The Big Idea – Screen printing propaganda

I had done the research, figured out my concept, it was then time to figure out what to create. However, just like the competition project, the research stage was going great but figuring out what to apply it to was the part I struggled with.

I am constantly looking at my portfolio and thinking about what I need, or what I can improve upon. I think that this method of thinking is good in small bites, as its always positive to try and diversify your work. But when I start to deconstruct my portfolio too much I start to lose sight of what I am really trying to achieve with my work. I don’t have any video work, illustrations, paintings, animation, web design (not until the competition deadline is over), UI design, packaging or product design. But to me that doesn’t really matter, as nearly all of the projects I have in my portfolio are ones that I have enjoyed and I am proud of all of them. I delved into many different areas of design during my time in London, and although I could complete any task to a professional standard, I always feel as if I am doing my best work and improving the most when I am doing what I am most passionate about, editorial design.

So after a slight diversion in research, I figured out that I wanted to do something print based, and seeing as posters were one of my initial ideas I decided to run with it. Sticking with my concept of portraying the dangers of obedience by using the four Nazi officers; Eichmann, Heydrich, Mengele and Himmler, I came up with the idea of creating five informative posters on each of them. Each poster would feature one of the four men, and then the fifth one would summarise what I had found. In terms of composition, I have always been a fan of posters that feature a strong visual element, paired with small typography that can be read upon closer inspection, which is apparent in the images below.

However, after a tutorial with Ian and Kuba, it was suggested that I strip down the information on each poster and just focus on the visuals, with the fifth one being more informative. Ian also had a good idea of spelling out the word ‘Obedience’ on the posters so that it could be read out when each poster was placed next to each other, while also keeping the subject on obedience.

Listening to the advice given and using the inspiration I had found, I created a rough draft of what the poster would look like. I wasn’t pleased with the draft at all, and it actually made me start to doubt the concept. The idea was to have the giant red letters cover the face of each of the men to portray the negative role that obedience had on them, but the composition wasn’t working for me.

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After some more tutorials and some great advice from Matt, I took a completely new approach. I decided that I was going to create four posters, not five, and use them as a form of advertisement for the research manifesto, which I decided was going to be a book. A book was the perfect way to show off what I had found as there are so many fascinating facts about the lives of these four subjects. Also, there was a lot of potential for some incredibly striking designs through exploring the dark nature of the subject matter. So in a sense, the posters would be a brief visualisation of my research, and the book would be a more detailed version. It was such a great feeling when I finally figured out what I wanted to do, although I am slightly annoyed that it took me so long to get there.

If I was going to make some striking posters, I knew that screen printing was the way to go. It is such a raw and beautiful visual style, and I thought that it would be good to make the most of the facilities while I was here. I also knew that if I was going to be making posters about obedience in Nazi Germany, propaganda was the way to go.

For inspiration, I found two great examples that use a regular black print with a distorted red overlay to create an disturbing visual outcome. Moving on from that, after to talking to Nigel from the print studio about what I was doing he showed me an incredible book with original French screen printed propaganda posters. The rough and simple compositions were so powerful and beautiful that it inspired to create something that carried the same effect.

The final posters are a compilation of everything that has been found so far. The halftone images, as suggested by Tom Martin, are split in two to represent the the effect obedience has had on each of these men. Lexia, a beautiful typeface from Dalton Maag, is a bold and clear slab serif that lends itself perfectly to this style of design. Each poster orders the viewer to read the research manifesto in an almost Dadaist fashion. In an exhibition environment, the books would be placed below each poster in a small container.

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The actual screen printing process was incredibly inspiring, and Nigel was brilliant at re-teaching me the process while also helping me to evolve the project and experiment with different styles. Also, he managed to create a red ink that matched the Pantone red that I had been using in the books which was pretty great. Below are some photos of the entire screen printing process. Due to time constraints I was only able to create one A3 poster for the final review, but after some practise I will print each poster in A2 in preparation for the final exhibition.

