SARAH EE K1655408
Contents Creative Futures: Jeans for Genes T-shirt Competition
The Capstone Project: Word As Image
What Has GDCP Done For Me?
creative futures Jeans for Genes T-shirt competition
The Brief “We are looking for a fashion illustration that will represent Jeans for Genes Day 2018. Your design should take its inspiration from the genes inside our bodies. It needs to be unique and striking and appeal to women aged 25-45. Please consider colour trends Spring/ Summer 2018 and incorporate our logo, either as a sign-off or as part of the actual illustration.” KEY WORDS Genes Unique Striking Logo Body Women SS18 Helix Heritage
It was exciting to be part of this competition because it was an opportunity to work on a real world problem. I understood the written brief, and although discussion with the client was very informative I came away from the verbal briefing feeling slightly overwhelmed. It became clear that although the client had made specifications in writing, in person they were much more flexible about what they would accept in terms of colour and target market, eg. they had said they wanted a t-shirt for a female target audience, but then said they would consider a design that was unisex, and that we could even submit a design for a male market, although they did not specify an age range. We could also include bespoke elements. The client seemed to be both very specific about what they wanted and at the same time very open to new ideas. So there were some contradictions which was challenging to process. The idea of ‘values’ was discussed and what kind of message I was communicating in my design would be a key consideration. I made sketches before the client meeting which were my initial response to the written brief and focussed on ideas around childhood, play and the double helix. At this early stage I let my imagination fuel my ideas. After the meeting with the client I started to focus much more on visualising key words: striking, unique, fingerprint, helix, colour, cells. In hindsight, it was a mistake to ‘shout down’ my original ideas. I should have trusted my intuition more from the beginning of the project.
The Jeans for Genes Charity
After researching the chariy and what they do to help families living with genetic disorders I got a real sense of what a “real world problem” is. This was the first opportunity I had to create a design for an organisation that works to improve the lives of real people. On one hand this gave me a strong sense of purpose, however, it also made me feel a sense of responsibility in what I was creating. I was not just making something that was aesthetically pleasing; the design had to appeal to as wide an audience as possible to generate sales and income for the charity to do their work. I experienced the impact that good design can have in a meaningful way.
Market Research Results
Market research In order to obtain information about the target market I sent out a short online questionnaire to around 100 women on my Facebook friend list. By getting responses from people I gained some suprising results (see right). For example, most women said they preferred ‘low-key’ designs, which presented a challenge because the brief stated they were looking for ‘striking’ designs. Also, the majority of women said they do not follow fashion trends, however, the client had asked for our design to consider colour trends for Spring/Summer 2018.
5. Do you wear t-shirts that promote a strong message?
There were a few contadictions between my research results and what the client had asked for. Therefore, my job as a designer was to find a creative solution that met the needs of both the client and the target market.
I received 35 responses to the questionnaire: 1. Do you prefer t-shirts that are brightly coloured or more low-key? 2. Do current fashion trends influence what you buy/wear? 3. Do you prefer feminine or unisex designs? 4. Would you wear a t-shirt with a highly decorative design?
Bright colours...............................8 Low-key design...........................29 Feminine design..........................18 Unisex design..............................17 Decorative-Yes.............................21 Decorative-No..............................13 Follow fashion-Yes......................12 Follow fashion-No........................22 Promotes strong message-Yes...24 Promotes strong message-No.....11
Fashion Trends My primary research involved going out and recording information from magazines on current fashion trends and looking at t-shirts on sale in high street womenswear shops. I found a wide range of designs from very minimal, to striking, to decorative, to risque. Colour schemes were also very varied. I looked at the designs from previous winners of the competition. Recurring themes were the double helix, chains, flowers, and I noticed some of the most popular designs were very feminine and used gold or silver. I questioned the relevance of fashion trends to the project because ultimately I needed to create something very specific that responded to the ethos of the charity. I was aware of the danger of using cliches, and repeating ideas that had already been used, eg. the double helix, flowers, chains.
Previous winning designs
I researched t-shirt designs from other charities to get a sense of what was in the marketplace and to avoid using imagery that was already being used by other charities. The colour schemes and imagery were all very eye-catching, and I noted that most of the designs were very simple and not overly complicated. Certain images/colours have strong associations, eg. the tree and the colour green are associated with environmental causes, the heart is used by the British Heart Foundation, the red nose by Red Nose Day, the pink ribbon by Cancer UK. Most of the charity t-shirts I found were white. During the group briefing the client stated they wanted to print the design on to a black t-shirt because from past experience they had better sales of black, than white t-shirts. However, they also said they would consider printing onto white t-shirts as well. I think keeping the budget down was a big consideration for them. Although I did not get the sense they wanted a â€˜cheapâ€™ solution, I did gleen from what they said that although they were open to options they would not take big risks with printing a design they were not confident would be a big seller. 12
Image Research I searched online, in books and magazines to gather information about how I could visualise concepts around geneology. The key words I had identified were used in online searches and this produced thousands of results. I needed to narrow down my search so I began to look for images that I could envision as a t-shirt design. I had the idea of ‘randomness’ flitting around my head as a link to the seemingly random nature of a person inheriting a genetic disorder. I also liked the ideas of ‘beauty amoung chaos’, and ‘microscience’. In response to my market research I was also looking for images I could envision in a decorative context.
Concepts and Experimentation Cells Concept With this idea I was thinking about lines, shapes and random pattern. The image below is the cross-section of a lime tree, a microscopic look at the cell structure that I found interesting. I drew in pastel, inks and pen. I wanted to recreate a sense of something growing, moving or merging into a new space. The client had mentioned using â€˜foilsâ€™ in the design and I liked the idea of gold against the black background of the t-shirt.
I experimented with gold ink, creating textures and shapes that could be incorporated into a line drawing. The colour combination of the lime tree image was an element I tried to recreate. The palette of gold, aqua/ turquoise blue and burnt sienna was an effective combination that I though would work well on a black t-shirt.
Fingerprint Concept (below) Chromosome/Helix Concept (right)
The ideas I have shown so far were largely influenced by the images I had researched, more than by the concepts of play and childhood that I thought up at the beginning of the project. This restricted the scope for the development of each concept and resulted in rather one-dimensional design concepts. The client stated the design would be printed on a black t-shirt so I tried working on black paper to test colours and materials. I liked the vivid colour produced with soft pastels, and this was an aspect I wanted to take forward. I experimented with drawing overlapping, fluid lines (right) as a way of exploring the idea of fluidity and the random nature of geneology. Whether a person inherits a genetic disorder seems down to chance. This could have been developed further had I felt more confident in the validity of my idea. Main concepts evaluation: cells: the image I used as a reference is a cross-section of lime tree. I liked the combination of line and colour in the image. I experimented with using gold ink to create textured colour and I knew the effect of gold against a black background would be very striking. The connection with the brief however was not strong enough, and the overall design was not very imaginative and did not effectively represent the ethos of the charity. the fingerprint: I traced an image of a fingerprint and considered how I might incorporate lettering within the lines. Further research indicated that this was not an original idea and I found it difficult to develop this concept for that reason. I felt like I was copying other peoples ideas. The fingerprint is a very recognisable image but it has strong associations with crime scenes, identity and death, themes that are were appropriate as a response to the brief. the XX XY chromosomes/helix: there was a direct link to the brief with this concept and also with my Capstone project. I am interested in the notion of lettering as decoration and exploring the idea that letters can be more than simply a way of spelling out words as written communication. I wanted to use the double helix because it is a symbol that is easy to recognise. My first drawing was not successful in combining the two elements, however, i liked the zingy colours obtained from soft pastels against a black background. the mandala: I considered this concept because the mandala is a strong symbol that represents the universe, unity and harmony. The decorative element was informed by my market research that indicated more women liked to wear t-shirts with decorative designs. I incorporated logo elements that related to themes around geneology eg. the heart, the tree, the double helix and chromosomes. Although the decorative element was appropriate, the overall effectiveness of the design was weak because the logo elements did not stand out strongly enough and as a result the design did not communicate a strong message.
The Wellcome Collection After the group presentation of our concepts I realised from another student’s work that although I had done primary research I had not visited any locations that might provide information about the scientific aspect of the project. This prompted a visit to the Wellcome Collection where I was inspired by the ‘Library of the Human Genome’. On display was a huge bookshelf with volumes that contained an almost complete copy of the human genetic sequence. On the spine of the volumes were the letters XX XY and the inside contained seemingly endless variations of the letters ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘c’ and ‘g’ with the odd ‘n’ appearing less frequently “where the DNA has structure or sequences that make it impossible for modern technology to read it properly”. (Curator’s label) I found it fascinating that the human genome was represented as a series of letters from the alphabet. This heavily informed my progress with further ideation of this concept. I was interested in developing the notion that each person is unique, and that an individual can be represented by a letter, or a series of letters. Feedback from the group critique indicated that my other ideas were not strong enough to develop further. By this stage I had also abandoned my initial ideas around play and childhood. On one hand this was a mistake, because I lost a sense of connection with the children and families that the charity works with.
