Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Case Study: Jonathan Barnbrook

Reflecting upon my background as an artist so far, and where I would like to be headed toward in the future. With a case study on the work of Jonathan Barnbrook.
Also briefly showcasing the works of Martin Creed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kinetic Typography

Kinetic Typography, the technical term for 'moving text'. This is something I've been recently learning on Adobe After Effects. What I thought may be fairly easy to learn is proving to be very difficult. My inspiration for such a project has come from watching typographic animation by Sebastian Jaramillo, and Matt Rodgers of Rodgers Creations.

This video is quite simplistic in its idea; matching the words to the timing of Stephen Fry's commentary. The camera follows the words being arranged into each shape which is fully comprehensible later, but the angle or the orientation of the camera rarely changes.
Therefore the video is 2D and less complicated in the sense that by changing camera orientation you create negative angles to observe motion. Type should correspond to the angle of the camera, if you change the angle then any previous work either has to be out of shot or correspond in some aesthetically pleasing way to the new angle.

The Chemical Burn video appears 2D except the letters appear to be floating off the background, this could be due to the way in which the video has been produced, the choice of background or the style of type i'm not sure. The floating effect is used to layer words, so the 'Z rotation' of each text layer is pushed further back behind text or pulled forward in front depending upon the visual importance of the word.
For example text isn't necessarily arranged left to right top to bottom as it would normally be read. Alongside audio this format is redundant. Our brains follow the words as they appear on screen and read them as one sentence, aided by the audio commentary which provides a tone of voice and a pace of which to interpret the meaning or purpose of the animation.

Key Points  I have learnt from my first attempt at creating typographic motion animation:

  • Always keep your letters in capitals or lower case, as continuity of this is vital. 
  • By changing this particular element, the animation look messy and disproportionate. Capitals does always seem to look better, i realise my own work is own lower case but i thought it worked better and by the time i decided capitals would work easily well it was too late.
This does not restrict you to the same type style throughout, as shown above this aids in changing the tone of voice or visual hierarchy of the word.

  • If you wish to animate text rather than just making it appear in a timed order, each layer needs to be 3D.
  • Try and keep the 3rd position value constant between each layer, this will make it a lot easier when introducing camera angles.
  • Introduce audio first before any animation as this will provide a constant timing throughout the video. No matter how similar you think the timing is, text or any layer can quite easily change from a steady pace to frantic appearance. If this is what you want to achieve for specific projects then fine, however if the audio does not change pace then neither should your animation.
  • Render your video frequently to help you notice any problems as early as possible.

Gordon Matta-Clark

1970's downtown scene New York...

An action-oriented conceptual artist who self categorized himself as an anarchitect – experiments with the removal and relocation of parts of abandoned buildings, his work occupies the space between fine artist and architecture.
The concept is similar to deconstructivism; a postmodern movement within architecture.
Deconstructivism arouses a notion of structural manipulation into limitless non-rectilinear shapes. It is a maverick amongst society, unsympathetic to the logical, conformist practise of architecture.


Gordon Matta-Clark was born in New York City raised by his mother American artist Anne Clark. His father Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta Echaurren who abandoned the family shortly after the birth, maintaining an intermittent relationship allowing Clark to grow up in the social environment of his parents creative associates.
Roberto Matta Echaurren studied architecture and worked for Le Corbusier in Paris. Le Corbusier or Charles-Édouard Jeanneret the founder of modern architecture "was a pioneer in studies of modern high design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities."1
GMC like his father also studied architecture, enrolling in 1962 at Cornell University an establishment recognised for its strong Corbusian influence. 
 In 1968, Matta-Clark relocated to Paris to study French literature at the Sorbonne. There, he witnessed the revolts of May 1968, the event of enormous political and social significance in contemporary history that left a lasting impression on the young artist. It was in Paris where Matta-Clark became aware of the philosophical movement of Deconstructivism, with its innovative concept of détournement” 2 - “the re-use well known media to create new work with a different message often opposed to the original.” 3

