Thursday, 31 January 2013

Choosing a Speech

I was initially interested in a few of the speeches. The second I saw the list of speeches we had to work with a few of them jumped off the page only because I could recite them and I had a strong image of the period before research. These speeches were:

  • Winston Churchill: We shall fight them on the beaches.
  • John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you.
  • Martin Luther King: I have a dream.

The one I was initially most interested in pursuing was Martin Luther King's speech as it is incredibly powerful and continues to build and build to dizzying heights. I already could imagine the sorts of things that I could pair to the lines the look and feel I hoped to create. However, I thought that most of my other classmates would have chosen one of these three and in order to really stretch my design potential and expand as an artist I had to step out of my comfort zone a little. For this reason I chose to research a few of the other speakers I was less familiar with and see which one grabbed me. 

After a bit of digging around I found the Earl Spencer's speech "The most hunted person of the modern age" to be the most engaging. It is obviously powerful as it is a brother talking about the loss of his sister and is also very poignant as it was about a very high profile lady, who struck a chord with the world, dying. The time period was also drastically different to all the others which would be more of a challenge to accurately represent as it was so close to where we are now.

I have decided to choose the Earl Spencer speech because I think it will do really well to help expand my design potential and really hone in on the messages with little pre conceived ideas of what the speech is about or the speaker, a burden which came with the original three speeches.

AF105 - The Brief

This is the third project in the first year of the course. The brief this time around asks us to create a trailer to be aired on TV promoting a new series of radio shows on BBC Radio 4. The title of the series is "Moments in Time - Speeches" and it focusses on the great speeches of the 20th Century. The programs will focus around specific, iconic speeches made in the 20th century along with the correlating period and setting. The speeches are as follows:

  • Franklin D Roosevelt: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
  • Winston Churchill: We shall fight them on the beaches.
  • Harold Macmillan: The winds of change.
  • Nelson Mandela: An ideal for which I'm prepared to die.
  • Jawahharal Nahru: A tryst with destiny.
  • John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you.
  • Martin Luther King: I have a dream.
  • Margaret Thatcher: This lady's not for turning.
  • Earl Spencer: The most hunted person of the modern age.

The trailers need to be a minimum of a minute long and a maximum of two minutes long. We need to choose an excerpt from one of the speeches that fits that time frame and edit together a sequence of stock footage, images and typography that accompanies the spoken words. It is important not to simply literally interpret the words and show exactly what is being said or to not simply show the speaker giving the speech. Instead we need to create a short set of visual accompaniment that enhances the words and creates a flavour of the time period or setting that goes hand in hand with the speech itself.

Obviously each of these speakers comes from vastly different economic backgrounds, geographical locations and political standpoints. These will all drastically effect the outcome of the trailer and really heavily effect the overall tone and style of the piece.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Summary of AF101

I have reached the end of the unit AF101 and created a book cover for the book "The Big Sleep" and an A2 poster to accompany it. I have really enjoyed the project and found it quite challenging and inspirational too. I think that both of the designs I have made fit the brief really well. They are a modern, unique, original take on the source material whilst still staying true to it's roots. I think the aesthetic qualities of both pieces are really strong and the typographical elements really succeed.

What I will take Forward:

After the propaganda posters project I had a basic understanding of Illustrator and I also think that I acquired a style that I could call my own. It is quite blocky and cartoony whilst still retaining a hint of sharpness and realism. I really expanded that style and pushed it to it's limits with this project. I found that I stretched my artistic ability with designing something that was both nostalgic and contemporary, soft and sharp. I really enjoyed the process.

I also really cherished the research portion of the project by extensively looking into the work of Jessica Hische and Jon C. Lund. This was one of the greatest revelations in this project I think. The in depth research really allowed me to finesse my designs and form a strong aesthetic presence. I was able to feed off work the artists had done in the past and put my own spin on techniques they have previously used. I found that really fun and really useful and is definitely something I will take forward into future projects.

I also learnt Illustrator far more comprehensively and some of the techniques I learnt are invaluable and will come in very useful in the future. One in particular is the smoke brush I created. Creating such photo-real smoke in such an elegant manor is something that I will be able to take forward and put to use in a plethora of different pieces of work and that is exciting.

All in all this project has been really good I feel I have expanded creatively and technically and have picked up a load of techniques and skills that will come in handy both in future projects and work outside of class.

