Assignment 3

Produce a poster (297mm x 420mm) that celebrates a colour of your choice. Work only with your chosen colour, its complementary colour and black and white. You can
include text, collages, illustrations and photographs. Use black and white to help establish a range of tints and shades with your chosen colour.

Defining a Theme for the Poster

For this assignment, I chose to celebrate the colour green. Green makes me think of  being away on holiday and I am always at my most content when outdoors enjoying nature.

I started by doing some analysis of what the colour green meant to me:

I also investigated what the colour green might mean to others and asked some friends to share what they thought of when they thought of green – with some interesting and quite varied results!

  •  Countryside, food (vegetables), fertility, plenty, lusciousness, verdant, earthy, success, calmness, restive, nature working as it should – health, vitality, balance.

 

  • Grass, vegetation, school uniforms – hassle and stress, responsibility.

 

  • Pestilence, farms, money, ecology, ‘eat-your-greens – nagging, brocolli, sea-sickness, nausea, spring, envy, the Green Party – preaching.

 

I decided that I would explore creating a poster that celebrated the colour green in the context of the countryside, possibly combining green rolling hills with wild hedgerow plants. I am very inspired by the work of Angie Lewin who makes beautiful prints of stylised wild plants and flowers, often in the context of the landscape where the plants can be found.

Thumbnail Sketches

I continued my research by looking at illustrations of landscapes and wild flowers on Pinterest and collected ideas here.

I then began trying out some ideas for the poster using thumbnail sketches. (I worked on this while on holiday where I had limited access to coloured pens!)

Reviewing the Ideas

I reviewed my ideas for the poster designs with my husband and decided on three to take forward.

  

Poster Version 1

In this poster, my aim was to combine rolling hills, disappearing into the distance, with hedgerow plants in the foreground. I decided to do this as an illustration using Adobe Illustrator.

I started by seeking out and photographing different hedgrow plants to get some ideas for plant shapes:

I studied the shapes of the plants and began to sketch simple shapes that I could replicate in Illustrator:

For some of my more complex shapes, I sketched the plant out first on paper…

    

..and then drew over them in Illustrator using the pen tool to create a black outline of the plants:

 

For other simpler plant shapes, I drew them directly in Illustrator:

I then created the poster in Illustrator and started by creating swatches for the different shades of green I wanted to use. I started with quite a bright ‘grass’ green and used Illustrator’s Colour Guide to create a range of tints and shades for this colour (5 steps for each). I used Adobe Colour to help me identify a complementary colour for the base colour of green.

I began creating the ‘rolling hills’ background for the poster using the pencil tool to create the hill shapes. I used a gradient fill to colour the hills and tried to give a sense of distance by using lighter colours for the more distant hills. I made the nearest hill a dark green and then placed the leaves and flowers I had drawn in the foreground, colouring them with a mid-green so that they clearly stood out against the dark hill behind.

I experimented a lot with the different tints and shades and tried some different methods of creating the background:

      

In my final poster, I felt that the sky needed some additional interest, so I added a sun which I based on the way the sun was represented in old Japanese prints.

Poster Version 2

In this poster, I decided to do something different from my original thumbnail sketch as I wanted to try something a bit more abstract.

I started by creating a textured background for the poster. I used a roller to paint black ink onto sheets of A4 paper which I scanned into digital files.

I then used Photoshop to layer some of these images onto a light green background, changing the opacity and blend modes to give a green-grey textured background.

Next, I picked some leaves and grasses from the side of a nearby road and pressed them under heavy books for several days to make them flat. I then painted them with black ink and made prints, which I scanned in as digital files.

I used the ‘trace’ function in Illustrator to create vector images from the scans. I recoloured the plants and grasses  using the same colour palette as for Poster 1 and then arranged a selection of the plants onto the poster background. I coloured the clover flowers the complimentary shade of dark pink.

Finally, I added a verse from the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Poster Version 3

In this version of the poster, I wanted to revisit the idea of rolling hills with hedgerow plants in the foreground, but this time incorporating text into the image. I also wanted to give the poster a more ‘hand-painted’ feel.

I started by sketching some ideas for the layout of the poster and then recreated the design in Illustrator.

I used the same colour palette that I used in the other two posters.

I used dry brushes to give the outlines of the hills a more hand-painted feel and also to add some variation  in the tones of the colours of the hills.

I reused the images of the hedgerow plants that I had created for poster 1.

Finally, I added text along paths that followed the contours of the hills. The text is the first verse of the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Final Selected Poster

I reviewed the final posters again with my husband and we decided on Poster 3 as the final selected poster for this assignment. We felt it was the most visually interesting and the ‘hand-painted’ shading effect gave a good sense of depth to the image. The variations in tints and shades has the effect of making this poster feel quite ‘colourful’ even though the colour palette is actually quite limited.