Gordon Matta Clark produced a series of works known as 'Bronx Floors' in which he dissected the floors and walls of abandoned buildings. By fragmenting integral parts of a structure it allows us to anatomise the living standards, and urban decay of New Yorks boroughs. The physical implication of this process "is a reaction to an ever less viable state of privacy, private property."4
Properties, especially in run down areas such as the Bronx are plagued by crime, which only further devalues the social condition of the area. However this is purposeful, as the longer it is left to deteriorate the quicker the point of no return is reached. Only then society will step in to redevelop these enclosures into the retail park they desire to further boost a greedy economy. Anarchitecture is more complex than offering an alternative attitude to functional space, its delves into the metaphoric gap of the undeveloped spaces "The interest or value wasn't in their possible use...on a functional level that was so absurd as to ridicule the idea of function"5

Bronx Floors

'Splitting' One of Gordon Matta Clarks most famous works in which he bought a house in Englewood, New Jersey and stripped it of its contents until it became an empty shell.
A one foot incision was made into the roof of the house continued down to the foundations, splitting exactly in half, appearing as though the house was sat on a fault line. Each half fell back on itself slightly to show an opening through the centre. 
From the side, the house looked entirely normal, it was only when you moved round that the fault line appeared. Clark was predominantly interested in sculptural aspects of stratification, how the surface began to break into numerous layers and in such "reveals the auto-biographical process of its making."6  As a consequence of this deconstructionist process a variety of new surfaces were exhibited, generating unique views. 




The powerful commentary of his works lies in the act of the deconstruction, the process is more important than the void left behind, which could be interpreted as destructive and violent rebellion, and not a justified contempt toward contemporary culture. The process of dissection acts as performance art, within an urban jungle. In the same way pedestrians ponder the purpose of a construction site "the openings stop the viewer with their careful revealings."7 Normal structures look at the overall design, the beauty of the finished product. GMC analyses the development of the original structure in relation to purpose, era. The reverse of a finished product, opening an enclosure up to the world for scrutiny, unveiling elements of space in a world of rectilinear shapes, "a poetic critique of architecture and urban space." 8
Gordon Matta Clark encompasses a wide range of artistic and cultural movements; Deconstructivism, Postmodernism, Formalism and to an extent Dadaism. In that his work is a rejection of an oppressive society, the failed ideas of modernist architecture and the formalism movement, which greatly occupied 1960s America. He is the “antidote to the cool abstraction of bureaucrats and intellectuals”. 9


Websites  - (Ref1)

Dereliction of Beauty, pg 60, Vanity Fair, January 2011, no 605, Graydon Carter. ed. Annie Holcroft. Pub - (Ref 2,3,9)

Barbican Centre, 2011, Laurie Anderson Trisha Brown Gordon Matta Clark Pioneers of the Downtown Scene New York 1970s, Curated by Lydia Yee, London, Prestel

(Ref 4, 6, 7) -  page 107
(Ref 5 ) - page 138
(Ref 8) -  Page 93

Images - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4  - 5 -  6

Monday, April 04, 2011

Penguin By Design - Film Presentation

( Bibliography for film shown in credits.)

Design Canon: - 'Penguin by Design' <(")

Ever since I can remember, whenever I've walked up to a shelve of books the Penguin publishing brand instinctively and unconsciously stands out to me. I've always dismissed this notion of how a Penguin book is always appearing in my hand until, I had to think who was my design hero. We are told to never judge a book by its cover, as bad design doesn't necessarily mean a bad story. The history of Penguin publishing explains the difficulty of book design in an increasingly competitive market; to create a strong brand identity, and still appeal to a mass market by use of thrilling visuals. 
(Penguin logo)Ref1

Penguin was established in 1935 by Allen Lane, the managing director of limited edition book publishers The Bodley Head. The idea was to reprint fiction and non fiction titles in an attractive paperback edition, capitalising on what other publishers didn't seem to feel was important; accessible, well presented, cheap pocket editions. After ten years the word paperback and Penguin became synonymous. 

In march 1947 Jan Tschichold took over in production and typography of publications, the printers were re-educated in the importance of consistency with composition rules of which to structure the work. Before his arrival type was not being correctly letter spaced leaving awkward holes. Type looked standard and ordinary as all the features of which were left up to the individual printers.

