potential.

STAGE 3. Experimentation – me in the font! The Postmodernist approach

First I converted the whole alphabet into  completely ineligible form. I really liked the results. Again I started to play with font styles to see what I could achieve by distorting the fonts with blurs and oversized pixels. The idea was to create different feels and themes related to how I had felt that day.

The methods used here to manipulate images and distort to create something new is really interesting but maybe only from an experimental viewpoint. Out of experimentation comes new things after all. I hope that I can continue working and experimenting  to create new ideas and concepts this way. Its really an exact opposite to working within the grid. When you start to manipulate your images and then star to question the meaning of then yourself its really interesting. The process feels really unstructured and very open ended, almost anything could happen or arise, thoughts , creativity, ideas can be ignited by working this way. It really makes sense to have material that you can work with and put your own personal take on the subject matter when designing. Ad Busters is a really good example of how the designers use very strong viewpoints within their work to convey really political messages. I think that the future for me is to develop as a designer and an author, to move towards that method of creating and controlling everything about the visual message. The community artist participant interview section and this experimentation and testing section have really triggered some interesting thoughts around my own practice. It s elevated my thinking to a new dimension. I hope to become more involved with the Authorship and Opposition movements of graphic design that Rick Poynor talks about (Rick Poynor: Postmodernism: no more rules). For me these ideas and concepts make sense regarding design for the future. Its strange how a practical experiment that is really basic, but essentially applying what you have learned on a theory level on a practical level, can  trigger so many ideas and thoughts.  amazing!


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