 


The Big Idea – A week of research

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Last week the new project titled – The Big Idea – kicked off with an great introductory briefing from Ian. Before the project started I was sceptical about the premise of the project as it seemed fairly ambiguous but after Ian’s lecture I understood the huge creative potential that was present. The goal of The Big Idea is to take a word from a specific list and interpret and visualise it in a creative and original manner. There were a few words that I considered but in the end I chose ‘obedience’, as it stood out the most as a catalyst for some thought provoking and imaginative design work.

I have spent the last week researching and deconstructing what obedience is. The initial stage involved looking at the multiple definitions of the word, with the most relevant one coming from the Cambridge Online Dictionary – “doing, or willing to do, what you have been told to do by someone in authority.” The key word in this definition is authority, as there are many different types of it. For example, obedience can mean following certain laws, therefore the authority would be the government. Moreover, obedience is prominently found in children and animals, with the main authoritative figure for them being their parents or owner. From this I made my own basic definition that defines obedience as the act of ‘following the rules’. These rules can be set in place by people you respect, like teachers or parents, or they can be passive rules that are an outcome of certain cultures and religions.

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Once the definition had been established I moved onto some psychological essays and academic theories on obedience, a research technique that I started doing in the last project. There are plenty of theories and studies online and in the library but while I was looking through them I found an example that stood out from the crowd. The study was on a man named Adolf Eichmann, who was a logistical genius that essentially organised and planned the Holocaust during World War II, killing over 6 million people. What is most fascinating about Eichmann is the fact that he was a seemingly normal and intelligent family man, which was proven by multiple psychiatrists studying him and declaring him sane. So the question is, how could such a smart and well-cultured man cause so much pain and horror?

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During his post-war trial, Eichmann expressed his confusion when he found out that so many people, especially Jewish people, hated him and his actions. We have to remember that it wasn’t Eichmann that wanted to exterminate people of the Jewish faith, it was Adolf Hitler. All of Eichmann actions were a product of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and therefore he was obeying the rules set in place by the fascist regime. In Eichmann’s prison diary he stated that, “The orders were the highest thing in my life and I had to obey them without question.” Simply put, he was just obeying orders. The actions of Eichmann created an event that will go down in history as one of the most horrendous acts of war, and it was all due to one man obeying the rules put in place by his superior. However, it wasn’t just Eichmann that followed these rules. Millions of German citizens supported and assisted Hitler throughout the war, and just like Eichmann, they all obeyed the horrific rules that were set in place by their superiors.

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The study then focused on an experiment done by the American scientist Stanley Milgram. Intrigued by the obedience present in Nazi Germany, Milgram created a famous experiment that attempted to find whether or not the obedient nature present in the German population was entirely unique to them. To do this he created an experiment which tested how much pain American citizens would put someone through if they were told to by an authoritative figure. The conclusion of the experiment showed that obedience to authority was could be found in anyone, especially if the person didn’t think that the responsibility of their actions rested on them. If Milgram’s theories are true then the actions of Eichmann can be blamed more firmly on Hitler’s authoritative role instead of Eichmann’s immoral choices and agenda.

Adolf Eichmann is such a fascinating example of the dangers of obedience and how powerful an authoritative figure can be. I think that using people like Eichmann is a perfect way to define what obedience is in a very real and disturbing way, and I am going to continue my research by finding similar examples in major historical events. I have spent the past couple of days brainstorming the different ways I can visualise what I have found and the actual content of the project. Currently I am leaning towards a creative print outcome, excluding a publication or book as I already have a fair amount of editorial design in my portfolio. Hopefully the upcoming tutorial will help me to figure out what the outcome is going to be so that I can start bringing this project to life.


Penguin – Designing some book covers

After some extensive research on book covers and the themes of the book, it was time to start designing a cover for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Through my research I had uncovered quite a few angles that I wanted to focus on, so I made the decision to design two covers for this project and decide on which one I wanted to go forward with.