Thoughts on this Assignment

I enjoyed working on this assignment as it really gave me an opportunity to experiment with Adobe Illustrator. The posters themselves took a long time to complete as I was having to learn a lot of new skills along the way.

In terms of creating the posters, I actually found one of the hardest tasks was deciding on the background for the posters, especially for poster 2 which I required a lot of trial and error before I decided on a background. Finding a background that was visually interesting, gave enough contrast to distinguish it from the other elements in the poster, but wasn’t too distracting, was quite difficult!

I also found it very difficult on all the posters to know where to place the dark pink complementary colour. The pink immediately demands attention. I tried a number of approaches, making the sky pink on Poster 1, making the text pink, trying to make green and pink gradients, none of which worked. In the end I opted to use just a very small amount of pink in all the posters by making the clover flower heads pink, as this was their natural colour. In the first poster, I positioned them in a diagonal across the poster, opposite to the sun and while flowers of the cow parsley, hopefully to draw the eye across and down the poster.

In Poster 2, I wanted the plant silhouettes to be more dominant than the poem, so I positioned them in the top left diagonal of the poster and the text at the bottom right. The clover flowers draw the eye across from the plant silhouettes down to the verse.

In Poster 3, the verse is the most important element. The pink clover flowers are just small points of visual interest which the viewer will see after they have read the text.

 

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Assignment 2 – Reflection on Tutor Feedback

Some general thoughts on the feedback from my tutor for assignment 2 and the exercises for part 2 of the course.

General thoughts so far:

I am really enjoying the course so far. Some parts feel familiar – like analysing a brief and really considering what would work for my target audience rather than what works for me – in my past work as an IT system designer, this was something I was used to doing. Some parts, however, are very alien – like drawing!!

I also find coming up with ideas quite a slow and painful process. I was worried that this was a sign that I wasn’t a very creative person but I am feeling a bit more reassured that this is normal – and even prolific creatives have to work quite hard to develop their ideas. I had it in my mind that a true creative person would be given a brief and ideas would just immediately pop into their head and I was frustrated that this never happened with me. I am learning that you need time and space to develop an idea. Discovering mind maps has been a great asset for me – I can start with nothing but a single word on a page and slowly, if I’m patient, thoughts and ideas will start to emerge 🙂

My tutor has suggested three general areas for development:

1) Exploring your thumbnails and a happy level / medium for producing these

I am getting more relaxed about drawing thumbnails and noticed I have started to add tone with pencil. I will try to develop this further with marker pens, and will experiment with some colour 🙂

2) Documenting influences and theories with greater independent focus

The influence of work by other graphic designers, current trends or historical influences, is not something I think much about at the moment so I need to explore this more.

3) Explore sentiments of fun in your work

My tutor has noticed that my work so far has often involved an element of fun. I like drawing cartoon characters and child-like illustrations and am often drawn to work that is humorous, witty, entertaining and fun. I had not really noticed this myself but I will explore this a more as it could be a direction for my ‘design style’.

Working to a brief

My tutor found it interesting that I would choose different briefs depending whether I was working commercially or personally. Working for a client, you have a responsibility to produce work that meets their expectations, on time and within budget,  and to do that you need a clear understanding of what they want. I felt commercially, brief 1 would give the best chance of a successful outcome. Personally, however, I probably would have found brief 1 a bit dull, because I know what needs to be done and that I could do it, so I think this suggested that creatively, I like to be challenged, but not when someone else is paying for it or breathing down my neck to get it done!

This led to an interesting discussion about how commercially, creative work is often about just following trends and doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, which is often exactly what your client wants. This was something that was a real issue for me working as a wedding photographer for 5 years. There was an expectation that I would produce exactly the same photos for every wedding (..the shoes, the dress hanging up, the cake etc.) and there was certainly no time or desire from the clients to do anything different. This sausage factory approach to photography became very repetitive and I eventually gave it up because I was so bored with it!

My tutor has suggested some reading material by other designers who have tackled the issue of keeping the creative spark alive while still doing the more mundane day-to-day work to earn money to live. I definitely liked the idea of taking periodic ‘creative sabbaticals’ from work!!!

Interestingly, my tutor also suggested that the different briefs could give an indication of where my design interests might lie, with brief 2 indicating a more authorial / personal driven approach. This wasn’t something I considered in choosing this brief  and was a bit of a surprise as I would not have said I much like talking about myself and my experiences.

