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He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm–a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.
 
 

Video Caption

stop motion animation

exploring stop motion this evening after a day working with patients down at wythenshawe hospital on an arts project to produce a SM animation. Remember 25 frames per second! ie 25 shots for one second of film…god this could be laborious… but the end restult is what counts.

Herbert Matter was born in 1907 and was a pioneer of modernist graphic design. Matter has shaped graphic design the way we know it today.

A clip from The Visual Language of Herbert Matter showing the logo development for the New Haven railroad development. Its really interesting to see how the designs developed with over 100 logos rejected. Interestingly the final design was one which sat in a grid. Maybe very relevant historically as the development of the rail road represented, infra structure and business. The early 1900’s were industrialist driven, business thrived and the west began to become more and more powerful.

Arts and Architecture Magazine cover by Herbert Matter

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.

Image

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!


From the way that the interview went it was very clear to me that the community/ charitable sector designer who works primarily with specific groups of people in specific localities was driven and focused on the client leading the design outcomes. This was really interesting as it fitted with Rick Poynors’ arguments for local and specific audiences. Maybe this type of approach to design is an extension to the post modernist approach.  Or maybe it is actually beyond the categorisation. This designer appears to pass complete control over to the participants who are actually working with her to produce designs, these participants are often from very socially deprived backgrounds, under 18 and often experienced issues from alcohol or drug related problems. In the article by Anna Gerber for Print magazine she reviews Rick Poynor’s book Graphic Design and Postmodernism and towards the end of the article she talks about ideas Poynor has about new movements. He refers to these movements as ‘Authorisation’ and ‘Opposition’ Authorisation is more about the designer taking ownership of the content, the message fusing writing and design as one, with this project the designer can not avoid personal expression coming through the work. Even more interestingly, what has arisen from the interview below seems to fit with Poynors concept of ‘Opposition’ . Opposition involves the designer as activist, using the skills of visual communication to create social and political change; to create new thought and meaning within the mainstream. This then naturally seems to be an extension of postmodernism.

Participant 1 –  Graphic Designer – community artists – third sector

1. Describe the industry/ sector/ environment that you work in ?

I primarily work in the community sector – by which I mean working with community groups, small not-for-profit organisations, community art projects, publicly-funded projects and in other similar situations. I sometimes work for individuals and private companies but this is fairly rare. I do a lot of design working WITH groups and participants rather than for them. This means getting the group to do the design rather than myself so the end-product becomes about them and is theirs rather than being my design. Designing in this way can be hard and time-consuming – the skill is in incorporating their skills and outputs into a comprehensive finished piece. Working in this sector means there is never much money and what there is has to be fully accountable and spent in the right way – so using an expensive method of print or costly stock is usually a no-no. The budget is often more usefully spent on working in direct contact with my participants, groups and interested parties.

2. Why are you a graphic designer ?

I don’t consider myself fully to be a graphic designer – this is because I do a lot of other stuff within the creative industry including community art projects (involving skills other than design), public art (mosaics, cast-stone etc), my own practice (printmaking, origami) and some project management. But, there is something in me that is drawn back to graphic design again and again especially if I haven’t done much for a while. I think a lot of it is to do with my desire for good design and essentially liking (printed) things to look good! I think I have a natural skill in creating comprehensive layouts and placing though perhaps less so in the concept side of design. Following the completion of a graphic design course after GCSEs, I very consciously made the decision not to pursue work as an agency graphic designer – I didn’t want to be in what I perceived as a cut-throat, high-pressure environment. Possibly a massive assumption and generalisation but becoming freelance years later is one of the best things I ever did so I think I probably made the right decision at the time. So, to answer the question in short – I don’t know…

3. How do the fundamental design principals of design (ie shape, form, concept development, use of fonts, colour etc) impact on your work ?

Some but not hugely. I think a lot of it is just instinctive– I know what will work and what won’t, I can see something and automatically understand what’s wrong – and this often fits on with those design principals. However, I think you also have to understand those principals to sometimes purposefully not use them and perhaps subvert them – so they are still impacting on your work but with a conscious decision to avoid them – does that make sense?!! Also, because of the nature of my work whereby participants are often creating the designs, these principals are unknown and therefore not consciously used.

