Visit to the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – May 2018

I am currently holidaying in Amsterdam and today’s activity was a trip to the Van Gogh museum. As you would expect it was quite breath-taking to see all those famous artworks up close. However, there was an exhibition running while we were there, called ‘Van Gogh and Japan’ which celebrated Van Gogh’s love of Japanese art, showcased his extensive collection of Japansese prints and demonstrated just how much Van Gogh’s work was influenced by this form of Japanese art. This was a real bonus for me because I really like Japanese prints and had no idea that Van Gogh’s work was so influenced by them.

The exhibition highlighted the key features of Japanese prints as being:

– Large areas of flat, bright colour

– Bold contour lines,

– Prominent diagonals,

– Subjects cut off the edges of the picture

– Emphasis between the foreground and background

– A high or absent horizon

– Zooming in on details in nature

– Paintings that stood out as being influenced by the Japanese style include:

Small Pear Tree in Blossom – 1888

Almond Blossom 1890

Irises, 1890

Other points of interest from the exhibition were:

Kono Bairei’s album of ‘Drawings of a Hundred Birds’ – a book of printed images of Japanese birds, as well as prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and Hokusai. Interestingly, there was a print of Hokusai’s great wave included in the exhibition. How funny it was that I was able to stand next to it, on my own without a crowd of people jostling me – unlike when I went to see the Hokusai exhibition in London!

There is further information about the exhibition on the Van Gogh Museum’s website, here:



A Visit to the Stedelijk Design Museum Amsterdam – May 2018

On holiday for a few days in Amsterdam, I paid a visit to the Stedelijk Museum. It’s not my first visit here and I always love it. This time was no different and I spent the entire afternoon poring over the exhibits.

A massive highlight for me this year was a new permenant installation at the museum – ‘The Collection Stedelijk Base’. This was a chronological history of art and design from 1880 to the present day.

The exhibition mixes iconic artworks from various art movements with elements of furniture, jewellery etc., showing, not only how styles of art evolved and were influenced by changing politics and culture, but also how art influenced design.

This exhibition resonated so much with me because of all the reading I had been doing around this subject in Part 4 of this course here:

..and in particular my reading of the book ‘Graphic Design A History’ by Stephen J. Eskilson.

Here was an exhibition with approximately 700 pieces of art of design, bringing to life everything I had been reading about. I was also impressed that the museum seemed to have made a real effort to include plenty of works by female artists and designers. It does irk me that iconic artworks from the past only ever seem to have created by men so well done to the Stedelijk for reminding us that women made art too – even in the 1900s!

Had my husband allowed it, I would have gone back to the museum for another day and done it all again. He likes art but not quite that much!

Highlights for me where:

Anna Boch

When I first saw this, I thought it was a Monet. I was very pleasantly surprised when I read the caption to see that it was a woman who had painted it, albeit one I had never heard of!

Jan Toorop – Delft Salad Oil Poster 1894

A beautiful example of the art nouveau style being used in an advertising poster.

Piet Zwart

Examples of how new ideas in design were being employed in typography in the 1920s and 1930s. These works were described as illustrating ‘a dynamic negotiation of geometric forms and starkly angled typography coupled with an unprecedented degree of white space’.

The Cobra Art Movement

Not mentioned in ‘Graphic Design A History’ by Stephen J. Eskilson, the Cobra movement of around 1949 was a style of art ‘rooted in antagonism towards intellectualism and the established order of process-orientated modern life’. The works are described as ‘reclaiming a childlike, expressive and essentially emotional gaze towards reality’ and ‘paintings full of bright colours, naïve figures and abstracted compositions, puncturing the purity of painting with fierce and passionate expression’.

The cobra artists initially were not very popular but went on to revolutionize Dutch modern art.

Willem Sandberg’s posters.

New Objective Portraits


Around 1923, between the two world wars, the ‘New Objectivity’ style was developed in Germany. Often featuring portraits, it was described as ‘an unsentimental, somewhat detached depiction of reality, characterized in painting stark graphic lines, an exacting near-mechanical technique and vivid colours.

In the Netherlands, artists of this style included Charley Troop, John Fernhout and Eva Besnyo.

I really, really like the somewhat illustrative style of these images!

A Whole Wall of Malevich Paintings!


Martha Rosler – Bowl of Fruit 1966 – 1972, Print 2010.

Another artist that I have learnt about through this course and consequently was very excited to see some of her original artwork.