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One of the first ideas I had revolved around the impact that the murders had on the town. The Clutter’s were incredibly well respected in the community and their deaths came at a huge shock to everyone. I experimented on ways to try and visualise this unlikely event through a multitude of visual solutions but the idea just wasn’t clicking.

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I then decided to focus on a different idea, which looked at the role Capote has as the author. The fact that the murders, and his relationship with killers had so much of an effect on him was one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole tale. I wanted to try and visualise not only his powerful role as the story-teller, but also the slow decay into sorrow that the events caused him. To do this I tried to create a visual that was striking and bold, but at the same time gave an idea of what the tale was about.

The final product is fairly flawed, however it is only an initial draft. I think that the visual effect of Capote is very eye-catching and strong, while having him grow out of the house hints at the idea behind the concept. Although, after a useful group tutorial with Anna Bhushan, it became apparent that I was trying to accomplish too much with the graphic.

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Typographically the cover is a lot stronger and I think I was successful in creating a good visual hierarchy. In order to improve the design I am going to have to re-visit the graphical element and try to simplify it by focusing on either the house or Capote. However, I am still proud of the descending effect so even if I don’t use this cover design, I will definitely experiment with the technique.

The second concept is in my opinion, and in the opinions of my peers, the strongest. The concept focuses on visually representing the two killers as snakes. Not only are snakes dangerous, deadly and hidden in plain sight, just as the murderers were, but they are also cold-blooded. Another correlation that was brought to my attention in the group tutorial was that one of the killers has a large tattoo of a snake, which was another strong connection to the story.

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The final design uses a more classical type that is a better representation of the times, and features the snakes intertwined within the type and each other. This visual effect represents close and disturbing relationship of the killers and their significance in the story. I also wanted to add a bit of violence to the front cover and make it seem more gruesome and obscure, so I created an strange portal effect that removed the heads of the snakes and placed it on the bottom of the page. The red circle is supposed to vaguely represent a pool of blood, but I still think that some more work is needed to polish it off.

After some more deliberation I decided to add in a dark paper background to bring the elements together. The snakes were taken from a picture of an old science journal so they blend in nicely, plus the dirty effect adds to the dark and disturbing nature of the cover design.

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I am fairly pleased with the covers I have designed for this project. In the end I have decided to focus on the second concept as I think it is a more unique and visually interesting approach to the brief. The final review will hopefully give me some better insight on how to improve them and I look forward to seeing what the feedback is.


Penguin – In Cold Blood

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Now that I have chosen Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood as the book cover I am going to design for this project and done some research into the original artwork and other personal covers I am a fan of, it is time to find out the key concepts of the book. Unfortunately due to other deadlines I won’t have enough time to read the entire book in two weeks, but there are other methods that I can utilise in order to deconstruct it.

To kick start my research I read a general synopses of the plot of the book and what it is about, along with some segments from the actual text itself. What was immediately interesting was the role that Capote plays in telling the story. As it is a non-fiction novel you can recognise the angle and focus of Capote’s writing. As the author he has so much power in regards to the way that the events and people are perceived, and his obsession with the two killers fascinated me. He didn’t just dismiss them as deranged killers, instead he tried to form relationships with them to truly understand why they would have done this.

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Another interesting factor to take into consideration arose after watching the film ‘Capote’, which focuses on Capote’s experiences and relationship with the two killers while writing his book. The emotional toll that the events took on him (especially witnessing the hanging) was detrimental, and an angle that I think would make for an interesting cover concept.

Looking past the author, the actual events that took place in that small town where horrifying. According to Capote The Clutter family were adored by many throughout the community and could be seen to have a sovereign status (much like Capote does as the author). One of the residents said “Of all the people in the world, the Clutters were the least likely to be murdered.” This shows the impact that these gruesome murders had on the community. No one could have expected it to happen, and the fact that the killers were from the town created an atmosphere of mistrust in everyone. I think the fact that anyone could be a killer capable of such brutality is a terrifying thought that is provoked in the book. What is clear from Capote’s writing is that the town would never be the same again.

