Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The End

In this, the final assignment, there was a choice of three briefs - book design, promotional design and a corporate makeover. After reading all the briefs I decided to go with the book design. The brief was to design a new house style for Penguin, for a collection of design books for children. There were three titles: Colour, Typography and Photographs which required cover, spine and back cover designs. The designs needed to be recognised by readers as a series and yet be appreciated on their own merits. In addition I was also required to produce the first four pages of the book on typography called 'A is for . . .'  The pages needed to be visually interesting and entice young people into wanting to buy the book.

The first decision I had to make was what sort of age group I was going to focus on. I decided that the early teenage/GCSE market was the most interesting to capture. This is often an age when children are moving from a general interest into art into a fascination in areas such as photographs or typography. I also decided early on that the fact the brief was for Penguin had given me a good opportunity to give the brand a face lift and reassert some of its strongest aspects.

Starting with the first title, Colour, I started to think about a way of displaying a range of colours on the cover. My first idea was a prism fanning the colours across a black background. Although great in theory, as I started to sketch out ideas I couldn't seem to get the composition to work. This was primarily because it just looked too 'bitty'. Trying a rainbow shape and adding the letters of colour into the prism didn't seem to add much and in fact only added to the busy, confusing look. I was keen to have an arresting, bright clear image that would jump out at teenage children - and it wasn't being achieved through a prism.    


I decided to go back to basic and sketched the original word on the page as this was something I would have to fit in somewhere. I then started to mind map the colours separately rather than the word 'colour'. I was soon really taken with the idea of a golden egg yolk representing an 'O'. I was still thinking about a black background from the prism idea and thought it would be fun to have a fried egg white as part of the design. One thing I wanted to stick to was for all of the pictures to be natural - to display to children the amazing colours that nature gives us. Once I'd settled on this idea the ideas really started flowing.

I loved the idea of blood splats next to the 'O' and was keen for these to drip onto the fried egg white like ketchup. The other idea that suggested itself fairly early on was the Earth as the other 'O' - I loved he idea of our beautiful blue planet hanging in the black space of the cover. Once I'd got these three I then had the challenge of finding a good balance with the other elements.

I had red, yellow and white well represented so I needed to think about what might fit into the l, u and r. The u was a tricky shape. I realised I hadn't used an animal and thought a snail or worn might give me the shape and colours I was looking for. After some  research on the internet I settled on a Corn Snake which had wonderfully vivid red. orange and white stripes (a colour combination I've always thought works well) and manipulated the image to get into the right shape and 'snake' out from behind the earth.

Looking at the cover I really felt that a vivid blue would work well for the 'r'. I'd stuck fairly closely to the object for shape pattern so I thought I could get away with water as the image. This left the 'l', which was surprisingly difficult to decide on. I had red, white, orange, yellow and blue so was keen to get green into the picture. After trying a cactus and a pod of peas I suddenly thought of a chili, which seemed to sit quite playfully in the middle of the composition.

Deciding that I wanted to promote the Penguin brand I placed the Penguin logo in the top left hand corner and went with orange and white for the other title-author elements. I also felt that a classic design typeface should be used, and after some experimentation settled on Bauhaus which I felt looked very stylish in white on black. The final touch was to add orange lines to frame the central image.

I wanted the whole book to work as a unified design and to maintain the same elements as much as possible across the three covers. I moved the 'penguin design series' type onto the spine as I was keen for this to be seen on all three spines as they sat on a bookcase together. As I was aiming for uniformity it was also important that the central image of the title was repeated on the spine (along with the Penguin logo).

In designing the back cover I had to decide how 'colouful' it was going to be. I wanted to avoid it becoming too gimmicky or busy as the back cover is ultimately about information and details. The black background gave me a good start and I decided to stick as closely as possible to the classic Penguin design elements of white, orange and black.

I started with the Penguin logo, and decided to be bold and put this top middle. It's a design classic and in a design series it is where it should be. The Bauhaus type was also perfect for the display type either side of the logo flagging the fact it was part of a series. Although I designed the cover to appeal to young adults I felt that this should be echoed on the back cover. Consequently I added the tag line underneath. this also gave me the chance to maintain uniformity with the orange bar separating the two elements.