Written Summary of My Cover's Fit to the Competition Brief

In the first paragraph of the brief it states, “The story is well known both in celluloid and print so it is essential to come at it from a fresh angle. Try to design a new cover for a new generation of readers, avoiding the obvious clichés. Originality is key.” A cover that was both relatable and recognisable to people familiar with the story that still exhibits a modern flair that will intrigue and appeal to a new generation of readers is what I interpreted as the best answer to those statements. To do this I thought outside the box and brainstormed what messages I wanted to convey. I wanted to avoid obvious clichés such as a smoking gun or a dead body however, I didn’t want to stray to far into abstract territory as that is difficult to execute and most of the successful avenues have already been explored in previous covers. I came up with having Marlowe on the cover yet have him completely in shadow, masking his identity. This would re-enforce his figure against the background and make him look iconic and strong, standing tall in the trilby and overcoat. Having him stand in a undisclosed part of Los Angeles with a vague cityscape in the background and nothing but a streetlamp, a cigarette and his gun to keep him company is also quite striking. 

The main theme I was looking to convey was mystery as in this genre that is probably the most prominent undertone. Film noir was quite a heavy influence in my design process. I liked all the aspects that tie into the genre, smokey rooms, slick characters, powerful imagery and sharp contrast. They all work together to create a very intense, murky environment which were two aspects I wanted to capture. I didn’t want it too be quite so straight forward however, I wanted a sense of juxtaposition with everything. To accomplish this I wanted to draw everything in Illustrator in quite soft and cartoony fashion. This art style completely contradicts the harsh, sharp, gritty style film noir is conventionally displayed in. This sense of juxtaposition subtly adds a sense of unease to the whole thing as this cartoony art style is displaying a dark, mysterious image. The typography on the cover was the thing I wanted to really stand out. I wanted it to be really meaningful and striking. To do this I chose a period accurate font face that, whilst being fairly stylised still retained legibility. I wanted the word “BIG” to be the largest thing on the cover as that would really grab the eye of anyone who looked at the cover. I also wanted to strengthen the uneasy, juxtaposition already present in the art style by drawing the word “Sleep” in an almost playful manor, dancing around the other words yet also in an almost photo-real smoke brush. The word in the title refers to death and the way it is presented is both playful yet sinister. Cigarettes are known to kill people and their smoke is very thin and menacing I find. This I think is the most successful part of the cover as it turned exactly how I imagined and hoped it would. The only other piece of text on the cover I wanted to try to disguise or soften in some way too as it would be to bright and distracting otherwise so I made it look as though it was drawn out on the pavement like a clue or an outline round a recently discovered body. Again a subtle, subliminal hint towards mysterious and sinister undertones wrapped in a soft and plain art style. The layout of the cover is also fairly sparse whilst still adhering to standard principles. Marlowe and the lamppost as on the left half with the typography to the right. The two are connected by a single strand of smoke trailing from Marlowe to the word “Sleep”. This is a very subtle way of connecting the disguised figure to the title, showing new readers he’s an important character and also connecting him to death; something the people familiar with Marlowe will appreciate. 

I think that the overriding juxtaposition that everything exhibits really works well to create a sinister, mysterious, smokey atmosphere to the cover. This fits the theme of the book and the themes of film noir very well. The art style, colour scheme and typographic elements are aesthetically pleasing without having to understand the meanings behind them also which will attract a new audience, especially when coupled with the mysterious intrigue the main character exhibits. It will also be a refreshing change to people more familiar with the story. For this reason I think that the cover I have created fits the brief well and is a modern and unique interpretation of a classic story that ties together the stories murky, gritty roots with a more modern colour scheme, art style and typographic style. This echoes back to the quote at the start; “The story is well known”, “Try to design a new cover for a new generation of readers, avoiding the obvious clichés”. I think that I have created an answer to that quite successfully. The cover is aesthetically pleasing with some interesting effects, creating some quite striking imagery tied in with some mysterious elements. This will attract new readers to the book as they will be initially drawn to it by the art style then intrigued by the shadowy figure and want to read the book to discover the identity of the hidden man. There are also a myriad of subtle undertones and massages within the various elements to attract and appeal to people already familiar with the book.