The museum caption here states ‘Martha Rosler combines images of immaculate American homes with photographs of the Vietnam War to devastating, and polically critical effect in her photomontage series’ House Beautiful: Bring the War Home.’ Roseler also addresses power relationships between men and women by ‘splicing together pictures of naked women from Playboy magazine with photographs of ideal domesticity.

Grayson Perry – Gulf War Dinner Service 1991

I am a big fan of Greyson Perry, so was very happy to find some of his work in the museum.

Brilliant exhibition!

Part 5 – Exercise 6: Chance Housing Association

The Chance Housing Association has been set up to try and help first time buyers get onto the housing ladder and they want you to develop a brand image for their stationery. It is important to them that the Association is seen as being different from the other local housing associations – more modern, more helpful and definitely welcoming to young people wanting to buy a house. They want to use their logo on their letterheads and office stationery and it will also be used somewhere on the sheets that hold the property details. It also needs to be reproducible in the local newspaper and professional trade magazines.

Using just typography sketch up some designs. You want to come up with at least three initial ideas to show the client. In this instance you can decide which one you think works best to further develop.

Mock up a letterhead and business card using the logo and house brand. Look in
your local newspaper and mock up an advertisement to fit in the paper. Measure the space carefully remembering to leave sufficient margins so your text isn’t cramped.

Photocopy in black and white onto cheap paper – does your logo still work? Have any fine lines got lost? Are the differences between colours still discernible?


Housing Association Logos


Estate Agent Logos

Most of the logos that I looked at for Housing Associations and Estate Agents used the name of the organisation as the logo. The housing associations occasionally also used a small icon but estate agents rarely did. Green and blue were predominant colours for the housing association, presumably for their calming and honest connotations. Estate Agents often used quite strong and eye-catching colours.

I decided I would follow the same style of using the ‘Chance’ name as the logo and use the colour green in the logo.

I then considered the requirements for the logo and made sure I was clear exactly what a housing association did. The brief states that the Chance organisation aims to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder, so I felt that it was aimed less at supporting the vulnerable in society and had more of a commercial feel.

Mind Map

I started by thinking generally about what the Chance organisation stood for and words, ideas and concepts that reflected their business and ethos.

I then began sketching ideas for the logo, exploring how to convey a sense of a ‘helping hand’, a ‘new start’ or a ‘home’ into the typography.

Having spent a considerable amount of time on formulating ideas, reviewing them with my husband and even drawing up my three selected candidates – I then went back and read the brief and realised that my logo was meant to only use typography!!

I went back to my sketchbook and tried our some more design ideas.

After another review, I drew up the following three logo designs using Adobe Illustrator:

This logo uses a modern, simple sans serif font. The ‘C’ overlapping the ‘H’ is intended to suggest security and safety. The ‘A’ represents a house and the hand-drawn quality is intended to look relaxed, friendly and welcoming. Similarly the handwriting style of the words ‘Housing Association’ are intended to give a less formal and welcoming feel.

The outline of steps in this logo is intended to suggest ‘moving up’ and making progress.

Again the ‘C’ in this logo is wrapping around the other letters to suggest security. The overall effect also hints at a house key. This is a simple, modern and minimalist style.

I decided to use the final logo as the one to develop further.

I created a letter head, business card and local paper advert using the selected logo:

Letter Head:

Business Card Front:

Business Card Back:

Newspaper Advert:

I also photocopied the newspaper advert in black and white:

I though the logo looked reasonable in black and white (despite my poor quality printer) but I did think the small ‘Housing Association’ writing was getting a bit lost in black and white.

I tried some different font weights for the words ‘Housing Association’ and photocopied them in black and white:

I decided that the green writing in a bold font looked better in black and white, so I reworked the logo:

I also reworked the letterhead, business card and advert to inlcude the revised logo:


Business Card Front:

Newspaper Advert:

Thoughts On This Exercise

The most important lesson learnt during this exercise is to read the brief properly before starting! I spent a lot of time designing and digitally creating three logos before realising that I was only meant to be using typography. It was very frustrating having to start again!! As it was, I found the process of generating ideas for the logo quite a challenge, given that I could only use type and I was trying to avoid the obvious option of depicting a house.

This exercise was also very useful for highlighting that it is worth testing the logo in its different formats as early as possible. I only checked the black and white photocopy version near the end of the design process, and again found myself reworking everything with a revised logo.  Also I was lucky that the contrast between the green and dark grey worked well in black and white as I had not specifically considered this when I started the design process.

