Part 5 – Exercise 3: Giving Information

Find some examples of information graphics. For example bus timetables, city maps, diagrams or representations of statistical data. Look at the way they are designed and try and work out the decisions the designer made. What can you learn from them and when would it be appropriate to use a similar design solution?

I started the exercise by researching on line, looking for different types of infographic.

My research suggested that there were about six quite common style of infographic depending on the type of information being shared:

A Process or Sequence of Steps

Information describing a process or a defined sequence of steps is often shown against a timeline or has some sort of visual ‘path’ that leads the viewer through the information in the right order.

The sequence can also be defined using numbered points.

General Information Sheet

Where multiple pieces of information are being shared but there is so specific order to the points, the points can be arranged on a single sheet.

The points are still most likely to be read from top to bottom and left to right but it is not so important for them to be read in a specific order.

A Map or Diagram

Information where location or placement of items is important is often shown as a map or diagram showing how something is structured or laid out.

 

A List

Where there is a number of related or similar pieces of information, these are often displayed as a list.

Comparisons

Where information is being compared (such as pros and cons or showing how things differ from each other, for example), the information is often displayed as a list but with related information shown side-by-side for comparison.

Visual Representation of Numerical Information (e.g. a Chart)

Where numerical information is displayed, such as how a data set is segmented,  is often displayed as a chart or graph.

 

Other decisions that the designer would consider are:

  • How much information needs to be displayed? Is it just one point, for example how the unemployment rate has changed in the UK last 6 months, or multiple points such as ‘Things to do in Tokyo’.

 

  • How is the data related? Are they points with no specific order, a list, a timeline etc.

 

  • Does the information need to be read in a specific order?

 

  • Is some information more important, and therefore needs to stand out more, than other data?

 

  • What is the purpose of the infographic and who is it for? What is its objective? Where will it be read, e.g. in a magazine or a poster in a train station?

 

  • What should the tone of the infographic be, e.g. fun and frivolous, professional and business-like?

 

  • How much of the infographic could / should be communicated using text compared to images.

 

  • What might dictate the colours used? e.g. branding.

 

For this exercise you are going to describe your immediate surroundings using
information graphics.

I chose to create an infographic of my kitchen worktop. This was inspired by a  frustrating evening trying to prepare dinner in the 2 foot square of clear space on my very cluttered kitchen worktop. To help clarify my design decisions, I defined my own brief for this exercise, as follows:

Create an infographic which shows the objects that might be permanently located on, and take up space on, a typical kitchen worktop. The infographic will help to support training of interior and kitchen designers in helping them to understand how the space of a kitchen worktop is used in reality and just how much space is given over to items that reside permanently on the worktop.

The infographic style should be fun and playful with the emphasis on the visual impact of just how many objects live on a typical kitchen worktop.

Step 1 – Gather the Information

I started by drawing a quick sketch of my kitchen worktop and catalogued all the items that live on it:

Step 2 – Decide on the Style and Colours

Because the infographic is intended to be a training tool for designers and creatives, I wanted to use quite a graphic and contemporary style. As the graphic needs to be quite playful, I decided on a graphic-style illustration. I really like the ‘flat’ design style of these illustrated maps and decided to try a similar style for my worktop graphic.

I also like the colour palette of the Shanghai map and decided to try this for my worktop infographic.

Step 3 – Design the Visual Elements

I decided that I would use simple ‘flat’ icons to represent the items on my worktop, so I started by sketching them and then drawing out simpler, more abstracted versions. My intention was for my icons to be a two-dimensional, front on, simplified view of the object. Interestingly one thing I struggled with here was the idea of ‘how flat is flat?’ Some objects, such as the toaster, needed information from other ‘planes’ such as the top or side-on view in order to make it obvious what it was. I opted for any object that could be recognised from a front-on 2D view would be drawn in two dimensions but others would be drawn in 3D where this was essential to help identify what the object was.

 

 

Step 4 – Work Out Scale

I measured the objects so that I could draw them in proportion to each other. I also measured my kitchen worktop so that I could draw it to scale.

Step 5 – Create the Graphic

I started by creating all of the icons for the objects using Adobe Illustrator.

Next I created the graphic background, drew a top-down view of my kitchen worktop and added the fixed objects including the hob, draining boards and sink. I chose dark colours for these as I did not want them to particularly stand out as they were not the most important elements of the graphic.

I then copied the object icons into this document and positioned them on the worktop roughly where they were ‘in real life’. Because the icons are all drawn ‘face-on’ I was only able to indicate roughly where they were located rather than exactly how they were positioned on the worktop. Also, because of this, I didn’t feel that the ‘to-scale’ version of the worktop was working, so I changed the size of it to give it a more ‘illustrative’ feel which I felt worked better with the look of the graphic.

