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Welcome! This blog documents my student journey on the Visual Communication: Design, Society, Nature course at The Margate School.

Week One – the Line and the Dot

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics is a 1965 animated short film directed by Chuck Jones and co-directed by Maurice Noble, based on the 1963 book of the same name written and illustrated by Norton Juster. The film was narrated by Robert Morley and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Watch it here : https://vimeo.com/4929038 (Beware : the gendering of the dot, the line and the scribble is pretty toe-curling almost sixty years on!)

BINDI – an ancient Hindu custom – traditionally worn by women for religious purposes or to indicate that they’re married. There is currently a scheme to impregnate bindi patches with iodine, to address dietary iodine deficiency – the same technology as nicotine and other drug-delivery patches. The decorative and symbolic is made functional.
image found online – titled PANDEMIC SHELVES – suggests the disruption of orderliness by the chaotic randomness of viral epidemic.
circles as a design element in Margate Old Town

THOUGHTS

Is the circle naturally occurring ? – motion of planets, tree growth rings, ripples on pond, iris of the eye ..

Or a human cultural artefact ? – symbolic, decorative, functional (e.g. wheel, cog, drum, aperture).

Used architecturally, it softens the typically rectilinear appearance of buildings – an aesthetic addition, not essential to structure ?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK


This little book is a classic – but completely new to me. It was a rewarding read – both simple and complex at the same time. It seems to state the obvious – but the obvious is not obvious until stated ! It uses simple shapes and 3 colours to illustrate Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in a forest – showing how a design is BUILT in stages through experimentation. The general design principles she draws from the exercise are that

  • smooth, flat, horizontal shapes gives us a sense of stability and calm
  • vertical shapes are more exciting and more active. Vertical shapes rebel agsinst the earth’s gravity. They imply energy and a reaching towards heights or the heavens.
  • diagonal shapes are dynamic because they imply motion or tension.
  • the upper half of a picture is a place of freedom, happiness, and triumph; objects placed in the top half often feel more “spiritual”.
  • the centre of the page is the most effective “centre of attention”. it is the point of greatest attraction. The edges and corners of the picture are the edges and corners of the picture-world.
  • white or light backgrounds feel safer to us than dar k backgrounds because we can see well during the day and only poorly at night.
  • we feel more scared looking at pointed shapes ; we feel more secure or comforted looking at rounded shapes or curves.
  • the larger an object is in a picture, the stronger it feels.
  • we associate the same or similar colours much more strongly than we associate the same or similar shapes

These are some examples of work by JULIE COCKBURN whose exhibition PAINTING THE PHOTOGRAPH runs at THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ GALLERY from 5 Nov-9 Jan. She typically uses found objects and vintage photographs – adding colour with paint, embroidery and collage – transforming them into abstract artworks.

The gallery is at 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW (Nearest tube: Oxford Circus) and always worth a quick visit whenever you’re in central London – check it out at https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/

Japanese Lake Garden, 2021
Hand embroidery on found photograph
Wind Power, 2021
hand embroidery and ink on found photograph
Anzan, 2021
Hand embroidery on found photograph
Japanese Bay 2021
hand embroidery on found photograph
Robot 1, 2021
hand embroidery on found photograph

As the taught course moves into typography, I’m reading Simon Garfield’s JUST MY TYPE, which is Full of Fascinating Facts, Funny and inFormative – a history of Fonts, their designers and where and how they came to be used. Recommended !

One reviewer wrote : “Brilliant …. don’t miss this quirky, fact-filled font fest”


I found this very potted history of graphic design …………….. with some useful links :

Graphic Design Movements Throughout History

By Maria Bailey | October 25, 2021

Discover how graphic design got its start, its historical significance—and its evolution into what it is today. 

The history of graphic design can be traced as far back as 30,000 years, existing in the form of cave paintings and inscriptions on clay, rock, and brick. But, graphic design as we know it today didn’t really start to develop until the modern era, around the late 1800s. 

In fact, it wasn’t until 1922 that the term “graphic design” even came into existence. Coined by book designer William Addison Dwiggins, the term appeared in his essay “New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design” to explain how he organized and managed visuals in his work. 

Today, the graphic design industry is valued at around $41.8 billion dollars globally—and it’s only expected to keep growing as technological advancements and designers continue to raise the bar and redefine what is possible.

To appreciate how far graphic design has come, let’s take a look back at the key art movements that have informed the evolution of graphic design throughout history. 


First, What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the art of visual communication that combines typography, imagery, color, and form to convey information to an audience. It can be produced on any kind of surface—canvas, stone, pottery—or how it’s perhaps most recognized today, on a digital screen.

Coffee Shop Sign
Cool graphic designs of a vintage sign and poster. Images via lukeruk and Ajaibs.

Examples of graphic design can be found almost anywhere—web pages, social media sites, apps, billboards, commercials, flyers, and so on.


The Industrial Revolution (the 1760s)

When the Industrial Revolution began in the 1760s, it welcomed a new age of graphic design. Innovative technologies for increasing production and manufacturing processes developed at an unprecedented rate, including in design.

The method of lithography, for example, was one of the biggest design exports of the Industrial Revolution. Lithography was a printing technique that involved inking your design into a stone or metal surface and transferring it to a sheet of paper. This innovation gave way to chromolithography, which is essentially lithography in color

Barber Shop Tools
Graphic design and production became distinct during the Industrial Revolution. Images via Doremi and monkographic

Art Nouveau (the 1890s)

Art Nouveau (New Art) exploded onto the scene in Europe and the United States from around 1890 to the First World War. As the name would suggest, this movement was a deliberate attempt to abandon the old styles of the 19th century and embrace the new.