Tschichold did little to the main elements of the horizontal design but instead tweaked certain aspects,  for example; Bodoni extra bold replaced Gill Sans. Thanks to his refinements the three paneled design provided strong visual language, there was a definitive clarity between author, title, and publisher through use of two type weights and a bolder typographic style consequently creating a benchmark achieved by no other publishing company. 

(Left - Initial cover - Edward Young.  
Right - Shows Tschichold's refinements to the cover design.)Ref2

However by the 1950's Penguin had over 700 titles in print all with a relatively similar cover design, which had become very hard to differentiate. Competitors were also manufacturing more modern approaches, leaving the horizontal grid looking boring and unimaginative by comparison. 
Hans Schmoller had an idea to change the horizontal grid to vertical to modernise cover design, allowing a continuation of brand identity but a new overall visual. For the first time different typefaces were introduced for certain authors to provide author identity. Despite the change, there was a restriction of whether to intrude on the coloured borders and thus impose upon the brand, this led to clumsy composition and therefore an off-putting visual language. Although it is evident how designers are trying to progress to a more contemporary approach in my opinion the intrusive artwork and various types appear to just sit on top of the vertical grid. As further progression was made, photographs became introduced and the graduating tones allows the image to blend in, which is more visually pleasing.

The horizontal and vertical grids allowed for a strong brand identity but displayed little variation and were very restrictive in regards to space, colour and typography. Originally these early examples were very fresh and distinctive but as time wore on they became a plain sea of orange and white titles, their presence formed a background to the unattractive yet bolder designs of their competition. The 60s 'represented change' for the company, drastic editorial adjustments needed to be made to keep up with the interests of modern society. 
Clear acknowledgement of audience is then demonstrated within each sub series, each composition targeting a specific audience. For example the Education series of 1971 displays large bold black type set on a white background which allows visual ease when selecting a title. Even the spine is instantaneously recognisable the audience can see what they're looking for without wasting time picking up the wrong book. This bold typographic style is repeated on the front, often highlighted and complimented through use of humorous illustrations. The daunting topic of education is therefore made bearable and approachable to students, which successfully addresses their audience. 

(Education series)Ref3

Penguin have always concentrated on sensitivity of design in relation to content, which spoke for the quality of its publishing setting the highest possible standard. However "the financial uncertainties of the early 1970s brought the inevitable shift away from the intrinsic value of books themselves towards the profit orientated nature of modern publishing."Ref4 Commercial pressure meant book covers became tie-ins to film and television series, promoting across both media platforms as a creative strategy to transfer the financial success of popular culture. The earliest example of a tie-in is the 1953 publication of the Quatermass Experiment, a BBC television series about the British Space programme. The book combines the classic tripartite style, with an illustrated imitation of the programmes opening credits, linking the two mediums. The covers were no way near as clever or visually simulating but the public are attracted to the familiar and thus will buy into fads or franchises in order to be seen as fashionable. 

(TV credits)Ref5

 (Cover tie-in)Ref6

The original cover design of the tripartite or horizontal grid is still found on a few books today. Coloured upper and lower sections categorise genres, concealed within each was the Penguin name and of course the infamous logo. Up until recently the penguin logo appeared on every publication in one place or another, drawn by Edward Young in 1935 it is now no longer thought to be necessary. The middle was left white to display, author and title.  This composition is “now regarded affectionately as classics of style.”Ref7

Despite eras where it was not possible to create outstanding design, it is evident the company are proud of their development. Their idea has always been to maintain a high standard of publishing and brand continuity, reinforcing the founding ideas of attractive, cheap, accessible literature. Penguin are a world renowned, trusted and quality publishing company and even in todays chaotic digital age they still manage to stand out amongst a shelve of design. My design hero 'King' Penguin. 

Ref 1 -

Ref 2 -

Ref 3 -

Ref 4 - Phil Baines (2005). Penguin By Design. London, Penguin. p162

Ref 5 -

Ref 6 -

Ref 7 - Phil Baines (2005). Penguin By Design. London, Penguin. p52

Phil Baines (2005). Penguin By Design. London, Penguin. 