Next I added in the objects labels. The objects and labels were the most important elements of this graphic, so I made them light, bright colours to attract attention.

I added the graphic title and the pie chart, summarising how the worktop space is used. Finally, I added the human and cat footprints for a little bit of fun.

Final Infographic:

Thoughts on this Exercise

I enjoyed this exercise and particularly enjoyed the challenge of creating the icon representations of all the objects on my kitchen worktop.  Using basic shapes to build up the objects was good fun once I got the hang of it – a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I enjoyed the challenge  although some objects were much harder than others to create – I particularly found the 3D objects hard to construct.

I am not very confident with using colours and even though I copied the colour scheme from another image I had found on-line, I was pleased with how the colours worked together in my infographic. The worktop and fixed appliances were deliberately coloured dark so that they did not stand out and the objects and labels were brightly coloured as these were the most important elements of the graphic.

One lesson learnt from this exercise is that it would be better to plan out more of the entire graphic on paper before starting to create it digitally. I have a tendency to focus on the ‘difficult bits’ which in this case was how to draw the icons, and I forget that how the elements all fit together is equally important. It would be better to consider the whole graphic at the design stage and how parts of it work together for the overall effect.

Another lesson learnt is that creating something like this in Illustrator takes A LOT of time and patience!

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Artists – Olivia Pilling

I saw these beautiful collages in the New Ashgate Gallery today. Olivia Pilling hand paints sheets of paper in a random way and then cuts shapes from these painted sheets to create collages of brightly coloured objects such as fish, fruit. birds etc.

The collages are incredibly effective, fun and full of life and colour. I particularly liked how the placement of the coloured paper built up tone and depth in the image.

Having dabbled myself in creating collages using magazine pages, I can definitely see the sense in creating your own painted sheets for the collage! Olivia’s work is beautiful!

Artists – Emily Jane Bruce

A trip to the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham always leaves me feeling inspired and in awe of the beautiful, thought-provoking works that my fellow humans beings can create.

Today we saw the ‘Rising Stars 2018’ exhibition, an exhibition of  emerging makers from crafts and applied arts programmes across the UK.

One artist that stood out for me was Emily Jane Bruce and her captivating ceramic creatures. These strange little characters were both innocent and endearing to look at but also rather dark and disturbing. There was a sense of the Gothic fairy tale about them. I was fascinated and intrigued by them and felt a strange conflict of mild disgust but also pity for these strange, innocent creatures.

They certainly left an impression!

Part 5 – Exercise 2: Judging a Book by its Cover

Choose a book by an author you are familiar with. You are going to design two different
covers for it, one using illustrations or photography and the other using just type.

About the Book

I chose the book ‘Half a Creature from the Sea’ by David Almond for this exercise. This book is published by Walker Books who publish books for young adults but this book is as much for adults as it is for younger people. The book is a series of short stories based around the author’s own childhood memories of living in a small town on Tyneside. They are stories of children leading ordinary lives around the town but the stories mix the everyday with elements magic and mystery. They are half real and half imaginary and really give a sense of how children can imagine the fantastical in the everyday.

The title of the book is also the title of one of the stories and is about a young girl called Annie who has a mystery illness which sounds like epilepsy although it is never given a name. Because of her illness, she is quite isolated and cannot go to school. Instead she spends her days with her Mum in a house by the sea. They both have a strong connection with the sea and with where they live. Annie describes her ‘episodes’ as like ‘going swimming in the sea’. She describes how she would turn into “a fish, a seal or a dolphin” and would travel “far away beneath the sea to places of coral and shells and beautifully coloured fish”. She describes her ‘hair that drifts like seaweed when I swim’ and at night she would ‘gleam and glow like the sea beneath the stars and moon’. Annie is always very positive about her condition and regards her episodes as something she quite enjoys and nothing for her mother to be afraid of. Annie’s mother explains that Annie is different and special because she is ‘Half a Creature from the Sea’. It is a very poignant but uplifting story.

This story and all the others in the book are warm and uplifting with a sense of magic and wonder.

The cover of the book should appeal to both young adults and adults and should be gender neutral. Although the book is named after a story that features a girl, most of the other stories feature boys so the cover should appeal to both boys and girls.

Illustrated Book Cover

I felt an illustration would be more appropriate for the first cover, rather than a photograph. This also fits well with Walker Books’ house style which uses mostly modern illustrations.

First, I did some analysis about the tone and style of the book

Then I sketched some ideas for an illustrated cover:

I wanted my book cover illustration to convey a sense of joy and wonder but to also be a bit mysterious and surreal to reflect the stories in the book.

I reviewed the sketches with my husband, who is also familiar with the book and we decided on a sketch of a girl’s head with’seaweed hair’ under the sea.