Chromosome Concept Development
I am interested in the idea that lettering can be a way of creating ambiguity. When we want to send a direct message we use fonts and handwriting that is highly legible however, if we want to conceal the message, challenge the reader or prompt discussion we might choose a font or style of writing that is difficult to decipher, for example, grafitti or Morse code.
It is both exciting and deeply engaging trying to decipher signs/codes/symbols/writing that are not easy to understand. My idea here was to recreate the letters XXXY in such a way that might prompt viewers to question the meaning of the letters on the t-shirt, thus generating discussion about the charity.
At this point in the project the deadline was approaching fast so I had to make firm decisions about which design I wanted to develop further. Thinking quickly and making a commitment to an idea is something I am learning to do better. I decided to go with the chromosome concept, as I felt this was the strongest design, visually. I wanted to create something feminine, that incorporated the double helix with the lettering as I didnâ€™t think the lettering alone made enough of an impact. I used ink to draw out the letters that gave me clean edged lines. While soft pastel produces strong colour, I thought the soft edges might be difficult to transfer to the screenprinting process. I used Photoshop to experiment and adjust shape, colour, size and positioning. I tried to envision the way the t-shirt would feel to wear, taking into account female anatomy and being careful not to emphasise certain areas, ie. the breasts and tummy. I had to incorporate the logo in a way that was in harmony with the overall design, although the client had stated they were not overly concerned whether or not the logo was a main feature of the design.
“The ‘wrong’ typeface can be used on purpose to create tension and subvert the meaning of the words. The juxtaposition can prompt the reader to stop and question what they see and this can be used to powerful effect.” Sarah Hyndman (2017, p.60)
Lynda Barryâ€™s words remind me of my creative practice ethos. I am confident with physical materials however I am learning to incorporate digital image making into my practice. This project allowed me to improve my Photoshop skills, an area outside my comfort zone, and I realised that working digitally is very useful when you have less time to produce a final outcome. As a result of this I think differently about digital tools; I used to have a mental block whereas now I approach using software with a more open mind, and I am not so quick to give up on a task out of frustration if things are not going to plan, as I had done previously. I experienced some problems with pixelation when I changed the colours too many times, the letters becoming more and more distorted. To solve this I went back to my original scan and began the adjustments right from the beginning. I also tried working with Illustrator however, my skills are not developed enough to be able to make the most of the software, so I reverted back to PS as I feel more proficient in it, although I still feel that I have alot more to learn. The after effect of using digital methods of working was such that I felt a little detached from the work I produced. There is still a mental barrier that I have overcome to some extent however, I want my work to maintain the look of being hand made, even if I have used digital tools to reach the outcome. This is an ongoing challenge for me, to find the right balance between analogue and digital image-making processes.
“In the digital age don’t forget to use your digits. Your hands are the original digital devices.” Lynda Barry (in Mottram, 2011)
Incorporating the double-helix element was difficult because I was already fixed on the style of writing I had created. I drew numerous swirly, gestural lines with ink, using different sizes and shapes of brush. My aim was to achieve a quality of line that looked fluid and with the same high thick/thin contrast that was present in the lettering style. I used Photoshop to manipulate the lines, working around the lettering on the screen. I wanted to create a loose helix shape that complimented but did not overpower the lettering.
My aim was to draw the helix shape to resemble a ribbon floating in a black space-a metaphor for the â€œinsides of our bodiesâ€?, a key phrase outlined in the brief. A ribbon can be thought of as a universal symbol of hope, and has a connection to (perhaps specifically female) childhood. I also considered the need to fill some of the empty space below the lettering, taking into account female anatomy and not drawing attention to the tummy area too much.
Trial and Error
After experimenting digitally with different colour variations and alterations to the shapes of the lettering and helix elements I think I achieved a good balance between composition, colour and form in my final designs. I managed to incorporate the logo in a way that was sensitive to the overall design. I maintained a sense of fluidity in the quality of line and this helped to convey a sense of a hand-rendered design although I had relied heavily on the use of digital manipulation and colour application. Research into Pantone colours for Spring/ Summer 2018 revealed Pantone 18-3838 Ultra Violet as the fashion colour for the season. Other predictions pointed towards trends for pastel shades and primary colours. However, my market research revealed that most women did not follow fashion trends. Therefore, my colour choices were informed by the fact the design would be printed on a black t-shirt and worn with jeans. Variations of blue would work with different shades of denim, but looked dark against the a black background. This lead me to add a white highlight around the lettering that helped to lift the letters from the background and gave a sense of dynamism. I thought the letters looked ‘striking’ with the highlighted element. As the complimentary colour of blue orange was an obvious choice for a t-shirt that would appeal to women. My market research indicated that most women liked ‘low-key’ designs however, I decided to listen to the client request for a ‘striking’ design because ultimately, the t-shirt needed to send a strong message. I found it difficult to make a decision on whether to present the blue or the orange version for the submission. I had in mind that I was also going to develop a unisex design, that would appeal to both a male and female audience, therefore I presented the orange version on the female model for this concept, as I think it is more of a ‘feminine’ colour. I think we are all programmed from birth to colour code gender especially with clothing, and while this is not a system I buy into, in wider, mainstream society the norm of ‘pink for a girl, blue for a boy’ is still very dominant.
Unisex Design Development This concept was a development of the chromosome idea I had been working on. After the briefing with the client where they stated they would consider a unisex design I decided to challenge myself to produce two designs. I also welcomed the opportunity to work on a design for a male audience as my past experiences as a designer involved designing and producing fashion for a strictly female market. The concept started with a charcoal drawing I had made of a knarled old tree during a recent walk in the woods. I made a link between the concept of genetic heritage and the family tree. I thought about the way the tree seemed to twist as it grew and linked this to the shape of the double-helix. I visualised the helix floating and spinning in the watery interior of a human body.
I experimented with using some of the ink lines I had drawn for the chromosome design and new horizontal strokes to digitally construct the helix shape. This time the emphasis was on trying to create a sense of the helix spinning in space. I liked the way some of the broken lines conveyed a sense of movement and fluidity. Working solely with the helix shape gave me an opportunity to concentrate more closely on analysing each of the lines, considering the variations of the intensity of the colour, the thickness and thiness, how each line started and finished; and how each of these elements contributed to building an overall feeling of a spinning, moving, floating object.
I considered incorporating a fingerprint within the helix shape however, I felt this created inconsistency and detracted from the overal impact of the design. Again, I experimented digitally with colour and composition, placing the design on both a male and female model to test colours and the overall effect. I decided to keep the logo completely separate with this design and place it on the bottom corner of the t-shirt, giving the helix shape an uninterupted space to ‘move’ within. The helix shape on it’s own is perhaps an oversimplified design concept however, I enjoyed the chance to focus on the fundamental considerations of colour, shape and compositon. This also gave me the chance to grasp the details of the client’s artwork specifications. If had been dealing with a very complicated design I may have been bogged down with a much more complicated process of building the design.
“sometimes you can’t push insight. You need to step a work and sit in silence and a while before your though crystalise and make sense gives your intuition a shot
M My final unisex design might appeal more to a male audience because it is very linear however, it could still be worn by a woman. The helix has the sense of spinning around and this gives the t-shirt a sense of fun and movement. As one of the male MA students pointed out “men wear t-shirts that are either very plain or very masculine”. I had not carried out any market research on the male market therefore I was blindly designing what I imagined would appeal to a unisex market. Given more time I would have carried out another survey to gain information about the male market. I have become more mindful of the importance of clarity on this project, an aspect of creatice practice, once mastered will increase my confidence and professionalism in presenting my work, verbally and visually. Presenting my final outcomes to the other GDCP and MA students and the client was a nerve-wracking experience and I learnt that verbally communicating my ideas is an area that still needs further practice. I do not think I spoke about my concepts effectively, and I think this was because I was not confident with my design concepts. Early on in the project I had rejected my concepts that related to childhood. This was a mistake. Hearing the other (MA) students talk about their work I realised their designs had strong links to concepts relating to the ethos of the charity-childhood, friendship, family. This provided content both for their designs and their presentations and crucially, gave them a unique selling point to pitch to the client. The fast pace of the project contributed to my lack of ‘thinking in action’ (Schon 1991), a skill, I have learnt, is crucial to the production of effective design solutions. I was distracted from reflecting on my concepts by the need to produce quick results for the group presentations. Also a lack of confidence and trust in my intuition hindered the development of my design concepts. Being able to step back and take a wider view of my work is a vital part of my practice. How long is ‘a while’? A day, a week? An hour? Ruminating on ideas is a luxury and I think being able to think quickly is another aspect of my practice I need to improve. What went well for me on this project was improving my presentation and digital illustration skills. I became more comfortable and efficient with Photoshop, InDesign and Powerpoint and this helped me to develop the ideas I did have and to present them on paper for the group presentations. Working to the specifications of a client brief gave me practice in working on a practical level, and designing for other people. Producing my designs to meet the artwork specifications was also good practice. I feel I can now confidently produce transparent artwork in a PDF file that is ready to transfer to the screenprinting process.
h through to away from your d solitude for hts begin to to you. This t at being heardâ€?.