Finally, I found that I only got a real idea of what a document looked like when I printed it. It is difficult to judge on a computer screen how documents will appear when printed in their actual size. I printed and reworked the letterhead three times before I was happy with the relative sizes of the logo, type and footer.

Part 5 – Exercise 5: Poster and Flyer

You have been asked to design an A3 poster and an accompanying double sided A6 flyer to promote a singing course run by an organisation called SingOut (all one word). They have very little money so want to print these posters on their black and white
photocopier. You can use a colour paper if you want.

The information they want to give is:
• Do you love to sing?
• Join us for an exciting opportunity during the day with a professional vocal coach.
Learn to sing different types of music, vocal techniques, meet new people and have
• 10.30 to 12.00 every Tuesday from 11 March
• The Community Centre, Charlotte Church Road
• £60 for the course
• No experience needed/no requirement to read music
• For more information call 011779 8765432


The brief does not state any specific objectives but I assume the objective of the poster and flier is to get people to sign up to the singing course.

Missing Information

The information that I feel is missing from the brief is:

  • Who is the target audience for the singing course? Is it aimed more at women or is it aimed at women and men equally. What is their age group? (The time of day of the course and the benefit of ‘meeting new people’ suggests that it is not intended for children.)


  • What kind of people is the course targeted at? e.g. are they affluent or price conscious?


  • How long is the course?


  • Where are the posters and fliers intended to be displayed? e.g. are the posters intended for notice boards where people will stop and read them, or are they intended for a location where people are walking past.


  • What is the main objective of the poster / flyer?


  • How serious / formal is the course? Is the emphasis more on really learning to sing or on having fun?


  • What style of music will be taught? e.g. folk / trad, pop etc.


  • What would the ‘next steps’ be to sign up for the course (i.e. what is the ‘Call to Action’)? A phone number and web address are given but how do you sign up for the course?



To fill in the gaps for the information missing from the brief, I assumed that the singing course was aimed at middle class, reasonably affluent women. Men would also be welcome but the marketing of the course would not be specifically aimed at them.

As the course runs on a weekday morning, I assumed that the course would most likely be aimed at stay-at-home Mums, housewives or retired women.

Having fun is important but because a professional vocal coach was running the course, I also assumed that the course was reasonably serious and that there would be considerable emphasis on learning how to sing.

The style of music would be modern, pop covers and rock choir.

Key Words

The key words that I wanted to convey in my poster/flyer were:

  • love
  • love to sing
  • enthusiasm
  • energy
  • learn
  • fun
  • joy
  • togetherness
  • confidence-building
  • inspirational
  • achievement


I started with a mind map of thoughts on what words and symbols typically suggest singing.

I then looked for images and typical visual symbols and motifs associated with singing. My aim was to identify these symbols so that I could try to avoid simply replicating them in my design.

I researched on-line looking for images and ideas that conveyed my sentiments of singing, having fun and togetherness.

I also researched the websites of vocal coaches and choirs. A lot of vocal coach websites feature images of the coach themselves singing, common images include people with headphones, mouths open singing, microphones and musical notes:

The VoxSkool ( website banner (below) uses quite dramatic colours, has a smiling female mouth to suggest singing and images of musical notes, sound waves and stars, dots and light rays all suggesting stage lighting. It also has quite a ‘groovy’ 70’s vibe. I really like this styling – I think it really communicates the sense of what this singing group is about.

Design Ideas

I decided that I wanted my poster and flier to have a strong visual element in the form of a black and white illustration. This would be the first thing that people would see, so I wanted it to catch the attention of my target audience (women), be obviously about singing, suggest ‘fun’ and be welcoming and not too serious. My aim was that a women would see the illustration on the poster/flyer and connect with it.

I reviewed each of my design ideas together with my husband.

My first idea was a simple drawing of the iconic ‘Sound of Music’ image of Maria on the mountain top. To me this image epitomises the joy of singing.

Although this image conveyed the right sentiment, we felt that it could be mistaken for a ‘Sound of Music sing-along’. I also wasn’t sure if there would be copyright issues with an illustration of such an iconic image.

My next idea was an illustration of a singing bird (or birds for a better sense of ‘togetherness’). The illustration would be quite contemporary and feminine to appeal to women.

We thought the illustration would be quite effective in attracting attention but that it possibly suggested too much of a folk / trad style singing.

My next idea was a series of singing female mouths, possibly on a musical stave.

We quite liked this idea but felt that maybe it wasn’t impactful enough to attract attention on a poster.