Too Much Information

Ok so this goes back to earlier blogs about bombardment of information in the 21st century. everyday we see posters, billboards, product design, information graphics, semiotics, ect. Our eyes take in about a billion pieces of information per second and only a very minute percentage of that actually gets processed and used, data becomes lost in translation. By visualising information in an attractive way, we become far more able to engage with it. Stimulating our brains using colour or easily recognisable shapes we are able to differentiate between each piece of information and also connect similarities to create patterns thus understanding underlying issues such as government spending. 

Shown here is David McCandless  - Information is Beautiful - Billion Dollar O'Gram
Information graphics displaying figures of spending reported in the media.

Each colour represents a pattern, categorising a topic of spending. This allows our brain to easily break down each piece of information and discover their relevance.

This overload of information is only increasing with the digital age. Social Networking sites provide endless amounts on just one person; age, DOB, marital status, likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies. If you then collected all the data on everybody who uses Facebook, no-one would even want to look at it, there is too much, none of which has any real relevance to our day to day lives. Unless you begin to reign in this information, perhaps taking one segment and explaining what  might be effecting this. For example 'individual' interests -peers, glossy mags, trends, calendar dates.

This abridged version of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow condenses one episode illustrating the information given to us through the course of a programme. We sit and we watch with interest but what would you take away...the ability to provide an estimated value of objects around your home, or remembering the price of  each item that was exhibited? No, its not going to happen the item maybe of interest to us in terms of historical context, however we receive over half of this data unconsciously because we don't understand what it means or have the ability to recognise relevance and process this efficiently enough before the cycle restarts.

Our ability to understand comes from the context in which information is placed; a series of words or statistics on a black and white badly spaced document, is extremely difficult to begin to comprehend. Where as that same information topically arranged, using bold type, bright colours is much easier to accept and discern meaning.  In order to competently communicate it is important to first appreciate audience, then develop a design of which is visually motivating through use of strong illustrative language appropriate to the topic in a context accessible to those in question. Beautiful data can change our perspective, our approach, the boring is manifested into fun, engaging information, and can often be of great intellectual benefit. "We have a lot of information problems in our society from the overload and saturation to the breakdown of trust and reliability and runaway skepticism and lack of transparency." By simplifying the complex we can build a foundation of which to quickly appreciate the topic and create a solution to that problem.



Thomas A Sebeok describes Semiotics as "The study of the difference between illusion and reality"; how we differentiate between living things and inanimate objects. Semiotics is the theory of signs, informing the reader of its purpose through an illustrative medium. However signs only signify a meaning when we attach a meaning to it. If we agree upon its significance it can mean anything we like and can take on multiple interpretations, for example the image of a hand -  stop, hello, goodbye, hi 5, ect. 

In this case it represents stop, this is due to the context in which the hand is surrounded. The colour red connotes danger, and therefore is likely to mean an order or instruction rather than a friendly gesture.
Due to the prevalence of signage we tend to unconsciously associate them to cultural conventions. The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure invented a model which describes the composites/ elements of a sign. "He defined a sign as being composed of: a 'signifier' (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes; 
and - the 'signified' (signifié) - the concept it represents." e.g. disabled access
sign = signified + signifier; the associations of the two parts is what provides our understanding.
 There are 3 types of signs; the first is an Iconic sign which has a direct implication it simply describes what it represents. An example of this would be the disabled symbol as seen as above, it looks like a person sat  down on a wheel - which would therefore connote a wheelchair which is associated with disabilities. 

2nd - Indexical - The signified and the signifier have a causal relationship, an example of this would be the infamous peace symbol. This was designed by Gerald Holtom a member of the  campaign for nuclear disarm of which the symbol originated. The design employs naval semaphore of the two letters N and D (nuclear disarmament).  The N is displayed using two flags, each pointing down at a forty five degree angle, and the D is again two flags but this time with both arms outstretched one straight up and one straight down. The semaphores are supposedly upside down, i.e. the D is over the N which stands for anti-miltary. 

This symbol was quickly adopted in the US and its power was reinforced through usage in civil rights marches, it was also strongly opposed by fundamentalist organisations. 
The design is one of the most widely recognised signs in the world.