Melis Senova (2017, p.21)
Word As Image
“Fon THE BRIEF *Research, identify and visualise the historical writings of Rochester Cathedral *Draw on the written type and texts present in the cathedral and refer to local (archived) records to search for stories that might provide a narrative framework for the project outcome. *Experiment with the concept of palimpsest in creating imagery that reflects the diversity and stories of the people that have been there since medieval times. *Question and analyse your responses to the discoveries you make and the work you produce. *Consider the relevance of your outcome to the people within the cathedral, to the wider local community and beyond.
Whilst thinking through designing the brief for this project I decided to base my research on a specific location. I knew this approach would provide opportunities for extensive research that might steer the project in exciting directions. I remembered how much I enjoyed sketching at different locations for the PM6000 ‘Observation’ project and this promted me to go out and see what I could find. I spent a day walking around Rochester with my camera searching for inspiration and recording anything of interest. I found a ‘ghost sign’ on the side of a building and this sparked my interest. I began to wonder about the history of the sign and the business it had previously advertised. I also came across a sign in a shop window, written in a beautiful Spencerian script. I was drawn to the writing because the font seemed to describe perfectly the words it was spelling out. I was aware that this choice of lettering was a conscious decision by the owners, to encourage people to enter their establishment. I sauntered into Rochester Cathedral and after a short time I discovered I was surrounded by a rich history, that was recorded in WRITING: numerous memorial plaques, hangings and engravings adorned the interior and the architecture itself was stunning. This would be a great place on which to base my Capstone Project, with enough (perhaps too many) areas of interest to fuel a strong creative response. The brief I wrote initially was very open ended, with an emphasis on research and experimentation. We had been instructed by tutors not to try to think about an outcome yet which meant I started out with a very open mind and I was able to respond intuitively to the research, something I found difficult in the last module when the projects were much shorter. The fact we had much more time meant that I didn’t feel so rushed and this really helped to get a sense of my true practice, and identify specific areas of personal interest. Hyndman states “There is more to type than just being an invisible transmitter of words. The different shapes and styles of the typefaces themselves stimulate responses independently of the words they spell out, and before we even read them. Type triggers our imaginations, evokes our emotions, prompts memories and links to all of our senses.” (2017, p.26) I have been studying Sarah Hyndman’s ‘Why Fonts Matter’, learning the history and psychology of typography hence my desire to put into practice some of this new knowledge was a driver in my choice to research the subject of lettering. I wanted to use this project to deepen my understanding of the ways type styles shape our perceptions of written information and ultimately effect the impact of written, and visual communication.
nts turn words into storiesâ€?
Sarah Hyndman (2016, p.34)
Rochester Cathedral Visiting Rochester Cathedral is a sensory experience so I wanted to capture on video what it felt like to being there. The environment is so full of history that itâ€™s impossible to take it all in in one go. I made several visits and each time I saw something different. Even sitting and observing taught me alot about the building and how it functions as part of the community. There was a granny pushing a baby in a buggy, a choir preparing for Christmas carol singing, tourists, families, and staff who are all volunteers but experts on some aspect of the building. My personal connection with Rochester Cathedral goes back to when my daughter sang there with the school choir. The acoustics were so beautiful it brought me to tears. I cannot ignore the fact this is building is a church, and the whole shebang of religion plays some part in my decision to base the project on it. I feel at home in churches because of my upbringing, and because I know they are a space where people of all backgrounds can come together. A church is a sanctuary, where people can feel safe. As a Londoner living in Medway I considered studying this location as an opportunity not just to build my local knowledge but also to build connections with local people, and to discover something of the history and culture of the Medway area. My sense of self and belonging on some level resides in my immediate environment. Knowing the people I live among is fundamental to my search for a sense of belonging and identity, not just as a woman of dual heritage, raised between two cultures, but also as a parent of children whose heritage lies between three continents. While I was there I tried to observe as much as possible, but I think subconsciously I was also looking for a personal connection to the culture on display inside the building.
Visitor information collected at the cathedral
Motifs and Inscriptions
I began to look closely at the signs and symbols around me. I discovered some of them related to the former bishops of the cathedral and were designed as coats of arms. An interesting aspect of these floor patterns is that the artisan who installed them into the floor of the cathedral often placed one or two tiles out of sync with the overall design, as a way of making their own individual mark. This indicated to me a sense of their identity, that although this person would have been commissioned to create work that was repesentative of the church and the clergy, it was still important to him to make the work their own in some way. The incsriptions on the floor commemorating former bishops and other members of the clergy were also a point of interest for me. The one for David Say also gives a sense of the character of this bishop in the words that are inscribed. Other incriptions were worn away after hundreds of years, with congragations of people having walking across them until the writing was barely legible. It noticed how the letterforms changed over time and how the dirt from the floor collected in the carved lines, increasing the visibility of the letters, creating a paradox between the shapes being simulteously eroded away and made more visible. Vertical pillars and walls were decorated with medieval ‘grafitti’, that were only visible when you looked closely. On enquiry I discovered there are over 4000 inscriptions in total and these marks were ‘‘likely to have been made by worshippers as votive offerings, cult symbols and charms to discourage evil spirits’’, Jacob Scott: academic researcher and grafitti expert. The fact these names, signs and symbols have been carved into the stone renders them almost impossible to forget. The act of carving a mark gives it longevity
Connecting with the Building
I made drawings to gain a sense of the place, not as a cold, stone structure but as a place where people work, worship, relax, teach, learn and come together. The stone walls and statues do seem somewhat hostile so I began to seek out colour and activity as subjects for drawings. The drawings on this and the following page were made with pencil, oil pastels and inks. By making these drawings I was able to look close up at different aspects of the workings of the cathedral and begin building visual references, eg. the colours of the flowers and tiles, the shapes and symbols, and the people.
Observational charcoal drawing of The Crypt at Rochester Cathedral
Considering Colour With these sketches I was thinking about shape and colour, some taken from observation, some from imagination. Alot of geometric patterns appear in the cathedral and by drawing I got a sense of the ways these patterns had been constructed and repeated, to create large scale, decorative works. I tend to use line drawings alot to plan or think through ideas but by using colour in my sketches I can also think through the relationships between different hues, values and the ways in which colour can create mood or emotion. I had made a mental note at the start of the project to try to move outside my comfort zone and be brave with using colour. Colour isnâ€™t always essential but careful consideration and choice of palette can create more of a visual impact than monochrome images.
left: I stained the paper with tea and coffee to give a subtle colour that was reminiscent of the vellum used in medeival manuscripts.
Rena Gardiner 1929-1999
I came across the work of Rena Gardiner during a conversation with Beverly Jacobs, the cathedral expert on murals, about how the history of the building has been recorded. Beverly very kindly gave me a copy of one of her books, which is one of a series of printed books on the history of English cathedrals. Gardiner designed, wrote, illustrated and printed the books from her home in Dorset where she ran The Workshop Press. The book contains beautiful drawings and has an appealing handmade quality however, seeing this work lead me to the decision that I did not want to produce a written or visual historical account of the building for my project outcome. I wanted whatever I made to be relevant and interesting to a modern day audience. What I love about this artist is that she had complete ownership of her work and each aspect of producing the books was part of her process.
This book and the work of Sarah Hyndman has been teaching me many aspects of the principles of typography. Her research in to the psychology of how audiences consume typography is fascinating and has provided answers to some queries I have been pondering for a long time. Most interesting is the connection between typography and memory, eg. how we associate certain styles of lettering, such as those found on sweet wrappers or food packaging, with experiences from our past. By learning about the history of typography, the printing press and writing in general I have sought further information about the effectiveness of written communication and how it varies in different cultures and languages. I attended a lecture at Central Saint Martins recently called â€œRoaminâ€™ Romans-The Roman Letterâ€? given by Phil Baines and this further supported some of the theories outlined by Hyndman; for example, the notion that letters and words transcend geographical and politcal boundaries. By studying this book, along with researching illuminated manuscripts, I have begun to develop an interest in the physicality of books brought on by a deeper understanding of how they are designed, and the way choices around typeface, colour and spacing effect how a message is perceived. A conversation with Sarah during a recent visit to her studio also provided insight into her practice and details of her groud-breaking research into type consumption as a sensory experience. I have discovered that it is not typography so much as handlettering that hold an appeal for me. Modern typography is a software based practice as this is not where my strengths lie.