Branding Guidelines

A branding guidelines document is an imperative component required to make a successful, iconic, long lasting, recognisable brand. As a company you need to be sure that you are represented by a single logo, typeface and colour scheme. That way you can display that in various places and be sure that consumers will be able to link it directly to your brand and thus your products or services. To ensure that is what happens companies will create a document detailing their branding guidelines. This is a series of rules and information that govern how to create and present their logo, which colours a designer can use, how the page should be laid so on and so forth. The more intricate the guidelines are the better. You want it so that whenever a customer sees your logo or tagline, be it on TV or in a magazine, it is the exact same as it is everywhere else. That way they can instantaneously recognise your brand without having to read the company name or even having to think. With a really successful brand and branding guidelines it becomes almost subconscious to the viewer that they recognise your brand without even realising. 


I had the chance on Monday to show my work to the class and receive feedback on my design. What should be tweaked and what works well. This is always an invaluable experience as it allows you to gain perspective and see your design through other peoples eye's. It also forces you to justify every decision you've made and really critique your own design in a way not possible without this process. All of my classmates were really positive with my designs and didn't have a bad word to say about them. There were however a few they suggested I change.

Book Cover:

Everyone thought that my book cover was really successful at portraying all the messages and themes I wanted it to. There were however a few very small things that I overlooked. 

  • The first was that the text on the spine was facing the wrong way. This was fixed with a simple use of the rotate tool. I rotated it 180 degrees, thus fixing the problem.

  • The second was that the text on my blurb was fairly narrow and thus, hard to read. I realised this myself before the crit but had no time to attend to the issue. I realised the text was also a little bigger than it needed to be. This allowed me to lower the size of the font and then make it  a slightly wider font face. This made it more legible and allowed it to still fit nicely in the gap I had allocated for it.

  • The third was that the tower at the base of the title was a little too close to the authors name. I simply selected it and moved it further over to the right, giving the title a little more breathing space.

Having fixed all the issues that arose in the crit this is my final book cover design for The Big Sleep:

Everything works together really well. All of the themes and undertones I wanted to be present are there and they all work together really well to create a successful, aesthetically accomplished and unique cover. It is also a original and full answer to the original brief.

A2 Poster:

My poster was equally as successful in the eyes of my classmates. Only one or two points were highlighted:

  • A highlighted building should be added somewhere at the bottom to link it to the cover a little more and to add definition to the bottom of the page. This was a very valid point and one that I tried to implement extensively however, I came to the conclusion that it didn't really work with the rest of the poster. One solitary building looked out of place and when I tried to add more buildings it became too crowded and was distracting, thus detracted from the overall design.

  • The quotes and text on the left hand side was too narrow. This is a point that I agreed with and had noticed before the crit. Like on the book cover I simply chose a slightly wider font face and then made the text slightly smaller. This fixed the issue and made the text far more legible.

  • The colours don't quite match the book cover's. This was a simple error on my part. I hadn't properly configured the colour profile to match exactly with the Illustrator file the book cover was in. It was fixed by going into the "Edit" window and opening the "Colour settings" dialogue box.

Having fixed these issues this is my final design for the A2 poster advertising the book re-release:

I am really pleased with how this turned out. I simply combined all the elements I thought necessary from the book cover and really gave them pride of place. It is a really effective and eye grabbing poster by itself but it also ties in perfectly with my book cover design and conveys all the same themes and messages. It is a very successful poster I think.

Development of Art Style

The typography was the main aspect I knew would grab the attention of anyone perusing the book store. I wanted it to be the biggest thing on the cover and really stand out. To accompany it however, I wanted some slick, well designed artwork. I wanted to paint the scene in which the book is set in a somewhat cartoony manor, creating juxtaposition between the content and the style in which it is illustrated. I started off by creating the character. I wanted him to be completely enveloped in shadow, masking his identity from the viewer and creating a sense of intrigue making them want to read the book to see who he is. I wasn't sure how best to go about that though. This is my first draft:

I was experimenting with the idea of having parts of his face lit as I knew he would be standing beside a lamppost however, I felt as though I couldn't get it to look very good. it looked to sharp and clean when I went for a photo-real approach but when I ventured more down an abstract route it looked too odd and inhuman. It also created too weird a feel with which parts should be lit and which shouldn't. I really wanted to emphasise the mysterious nature of the character and really give nothing away. I studied Jon C. Lund's work for inspiration and after a bit of brainstorming and trial and error I drew pretty much the same shape but shaded everything and managed to come up with my final design:

I used Jon C. Lund's iconic art style to help to create this final design. In his images anywhere there is shadow is void of any detail. This is something I found really intriguing and wanted to toy around with. Thus my final artwork was created. I literally blacked out the entire figure apart from his shirt and gun. I wanted to give him a touch of personality with the shirt and tie and reinforce an ominous and foreboding edge by highlighting the gun. I think it worked out really well as it creates a very shadowy, stylised yet human figure that really conveys all the themes I wanted it to.

I then set about work on the background and lamp as that was all that was really left to do. the background was fairly simple. I again used Jon C. Lund's work as a reference and created a silhouette skyline with a few buildings highlighted just to re-enforce the imagery. I managed to get it in one go really, I just fiddled with the perspective of the buildings:

I wanted the entire scene to be dark, murky and ominous and I think I succeeded with that goal everything looks very mysterious and foreboding and with the character in front of it and the typography in place everything really gels together nicely. I added in a dark pavement for him to stand on two just to add in a final break at the bottom and provide a background for one of the pieces of typography I needed to include:

I wanted this piece of text to be included in a subtle, yet suitable, way. If it were merely somewhere else on the page it would detract from the impact of the title and the overall effectiveness of the cover as a whole. this way it looks like a clue or the chalk drawing around a dead body that are commonplace in crime thrillers.

The only thing left was the lamppost. I wanted a very simple, elegant yet eerie feel to it. It needed to be true to the era the book is set in also so I google image searched examples of lampposts from that era and area and drew up this piece of artwork:

I am very pleased with this. It is sleek, elegant and true to the period. It also has an eerie feel. The actual lamp component itself is on but not very bright and there is a slight gradient in there. It is also reflecting light from the moon in an ominous manor:

The top of the lamp is really effective. It really ties together elegance with an eerie atmosphere and it really helps to tie the cover together as a whole and help to re-enforce all the subtle themes and undertones that are present in all aspects of the cover in just one solitary object.

Development of Typography

The main aspect that I wanted to focus on with this cover was the typography. I think a really simple Illustration with muted colour spectrum and limited details combined with a well designed, slick and iconic piece of typography will work really well to create a very uniform, flowing cover that still packs a punch. I have developed the typography over time and it has gone through two major evolutions. The first was an experiment with the 3D tools in Adobe Illustrator:

One of the main things I wanted to have was the word "BIG" being the biggest thing on the page. This would really help give meaning to it and really help it to stand out. After a bit of experimentation I ended up with this. This was before the pitch however, so I was also still finalising colour schemes and font faces. The idea was for the word to look large, ornate and of the upper classes. I thought it really gave power to the word and emphasised subtle meanings and themes within the title and the book. It however, didn't really work. with a simplistic colour spectrum with little to no detail in any of the images a serif font of such size and depth would look really out of place. The colours were also obviously grossly unfit for purpose as a crime thriller is all about subtlety and mystery and smokey, cold tones; orange completely destroys those themes. The main success with this was with the Jessica Hische inspired smoke typography I created:

I created it by creating a load of lines each with only a white stroke then drawing a smokey shape with the pen tool and using the "envelope distort" function in Illustrator to combine the two. I then was left with the original smokey shape looking like some actual smoke which I then made into an art brush. Once I had done this I could then use the pencil and indeed brush tool to draw out letters and shapes onto my designs and would be left with a very realistic and aesthetically breathtaking effect. I hand wrote the word "Sleep" quickly with the pencil tool and experimented with the line size and opacity to see which worked best but it was basically good to go from the second the brush was applied. The idea I had to have the work "Sleep" written in gun or cigarette smoke suddenly became a reality as I knew I could pull it off in a realistic and aesthetically accomplished manor.

I then carried both the lessons I learnt with the word "BIG" and the technique I learnt from the word "Sleep" and combined the two to create my final piece of typography:

This is much more effective and striking! The colours are a lot more subdued than in the first example and and the Jessica Hische inspired calligraphy is more refined and aesthetically pleasing. This is everything I wanted it to be and more and is definitely striking, prominent and iconic.

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