Rather than using straight, solid shapes, Art Nouveau sought to bring modernity and elegance to design, characterized by organic forms and sinuous lines. It was a progressive stylistic movement at the time, divorced from the Industrial Revolution and the processes of mass production that proceeded it. 

Art Nouveau Style
Art Nouveau encouraged free-flowing lines based on organic forms and curves. Images via svekloid.

Wiener Werkstätte (1903)

As more companies started to see the value in graphic design, it wasn’t long before a graphic design agency was created. Enter Austria’s Wiener Werkstätte a.k.a. “Vienna Workshop”—a productive cooperative made up of visual artists, including painters, architects, and the industry’s first graphic designers.

The organization not only shaped the industry but also contributed to the style of graphic design. Wiener Werkstätte sparked a trend of design characterized by modernism, geometry, cubism, “square style,” as depicted below, and lay the groundwork for the Bauhaus and Art Deco styles that would soon follow. 

Hexagonal Pattern
Wiener Werkstätte celebrated and embraced the beauty of geometry. Images via 5mmcry, Tustan, and Curly Pat.

Bauhaus (1919)

Founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus school in Germany was grounded in the idea of creating a “Gesamtkunstwerk,” a creative ideal that encompasses and combines different art forms into one cohesive whole.

Bauhaus succeeded, producing designs that incorporated minimalism, geometric shapes, and simplistic, new typefaces to become one of the driving forces of modernist design. While the school only lasted fourteen years, its influence remains to this day. 

Abstract Bauhaus
Bauhaus ushered in the modern era of design. Images via Neo Geometric, Neo Geometric, and PGMart.

Art Deco (1925)

Emerging after the First World War in 1920s Paris, Art Deco was the ultimate symbol of optimism, encapsulating the spirit of the roaring ‘20s and ‘30s. The art form influenced various creative disciplines, including design, visual arts, fashion, and architecture.

Art Deco borrows from multiple artistic influences rather than one single style. Still, despite this, Art Deco style is unified in that it evokes modernity, glamour, elegance, functionality, and the future. It’s characterized by the use of bright colors, liberal use of gold (especially in Art Deco typography), straight hard-edged smooth lines, and geometric shapes. 

Art Deco
Art Deco was born after the First World War when design could take center stage. Images via Paslayka, NGdesignhun, and Gorbash Varvara.

Paul Rand (1940s)

Paul Rand is one of the most influential graphic designers of the 21st century, and his ideas and principles continue to influence graphic designers today.

In 1947, Rand authored his first book, Thought On Design, in which he asserted that a good piece of commercial art had to be both beautiful and aesthetic. He valued aesthetic perfection and communication, which is perhaps best demonstrated in his most famous corporate logo designs, including IBM, Ford, ABC, UPS, and Yale.  

Ford Logo
Paul Rand emphasized the need for functional-aesthetic perfection in corporate design. Image via rvlsoft.

Postmodernism (the 1970s)

Modernism represented a utopian vision of human life, society, and a belief in progress. By the 1970s, artists started rebelling against the ideas of values of modernism.

Postmodernism was born on skepticism, refusing to recognize authority and any style or definition of what art should be. A new era of freedom saw artists embrace mixing different styles and media while using new unconventional, expressionist techniques. 

Postmodern Graphic Design
Postmodernism shattered established ideas about art and design, bringing a new self-awareness about style itself. Images via Normform, ded pixto, and spatuletail.

The Digital Age 

The introduction of digital tools revolutionized the way we create graphic design. Up until the late 20th century, graphic design had been based on handicraft processes. However, during the 1980s and early ‘90s, rapid advancements in digital hardware and software changed graphic design forever.

By 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh computer, featuring a user-friendly interface and programs such as MacPaint, the world’s first widely available freeform bitmap painting program. 

Original Macintosh
The advancement of digital technologies completely transformed graphic design. Image via Audio und werbung

MacPaint paved the way for many innovations that today form the basis of programs such as Photoshop—which was also, incidentally, launched on a Mac in 1990. Photoshop, a graphics editing software, made it possible for anyone to manipulate images and make professional designs. However, basic programs like Microsoft Paint made graphic design more available to the masses.

By the mid-1990s, graphic design’s evolution from the drawing table to the digital screen was more or less complete. 


Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve looked back on the rich history of graphic design, it’s perhaps prudent to ask how designers can prepare for the future.

Poster Collage
Image via singpentinkhappy.

If the history of graphic design tells us anything, it’s that design evolves, and all the movements and styles that overlap are influenced by what came before. Continuing to grow as a multi-disciplinary designer can better prepare you for when design and trends inevitably shift.

Learn, grow, and evolve with graphic design. But, most importantly, have fun!


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COLOUR AND CULTURE

“Color quite literally colors the way we view our world. Here’s an in-depth look at what various colors symbolize in cultures around the world.

If you’ve ever had the blues or been so angry you saw red, then you’re familiar with the powerful ways in which color can describe intangible ideas and emotions. In art and anthropology, color symbolism refers to color’s ability to signify meaning to a viewer. While there are some universal associations people have with different colors, their meanings differ from culture to culture.

There are a range of cultural influences that affect one’s view of a specific color, like political and historical associations (flag colors, political parties), mythological and religious associations (references to color in spiritual texts), and linguistic associations (idioms and expressions). Let’s look at some of the most common symbolism in popular colors, then explore them in full.”

To read all of this Shutterstock blog – click below


currently part of Turner Contemporary Open exhibition – phonetic alphabet OK but haven’t figured out the Morse code yet !

Also featured in Turner Contemporary Open exhibition – titled JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION – 2020

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