Tomes and Manuscripts Rochester Cathedral has a library rich in historical texts, and the most exciting of these for me are the Bibles and manuscripts that date back to the 7th Century. The four oldest manuscripts in the library (that the British Library hasn’t got their hands on) are the Psalter, the Book of Hours, Textus Rofensis and Costumale Roffense, while Sarum Missal is one of the earliest printed Bibles. Much of the collection was saved by the monks of Rochester Priory during the Reformation which saw the majority of Christian literature outlawed and destroyed by Henry VIII. I was lucky enough to be able to handle these books. You get the sense of reading a work of art, or a personal diary. Each page was a delight to the eye, as I tried to decipher the beautifully written Latin script, and observed the change in tone and texture of the vellum. What I find interesting is that the manuscripts contain features that reveal something about the personality of the scribe that made them. There are scribbled notes in the margins (written in what looks like handwriting, very different from the neat, gothic script of the main text), debating the meaning of the written words. There are humourous ‘drolleries’ that lighten the tone of a page whose main purpose is to record the Gospel of the Cristian faith. I noticed a ‘spidergram’ or mind-map (bottom right) on one page that made connections between different lines of the main text, as if the reader was trying to make sense of words he was perhaps not supposed to question. Costumale Roffense, a book that would have been carried on the person of a monk, tells us about the mundane details of the daily routines within the priory. A little sketch of a monk appears within the first few pages, as if the owner got bored one day and decided to relieve his boredom by doodling. For me these books hold a real fascination, partly because I cannot read the words, and partly beacuse the pages are so visually exciting. I wanted to find out more...who made them, and why. I wanted to know what the words meant and who they were written for.
The Psalter circa 1100
Costumale Roffense circa 1300
Medieval Bible circa 1150
The Script ‘‘In the hands of an artist, a book’s full potential is realised. It’s transformed into something more than just a container for information. It becomes an experiential medium for creative expression’’. Julie Chen (2013, p.6)
This quote perfectly describes Medieval illumininated manuscripts. These are not simply books that contain the ‘word of God’ or the word of a King, they are very carefully considered and expertly designed pieces of art. Not the kind of art that hangs on walls but the kind of art that inspires the reader to orate and teach the illiterate, which was the vast majority of the population at the time they were made. Some pages show guidelines, scored on the page, or dotted with a pin; an indication of the planning process that preceeded the writing and the illumination of the ornanate capitals and illustrations. Observing the different styles of writing lead to further research into Gothic script, eg. Blackletter, Fraktur, Textur, Rotunda and Lombardic styles. I began to look closely at the colours and letterforms and was able to identify different styles within the manuscipts.
The Book of Hours, illuminated manus
Textus Roffensus circa 600. Pre-dates Magna Carta
Sarum Missal. Early printed Bible
First Attempts with Calligraphy
Early on in the project I found I was interested in exploring letterforms. I analysed the shapes of letters and practiced recreating Blackletter and Lombardic letterforms using pencil to draw the letters and a calligraphy pen to write. A distinction became apparent between the letters I ‘wrote’, so using single strokes to create the glyphs, and the letters I ‘drew’, making an outline of the overall shape and then filling in the shape to give an impression of a solid form. At this point, I considered the relevance of medieval manuscripts to modern-day audiences. If I were to borrow the features within Medieval manuscripts to create my outcome how would this be perceived by a modern ‘eye’? I asked members of my family (ranging in ages 6-43) to look at the writing in my sketchbook (below), , and the resounding response was ‘‘what does it say?’’ The question of legibility is an aspect of writing I’m interested in exploring. Who can decipher the message? How does style of type/script limit the ability of audiences to understand the message?
I’ve been interested in grafitti for years and although I haven’t drawn on the artform for this project it has been at the back of my mind. ‘Tags’ I see on train journeys and walking around always make me think about who made that mark. The colour, scale, location and complexity of some grafitti art is so stunning that it becomes an image in itself. So, I revisited the notion of ‘word as image’. Can letters or words be perceived as images? Do we ‘read’ writing differently to the way we ‘read’ imagery? How does format and location influence the way words are read? Does it matter if the words are legible? Some of these questions were subconscious at this point in the project, but looking back over my notes in my sketchbook and looking at what I was creating indicate that they are questions that are fundamental to my practice. Further in-depth analysis of my research gave me some answers, but not all.
All the possibilities of a human being n flow from the point of a pen.â€™â€™ Anonymous
Experiments with Lettering “Materials ammassed through fieldwork require further sorting and reprocessing in the studio. Practical strategies employed within the studio involve using wall space to hang, review and reshuffle the work produced in order to identify themes and clusters of images. These might form a new conceptual anchor for the project or angle on an existing starting point, allowing for the project to diverge from the brief or initial concept and shed new light on the topic”. Stephanie Black (2014, p.286)
With these sketches I was working very intuitively and enjoying making marks and lines with ink, charcoal and pastel as well as experimenting with paper stencils. Working in a very unstructured way allows me to ‘play’ with materials and compositions and sometimes produces unexpected results that might lead to successful solutions. For this reason I had designed my brief without restricting the possibilites for the outcome. As Black points out, a reflective practice requires time to evaluate and process the results of experimentation. The fact I had much more time to explore making imagery with this project resulted in a feeling of unpressured creativity. Working in an A3 sketchbook provided a comfortable amount of space to work within. I was aware that I needed to be able to scan my drawings in for submissions purposes however, I tried not to be restricted by my choice of materials. For example, I know that pen marks scan much better than pencil or charcoal marks however, I still need to work initially in pencil a lot of the time, and I really enjoy drawing with charcoal. I feel I am very confident when I draw in pencil and charcoal, and I love the variation of soft and hard lines, and different tonal values that can be achieved with these materials. Working with pen and ink is also one of my strengths however, choice of paper is important when working with wet media. I also feel I need plenty of space on the page to contain all the unintended drips and splats that often occur when working with inks. In contrast to charcoal, what I love about ink is the definite, dark, solid lines that can be produced, depending on the tool I use. I do not usually tear pages out of my sketchbook, but I do regularly flick throught the pages to think through ideas. I do not always know why I make certain marks or drawings but on reflection I can usually make connections between my sketchbook work and reserach findings.
ORNAMENTED TYPES Louis John Pouchee I visited St. Brides library to see the ornamented alphabets from the foundry of Louis John Pouchee. The library itself is a treasure trove where you can explore the evolution of writing and typographic history. Pouchee’s stunning woodblock printed letters not only inspired me to experiment with creating decorative letters but also to look deeper into the history of printed type in Europe. I learnt about the invention of the printing press and the effect it had on levels of literacy; how the industrial revolution spurned the advertising industry and how this altered the ways written communication was consumed by mass audiences.
Through reading part of James Mosley’s introduction to the alphabets I learnt about the introduction of the printing press and early type designers of the 1800’s, such as Caslon and Baskerville. My understanding of typography had been very limited before doing this research. Now I have a much more informed knowledge not only of the distinctions between typography, lettering and calligraphy but also of the social contexts within which the disciplines function and what purpose they serve.
Donald Jackson The work of ‘the Royal calligrapher’ became known to me as I researched the history of gothic script. Donald Jackson was commissioned to create an illuminated manuscript for an American church in 1998. I watched several videos about his project and his practice as a calligrapher. Viewing his story I was prompted to make further inquiries into the history and origins of writing systems. This led me to the Petri Museum, to see their collection of Egyptian heiroglyphs, and the British Library, where I saw an exhibition on Ethiopian illuminated manuscripts as well as other ancient religious books from different cultures, all containing beautiful calligraphy or various forms, including Kufic (Persian), Hebrew, Japanese and Ge’ez (Ethopian). After learning more about the art of calligraphy I was dubious about whether I could produce work of a good enough standard to produce an outcome for my project, as my first attempts had not been very successful. I needed a lot of practice if I was going to use hand-written text for my outcome.
30 ‘‘Donald Jackson: The Calligrapher- The Saint John’s Bible’’ A contemporary illuminated manuscript
Click HERE to watch
Irma Boom My tutor suggested I look at the work of Irma Boom during a tutorial when we were discussing the next steps for my project after I had carried out a good amount of primary research and made experimental drawing. The notion of a hidden or ambigious message is an interesting feature of her book ‘White’, (left, detail) a commission by the French fashion House, Chanel. I am very much drawn to the idea that a message does not have to be explicit, whether written or visual. This links to typographic principle, outlined by Hyndman (2017 p. 60), that fonts (and images) can be used to challenge audience perceptions of what they are reading or seeing, encouraging them to use all their senses and different parts of the brain to decipher the message. Looking at Boom’s work I ask myself ‘‘what is a book?’’ and ‘‘what is the purpose of a book, if any, other than to educate?’’ The earliest European books were made to educate and share belief systems to a wide audience. The sensory experience of handling and ‘reading’ the manuscripts at Rochester Cathedral has made me think differently. A book can be a thing of comfort or release (eg. a diary), of pleasure (eg. a hardback Folio Society illustrated fiction), and books can evoke many emotions or memories and are regarded by many as highly valuable objects.
Writing Systems By this point in the project I was beginning to feel disconnteced from my research findings even though I was enjoying learning about historical writings and the way different practioners used writing in their work. I needed to find a personal connection to the research I had done so far. I re-read my brief however because I had not specified an outcome It did not help me to move forwards. I went out to do more primary research in the hope I would find an anchor. Seeing the ancient stone slabs of heiroglyphs at the Petrie Museum was very inspiring and at this point I decided to try to combine elements of European and African visual aesthetics somehow, within one piece of work. I had worked with Adinkra symbols previously and feel they have a cultural relevance in the modern world. Although they are traditionally printed on to fabric to create decorative designs I thought combining the two visual elements in to one form. Other writing systems also provided a point of interest. For example the Nigerian Nsibidi writing system has been used for centuries and this form of written communication is recognised by Nigerian audiences. Without an understanding of what the Nsibidi symbols mean it is still possible for non-Nigerian audiences to seek and find meaning, and recognise some of the universal symbols that can also be found in other ideographic writing systems, such as the Ghanaian Adinkra, or Egyptian heiroglyphs. For example, the symbols that use everyday objects to communicate ideas rather than to spell out phonographic words could be deciphered by non-African audiences.