Most books often have a quote to pull the reader in at this stage and this was the perfect chance to add a dash of orange - making the quote stand out and balancing the white. I then reverted to white for the main body of text and went with the more readable, but still stylish Trebuchet (bold). Rather than listing the prices as is normal in bottom left I decided to have these as part of the design, stringing them across the bottom in white type across an orange band, and the white bar code and website type maintained the balance between the three colours.

Once I'd settled on the idea of colours I wanted there to be a theme of the subject speaking for themselves through the series - thereby maintaining distinctiveness and allowing the titles to be appreciated on their own merits. I was also keen to keep continuity through a stylish black background so that all the book would look good together. I was fortunate in that the idea I had for the book on Photographs stayed the same from conception through to finish - something I've rarely experienced. I decided to have a series of black and white photographs running down the page in old photographic film reel. I wanted to grab the attention of the young adults with photographs that they might have seen (and liked) mixed in with great photographs they probably hadn't.

My initial version was based on five rows of photographs. This allowed me to get a good range f classic photographs on the cover and fit the type onto the first , third and fifth bands. However, as soon as I started to lay type on top the image it became clear that the words were being lost in the busyness of the imagery.

I soon realised that by settling on three bands actually helped both the photographs (which were now larger) stand out more and the made the type more readable. Choosing the right photographs for the right frames was vital. As I was going with a black and white cover |I felt that red worked better and stood out more than orange, so it was just a case of making sure I had a light background for the red type and a dark background for the white type where possibly.

My biggest decision was for the type across the middle fro 'photogrpahs'. A number of photographs I found had letters, words or numbers scrawled beside or over them and this gave me the idea of a handwritten title. I'm pleased I went with this option as I feel it works with and complements the photographs.   

As mentioned, I really wanted the covers to be great designs in their own right and to say something about the subject matter before they were even opened. I'd already decided to continue the film strip theme o the spine as this created a nice, natural division. However, it was only when laying it that the famous photograph below suggested itself. After a bit of resizing I was pleased to end up with the image below. 

Many of the decisions for the back cover (typography, colour, etc) had been made with the 'Colours' book. As I was changing the orange to red I wondered whether a photograph might fit in the space in the middle of the words. One of the photographs I was disappointed not to use was perhaps my favourite photograph of all time - the Eugene Smith photograph below. After a bit of resizing and blending, and changing the paragraph justifiers, I ended up with a back cover that I feel does justice to the subject.

With the final book, Typography, the challenge was to make the central image as eye catching as the previous two titles. Realistically typography is not going to be as obviously eye-catching as colour or typography. However, this doesn't mean it can't the viewer in. Once again, I kept in mind the target audience and decided to use letter than would 'speak'to young adult - and in a range of colours that would be eye-catching and visually appealing. My aim was to get a balance of both colours and business types so this cover was perhaps the most rationally planned of the three as it needed to balance both colour and logo-type (see below):  

Overall I'm pleased with the result f this cover. Some of the letters, notable Tesco, Sony Playstation, Gap Star Wars and Subway are immediately recognisable. I also enjoyed throwing in the Sony Y which is less obvious but equally ubiquitous - along with the less obvious HBO 'O' and Biba 'A'. What really pleased me about this cover was the range and diversity of letter-styles I managed to convey with just ten letters.    

The final part of the assignment asked me to design the first four pages of a book on Typography titled 'A ids for . . ' I took my lead from the title of the book and decided to go with strong typographical images of the letter A. As the audience was young adults it was vital not to overload them with text and important to keep the information to easily digestible segments. This was the key reason i decoded to place the text within the large letters on the page. I felt there was also a danger that the pages looked to gimmicky and busy so I resolved to stick to a colour scheme of red, black an grey, 

It was also important to me that the pages were educational, but that this was wornn lightly. To these ends I decided to include the name of the font used at the top of the pager , and pick out the letters used in the font name in an alphabet of the letters running across the bottom of the age. As well as informing the reader I also think the two lines of red frame the central image nicely. I'd almost finished this part of the assignment when I had the idea of highlighting key words in red within he main text, which again works aesthetically and also gives the reader/student pointers in a subtle manner.

