So, first thing is first: I love graphic design, so this week was a fun challenge for me. Unfortunately some work on my senior history thesis put a dent in some of the time that I wanted to spend on this week’s assignments, but I still really enjoyed it. The design blitz was fun, especially because I had never really stopped to look at all the elements of design that work around me. I might notice it on a billboard or a magazine, but whether they were on posters on campus or on book covers in my room, great graphic design is everywhere. Watching the Abstract show was also really interesting, especially since I’ve seen a couple of similar shows before on Netflix, and I was finally able to recognize similar work that I’ve seen before by the artists in the show. My signature assignment and tattoo assignment were simple but surprisingly challenging. The cipher, while not being quite as visually oriented as the others, really challenged me to think outside the box (I am not really a math or cryptography person). The postcard assignment was my favorite, I think. I chose what I think is the perfect font to match the background piece, and I got to learn a little Scottish Gaelic along the way while trying to come up with a message for the card. I’ve dabbled in graphic design before, and honestly would like to do it later on in my life, and it never stopped amazing me how every little decision drastically changes the story that a piece of design tells. Now I’m wishing every week from now would be another design week! (The Daily Creates this week were also pretty awesome).
I’m a huge sucker for great typography. I love different typefaces and pairing the right ones together. This book cover for Bruce Holsinger’s The Invention of Fire is a fantastic example of good typography. Right away you know the book is probably set in the Middle Ages (the calligraphic Gothic script in “the” paired with the Anglo-Saxon-inspired script in his name on the bottom). The words “invention” and “fire” are written in fairly plain but still distinctive serif (I love the serifs on the “E”s in particular). The best touch, though, is the actual editing done to the letters to make them look like they’ve been branded or singed into the paper.
Although this one could also be used for minimalism, the design for the flags outside UMW is pretty well balanced There’s an invisible line your eye follows between the UMW logo on the bottom right and the eye of the eagle. The eagle’s head also kind of swoops down and to the left, which in turn creates a sort of circle the brings you down to the UMW logo. There’s also enough negative red space in the background so as not to make the design look cluttered.
This poster for the Women of UMW Art Show (which is a great show, by the way; go see it while it’s still running) exhibits some great rhythm. Partly thanks to the painting itself, the eye follows a circle around and down through the poster. The placement of the bottom left text (the dates) sits along an axis that runs up through the title and into the flowers on the top right. I also thought the white font helped the “flow” of the poster and matched the dark neutral but also light purplish tones. Unfortunately my crappy iPhone camera made it look like the white font is illegible toward the bottom left, but in person it’s not.
Yes, I’ve gotten crap for reading Ayn Rand already. Anyway, you can’t deny this book cover design (despite my bad treatment of it) shows some great unity. The simple color scheme of reds and white is punctuated by black text. The red text in the title (“The Fountainhead”) matches the red of the beams perfectly, and even though the black text in the author’s name and the line below the title is neutral, it really pops against the white background. It’s geometrical with a lot of intersecting lines, but it’s simple enough that the still simple typeface stands out and works with the art.
For this assignment, I watched two episodes of the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design, specifically the episodes on graphic design and illustration (which I thought were the most fitting for this week). First, I was surprised to see I’d seen Paula Scher and Christoph Niemann’s work in my every day life. Once I got a feel for both of their individual sales it kind of blew my mind how ubiquitous both of their work is. I am a pretty big fan of graphic design and art in general, and I had a similar experience when watching the documentary Art and Copy. I also noticed both artists have a great eye for minimalistic design and storytelling with relatively few elements. Scher’s work varies quite a bit, ranging from typography-focused to image-centered work and everything in between. Even though she often picks a dominant word or image, she still manages to provide a great deal of balance to her work. In every case, the typography not only complements her work aesthetically, but as in the Pier 55 logo, it tells a story.
Niemann’s work likewise is a very unique but talented designer. Niemann’s work borders on minimalism. His sparing use of line and color work together perfectly to balance each other out but to still make a universally relatable image. Some of Niemann’s work comes up very cartoonish (in a good way), and other pieces invoke a mid-century vibe with a twist. In a lot of ways, I could see how graphic designers act like directors in a film. Even if the idea isn’t strictly theirs, it’s still their job to tell the story visually in a compelling and unique way.
Thanks to yet another great font from dafont.com (this one called Road Rage), I created a signature/inital/monogram logo for my spy character, Roderick Rush. There’s something really cool about a sort of combined signature, like Albrecht Dürer’s. I was looking for a font that conveyed something youthful but visceral, edgy but not over the top, and lo and behold, I found a great font where I was actually able to see the letter “R” demonstrated in the name. This one was actually harder than it looks. For color scheme, I wanted something like red and black (although I like dark gray for the background better than black, because it draws away from the cliched use of the two), especially because red invokes blood. From the start I wanted to overlay two R’s together diagonally. The challenge here was not having them both blend in with each other to make an abstract unrecognizable shape. So I made the background “R” a little darker and the foreground “R” a little lighter. The placement of the two was also a little difficult. Too close and again they started to look a little off, you couldn’t exactly tell the background letter was an R anymore. Too far apart, and the balance of the piece is off enough to bother you. Really, it boiled down to simplicity, and I really came away pleased with it.