4. Some designers like Erik Spiekerman believe that typography must be ‘process’ driven ie clearly delivered with the message absolutely understood on a universal level. If a font is difficult to read ‘process’ theorists believe the message can be mis-understood and that the overall design process is ultimately flawed. Please view and share your thought around this view.

I do agree with this but I don’t think that you can generalise understanding and comprehension of a font – who says how easy / difficult a font is to read, who sets those levels? Also culture, education, upbringing etc play a part in how people see, read and understand a font (and words written within that font). BUT, fundamentally, if someone can’t read a ‘message’ due to the font design I would say Yes the design process is flawed as that message hasn’t been effectively conveyed by the designer (whose job it is to get that message across and to the right people).

5. Do you use grid systems within your work ? if so, why ? if not, why ?

I have used grid systems within my work but rarely. I suppose this is because I see them as useful for multi-page design but not really relevant for what I’m producing. I’m not sure they would add anything to a one page flyer. However, I do think designers work on an instinctive grid system – one that exists in their brain!

6. Neville Brody often referred to as a ‘graphic rebel’ developed Fuse Magazine, a platform for designers to experiment with typefaces. Do you think graphic experimentation is important ? why ?

Yes, I do think graphic experimentation is important – surely we would still be using letterpresses and wood engraving if no one had experimented? Though without experimentation, we might not have had to suffer the horror of Comic Sans… Also I think it is important for designers to stretch and challenge themselves – it is, after all, a creative industry and keeping your ideas fresh and exciting is about change and trying things out – they might not always work (see 2012 Olympics logo – in my opinion) but often they do.

7. What / who inspires your work ?

Anything, everything and anyone. Not one particular designer or style or movement. As a visual artist anything I see can impact on my designs.

9. Living in a digital age we are surrounded by and almost suffocated by visual communication ? How do you think that this impacts on client expectations of graphic designers ?

I think client expectations are generally higher than they used to be but conversely their standards are often lower. The idea that anyone who has a computer can be a designer is widely accepted (I’m not including designers in this acceptance!) and often clients are confused as to why a. something might take x amount of weeks instead of one day and b. why they have to pay you such a huge amount (in their eyes) to produce something that they could knock up in an hour in MS Publisher.

PARTICIPANT 2 – Gaphic Designer – Retail / High Street Industry 

1. Describe the industry/ sector/ environment that you work in ?

Retail full time / music as an extra interest

2. Why are you a graphic designer ?

I am a graphic designer because creativity, insight & inspiration has always been part of my family upbringing. I also think that graphicdesign the most common source of work for creative people.

3. How do the fundamental principals of design (ie shape, form, concept development, use of fonts, colour etc) impact on your work ?

The fundamental principals are a massive impact on my work but also there to be broken when given free reign.

4. Some designers like Erik Spiekerman believe that typography must be ‘process’ driven, ie clearly delivered with the message absolutely understood on a universal level. If a font is difficult to read, ‘process’ theorists believe the message can be mis-understood and that the overall design process is ultimately flawed. Please view and share your thought around this view.

I believe in Erik Spiekerman’s idea that design should be clear and understood, communicating an idea is the main objective when working on most design projects. I do however think that sometimes function and structure processes are like constraints that need to be broken. Getting your audience to interact with the message I think just as important as giving them a clear message.

5. Do you use grid systems within your work ? if so, why ? if not, why ?

I don’t use grids but have my own system using guides that help me keep structure and balance in my work. I do like to switch the guides off and view by eye as grids and guides can distract me from the overall look and feel of the design.

6. Neville Brody often referred to as a ‘graphic rebel’ developed Fuse Magazine, a platform for designers to experiment with typefaces. Do you think graphic experimentation is important ? why ?

I do think that experimentation is important as it keeps a designers ideas fresh. Experimentation keeps me constantly on the lookout for ideasand inspiration.

7. What / who inspires your work ?

What: other design, graffiti, posters, books, architecture, art, talking & reading about design. Who: Artists and designers I happen to come across.

9. Living in a digital age we are surrounded by and almost suffocated by visual communication ? How do you think that this impacts on client expectations of graphic designers ?

I do think that clients expect more from designers and design agencies. The mass visual communication that we live with will make us as designers more aware and better at our design. It will also make our designs clever, cleaner and fresh as we compete in mass of visual communication. Mobile devices are the new digital platform and I am very excited by the interactive design possibilities it has to offer us as designers working and as consumers using.