Overall I'm really pleased with this part of the assignment. I often have difficultly picking out the subtle differences between typefaces And I think blowing up the letter A/a to the size of a page really helps you to see those differences. 

I'm satsified with the results for this assignment. I think each title can be appreciated on its own merits - and yet from the typefaces, composition and colour-schemes they are recognisable as a series. Given the time I've spent on them it does now seem rather a shame I can't go out and buy them (maybe I'll just go and mock them up and stick then on my bookshelf anyway).

Monday, 9 January 2012

She's Leaving Home

The aim of this exercise was to design a brand image for the stationery of a housing association set up to help first time buyers get onto the property ladder. It needed to be modern, welcoming and reproducible in papers, magazines and across all stationery used by the organisation.

I started by researching some local housing associations. As with the logo exercise, I was surprised at the simplicity of the designs - and the related importance of communicating quickly a brand image to the potential customer/audience.

I started to work on some possible designs which I sketched out and have included below. I started by playing around with the capitals, creating symbols out of the shapes of the letters, etc.

I had come up with a horseshoe for the C, two chairs for the H and a house for the A. I showed these early sketchings to a few friends and the consensus was that it was too busy and that I should work on one of these. I felt that the house was the most relevant and started to look at how I could fit this into the overall design. It was only with some more messing around that I realised the capital H fitted into the A making a house shape and a ladder up to it - a visual metaphor the step onto the housing ladder.

After further jottings I came up with the design below:

I decided to compare the layout with some other alternatives just to make sure before resolving to go with the third of the three designs below. In practice I would provide the three as options to the person commissioning the work.

The next stage was to think about colours I wanted to use. I went back to the part of the course on colours to see what sort of colours would be appropriate. I wanted to go with a modern yet homely feel and decided that a green brown-red combination worked well together. The green was fresh and therefore worked well with the word 'chance'. The red-brown for 'housing association' provided warmth and reassurance - important for a housing association. I decided to bring out the logo in black as this worked well with the other two colours.

I tried a few typefaces and settled on Century Gothic which gave it a crisp, modern readable look which I felt would appeal to the target audience. The overall look still seemed to be missing something. I decided a yellow circle as a sun would balance the logo nicely - it adds an optimistic note and balances the composition. I went back and looked at the examples of other housing associations and decided to add the final touch - a tag line underneath explaining what the organisation did. I settled on Century Gothic, but this time in bold lowercase - partly to contrast it with the rest of the logo, but also to bring out the black of the house-ladder logo.

I then started to design the letter head. To reinforce a house style I used Century Gothic (Regular) for the address and used green. I then sandwiched this with bold lowercase black for the website address. I feel this gives the letterhead as a whole a nice balance a contrasts especially effectively with the sun. At the bottom of the letter I used the brown-red as the dividing line and small print, sandwiching contacts details in black in between - again all in Century Gothic Bold.

Although I'd almost finished I still felt I'd underplayed the key house-ladder logo and so used this again very faintly on the paper itself. I printed this off and was relieved to see that it did not obscure the other aspects of the letter head.

Designing the business card, it was important to maintain uniformity. I kept the logo the same and went for a similar balance of colours, although I did have limit the rest of the card to green and black to avoid the business card becoming too busy and looking unprofessional. I retained the feint logo in the background and, overall, am pleased with the result.   

For the newspaper advert I was pleased how easily the original design transferred into a different format. The only change I had to make was to use Arial as the body of text, but was pleased how well this sans typeface worked with Century Gothic. For the advert, I used mainly black and, because I'd picked the shades of green and red-brown with reproduction in mind I was happy with the effect photocopying it onto cheap paper had. Although the sun lost its colour I was stil surprised how it still worked in balancing the composition of the logo.