3rd - Arbitrary - The sign has no relation to what it refers to, (double yellow lines) neither direct or indexical. When using arbitrary signs we have to know the person were communicating with understands the same meaning. This type of sign relies exclusively on the reader having learnt this meaning.

These two symbols would be completly lost on someone who has no understanding of astrology. Each represent Mars or Venus the concept of men and women are from different planets. This notion is widely understood in somewhere like Britain where we are rich in diverse cultures. Remote destinations may not  acknowledge existence of other planets and their individual relation to behavior. Therefore using this sign as a way of communicating your gender or beliefs will not be recognized.

When designing it is important to consider semiotics to ensure the message you are communicating will be correctly interpreted. Signs are entirely dependant on their context, without which we have no undersatnding for what they imply.


The best design disrupts

TBWA describe disruption as "a tool for change and an agent of growth: a working methodology and a life view philosophy."

Disruption is doing something different, taking what is known and what is expected and turning that on its head to create something controversial, the unexpected.
Guinness's Surfer advert is a perfect example of disruption. They have created one of the most famous advertisements in history and not once do you see the product. This is revolutionary it breaks the mould of the traditional cliche low angle shots of an icy cold beer, or watching beer being poured from the tap, as it smoothly washes into the glass. Guinness combines various historical concepts, from the story of Moby Dick to the Roman god Neptune.

 The Guinness ad plays around the concept of time, having patience. It takes 2 minutes to pour, a long time to wait for a beverage. This is worth it though "tick followed tock followed tick followed tock..." Onomatopoeic words of time passing this pumping of adrenaline, the delay for the dream ale. One man holds out, the other sailors return to the bar. It's all about waiting, for that perfect moment, the moment you can catch the almighty Moby dick.
The advert appeals to men in their middle ages, delivering the excitement, youthful fun. A feeling of adrenaline rushing is created by the beat of the drum, it becomes stronger and more powerful as time ticks on.  A metaphor for what happens to the drink.

Use of white horses as symbolic imagery for the rolling white waves. As Neptune races to the shore, ride with him or be knocked off with a crushing blow. The black and white film suggests a history, its been around, the drink itself is patient. Everything becomes exaggerated to emphasise the message "good things come to those who..." , horses become giant as does the wave, displayed as a miniature tsunami. Notice how the birds eye shot of the wave appears as the fin of a whale reinforcing its connection to Moby Dick.

The disruptive breaks down the barrier of the cliche and the obvious, Guinness have taken historical references and transformed them into a metaphoric narrative of waiting for your drink to be poured. It captures your imagination, turning a negative aspect of time passing into a positive. Advertisments and branding creates chaos at every turn perhaps the only place we can escape is the safe confinements of our minds. Every now and then an ad will creep through, deep into your subconscious, the only way to achieve that is to disrupt, to take something completely unconventional and put it into the context of your audience.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Design Canons: Information Design

Information Design creates a story out of critical pieces of data, attempting to translate it into a context we understand, thats relative.
Richard Saul Wurman; Information architect creator of access guides, making specific topics easier to understand. However with transition over to digital, many may argue these guides are now redundant. However this piece of information design, is intended to take over digitally, and through traditional media. Created to explore the concept of population, overpopulation and the effect its having on our ever expanding planet, economically, politically and environmentally. "This 5+ year initiative will deliver results via5 channels: web (including mobile), television (broadcast and cable), print, exhibits and seminars." Clearly Wurman aims this at wide audience from companies or individuals involved in globalization, to anyone interested in world news.  This puts into context the rapid increase of society, and how this will continue to change the way we live.
The top of the visual hierarchy, bright red, bold, large font draws instant attention to the numbers, which are the most important part as it forms the statistic of the worlds population, or 19 cities population to be exact. The image is split into 3 columns which partially hide 2 sections of numbers and the map. This may be due to the fact that both the first two columns could change at any minute, as the later displayed human counter demonstrates by exaggerating the amount of people coming into the world at any one time. The numbers still highlighted in red but smaller are second to take your attention, as it explains their meaning. Black sans serif type, in keeping with simple, minimalistic image, overlaying the previously mentioned columns. Finally the soft grey silhouette of the map is strong enough to be easily distinguishable from the background but does not interfere with the powerful statistic and thus reinforces it. 
The red type connotes danger, that if we continue like this our world may collapse in on itself. The grey of the map suggests that the land as we knew it is fading away, or being washed away by increasing sea levels. The white background emphasises this black fading to white, also a white background draws no attention to itself therefore promoting a strong visual hierarchy.
By employing use of multiple media platforms, once the gathering of data is complete you won't be able to get away from this piece of design. Already 10 worldwide partners are involved, and over the course of its progression the experiment will build hype, and gain publicity. Wurman has ensured all his bases are covered to reach the widest audience; digital as a portable device, print for those that still prefer old fashioned media, parents that don't regularly access the internet will most likely catch it on tv, and students or professionals will find themselves in seminars about it. There will be no escape, from this design it is a contemporary, ever pressing topic of discussion and debate that needs to be addressed.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ethics of Design