Visualising your ideas

The leaflet design was an interesting exercise in how you might share design ideas with a client. I raised a concern that ‘scruffy sketches’ would not be professional enough to show to a paying client, but my tutor made a very good point that if the ‘rough drawings’ look too precise and tidy, it is harder to quickly throw them away. At the early stage of a design process, it is much easier to reject a sketch that has had little time invested in creating it. Very good advice!

Finishing your Artwork

I had so much fun creating the POS displays for this exercise and learning how to make an animation, I am glad that the ‘risk’ I took in creating digital displays paid off. My tutor raised the question of how, after successfully getting the kids into the store, I would actually get them to eat (and therefore, their parents to buy) any fruit and veg. I had given some thought to this around my ideas of the ‘5-a-day gang’ and the ‘fruit and veg explorers’ in maybe having the store do something in conjunction with the school about healthy eating, or handing out stickers to children when their parents buy fruit and veg but it wasn’t something I explored very far.

Assessment

My tutor has suggested that I consider  switching my degree path to Visual Communications and studying graphic design and illustration. This is certainly food for thought!! I was already thinking of moving away from a purely photography pathway and had investigated the illustration course but had rejected it on the basis that I wasn’t an artist! My tutor thinks I may have more ability for illustration that I think, so I am certainly going to investigate this again. The idea is very appealing!

Feedback on Assignment 2

Overall the feedback on this assignment was very positive and I was very pleased as I had worked quite hard on this assignment. My tutor raised the following points to consider further:

The cards show appropriate use of folk references, how could this ‘folk visual language’ be raised further?

I felt that style of my finished cards had drifted away a little from the ‘folk art’ styling of my mood board. If I am honest, it wasn’t quite straight in my head exactly what I meant by ‘folk art’ which is why I don’t think I adhered to it very closely, so better research and a clearer idea of the look I was trying to achieve would have helped. As my tutor pointed out, using a particular colour palette or patterns might have helped to reinforce the folk art feel. I hadn’t really considered the colour palette at all (except for wanting my collages to reflect the colours of what I was depicting, such as brown for a donkey). I had actually tried to make my cut out flowers look like the folk art flowers on the mood board but it was too difficult to cut out the flowers like that by hand. I did also consider adding some cut out flowers to the envelopes and the inside of the cards, which may have given a more folk art feel to the whole product, not just the front of the card.

A sensitive font is used – but why does this work?

This is a really hard question for me to answer and I’m thinking that ‘because it felt right’ isn’t going to be a satisfactory answer!!

I had to think quite hard about why I though this font worked.. I think it is because the serifs give a sense of the font looking a little old fashioned and therefore ‘traditional’. The rounded letters are gentle and friendly and the circles at the ends of the ‘r’ and ‘y’ are quite decorative, fitting in quite well with the ‘folk art’ theme.

An additional part of your research might be into the aesthetics of cards and ascertaining an understanding of where your images might be located here.

I wasn’t quite clear what this meant so I will need to clarify.

Does your approach lean towards storybooks? Children? Playful responses?

Interestingly, yes! Without thinking about it, I knew I wanted the cards to be playful and have ‘jokes’ on them. I do think I lean towards this approach and need to explore this more.

 

Assignment 2 – Self Assessment

Creativity

I tried quite hard, for this assignment, to create a series of cards that really had not been done before. I thought of a reasonable number of ideas for the card ‘audience’ before deciding on the cards for morris dancers.

It is possible, if you look very hard, to find a small number of cards which have morris dancers on them but not cards that feature more specific morris dancer ‘jokes’ or are for morris specific events. I was pleased that I eventually created 5 cards with very morris specific sentiments.

Research

I spent quite a lot of time researching for this assignment, first exploring some of my other target groups (e.g. people with a terminal illness) and then researching the world of morris dancing. I really wanted my cards to resonate with morris dancers so I wanted to understand their costumes and props, the terms they used, the names of dances, morris events they would attend, what were typical ‘morris’ problems etc.  I was pleased that my research allowed me to create 5 cards that were very ‘morris’ specific.

Visual and Technical Skills

My final card designs were quite restricted by what I thought I would be able to achieve technically. I am still finding my way around Adobe Illustrator and I did struggle with printing the cards on my home printer. Although my collage images were quite simple, I thought they were quite effective, especially as I felt that a simple image, hand-crafted from recycled papers, would appeal to my morris dancer audience.

Context

As my cards were intended for morris dancers, I made a point of avoiding the obvious jokes which would ‘poke fun’ at morris dancing. Instead, I wanted to celebrate morris dancing and understand what morris dancers would connect with. I also wanted to counteract the notion that morris dancing was very old fashioned by using quite a contemporary style of card. My simple and eco-friendly design was also intended to appeal specifically to morris people.