In her graduate thesis exploring Adinkra symbols, Jasmine Danzy argues the point that non-phonetic writing systems, although not classified as such by leading linguistic scholars, should still be classified as a true writing system, that deserves as much status as European phonetic writing systems, such as Latin. She states: â€œAdinkra is an ideographic writing system and the ideas they represent still teach valuable lessons. Moreover Adinkra symbols are visual metaphors because of their ability to enhance understanding by providing knowledgeâ€?. (Danzy, 2009, p.37) The meaning and relevance of non-Western writing systems and alphabets is a subject I have become more interested in over the course of this project. I discovered the artist Victor Ekpuk very recently and although the impact of his work on me has not yet filtered through in to my practice, I find his art has a resonance with my creative inquiry. His work can be appreciated purley for itâ€™s aesthetic value, and also for the seemingly hidden meaning in the symbols and signs he creates, that draw on the tradition of Nsibidi symbols. I can see connections between his work and the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist I have drawn influence from in the past, and whose recent exhibition at the Barbican Centre reignited my interest in visual signs and symbols as a form of communication. Both artists create a kind of code that invites the audience to decipher meaning from. This notion is something I aim to explore in my own practice.
Grafitti art is another classification of visual language that is challenging to decipher. I saw this piece on a garage door in Amsterdam and found myself stopping to try to read what it said and find meaning in the letters.
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Image Construction After experimenting with textures and shapes I began to think about how I could design my own style of ornamented letter, drawing on both a Eoropean and African aesthetic. I wanted my outcome to appeal to audiences outside of a European context because my own cultural heritage is from both Europe and Africa. Researching Western European manuscripts inspired me to create a design that looked exciting but I also wanted to include imagery that drew on my African heritage. I chose to work with the letter ‘B’ of the Fraktur style of gothic script. I identified four Adinkra symbols that represented meaningful ideas and worked the symbols into the shape of the letter ‘B’. I wanted the letter to be recognisable but to feature the added meaning represented by the Adinkra symbols. I did this because I want to communicate the idea that two cultures can be successfully merged to create a new, hybrid aesthetic.
Pencil sketch of different decorative manuscript page: ornamented letter ‘D’, a dragon and a ‘drollery showin shield as if defending himself again mound of earth.
The afro comb, a symbol of BEAUTY 35
Adinkra: The omnipotence of God ‘‘Except God, I fear none.’’
Adinkra: Moon and star, a sy FAITHFULNESS
e elements of an illuminated r ‘E’, Lombardic capital ng a man with a spear and nst a snail perched on a
Adinkra: ADINKRAHENE, King of all Adinkra symbols, basis of many designs
Illuminated letter ‘O’ from The Book of Hours from Rochester cathedral library
I was considering producing an illustrated alphabet for my outcome and this was the first experiment to that end. The Blackletter â€˜Bâ€™ combined with the Adinkra symbols resulted in a very graphic image and this lead to my decision to try a lino print. I wanted to try the reduction method as this was something I had not tried before. At first I had planned to print three colours, black, red and green however after discussion with the print technician I came to the decision to only print two colours, red and black as this would not be over-complicated. I divided the printing into two stages, one to print the Blackletter elements in black and the other to print the Adinkra elements in red. I had to plan the whole process from start to finish, as it was important to print the correct shapes in the correct colours according to my design. I drew each stage out on paper and transferred it to the lino with a soft pencil. Cutting the small areas of lino to create the Adinkra symbols was quite difficult because although I had done lino printing before I am not very experienced in carving very fine lines from lino. I suspected at this point that this method would not produce the results I wanted, but I wanted to see it through to the end.
The first stage of printing went well, and I used the opportunity to experiment more with colour. This is one aspect of printing I feel supports my experimental practice; I can produce several versions of the same image, much like the possibilities available with digital image making. The lino prints I produced resulted in some strong imagery, and I liked the clarity of line achieved in the first stage of the reduction method, particularly the red version. A mistake occured when I forgot to plan the registration of the second stage of printing. This meant I had to guesstimate where to place the lino on top of the first print. This mistake was a result of trying to work too quickly and focussing too much on the outcome rather than the process. Although the final prints have a rather random element to them which perhaps adds to the hand-made quality I am always aiming to maintain in my work, I am disappointed in myself that I made that fundamental mistake in the second stage of printing. I would have liked to have produced a cleaner, more professional result. What I learnt was that planning, and writing it down, is important to avoid making silly mistakes and spoiling what could have been a good set of prints.
First stage of printing
Second stage of printing
Etching Experiments I received positive feedback from my peers during the group presentations, despite my less than satisfactory results with lino printing. One person said they would like to see the “African symbolism shine through more so it questions what kind of manuscript this is to your audience”. This statement prompted me to think about who my audience is and how they might perceive my idea of combining the aesthetics from two cultures. Another person said they found my Blackletter script “a little hard to understand” and suggested I use more “simplified images to express the idea”. This made me question my choices of imagery and reminded me of the importance of clarity to effectively communicate my message to the audience. These two comments both pointed to the fact I had not yet made a decision about either the message I wanted to send, or who my audience was. Up to this point I was still experimenting with materials, and seeking a personal connection with my research results by incorporating African symbolism into my experiments. The next step for me was to try out my ‘hybrid’ letter with etching. Because I was not able to achieve a fine line with my lino prints I decided etching would be a good alternative. I wanted to produce more imagery that was informed by an African aesthetic, hence, I drew a crocodile and another Adinkra symbol. I also checked whether I could make different thicknesses of line and variuos marks on the etching plate with the etching tool. After making two initial prints I discovered I could achieve a good variation of line and tone. However, the steel plate I had used resulted in a grey background that I did not want. Next time I would use either a steel or copper plate to give a lighter background colour.
Content After receiving feedback from my tutor I realised I had to make a decision about the message I wanted to communicate and who my audience was for this project. My tutor indicated to me that my work needed an ‘anchor’, so I began to consider different writers and poets to provide a ‘story’ for the project. I initially thought about illustrating the words of James Baldwin however, his work, while inspirational and full of meaning, is mostly prose and I was looking for a shorter piece of writing. Re-writing my BRIEF at this point would have helped me to clarify my intentions for the outcome.
Maya Angelou This literary icon is someone I have drawn inspiration from many times. I chose to illustrate the poem Still, I Rise, because it has a strong, positive message for BAME audiences and is full of imagery. Current political debates around race and gender also inspired my choice of content. I identified that I wanted to reach audiences from my own cultural heritage, ie. Black and Asian Minority Ethnic groups.
Format Options Still, I Rise. is a long poem and my initial idea was to make a single panel, or scroll with an illustration of the figure of Yamaya, a mythological Goddess of Nigerian Yoruba folklore. I planned to rework a drawing I had made previously, and incorporate several elements I had found in illuminated manuscript pages. After discussion with my tutor I realised I was trying to fit much too much onto one piece, and it was suggested I consider the format of either a consertina book or a triptych. The elements I wanted to include were: an ornamented letter, an illustration, the whole poem written in Blackletter, a title, decorative (possibly floral) elements around the borders of the page. I decided to go with the idea of designing a triptych. This would give me three pages over which I could spread the seperate elements, with less chance of creating an outcome that lmight otherwise look overcrowded on a single page. I also decided not to write out the whole poem, but to select specific verses that contained strong imagery that I could illustrate with imagery.
Imagery within the poem. Key words: moons suns tides dirt diamonds black ocean welling and swelling daybreak dawn gifts ancestors slave
Illustrating the Poem The ink drawing to the right was made last year for a previous project in which I illustrated a piece of creative writing. I wanted to rework this piece because for me it closely relates to the imagery in the poem. I wanted to change the identity of the figure because I am illustrating a different piece of writing. I also wanted to create a portrait that looked more closely at African body adornment. I searched for imagery that closely related to the ideas expressed in the poem and that had a strong African aesthetic. In my work I want to represent people of colour because this will resonate more with BAME audiences.
After finalising my three designs I transferred the drawings onto the etching plates and drew the designs out using the etching tool. I had to work quite quickly as I had a limited amount of time to prepare the plates for printing, and there is limited availability in the print workshop. The results from the first prints did not produce very strong prints. The lines were too feint and some of the definition around the facial features looked distorted. I was looking for more contrast in the imagery, more impact. I prepared the three plates again with hard ground, drew on top of the first series of lines, and repeated the whole acid etching process. I had rushed through the first stage of drawing and the result of this was prints that lacked visual impact. I learnt that, similar to lino printing, etching is an even longer process, and that each stage should be carefully considered in order to achieve good results. The second time I drew into the plates I took more time in building the tonal variations and linework. I looked back at the original visual references so that I was drawing from observation rather than my imagination.