Overall I'm really pleased how this exercise went. I'm glad I went with a fairly simple logo design and felt that this enabled me to adapt it easily for the various formats.

Here, There and Everywhere

Looking at logos, I was struck by the simplicity in both colour and design of many of the most famous - and successful - logos.

Three circular logos that use white and one other colour. I particularly like the Pizza Express logo as it projects an elegant image for the company and yet also manages to be playful (the swirls as strands of melted cheese?) 

Two more colourful yet still simple designs for Penguin and Apple. I think these two logos are also subtly playful. I love the placement of the eye in the penguin, and he bite out of the apple was inspired. It made an obvious symbol immediately unique and distinctive. And if you thought that was clever . . .

Very simple, clever idea for the Food Writers' Guild.

A famous logo for British Rail that still impresses. Like the Pizza Express logo it very simply expresses the essence of the organisation.

Love this. Very elegant, Art Nouveau inspired design. Also a good use of colour - black and gold give it a luxurious feel.
Possibly my favourite logo from Herb Lubalin. Clever, simple and - most importantly - beautiful.

Another example of nice interplay between image and typography. Modern typography coupled with a cheeky, juicy illustration.

Finally, a really underrated logo. I used to devour Picador books as a student so this might be pure subjectivity creeping in but I love the spacing, typeface and lines framing the typography. Simple logo that was perfect as a stamp of quality.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


Creating an A3 poster and an accompanying A6 flyer for a singing group posed quite a challenge. The brief made clear that the group had limited resources and reproduction would be in black and white, and that photos would not reproduce too well.

I started by looking at the information that needed to go on the poster. I added a few details I thought were missing from the initial brief (morning or evening for the time, location of village hall, number of sessions and contact name) and started to put the information into a hierarchy. For the poster it was important to grab the attention of those who might be interested so i decided to pose the question 'Do you love to sing?' and then answering it with the basic information covering what the class actually was. To maintain interest an encourage people further I decided to add  the details about no experience necessary/no need to read music, and added 'beginners welcome'.

Once I had covered these positice eye catchers in the top half of the poster I decided to introduce the when and where. Once I'd discovered that I decided to break up the more mundane details and maintain interest with a couple of the other positive aspects of the class mentioned in the brief - it being fun and a chance to meet people. once I'd doe this I then felt I could go with the price and contact details to finish with.    

I found InDesign very useful for this exercise. Initially I was thinking about going with Broadway for the typeface, but when I started to type it out it looked too niche. After some playing around I settled on Elephant which worked really well for the whole of the poster - it reproduces clearly and gave it a musical, slightly artistic feel.

After finishing the typing I still felt the poster lacked something. To break up the type I had thought about points for the part about beginners welcome and this gave me the idea of the crotchets. As I was creating the circles I had the idea of singing crotchet sand adapted the idea for the singers illustration around 'SingOut' - the name of the grouip. I thought this worked well but was keen to integrate it a bit more into the type and decided to add a pattern of notes to link the two elements to form a logo of sorts.

Drawing up the double-sided flyer, I was able to draw on the experience of designing the poster. I decided to go with the eye-catching positive elements on the front of the flyer, again posting the question to grab attention before providing the basic details of what the flyer was A6 size I simplified the logo, making the heads bigger for reproduction and reducing the number of notes linking the heads to the group's name.

On the back of the flyer I decided to slightly re-order the information on the poster. As there was no guarantee the flyer 'front' would be read first I wen with the positives 'meet people' and 'have fun' to grab attention. I decided to reinforce the positives with the 'beginners welcome' theme and then provided the final three blocks of information (where, price and contact details) to finish.

I'm pleased with the outcome of both the poster and the flyer. Although I did want both logos to be the same I think the one on the poster is more elegant, whereas the one on the poster is punchier, and for me both fulfil different roles equally well.  I'm also pleased I decided not go with some of my other ideas, such as adding staves and clefs, as I don't feel these would have added anything and would have over-complicated things. I like the fact that  I've managed to get all the information on, kept to a black and white palette with simple illustrations - and still made the poster and flyer aesethically pleasing.