A third-year graphic design student documenting his design journey.
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Negotiated Major Project
My NMP is finally finished and what a relief! It has been a long journey of experimenting with styles and playing around with hundreds of ideas! For my NMP I worked with two of my friends to establish a collective called Mutton Boon. Whilst the ethos and ideas for Mutton Boon have changed about a hundred times, one thing that has been constant throughout was to create designs and products that take advantage of printmaking and the handcrafted.
I went down many different routes in this project so this blog post is a way to explain my process from start to finish and why I decided to change ideas so often.
At the start of the project we set out to create a collective that created a range of tee’s and prints. For the first few weeks we really struggled to find something to create that made us feel unique. We spent a lot of time exploring printmaking techniques but was producing designs that were quite common (like aztec patterns). Time was getting on and we needed to start creating visuals and outcomes. We decided the best approach was to put a constraint on our work. Sometimes having such an open brief can stop ideas from forming as you don’t know where to begin. This is where the minotaur comes in. We needed to make a more restricted brief so we picked a story we know very little about. What we ended up doing was a story about the Minotaur, a half man half bull that lives in a Labyrinth. All of us knew very little about this which allowed us to create designs based purely off the research we had found. I will admit it was challenging.
Our first attempt at producing a zine was… well far from amazing. We produced outcomes which we felt weren’t very strong. However, we were starting to form ideas that would actually influence our final outcomes. The week later we managed to produce a set of work which created starting points for our final outcomes.
I produced three different directions that I wanted to take the project in. The first was exploring the branding of an American Hockey team called “The Minotaurs”. The inspiration came from this because I felt the minotaur would create a fantastic mascot for a sports team and I really like the design of American sport team logos. The second direction was illustrated type. I had created the word “plagued” out of what could be interpreted as bubble gum (intentional) or as flesh with sinewy bits. I am obsessed with typography and wanted to explore a hand drawn type route. The final option was illustration. I had started to produce a playing card using a minimalistic geometric style that was all about clean, precise lines.
I decided to go down the route of the minotaur sports team. The first changes I wanted to make were to change the logo I had made and begin developing it. Alongside that I wanted to create the team’s hockey kits, design an official mascot and then produce a range of merchandise. After a few weeks of going down this route, I realised it wasn’t working for me. The idea didn’t really do much for me, it wasn’t clicking in my head so I scrapped that approach and went for the illustration route.
I liked the idea of playing cards. I think the illustration of the Kings, Queens etc are really nice and I wanted to have a go at making my own. This eventually led it’s way into tarot cards. Tarot cards were originally designed to be a game which then got this association with the occult and some people use them to tell the future. I was fascinated by them because of the way they are illustrated. Each illustration is full of symbolism which relate to the card’s meaning.
I began creating designs for tarot cards which linked to major parts and characters of the Minotaur story. I created illustrations full of symbolism to represent the personality traits and to tell the story. However, it got to a point where all I had were tarot cards, and I didn’t really just want a pack of cards for my final show. After a seminar, I decided to try and take this symbolism and apply it to clothing, and to see where I can take that.
I spent a while trying to create unique symbols to sum up the tarot cards. However, I found it a struggle to come up with a lot of unique icons and I also felt this was taking too much of a tarot approach and was moving away from the minotaur.
I then looked into hand drawn illustration. Whilst this isn’t really my style of working as such, I do enjoy drawing. I spent a few weeks exploring illustration styles and began drawing a range of outcomes from paper money to illustrated wallets. However, the choice of style really wasn’t clicking with me and it was only a matter of time before I went to the more familiar minimalist style.
I liked the idea of symbolism and the way you convey a theme, message or idea from a small image. I also liked the idea of creating unique symbols, as some of the symbols I had produced earlier were far from original. Eventually I came to the idea of creating a micro site/app that creates your own coat of arms, based on your personality. This coat of arms would be completely unique to you, and when applied to products would allow you to “Wear your own brand”. For this I created a range of different icons which all slot together to create the coat of arms. The more icons I created, the more combinations of icons.
Alongside this I created a product range which represents medieval armour, to tie it in with the coat of arms. Each coat of arms would have a unique pattern which could be applied to the clothing. The style I went for was a clean, precise style similar to that of the playing card I did earlier. Unfortunately I only got this idea a week before my hand in. So it meant I had to spend a week creating the outcomes for my idea which I felt did limit experimentation and meant I could only push it so far. However, at the same time I am really impressed with what I managed to produce in such a small amount of time, and I think with a bit of tweaking in time for the show, could potentially have a product range that I would be happy selling.
A Massive Thank You to Rockfield Media
I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone over at Rockfield Media. For nearly two years I have been on placement there, doing a day a week in term time and working a few extra days when it has been Easter and Summer. I feel really grateful for the opportunity they have provided me.
Rockfield Media are a full service advertising agency that works primarily with the motor industry. They work with a whole variety of dealerships from Honda to Kia across the UK, producing advertising, in store promotions etc. They also work a lot with breweries such as Bank Top Tavern and Copper Dragon creating both the promotion of their products and designing the pump clips for the ales.