As a student practicing design with strong values and beliefs how can I sit on the fence when designing? Every design, every advert has its influence;  the ideology of Santa Clause, being rebranded from a man dressed in a long, green, fur lined, robe depicted as Charles Dickens, Ghost of Christmas Past. To German mythology reflecting the god Odin or Saint Nicholas known to bestow generous gifts upon the poor to save them from impoverished lifestyles, portraying him as a gift giver.

"Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit. Because magazines were so widely viewed, and because this image of Santa appeared for more than three decades, the image of Santa most people have today is largely based on advertising." Cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862; Santa was shown as a small elf-like figure who supported the Union. This illustration of Santa developed for 30 years and along the way changed the color of his coat from tan to the now traditional red, and white that we associate with childhood.

("My Hat's Off to the pause that refreshes")

Coca Cola were perhaps the beginning of this capitalist snowball, sending the beverage overseas during the war, and creating international business. "Post-war America was alive with optimism and prosperity. Coca-Cola was part of a fun, carefree American lifestyle, and the imagery of its advertising - happy couples at the drive-in, carefree mums driving big yellow convertibles - reflected the spirit of the times." Or this was how it was supposed to be, the adverts of the 50s and 60s influencing an entire way of life in america; 50s suburbia, a utopia.

Individually I am more of a socialist and pro environment,  our consumerist 'needs' are destroying the beauty of the natural planet.  However I feel my beliefs are contradicted by being interested in advertising. Advertising promotes capitalism, replacing the old before its worn out, 'the story of stuff', 'consumerism a love story'.

The morals and ethics of design, the artistic style and development behind good advertising, and then this need to have the latest and greatest destroying the planet. Can I really sit on the fence? Would this mean then that my design may have a political agenda like Kennard Phillip's work.

Photomontage: Do we really need a third runway, in an already gigantic airport, with planes leaving every minute of the day, just to boost travel finance and thus the economy.

Photomontage: A comment on the bankers receiving compensation after they lost all of our money and we again have to pay. Which then relates to this capitalist society of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Benjamin E. Lippincott describes post modernism or capitalism to be individual and fascist in its learnings, in that it really doesnt give us much choice, it is not a democracy to decide wether a new version of an existant product is required. Unstable way of creating society geared towards the least urgent of human needs.  The difference between having a car to get from A to B and having a car to demonstrate personal wealth. 
The previous generation that has started this love of consumerism are essentially to blame for this moral degeneration. We have been brainwashed into thinking this is right, yet we continue this way of life because it's what we know, we have developed and grown accustomed to certain aspects of urban life but there needs to be less of a grip on materialism. By the time it takes any effect, it wont be a problem to those of us around now, however does this mean we should ignore the issue?

By using economically friendly printing and distribution methods, less packaging ect, or to produce good design, that can sit on the fence when appropriate and then make a political statement when necessary, is that then ethical design?
I guess I'll only really find out how strong my morals stand one way or another as i continue into this career path. I would hope that I can somehow change the attitudes towards the environment and consumerism through design, and still be recognised as successful. 
As graphic designers we are advocates of mass communication, and these messages have an enormous impact on ordinary people, every idea needs to be over considered.