This research shows that there are plenty of routes that I could go down, and themes that I can explore. I am still unsure as to what to focus on, but I know that it would unwise to just create one cover that looks at a single theme. Instead I am going to do some exploration with different styles and try and find something that works best. Obviously the goal of the book is to reflect its contents visually, but if I can find a way to tie in some of the key themes of the book as well it will definitely increase its quality.


Penguin – Starting the Penguin Competition

So Christmas is over and its time to start getting into the next project, the Penguin Book Cover Competition. I had a lot of fun last year coming up with a design for A Clockwork Orange so I am looking forward to getting into this years project.

The choice for which cover to design this year (as set by my lecturers) was between Truman Capote’s infamous In Cold Blood and Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾. Honestly, In Cold Blood caught my eye instantly. I have never read the book or really heard of it, although I have heard of Truman Capote, but after finding out what it was about and the dark and gruesome story behind it I knew that it was the cover I wanted to design. There is also a slight connection to my dissertation which focuses largely on the horror genre, which In Cold Blood is partly recognised as.

The original book cover for In Cold Blood is fairly iconic and I am a fan of its simplicity. The sharp, Gothic font and the dark red drop serves as a bold combination. It is in some ways similar to the original cover of The Godfather, both featuring a striking typeface and simple graphical element.

To look for more inspiration I went into my own archives of great cover designs that I have been collecting for the past couple of years, and pulled out a couple that I believe are appropriate for this project. I have always been a fan of bold typefaces dominant typefaces or beautiful illustrations. A redesign of the Lord of the Flies by one of my favourite illustrators Levente Szabo really blew me away (as all of his illustrations do). The silhouette of the pigs head violently placed on the spike with the dark red landscape inside of it almost perfectly illustrates the themes of the book and suggests the nature of its content.

I also think the cover for Robert Bloch’s Psycho is an aggressive and striking work of typography that, just like Szabo’s cover, brilliantly portrays the violent nature of the book.

Now that I have found my inspiration I can start to research and analyse the themes of the book and consume any content that the story has produced in order to form my design work. Depending on how my other deadlines go (most notably my dissertation) I may decide to attempt to design another book cover in the competition, but for now I am going to focus on illustrating this compelling story and making sure that I create something that will challenge my ability while also becoming a strong edition to my portfolio.


Creating The Royal Club

For the International Competition project I decided to pursue the Royal Opera House brief from YCN. There were a couple of reasons for this, with on of the main ones being that I just wanted to do something different. After initially moving towards the ISTD briefs and reading through them I realised that, although they would be fun and probably fairly challenging, I was taking the safe route. So much of my work has revolved around editorial design that I felt as if I should take on a brief that would take me out of my comfort zone and force me to work on different platforms. The Royal Opera House brief was appealing to me as I knew that it would force me to immerse myself in a world that I knew nothing about and hopefully improve my skills as a designer.

The brief itself was fairly simple. Create a campaign that would encourage cultured people from the age of 20-30 to go and watch the ballet. Now personally one of my initial steps when starting a new brief is figuring out what the problem is, and in this scenario it was clear. People from the age of 20-30 aren’t going to the ballet and the current advertisements from The Royal Opera House and other organisations aren’t working.

After doing some research into the problem, which involved scanning online articles on ballet and the culture of dance while also gathering primary research from the target audience, I came to some interesting conclusions. One of the main reasons that people don’t go to ballet is because of a clear lack of interest in dance culture. Simply put, if you don’t like or play football, it is unlikely that you are ever going to buy tickets to go watch a football match. Therefore my theory is that if you don’t dance at all or have no interest in the world of dance, you won’t be scouring the web for new ballet shows or even notice when said shows are advertised.