Blackletter has â€˜â€˜associations with timeless wisdom and precious books like The Bible. However, when Hitler declared Blackletter to be the official type of the Nazi Party, this ancient and romantic type style acquired a new and darker set of associations that have become permanently entwined with its history. Hyndman (2016, p.44)
Creating the text was another big challenge. I thought about the impact using Blackletter might have on my target audience, as I had learnt it had associations with right wing politics. I did however recall the rap artist Tupac Shakur displaying tattoos written in a gothic style of writing. This memory prompted me to research the current contexts where Blackletter is used. I found that although historically Blackletter does have associations with the Nazi party, modern uses of the style have changed this connection. Well known artists such as Snoop Dogg and Nas use Blackletter to promote their work which transforms the status of the typeface, to appeal to audiences of all backgrounds. I think this is a way for artists of African origin to claim ownership over the Blackletter typeface, and subvert itâ€™s historical associations. Blackletter can also be found in packaging and labelling, a famous brand is Corona beer; and on t-shirts and posters, often promoting rock bands. It is a very versatile typeface however, wherever it is used there remains an association with a historical European aesthetic, that harks back to medieval times. For me this typeface, or script holds a beauty and appeal that conveys a sense of true craftmanship and excellence of design in a writing style.
The task of writing words using Blackletter required more experimentation with different tools. I tried using flat brushes, fountain pens, dip pens with various nibs, reed pens and marker pens. Each tool gave me a different quality of line however I found it really difficult to achieve a consistant line with the tools that required me to repeatedly dip the nib into a pot of ink. I discovered the parallel pen (see right, red line) and for me this tool was the easiest to use. It gave a clean, consistant line that allowed me to form the letters effectively, without running out of ink halfway through a stroke. Writing calligraphy is an art form that requires years of practice. I only had a few weeks remaining of the project and I needed a tool that would give me the scope to create lettering with my limited experience of writing calligraphy. The other tools still have their uses but not for this particular task.
Recreating Gothic Script Writing in blackletter script was not as straightforward as I had anticipated. I could achieve good individual letterforms however, combining these to create words was more difficult. I tried using the online type creator ‘Calligraphr’ that promised to make my handwriting in to a font however, once I had downloaded my handwritten alphabet, and written a few lines from the poem, the resulting text was inconsistent and rather messy. I also tried writing directly onto the Fabriano paper that I had printed on but the paper was too absorbant and the ink from the pen bled into the paper, creating letterforms that looked ‘swollen’ and distorted. I learnt that different types of paper are only appropriate for certain mediums. The combination of Lombardic capitals worked well with Blackletter. At this point I discovered I could ‘draw’ some letterforms-the capitals, but I still needed to find a way to ‘write’ the main body text in a way that look neat and presentable for the outcome.
The script in this Medieval Bible from the library at Rochester Cathedral was my main reference for the text in my final outcome.
‘Calligraphr’ handwriting font results
Text Trial and Error I found the Old London font on Dafont and wrote out the verses of the poem. This gave me the idea, that I should have considered much earlier on, to combine the font with my hand written capitals. On reflection, I was being stubborn in insisting on writing the text with my own hand after so many failed attempts. It was my digtal mental block at play again, and I finally realised I was not going to master the art of calligraphy with a limited amount of time to practice, if ever. Once I found the solution I set about planning how to transfer digital text on the Fabriano paper, on which I planned to reprint my etchings.
I considered using my own handwriting for the text however, I was determined to solve the problem of writing in Blackletter, so I put this idea on hold.
Transferring text with ACETONE did not work well
First, I tried transferring text that had been printed onto a standard paper using a laserjet colour printer, on to Fabriano printing paper using acetone. The result was not successful because the acetone solution gave the paper a yellowish tone, and the colours from the laserjet print were weak. I considered using screenprint however, I felt this was another lengthy process that I did not have time to pursue as I knew I still had to print the etchings, and I did not want to rush this process. The print technician suggested we try passing a 220gsm Fabriano paper through the laserjet printer to test the quality of the colour transfer from a digital file. The result was successful (see far right). The quality of colour was good and the paper was a suitable weight on which to print. I then created the text in Photoshop, on three separate documents, one for each page of the triptych. I used a combination of my hand drawn Lombardic capitals, and the Old London font. Applying colour to the text was very straightforward using the software. I was also able to manipulate each line of text to fit round each image to ensure that the final print sat in the right place on the paper in relation to the text.
My second stage of printing after I had re-etched my plates produced much stronger images. I had taken more time at the inking stage of the printing process, and was more confident with my ability to control the amount of ink left on the plate. This gave me more contrast in specific areas, for example, around the image of the two women, and strong, clean lines, giving good definition overall. I learnt from my mistake with the lino printing and this time I took care with the registration of the image on top of the paper on which I had already printed the text. I considered changing the order of the images and here I have placed what I had planned as the third page in the middle. I did this because the imagery of the poem in the middle verse seemed to fit better with my drawing of the water goddess, Yamaya. An aspect of my design that was critiqued during the group presentation session was that the the second image did not sit well with the other two images. This was because I had not included any flower elements in the second image that were present in the others two. I agreed with this evaluation and decided I needed to make changes to the image digitally. I could have gone back to add more details on the etching plates however, I did not have enough time to complete the whole process for a third time.
The only adjustment I needed to make to the first image was to reduce the size of the text. I had considered presenting just this image as my outcome, and I tried adding more text from the poem onto the page and manipulating the placement of the flowers. However, the page only began to look crowded and the adjustments did not add to the visual impact.
I made adjustments to the facial features in this image. This was necessary because I had not taken enough time to draw the face out on the plate with enough care and this resulted in some distortion to the features. I was able to correct this in Photoshop to good effect. I decided after reviewing all three images together that, as I had originally planned, the image of Yamaya looked better as the third page of the triptych. I reduced the size of the text and inserted the last verse of the poem, adjusting the spacing, until I was happy with the layout. At this point I also added the flowers at the top of the page to connect this image with the other two.
As with the last image, I was not happy with the results of the portrait and again I used Photoshop to adjust the fine, etched lines. I managed to improve the proportions of the face and neck and improve the overall structure of the facial features. As the strongest of the three images, as suggested by the print technician, this print looked better as the central image. Again, I adjusted the text to fit round the figure. Lastly, I added the flower elements at the top of the page to link this image with the other two in the triptych.
â€œIs is meant to look ye olde worlde?â€? Graham-print workshop technician
Evaluation I am happy with the triptych overall old-fashioned illustration, which is s early on in the project, although I ha Perhaps this was a subconcious int surface once I started experimentin combined with Lombardic rubrics, a the images a sense of nostalgia Etc process that takes a long time to pe outmoded today. Different ways of replaced with typing or creating ima am keen to preserve analogue way practice because for me viewing im viewing, and denies audiences the with seeing art or illustration or writ
l, the images have the look of an something I had in mind from ad not stated this in my brief. tention that only came to the ng. My choice of typeface, and the method of etching give ching is an old-fashioned erfect, and has perhaps become making marks on paper are being agery on computer screens, and I ys of image-making in my creative mages on screens is secondary sensory experience that comes ting in real life, on real surfaces.
â€œIt looks like a fairy tale.â€?
BA exchange student
Evaluation I made these three etchings as another triptych that are intended as a title piece for the three images. Producing another set of prints provided an opportunity to practice the etching process, and working with more simplified images I could focus much more on each stage of the process. I also wanted to dedicate some time to producing work that illustrated the process of creating the Blackletter glyphs. As I said previously, for me this style of lettering is really beautiful, and working on the lengthy process that is etching, to produce three words was almost an ode to the scribes of medieval times, who toiled over the pages of illuminated manuscripts to produce works of art that we can still enjoy and appreciate to this day. I received positive feedback from peers and tutors that gave me a sense of pride in my work, although I was not 100% happy with the outcome. The important thing was that I enjoyed and learnt a lot from the whole process I went through to create the final outcomes. I see the project as a starting point to further research and creative production.
My Capstone Project has taught me a lot about my core interests, my practice, and my strengths and weaknesses. One of the main challenges I had to overcome was defining who my audience is however, after that decision was made everything else fell into place. Learning about other practioners, artists, writers, designers, from different backgrounds, helped me to make decisions about who I wanted to communicate with through my work. I have got better at committing to an outcome however, I do still sometimes get side tracked by an urge to experiment with materials. Receiving feedback on a weekly basis, both from peers and the tutor helped me to stay focussed on working towards the outcome. I have discovered I have a fascination for typography, lettering and the history of written communication. My research lead me to many parts of the world and back to ancient times. As humans, I have learnt we communicate on many different levels, using all our senses and I am excited to learn more about how my work fits into the matrix of communication mechanisms at work today. Lastly, I have learnt that analogue and digital working methods are not diametrically opposed. I can use my traditional mediums alongside digital programs to assist me in reaching my goals. I do not need to fear digital processes, I can make them my own.