Next was a line drawing of a singer holding a microphone. In an effort to try to make this a less stereotypical ‘singing’ image, I made the women’s hair out of musical notes.

Although we both like the impact of this illustration, we both felt that it was quite a ‘serious’ singing image and may be a bit intimidating to people interested in the course but nervous about joining it. Singing solo into a microphone would be a lot of people’s worst nightmare!

I took the line drawing image and attempted to make it less intimidating by making it look  like someone having fun singing in the shower. I replace the microphone with a shampoo bottle.

We both felt that this image did the job of being clearly about singing, but also conveying a sense of fun and being welcoming.

I decided to use this final image for my poster/flyer.

I also decided to keep the illustration purely black and white as the contrast would be more eye catching.

Information Hierarchy

I analysed the information that needed to be on the poster and decided that the most important text was ‘Do you Love to Sing?’ This is the ‘hook’ that, together with my image, would grab people’s attention. This would be the largest sized text on my poster and flyer.

Next was ‘the offering’, i.e. ‘learn to sing with a professional vocal coach’. This is effectively what is on offer and the main purpose of the poster / flyer. This would be mid-sized text.

The detail of the course, i.e. ‘Join us to sing different types of music etc.’ was additional to the ‘offering’ was less important, so did not need to be the same size as ‘learn to sing with a professional vocal coach’. I made this the smaller sized text.

Also important is the ‘response to objections’.  Someone viewing the poster may think ‘yes, I love to sing’ and then, ‘learning to sing with a professional coach sounds good’ but then may immediately think that the course may be a bit intimidating or might not be for them. The ‘No experience necessary’ text is important to immediately reassure that everyone is welcome, I made this text mid-sized.

The ‘when, where and how much’ information, for me, is the least important. If the viewer is interested in the course they will make the effort to read the logistical details of the course. All this text was small sized.

Choice of Typeface

I wanted a bold, heavyweight and eye-catching font for the poster / flier. I also wanted a sans serif font for its contemporary and uncluttered feel. I looked on Google Fonts and selected three possible typefaces:

I selected ‘Montserrat Alternates’ as I liked the slight roundness and curves in some of the letter forms. I felt this gave a more friendly, welcoming and slightly feminine feel to the font.

Final Poster


Final Flyer



Thoughts on This Exercise

I am not very confident working with colour, so I was very happy to produce designs in black and white for this exercise. I decided to use only pure black and white for maximum contrast and therefore visual impact (rather than shades of grey).

I was pleased with the final results. I think the illustration works well to visually communicate ‘singing’ and fun’. The image, and particularly the polka dot pattern of the shower cap, together with the large ‘Do you love to sing?’ text really catch the attention. A different image may have also been able to incorporate the idea of ‘togetherness’ which is something that I think this illustration lacks.

The black panel at the bottom half of the poster was the result of experimentation with the layout in Adobe Illustrator and was added when I thought the poster was looking too white. I like the visual impact this block of black adds and I think it neatly balances the black shampoo bottle and polka dot shower cap.

I followed this idea through to the flyer where I made the background on the back of the flyer black, again I think it makes the flyer more visually interesting.

With this exercise, I learnt a very painful lesson of how easy it is to completely miss a typo or incorrect text when you are completely absorbed in finessing the layout of a document using design software. I had temporarily hidden some text when creating the poster in Adobe Illustrator, and completely forgot to unhide it so that I designed the entire poster layout with some text missing. There was much cursing when I discovered my mistake and had to go back and redesign the layout.

Tutor Feedback

My tutor made the following comments on this exercise:

Love your idea for this ; conceptually top-notch as it creates a game of someone singing out of context being brought into a useful space for their passions. I like the spots on the shower cap and the illustration and type choices – I think your layout could be pushed more in terms of making this a more dynamic composition and using black and white tones could add more interest. It could suit a pop art treatment? Some halftone or further texture?”

Rework Following Tutor Feedback

I experimented with two further layouts, following feedback from my tutor, to try to make the layout a bit more dynamic. The additional versions of the poster are below:

I don’t feel that the halftone effect in this poster is really adding anything to the deign other than making it look a bit cluttered.

This layout works better and is, I think, an improvement on the original poster. The angled split between the black and white sections of the poster is more dynamic.  I changed the angle of the shampoo bottle to line up with the angle of the black section for a balanced effect and offset the text to the left and right, which is think is more visually interesting that the centred text of the original poster. I think this has the effect of ‘pulling’ the eye down the page.