So from this research I decided what my project was going to focus on. Instead of getting people to go watch ballet, I was going to get them into the world of ballet and the culture of dance. And to do that I would embrace the competitive and young target audience while using a campaign that took advantage of the current trends of fitness and social media. From this, The Royal Club was born.

The Royal Club is a social fitness club that challenges and encourages young people to train like dancers, learn to dance, share their progress and watch ballet. The goal of the campaign is to strip dance down to the raw physical fitness and training aspects to draw in an audience that wouldn’t usually look at dance from that perspective.

A large part of my inspiration, especially in regards to the fitness aspect of the campaign, was This Girl Can. It is such a hard hitting and motivational campaign that uses story-telling and community to bring people in, it was helpful analysing why it did so well and how I could use its techniques in my own project. For example the social feed on the website, which would take peoples posts from different types of social media that featured their hashtag, was something that I was very interested on having on The Royal Club website as it seemed like a great way of adding a sense of community to the campaign.

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So the main bulk of the project was going to be designing the website, as the main source of information and guidance would be coming from there, and also the branding of The Royal Club.

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I wanted the design to be modern and innovative, and I believe that I have achieved the former of those two goals. The lightly coloured, gritty images along with the tall and bold type has made for a strong pairing which is great for posters and video. Although, when it came to the type of imagery a lot of the feedback I received said that just having pictures of people exercising made it seem like a fitness club instead of being to do with dance. So when I start improving on it, the first thing on my list will be to take some new pictures!

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I am proud of how the design of the website turned out, as I was lacking in web design confidence having not designed one in a long time. The navigation is very easy and obvious, with a heavy emphasis on imagery and text. And even though the website isn’t fully completed yet, I will constantly be looking for ways to evolve the design and turn it into something that hasn’t been done before.

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I am really looking forward to continuing to improve the project and turning it into a strong submission for the competition. I think that through my research I have found some great foundations and a strong idea, so now I just have to make sure that the design and promotional material is up to scratch.

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Real World – Starting a Real World

For the first project of the the final year we have been tasked to come up with an idea that will make Cardiff Metropolitan University a healthier place to study, whether its from making the campus more environmentally friendly to creating a diverse and accepting student community. The clients are the staff members that are helping to spearhead the new ‘Healthy University’ programme, meaning that contacting and meeting up with them has been very easy so far.

The whole project must be completed in a group of 4 or 5, with each group being assigned a specific area of the ‘Healthy University’ programme and a target audience. My group of 4 have been given Health and Well-being, with the target audience being students.

It is always interesting working in a group as there is so much potential for great ideas but there is a big risk of them getting buried in the chaos of group discussion. Luckily the group dynamic has been very exciting so far, with each of us having a good idea of where we want to go with project.

The initial process of getting to the real problem with student health and well-being went very smoothly as we discovered fairly quickly that the general idea of a strong and healthy lifestyle didn’t necessarily fit in with the perceived student lifestyle. From our own personal experience, our research online and asking other students we were able to uncover that most people love the university lifestyle which is obviously a real problem.

So we thought that we had a good game plan which focused on peoples bad-habits and helping them to gain a solid rhythm in their life by encouraging them to make small changes. This idea, although good, has been moved lower down the list as we realised that the University is already doing a good job of encouraging people to be healthier.

This meant that we changed our focus to something else. After a productive meeting with our client, Emma, we discovered that one of the real problems was communication from the University to the students. This changed our entire mentality to the project. Instead of trying to get people to make changes in their lifestyle we thought that a better idea would be to make people happy while they were on campus.

Mental and physical health is always an issue in any organisation and the University has a great support platform to help people, but there is no point in having that support if no one knows about it. So our new goal is to create something simple that will engage students and make them have fun, while still raising awareness for the support that the university offers.

Overall the project has gone fairly smoothly so far. We have come up with some great ideas and the effort that we have put into doing the research and discovering the core problems has been invaluable. I think that sticking with our ideas and creating something original are the key factors while moving forward in this project.