“Design and craft can be evident not only in finished products but in processes, in ‘attentiveness and response’. The people who made space for English designed something flexible, more like a computeing system than a stylish chair, which would let texts grow and change, including changing language.” Daniel Wakelin (2018, p.14)
“One of the most difficult pieces of space to form is the gap between my work and myself. And the ability to be honest with it. When you become an illustrator, you’re an artist, but an artist that has to solve a brief.” Laura Carlin (2013, Varoom!Lab Journal, p.1)
In this essay I will outline the ways in which GCDP has facilitated my growth as a creative practioner. For me creative practice is about channelling my experiences and knowledge, researching a specific topic and shaping my findings in to a visual solution or outcome that addresses the needs of clients and audiences within a specific context. Before the course I knew I had artistic and design skills however, I wanted to learn how I could put those skills in to a context that could serve a purpose in society. Since my PM6000 projects I have begun to learn how to contextualise my work, respond to a brief and create outcomes that communicate a specific message. My strengths lie in working with physical materials however I understand that this way of working is only a starting point. The requirement on the course to present my work through digital software has been challenging. A pencil drawing can look great on paper but in the real world a client will most probably be viewing the work through a screen, via email or an online platform. Therefore, I have had to alter the way I work, taking into consideration the size and quality of paper I work on, whether to use pen instead of pencil, and whether to use charcoal or ink, for example, because ultimately I will need to scan my work and make it look presentable in a digital format. I have also learnt that my work can look better on screen than it does in its physical form. For me digital image making is a double-edged sword, and it remains for me to harness the technology available to show my ‘content to its best potential’ as stated in the feedback from my PM6000 submission.
“When you make something personal that only you have the ability to make, that’s when people notice.” Miranda Tacchia (It’s Nice That Accessed 11.3.18) My identity as an individual and as a designer is my starting point for each creative project. Before GDCP I would try very hard to separate my personal mind-set from my work, and I think that created blockages in my creative thought processes. When trying to generate ideas I would naturally think up ideas that related to my personal life but I would dismiss these as irrelevant because they were too personal. This created an internal conflict but now I realise that my personal experiences are part of what I have started to develop as my creative voice. I am much more aware of the distinction between accidentally drawing from my personal experiences and referring to them with an intention or purpose. Arisman (2004, p.8) summarises this point, ‘once the personal content (subject matter) is understood and developed by the illustrator then the balancing process of solving someone else’s problems can begin.’ I have gained confidence through talking about my work, and life experiences during presentations and making reflective notes and I now feel much better positioned to begin to identify who my audience is.
The course has provided an arena where I can begin to see my work in a professional capacity. Listening to feedback from peers, tutors and technicians has been instrumental is helping me to form opinions about my work that I would otherwise not have considered. When I was becoming too focussed on experimenting with materials during my Capstone project my tutor pointed out that I needed ‘an anchor’ for the project. This forced me to re-focus on producing an outcome and I began searching for content to steer the project. During group presentations hearing views from other students provides a new perspective for me as I consider their comments and how I might translate their words to make positive changes. For example, when I received comments for my Capstone moodboards it helped me to understand what aspects of my work were being communicated effectively, and which were not. Hearing about other students’ projects also triggers new insights about my own work. For example, one student spoke about how she wanted to ‘disturb’ her audience. this was interesting for me because I had not thought about the effect my work might have on my audience. I began to think about different ways of engaging my audience, and what kind of responses I could try to provoke through my work. Giving feedback to other students during presentations, and in more casual situations helps me to use critical language, that hopefully helps them to improve their work. Choosing words that are sensitive to others’ feelings is important because I know it is not always easy to talk openly about thoughts and feeling about my own work, I imagine it is the same for others. Using critical language helps me to describe, define and contextualise others’, and my own work.
“Seeking meaning in the work we do connects us with a sense of living a worthwhile life, beyond the immediate deliverables of the project. Knowing why you are doing the work, and who your work is ultimately in service of, helps connect you with the meaning. This meaning will provide the direction and intention of your creation as it becomes manifest in the physical world.” Melis Senova (2017, p.26)
GDCP has given me a new perspective on my work and the impact that it can have on the right audience. Through critical analysis and evaluation of my creative practice and process I have come to understand that having a clear target audience is a key component in addressing a design brief and it drives the project forwards. As I discovered during my Capstone project, until I had made a decision about who I wanted to make the work for I was merely experimenting with different materials, and the project lacked direction. Identifying my audience meant I could move forward with designing the message that informed the direction of the project thereafter. Black and Asian Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) are my first audience because this is the demographic I fall into as an individual of dual heritage, born in London and raised between England and Nigeria. The work I create naturally draws on my personal experiences of living between two cultures however, I do not want my ethnicity to restrict who I make work for. In an article discussing the topic of race in academic settings Jennifer Chisolm writes ‘the assumption that minority students in the social sciences should research race severely restricts our scope-and what we’re expected to be knowledgeable about. It’s as damaging as the assumption that women naturally affiliate with gender studies.’ The Guardian Online (Accessed 14.3.1) For me the subject of race is fundamental to my practice. My racial and gender identity differs from the dominant white, male culture in which I live and this in turn informs my choices around addressing audiences and creating content within my work. Reflecting on the work I did in PM6000 I realise that some of the issues I was addressing were centred round racial and social problems. For example, for my ‘Audience’ project I created a zine targeted at young girls to encourage
them to enter the STEM industries, as my research highlighted a lack of women entering the industries as a career choice. I also had a personal connection to the project because my daughter is studying to be an engineer. My ‘Word’ project culminated in an outcome that was an illustration about the Grenfell Tower fire, and explored the lack of justice and political support received by the victims of the tragedy. Researching the theoretical dimensions around the topic of ‘audience’ has brought me to the understanding that relationships with audiences are not fixed but fluid and ever changing depending on the project and the requirements of the brief. As the writer Tomi Adeyemi states: ‘there is a reader out there for every single story so it’s really about us as writers writing what inspires us and moves us!’ Tomi Adeyemi. com Accessed 15.4.18 As I have progressed on the course I have widened my perspective to include content that is socially engaged and intended to connect with wide audiences, including groups from outside my own ethnicity. The Jeans for Genes project is an example of this. Creating work for a target audience identified by the client meant that I had to put myself in a specific mind-set and be a designer for others. The fact the work I created was for a charitable cause heightened the importance of the project for me and gave me a sense that the work I was doing had a purpose in the real world, and could have an impact on the lives of individuals with real needs, ie. children and families living with genetic disorders. Illustrators such as Ashley Lukashevsky and Pen Mendonca work on projects that raise awareness of political issues that are relevant to global and local communities.
Manifesto Sarah Ee “Abstraction doesn’t have a concrete meaning, but can relate back to signification in the world” Howardena Pindell 1000 Words Artforum Feb 2018 p. 154 Motives/Opinions As a female artist of dual heritage I aim to reflect multiculturalism through my work I am sensitive to the limitations that arise from labelling and compartmentalising the definition of ‘audience’. My personal experiences are relevant in that they define my starting point as a designer. However, when working to a brief I am not designing for myself therefore I must align my mindset with the intended target audience. Authorship is an important aspect of my work. I believe that my images can speak for themselves and do not always need the explanation that comes with a written text however…. Words and language are communication tools that I try to incorporate into the images I create My family life is both a distraction and an inspiration. I aim to find a productive balance between my roles as parent and artist.
“Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention” First Things First Manifesto 2000. Eye Magazine Autumn 1999 Actions/Intensions I intend to hone my visual communication skills as a means to educate, inspire and share my perspective on the world I will face my fears and apply ALL my knowledge and skills to each project I work on, including that which may seem unrelated in the first instance. I will not ‘shout down’ my ideas before I have explored the possibilities and potential of each concept. This means being brave and trusting my instincts. I will not create work in isolation but draw from the work of other artists, designers and writers from varying backgrounds I will present ideas from a multi-cultural perspective that reflects the experiences of individuals and communities outside of the mainstream I will promote my work by engaging with a wide audience I will make mental and physical spaces in which to create meaningful work I will find my voice through research and the creation of visual imagery and writing I will reflect on my practice and strive to improve the quality of my work by avoiding ‘overlearning’ I will analyse my research and try to find meaningful connections with the results of my fieldwork I will look back to the histories of people around the world to inform my work I will look around at the world today for ways of bringing relevance to the images I create I will look ahead to a future that is made more positive for the next generation
“We are calling for a refocusing of priorities, in favour of more lasting, democratic forms of communication. A mind shift away from profit-over-people business models and the placing of corporations before individuals, toward the exploration and production of humble, meaningful work, and beneficial cultural impact.” First Things First Manifesto 2014 Social Design Notes 5th March 2014
The group activity where we were asked to create a design manifesto helped me to see my practice in a wider context. I worked with another student and we created ‘The Digit Illustrators Manifesto’, which outlined our motives, opinions, actions and intensions. Collaborating on this task with another student was an effective way to generate ideas and because we had a similar mind-set the ethos of an analogue based design practice worked for both of us. The activity also helped me to create a personal design manifesto through which I was able to define my practice in specific detail. I identified that my motives and opinions are informed by my personal identity and experiences although I need to be able to put personal issues aside when working on a client brief. Listing my actions and intensions was a good way of cementing in my own mind what I plan to do in the future. During a tutorial I was asked why I intend to hone my visual communication skills as a means to educate, inspire and share my perspective on the world. This is a difficult question to answer because I do not think I have yet found my creative voice. I feel that, by being on the GDCP I have begun a journey but have not yet reached my destination. As a parent I naturally think about addressing issues that effect the younger generation and visual communication is an effective way to reach (young) audiences, particularly when, through screen culture, we have been moulded into big consumers of both written and visual content in the information age.