Assignment 2 – Thoughts

I started out on this assignment thinking it was going to be quite a straight forward task – designing greetings cards did not sound like it was going to be too difficult! However, it turned out to be quite a labour of love!

Most of the effort involved in creating these cards actually went into researching who my cards should be for, researching my chosen audience (the morris dancers) and thinking of ideas for the cards themselves.

It was surprisingly difficult to understand enough about a target group to make a series of cards that would resonate with and be meaningful to that group. I was fortunate in that I had access to a small group of morris dancers who were able to explain the morris community to me, suggest ideas for cards and critique what I had done. This would have been a very difficult exercise without the input of this group.

Also, printing is a black art that requires infinite patience.

Assignment 2 – The Final Cards

 

The image is of a pig’s bladder on a stick, used by the morris fool. Morris dancers will be very familiar as to what this is.

 

Beer drinking is a favourite pastime of morris dancers. A ‘caper’ is a morris dance step.

 

It is well known that morris dancers wear bells – usually tied around their shins.

 

‘Shave the Donkey’ is a well-known morris dance, hence if a morris dancer is ill, the rest of the side can’t ‘shave the donkey’ without them.

An Ale is a party hosted by one morris side, to which other sides are invited to dance and socialise. This card combines the ideas of the flowers on a morris dancer’s hat with giving flowers to say ‘thank you’.

 

 

Assignment 2 – Making the Cards

My intention for the finished cards was to have text printed directly on the front of the card and for the image to be a hand-made paper collage.

I investigated using an on-line printing service to print the cards but it was not possible to find a company who would print a very small print run of greetings cards for my different designs. I decided, instead, to print the cards myself on my home printer.

I bought some 6 inch square white card blanks (with envelopes) which were ‘pre-creased’ for folding.

I created a document in Adobe Illustrator which was the same size as the open card (12 in x 6 in), placed my text on the document and saved it as a PDF (using the ‘High Quality Print’ PDF option).

I then had to print a few test cards to ensure that the text was centered on the front of the card. The centre of the front of the card on my Illustrator file did not correspond to the centre of the printed card and I could not work out why. I think my printer might be adding a margin when it prints? I ended up finding the ‘centre’ of the printed card through trial and error.

I then printed out my cards with just their text.

I added the images to each card by hand. The images were paper collages created by cutting shapes out of some old sales brochures that I had.

 

 

 

 

Assignment 2 – Critique

Review of Thumbnail Designs

I reviewed the thumbnail designs for the card sentiments with one of the morris dancers that I had access to. I wanted to see which of the designs he thought really worked as a card for morris dancers.

Get Well Soon

My reviewer particularly liked the ‘hipster style’ bearded donkey and the morris hat with flowers. He also liked the hobby horse but noted that I should use the term ‘dancer’ rather than ‘morris man’. He did not feel that the hobby horse with crutches worked. He also liked the ‘fit as a fiddle’ design but felt it was more specific to musicians than to morris dancers.

Welcome to the Side

My reviewer quite liked the Darth Vader design but felt the drawing was a bit weak. He felt the ‘light sabre’ morris stick idea did not work. He felt that the ‘Keep Calm’ design has been overdone and it did not appeal to him. He liked the ‘It’s a Morris Thing’ design as the felt the drawing (a pig’s bladder on a stick) really would be something that only morris dancers would understand.

Let’s Celebrate

My reviewer liked both of the designs for the ‘Let’s Celebrate’ card and thought that they both worked.

Love

My reviewer liked the design for ‘love’ sentiment and was able to ‘get’ the reference on the card.

Thank you for the Ale

My reviewer liked the thank you card and liked the concept of ‘giving flowers’ in the form of a morris dancer’s hat.

Critique of Card Styles.

I also showed the two mockups for each of my styles of card to my morris dancer. He liked both style of card but felt that the hand-crafted card using recycled paper was more interesting and impactful. I decided to create my cards in this style.

 

Assignment 2 – Mood Boards

I developed two mood boards for the morris dancing greetings cards. I wanted my final cards to all be of a similar style, so the mood boards each explored a different style for the cards:

Modern, ‘Minimalist’, ‘Hipster’.

My aim here was to suggest that morris dancing can be cool, by following the current ‘hipster’ style trend.

Folk Art Style

People who enjoy morris dancing are often into folk music and crafts. Morris dancing itself is typically very colourful and exuberant. My aim here was to give the cards a colourful  ‘folk art’ feel and to play on a ‘hand made’ craft theme using recycled papers.