For this assignment, I had to design a tattoo with at least two design elements included. It’s not the prettiest or cleanest tattoo design in the world, but it works for this assignment. I chose a viking theme for this one. The left side is a bearded axe, one of the most common viking weapons that we know of. The left side is a raven, which in Norse mythology and folklore symbolizes wisdom and knowledge from the gods. I just wanted a black and white color scheme to keep it simple. I also wanted to balance the design, and I thought aligning the axe head with a raven’s head almost makes it look like a double-sided axe (which, fun fact, the vikings did not use). The raven’s tail feathers also kind of balance out the axe head. So together I integrated symbols/metaphors and balance in my piece. Coming up with the design took longer than the execution. Originally I was going to include some simplified knot work in the background, but in the end I felt it would complicate the image too much and distract from the simplicity of the design.
NGDIDJTSN PKRNPDOF PUQC TS QNVNJ CUJRPNR CPQ.
This is the secret message of my own cipher. I used a substitution alphabet keyword cipher. Basically, the way this type of cipher works is where you put your keyword to the first letters of the alphabet, and then you just align the rest of the alphabet together minus the letters you used for your keyword. So if your keyword is “frog” then your cipher would work like this:
and so on until the end. A cryptographer could break this manually using frequency analysis, but I’ll give you two hints. The message is related to my spy character, and I’ll give you my keyword: thorn. The real message is below (SPOILERS):
ELIMINATE RODERICK RUSH AT SEVEN HUNDRED HRS.
My Destination Post Card assignment is relatively simple, but I think the design works pretty well for it. I chose a CC-0 image and CC-0 fonts (from pexels.com and dafont.com, two of my favorite resources). It took me a while to find the perfect font to match the image, but I think this one works pretty well. I knew when I started that I wanted to choose Scotland for my location, because, being partly of Scottish descent, it’s always been one of the places I’ve wanted to visit. I also love Celtic fonts, so it was a great match. I was unsure about the color and size and placement of the font at first, but I played around with all three in a few combinations and came up with with this. The phrase is Scottish Gaelic for “Bon voyage/Have a good trip.”
Well, fellow spies, as you can guess, I’m going to go ahead and say it’s been yet another difficult week. On the other hand, this was very different from anything I’ve done in school before. I had the benefit of having already used Audacity and GarageBand and already having been into radio shows/podcasts, but there was still a learning curve for me. I hadn’t used Audacity or GarageBand in a few years, so adjusting to the updates took me a while. I’ve barely used SoundCloud as well (except to listen to a couple podcasts here and there, like Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman show). Creating the sound effect short story took me a while, but I’m very happy with it. Listening to the Limetown Show was interesting, and I thought it was kind of cool to live tweet along with it. By the way, if you did enjoy Limetown, I HIGHLY suggest listening to Life After (a collaboration between GE and a similar podcast collective, Panoply. The after show even has Neil deGrasse Tyson). “Moon Graffiti,” as I said in my post, was also great. If you liked it, you should listen to The Truth’s other episodes. The other assignment bank work I did, remixing a song with a speech by Sen. Ron Paul and comparing a song with a cover in an alternate genre presented their own challenges, but I had a lot of fund doing both. Even though I had some technical frustrations, creating the Radio bumper was probably my favorite part. I wanted to make something eerie yet spy-themed, and I think I accomplished that. As always, the Daily Creates were great as well.
Listening to the Limetown radio show was a pretty interesting experience. I unfortunately had to miss an episode due a class time conflict, but the overall impression I got was positive. The show had pretty excellent quality in terms of production. The audio was all very good quality (although at times the writing was a little too contrived for me). The use of sound effects was pretty superb. Like I’ve mentioned before, I listen to radio shows like The Truth, so this was a familiar experience, but I love comparing the different methods creators use to manipulate the mood or a show or to recreate a set of circumstances (like, to use The Truth’s most recent example, being in a submarine). It might have been because I did miss one episode, but at times the story seemed a little hard to follow, but it was probably on purpose. I especially liked how both Limetown and Stranger Things draw on a mixture of conspiracy/suspense/thriller tropes at the same time as supernatural/sci-fi à la Stephen King, and even the sound effects allude to the ’80s and ’90s (maybe X Files?). I really do hope more people get into podcasts/radio shows like this. If you drive a lot or go to the gym or work somewhere you’re allowed to listen to music, it’s really worth it. You can also see my tweets I made while listening to the show here.
For the Remix a Song With Some Speech assignment, I chose a speech made by Senator Ron Paul in 2011 set to free use music by Jon Watts (found at the Free Music Archive). This is one of my favorite speeches ever made. Of course, it’s a controversial speech, and you may not agree with it, but I felt like it was still a powerful speech when it was made and still remains powerful today. I edited the music a bit – the original clip was only 20 seconds or so – splicing it so it repeated on tempo and turned up the volume a little as the speech went on. It’s a fairly lengthy speech (about 3:30), but it’s worth a listen.