Conclusion Since GDCP my priorities have changed and for the last eight months I have organised my time around the work I have been required to produce. This has strengthened my creative practice and allowed me to develop a pattern of working. I intend to continue to build my practice by engaging in creative projects. I was offered an exhibition space by a senior member of staff at Rochester cathedral and I have started planning what kind of work I would like to produce. I want to make work for the local community of Medway, as was my intention at the beginning of my Capstone project. I would like to continue my studies in communication design on the MA programme to enable me to identify a clearer path to applying my skills in the design industry. At this point although I have discovered a personal interest in writing systems and typography, I am not yet certain of the relevance of all my research and I feel I need an environment where I will be challenged and supported in finding this out. Engaging in collaborations and industry based creative projects would help me to keep my practice focussed on producing solutions to real world problems, finding my creative voice and making meaningful work.
Adeyemi, T (2018) Why i Write: Telling a Story That Matters. Available at tomiadeyemi.com (Accessed 8.3.18) Arisman, M and Heller, S (2004) Inside The Business of Illustration. New York: Allworth Black, S (2014) Illumination Through Illustration: Research Methods and Authorial Practice. Journal of Illustration 1: 2. 275-300 Chen, J (2013) 500 Handmade Books: Volume 2. New York: Lark Chisholm, J (2018) I’m a Black Academic-That Doesn’t Mean I Want To Be An Expert on Race. Available at theguardian.com (Accessed 7.3.18) Danzy, J (2009) Adinkra Symbols: An Ideographic Writing System. New York: Stony Brook University Fischer, A (1987) Africa Adorned. London: Harvill Hyndman, S (2016) Why Fonts Matter. London: Virgin Mottram, D (2011) How I Mixed Up Illustration: Combining Analog And Digital Techniques. Available at https://www.smashingmagazine. com/author/david-mottram (Accessed 20.2.18) Picton, J (1995) The Art of African Textiles: Technology, Tradition and Lurex. London: Lund Humphries Pindell, H (2018) 2000 Words. Artforum. February 2018 Robertson, J (1993) The Calligraphy Sourcebook: A Book of Lettering. Leicester: Magna Books Schon, D (1991) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals Think In Action. Surrey: Ashgate Senova, M (2017) This Human: How To Be The Parson Designing For Other People. Amsterdam: BIS Wakelin, D Designing English: Early Literature on the Page. Oxford: Bodleian
Exhibitions and other Resources Metadata at The Lethaby Gallery African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia at The British Library Purple: John Akomfrah at The Barbican Centre Boom For Real: Jean-Michel Basquiat at The Barbican Centre Paradise Omeros: Isaac Julien at The Ronmandos Gallery The Dogs Bark, But The Caravan Goes On: Esiri Erheriene-Esse at The Ronmandos Gallery Roamin’ Romans-The Roman Letter-Phil Baines at Central St. Martins Radio/TV/Video/Podcasts Arrest All Mimics- Ben Tallon Word Of Mouth-Michael Rosen, Radio 4 Cviilisations-BBC 2 The British Library reading rooms St Brides Foundation library Universities at Medway: Drill Hall Library The Petrie Museum The Reijks Museum The Stedelijk Museum The Wellcome Collection
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Jeans for Jeans Facebook page. Available at facebook.com/JeansforGenesUK (Accessed 18.1.18) Jeans for Jeans Facebook page. Available at https://www.facebook.com/JeansforGenesUK (Accessed 18.1.18) Jeans for Genes Facebook page. Available at facebook.com/JeansforGenesUK/photos (Accessed 18.1.18) Jeans for Genes Instagram page. Available at https://www.instagram.com/jeans_for_genes/?hl=en (Accessed 18.1.18) Jeans for Genes website. Available at https://www.jeansforgenesday.org/webshop/ (Accessed 19.1.18) Spring/Summer Womenswear moodboard. Courtesy of Beatrice Austin @ Rangeroom.com. Image obtained via personal email (Accessed 17.1.18) Spring/Summer 2018 Colour predictions. Elle Magazine, January 2018 Spring/Summer 2018 Colour predictions. Elle Magazine, January 2018 T-shirt design, photo taken at Top Shop, Bulewater Shopping Centre Yves St Laurent men’s t-shirt design T-shirt design, photo taken at River Island, Bluewater Shopping Centre Red Nose Day t-shirt design Red Nose Day t-shirt design MacMillan Cancer Support t-shirt design Cancer UK t-shirt design Cancer UK t-shirt design British Heart Foundation t-shirt design Human stem cells. Available at https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/04/essence-of-stem-cells-found-key-ingredients-protect-heal-the- brain (Accessed 21.1.18) Close up of cake with coloured sprinkles. National Geographic Magazine, January 2018 Shirt Design by Lauren Smith. Available at https://www.thefashionscoutsept09.blogspot.co.uk (Accessed 19.1.18) Crystal Mandala. Amato, Ivan. (2003) Supervision. New York: Harry N Abrams, Inc. Double helix. Available at https://getwallpapers.com (Accessed 21.1.18) DNA Illustration. Available at https://google.com.au (Accessed 21.1.18) Microscopic DNA. Available at https://easynotecards.com. (Accessed 13.1.18) Life-size rendering of H. naledi’s hand. National Geographic Magazine, January 2018 Chromosomes. Available at https://people.howstuffworks.com. (Accessed 23.1.18) A group of neurons. Available at https://medicalxpress.com. (Accessed 22.1.18) Fingerprints. National Geographic Magazine, January 2018 Cross-section of lime tree. Available at https://beyondthehumaneye.blogspot.co.uk (Accessed 20.1.18) Donal Jackson writing calligraphy. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTS5m59DPoo (Accessed 10.1.18) Detail from Irma Boom White. Available at wired.com (Accessed 2.4.18) Nsibidi symbols. Available at africasource.com (Accessed 5.4.18) Highlights by Victor Ekpuk. Available at @arthousecontemporary on Instagram.com (Accessed 5.4.18) Adinkra symbols. Available at https://helendingt1.blogspot.co.uk (Accessed 5.4.18) Nigerian Afro comb design. Jewell, R. (2009) African Designs. London: British Museum Press Nigerian Crododile design. Jewell, R. (2009) African Designs. London: British Museum Press Botanical flower wood engraving. (1997)Histoires Botanique. Paris: L’Aventurine Maya Angelou Poster. Available at https://mayaangelou.com (Accessed 22.2.18) ‘And Still I Rise’ Typographic Poster uploaded by Thalya Eilahtan. Available at Pinterest.com (Accessed 21.2.18) Poem ‘Nature’ by Lord Byron illustrated by Chris Riddell. Available at https://chrisriddellblog.tumblr.com (Accessed 21.2.18) Poem ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake. Illustrator unknown. Available at https://armangel.wordpress.com Illuminated letter N. By ArteOfTheBooke. Available at https://etsy.com (Accessed 18.2.18) Letter S illustrated by Ottilia Adelborg. Available at https://diarionordico.com (Accessed 20.3.18) Fulani woman with bamboo hair support. Fischer, A. (1984) Africa Adorned. London. Collins Fulani hairstyle. Available at Pinterest.com (Accessed 23.2.18) African headwrap. Available at https://steelasophical.wordpress.com (Accessed 21.2.18) Lady at her toilet from the Luttrell Psalter, c. 1325-1335. Available at Pinterest.com Scarification. Available at https://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.ca (Accessed 5.3.18) Monkey Face Orchid. Available at https://blog.floweracrossmelbourne.com.au (Accessed 2.3.18) African wax print fabric design. Available at https://ali2africa.blogspot.co.uk (Accessed 1.3.18) African print fabric design. Available at https://kampalafair.com (Accessed 1.3.18) Bird of Paradise flower. Available at https://flowerpicturegallery.com (Accessed 1.3.18) Fabric print, origin unknown. Available at flickr.com. Uploaded by Patricia M. (Accessed 3.3.18) Bird print by Chris Ofili. Nesbitt, J. (2010) Chris Ofili. London: Tate Publishing African print furniture designs. Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design Exhibition Catalogue (2015) Shine Shine, O’ Baby. Cushion design by Julie Juu and Jennifer Paris textiles Rap artist Snoop Dogg album cover. Available at https://sitepoint.com (Accessed 25.3.18) Nas film poster. Available at https://3.bp.blogspot.com (Accessed 25.3.18) T-shirt design. Available at https://showsomepride.com (Accessed 25.3.18) Kanye west /Jay-Z album cover. Available at https://designinspiration.net (Accessed 25.3.18) Illustration by Ashley Lukashevsky. Available at https://itsnicethat.com (Accessed 15.3.18)
Sarah Ee April 2018