I did some research into various types of seaweed, underwater illustrations and similar books covers:

Then sketched an outline of a drawing for the cover:

I scanned this into Photoshop, coloured it, added a blue/green background and water texture.  originally I had intended to use shells and fish for facial features to make the illustration less ‘feminine’ and a bit more surreal but I wasn’t happy with how these looked, so I eventually drew facial features instead.

Because this book of stories about children, I chose a handwritten typeface for the book title and a contemporary-style sans serif font for the author name, synopsis and reviews on the back.

The finished book cover is here:

 

Text Only Book Cover

I sketched out some ideas for the text only cover for the book:

I decided to try two of the ideas, first I used a blue/green gradient for the background and used a wave texture to distort the letters of the book title:

I didn’t think this cover had enough of a ‘child-like’ quality for a book of stories about children, so I tried out the second idea. For this cover, I used blocks of colour and gradients to suggest a sea and sky. I kept the same typefaces but I positioned the words of the title of the book on the front cover to look like they were sinking in the water.

I felt this cover worked better for the ‘text only’ book cover as it had a more ‘illustrated’, and therefore child-like, quality which I think worked better for the book content.

Critique

Of the two covers, I think the illustrated cover is more eye-catching and visually impactful, and more suggestive of the slightly surreal and magical nature of the book. However, I think it is not gender-neutral enough. Given the book is aimed at young adults, I can’t really see a teenage boy picking this book off the shelf given it has what looks like a mermaid on the front.  For that reason, I actually think that the text-only cover works better. The blocks of colour give the book a slightly illustrated, playful feel, and the cover is completely gender-neutral. However, the text-only version does lack that hint of magical-realism of the book.

Ideally I would try again with the illustration and try my idea of making the girl’s face out of shells, sea creatures etc so that the illustration would suggest more ‘mysterious sea-creature’ than ‘girl’.

For reference, this is what the actual cover of the book looks like:

I also later found the cover of the audio version of the book and thought it was very interesting that it was quite similar to one of my ideas for the illustrated designs (with swimming legs):

Thoughts on this Exercise

As always, I found it quite difficult not to just replicate the cover of the book that I was already familiar with, especially as I already thought that the existing cover worked really well. My tutor’s advice came in useful here, as she suggests to just get the obvious ideas down first to get them out of your system and then move on. I find if I do this and then just keep on sketching, I can eventually start thinking of alternative ideas.

I don’t really have any experience in illustration but I quite enjoyed the challenge of drawing and colouring the girl’s head although as usual, using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for this was immensely painful and frustrating! One day it will get easier.

Once I had decided to use the idea of the illustration of the girl’s head for the cover, I think I should have tried out different ways of drawing this before committing to the final illustration. In hindsight I think a front-on view of the head with facial features made from sea shells etc. (as I had originally intended) would have worked better.

Also, I learnt that when sketching ideas, it pays to plan out the whole book cover, not just the illustration as I think the image and text need to work together (and fit nicely on the cover) and this isn’t something that should be thought about right at the end!

I thought that putting together the text-only cover was going to be quick, and a bit boring to do, but I actually found I really enjoyed the challenge of working within much narrower boundaries. Given more time, I would have like to have spent more time thinking of ideas for the text-only cover to see what I could come up with.

Part 5 – Research Point: Publishing House Design Styles

It took me a little while to understand what an ‘imprint’ is.. Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, often using the different names as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.”

For example, the publishing house PanMacmillan encompasses the following imprints:

Imprints, particularly those that are smaller and more niche, typically have a particular style of book and cover design.

I collated a selection of book covers for various imprints on Pinterest:

For example Tor publishes science fiction and the book covers all have a very identifiable style, which to me looks a little old fashioned and  ‘cheesy’… you can almost hear how the opening sentence of a book like this reads.. “Z’lot sighed as he stood watching the double setting Zaloovian suns from his 358th floor skypartment..” or something like that. Interestingly, as I was researching these book covers I noticed in the news that a science fiction author whose book was published by Tor, had got into a spat with the Illustrator of his latest book after announcing on Social Media that he thought the cover of his book was ‘Laughably Bad’:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/26/terry-goodkind-book-cover-shroud-of-eternity

Two Hoots publish children’s books with quirky, modern children’s illustrations with a slightly rebellious feel – I love these! Compare these covers to Virago children’s books whose covers are quite traditional, romantic, innocent, more old-fashioned-looking and to me, rather twee. As a child I don’t think I would have been drawn to the covers of any of these books.

Bello publish young adult fiction and their covers are quite modern, striking simple and graphic.

I can’t quite put my finger on ‘Hodder’s’ cover style, except to say that it looks like what you might find in an airport. Easy holiday reading not requiring too much brain power.

Farenheit Press print crime novels and their covers are dark, broody, quite masculine, with images that are often quite indistinct, hinting at a scene or clue.