Being there for two years has allowed me to see how an agency works all year round. It is particular important in advertising as businesses work in quarters and some quarters are a lot busier than others. Being there for two years has also allowed me to do a huge variety of briefs, a lot of which I have had to teach myself something new to do it. Just an example of some of the briefs I have worked on whilst there:
Pump Clip Illustrations for about 6 different Ales for 3 Different Breweries
Online advertising banners for Honda, Volkswagen and Seat Dealerships
Visuals for a whole number of different clients including Maplin Electronics and JD Williams
I have learnt a whole range of new skills, one of which is visualising. This is a way to show potential outcomes by drawing and using graphic markers. This is great as it shows process and can often be more effective than showing a finished outcome on a mac when pitching to a client.
Whilst my placement has now finished I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Rockfield Media. I have recently been discussing freelancing opportunities with them, and hopefully in a few months time I will be freelancing for them doing their web work. This will be a great way to get some income whilst I start looking for a job and could potentially kickstart a freelance career if I decided to go that route.
Again, a massive thanks to Rockfield Media!
Minimalism, You Used to Piss Me Off
Three years ago I had to do a presentation on a topic as part of my foundation course. I chose to do it on why minimalism in the art world really got on my nerves. At the time I couldn’t understand by a white canvas, or a box would be interesting or considered art. It didn’t have anything interesting to look at and I couldn’t justify why people would pay thousands for something so simple.
However, I have found that my style of work is very minimalistic and it made me think about minimalism again. In the graphic design world, I really like work that is stripped to it’s bare essentials. Instead of lots of fancy graphics, attention is paid to typography, colour choice, layout, paper stock etc. Whilst I love illustration and art work with great visuals, there is something more appealing about a well organised, clean piece of work. I think this comes down to the way I think and my personality. I take quite an ordered approach to my work, and like to think logically about certain things. I also like to have everything organised in my room and if I could I would probably put everything in a box, labelled by category and probably colour coded for good measure. I also recently saw a quote about what graphic design means which further backs up this point. Whilst I cant remember it word for word Im sure it went along the lines of “graphic design isn’t how good it looks, but how well it works” (could be nothing along those lines as I cant remember it completely). In the end, as graphic designers, we are solving problems as well as creating imagery. Sometimes to be most effective, we have to be simple to everyone can understand it.
Coming back to the fine art world, I can start to understand minimalism a lot more. A painted white canvas might not be the most visually stimulating outcome in the world. However, it could be the artist’s way of exploring material, brush strokes, technique etc. and I think it can be easy to forget that even fine art needs a concept or a reason behind it. I recently went to an exhibition at the Tate in London and one of the exhibitions was about Energy and Process. Included in these pieces were a mirror on a canvas and some minimalistic paintings. Had I gone as myself three years ago, I would have walked out angry not understanding. However, this time I went with an open mind and tried to understand what the artist was trying to say or do. I still couldn’t get my head around some of the pieces so I bought myself a book called “Minimalism” by David Batchelor which explains minimalism and tells you how you can understand and appreciate the artworks.
Just recently I have discovered the wonders of youtube playlists. It allows me to create music playlists and listen to music online legally (without having to pay for a subscription!). I have found though I get annoyed by the constant adverts for the crap music that plagues our charts these days. However, occasionally an advert will pop up that actually grabs my attention. Either one about a new song by an artist I have never heard of or just a normal advert. Just recently I found myself watching the advert about running on train tracks which I thought was really good.
It made me think about the way advertising is going. Billboards and TV adverts just become a blur these days as we are so numb to them. However, if your watching videos on youtube and you are forced to watch at least 5 seconds of it, sometimes you do find yourself taking more notice of an advert. I also think the way online advertising targets your interests from tracking what you watch (such as the way facebook does) makes it even more effective. I would still rather not have the adverts but from a graphic designer perspective, it is something I should bear in mind should I have to do online advertising.
Just recently I have been looking into frameworks for various aspects of coding. Frameworks take away the need to do all of the boring preliminary set up when coding a site, such as the same tags you need to include in all HTML files and resetting CSS styles. I have been using HTML5 Boilerplate for a while now, which has all of the files, site structure, CSS resets etc., done for you so that when you start the coding of a site you can jump straight into the building of it.
However, when at Shape, I realised the benefit of having your own framework. Whilst it is good to use the pre-built frameworks, having one you have created (or adapted from an existing one) allows you to customise it completely to your taste. For example, Shape have their own framework with all of the basic styles that they commonly use in websites. It also takes away the unnecessary code that you sometimes find in frameworks.
Frameworks save an incredible amount of time, particularly if it’s one you’ve created yourself. I therefore want to develop my own framework for my freelancing. It will include existing styles that I know I will use in a lot of my work, as well as have my own folder structure and file set up. This will allow me to jump straight into building the sites and save a lot of time.
When at Shape I was told about LESS and shown how to use it. LESS is a way to make coding CSS more efficient as it allows you to have variables and numerous features to streamline the code. I had heard about it but never really used it until at Shape. I now can’t imagine not using it as the time it saves is unbelievable. It takes away the need to repeat code which is absolutely brilliant.
Saving time is essential, particularly in the freelance world, as time saved is more time for other projects. It also means your not spending time doing the tedious tasks of writing the same code and can spend more time doing creative or other tasks.