Book: Design Elements, A Graphic Style Manual (Timothy Samara) 

“To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatise, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse”. – Paul Rand 

-The introduction is quite a detailed analysis of the purpose of a graphic designer, the difference between graphic design and advertising and what graphic design actually is.

Twenty Rules for Making Good Design

“by no means should any rule, including those that follow, be taken as Cosmic Law. If you’re unconvinced, simply turn to page 248 where breaking every rule in this book is advocated wholeheartedly. But these rules are a starting point, an excellent list of issues to consider while you work. In the end, you will decide how and when to apply the rules, or not, as well as understand the results of either course of action.”  I added this section in because I think it’s good that they are going to show you examples of breaking the rules too. Not just simply stating to abide by them.

1. Have a concept. (If there is no message, no story, no idea, no narrative, or no useful experience to be had, it’s not graphic design).

2. Communicate – don’t decorate. (How you support the all-important concept).

3. Speak with one visual voice. (Does everything relate harmoniously to everything else?)

4. Use two typeface families maximum. Ok, maybe three. (Choose typefaces for specific purposes).

5. Use the one-two punch! (Focus viewers’ attention on one important thing first, and then lead them through the rest – establishing a hierarchy).

6. Pick colours on purpose. (Know what the colours will do when you combine them, and what they might mean to the audience. Choose colours that are right, not those that are expected).

7. If you can do it with less, then do it. (‘Less is more’ theory. The more stuff jammed into a given space, the harder it is for the average bear to see what they’re supposed to be seeing).

8. Negative space is magical – create it, don’t just fill it up! (Space calls attention to content, separates it from unrelated content around it, and gives the eyes a resting place).

9. Treat the type as image, as though it’s just as important. (Type is visual material – made up of lines and dots and shapes and textures – that needs to relate compositionally to everything else included in the design, no matter how different they seem to be).

10. Type is only type when it’s friendly. (It should go without saying that type that can’t be read has no purpose, but, unfortunately, it bears repeating. Yes, typography can be expressive… it must still transmit information).

11. Be universal; remember that it’s not about you. (A very large audience, not a few people who are “in the know”, has to know what you mean with those shapes, that colour, and that image you chose).

12. Squish and separate. (Create contrasts in density and rhythm by pulling some material closer together and pushing other material further apart).

13. Distribute light and dark like firecrackers and the rising sun. (Take a suggestion from the world of photography: make sure there’s a wide range of tonal value. Above all, make distinctions between light and dark noticeable and clear).

14. Be decisive. Do it on purpose – or don’t do it at all. (Place visual material with confidence, and make clear decisions about size, arrangement, distance from other material, and so on. Decisiveness makes a viewer more likely to believe that the message means what it says).

15. Measure with your eyes: design is visual. (A thing is what it looks like – make it look the way it’s supposed to look).

16. Create images – don’t scavenge. (Make what you need, and make it the best you can – or pay someone else to do it for you. Nothing is more banal or meaningless than a commonly used instance of stock photography that shows up everywhere. Try not to rely on what already exists).

17. Ignore fashion. Seriously. (These people in the present have particular tastes and expectations about how they like their communications to look. If you design the project and style it around the meaning, not the audience’s expectations of current stylistic conceits, several good things will come out of it).

18. Move it! Static equals dull. (If a layout is clearly flat and fails to offer a sense of movement or spatial interaction, the viewer’s brain is more likely to be uninterested enough to hang out and see what the message is. Static compositions say “you’ve figured me out… so walk away, nothing to see here”).

19. Look to history, but don’t repeat it. (Learn from the work of others, but do your own work).

20. Symmetry is the ultimate evil. (They are generally static and offer little movement, they make asymmetrical image material awkward to integrate, and it makes the designer look lazy). 

-This section was long but very insightful. A fairly good start to the book. There were points that I thought “I knew that anyway, it’s common knowledge”, and some that I hadn’t thought of. I’ll definitely refer back to these guidelines in the future.

-There are 5 chapters to this book: Form and SpaceColour Fundamentals,Choosing and Using TypeThe World of Image, and Putting it All Together.

“Hue:- A distinction between colour identities as defined by their wavelengths / Saturation:- The relative dullness or brightness of a colour / Temperature:- A colour’s perceived warmth or coolness / Value:- Whether a colour appears light or dark”

-This chapter does give you the expected. Primary, secondary, tertiary colours, and definitions of things like hue, saturation, the colour wheel etc. almost identical to the things we were taught in our first year about “Colour Theory”. I can relate more to this chapter. Some great examples are shown and I don’t even mind that I’m re-reading what I already know, as it’s someone else’s perception and ideas being presented back to me. It also reads more easily, I think. Whereas, in the last chapter, all I kept reading was ‘form’, ‘format’ etc. it was hard to follow because it was the same words over and over. However, as this chapter is about colour, it’s much more relative to my course and appears to have useful tips that I can follow. Again, something to refer back to.

“Many cultures equate red with feelings of hunger, anger or energy because red is closely associated with meat, blood and violence. By contrast, vegetarians might associate the colour green with hunger.”  I found this interesting because 1. I am a vegetarian, and 2. One of my ideas for my Final Major Project was to steer vegetarianism away from stereotyping. So, maybe I should bring out a range of vegetarian food with the main colour as red!

“In graphic design, there are myriad image possibilities – symbols and photomontage, drawing and painting, and even type – that perform different functions”. 

From this chapter I can immediately tell that I need to answer my own questions about my future work. There is a checklist that I think is quite important when thinking about the final outcome/each evaluation stage:

1. Does the typographic detail visually relate to image styles, as well as convey messages appropriate to the text?

2. Does the form of graphic elements communicate with images?

3. Do the images play off each other to enhance intended messages, and does any image or combination thereof deliver unintended messages?

4. Does the colour system add to the concept?

5. What about print techniques, paper, and binding details?

Basically, it suggests to think about structure, the flow of the page (each page, if more than one), to remember the grid system both for text and for image, to mix things up (vary my work), arrangement and to mainly think of the audience more than myself (I can name one project I did the opposite – my CD project in the first year).

In conclusion, I think this is a very useful book. I admit it’s more reading than I would have liked, but I, personally, learn more from visuals. Each chapter, and sub category is deconstructed so intensely, that all queries will pretty much be answered when it comes to a project, layout, design, whatever. It would be a very good book for a big project, in case you forget something or need to get a bit of advice on a particular detail or element. There isn’t too much text on each page, however there are 269 pages… (it took the good part of a full day to thumb through!). However, each sub category fits onto 1 or 2 double page spreads so it’s nicely and clearly presented.

The 20 rules section at the start was lighthearted and humorous, which always makes me enjoy reading something. There are good quotes from a variety of professional people (Well known, Paul Rand, teachers etc.) at the start of each chapter, which is always interesting too. The book made me question and refer back to my first year work and how I could change it, which is a good point. I can re-evaluate my work and hopefully improve it.



Magazine: Eye (No. 85)

I was quite interested to read Eye Magazine, as it does state itself as “the international review of graphic design”, expecting a broad range of topics and interviews… and I wasn’t disappointed. (You can also go to their website to see what’s in their current issue as well as previous issues, blogs and critiques)


Issue 85:

I liked the front cover, quite stressed but a simple edited photo and the black background brings out the vibrancy of their neon orange logo. (I later noticed the image was a section from one of the RCA posters – it works very well as an image on its own).

It also contains some great typographical posters (some I don’t quite understand, but then I guess it’s the layout, process and outcome that matters more than the meaning sometimes).

“Anyone who creates something new – whether it’s an idea or an artefact – is engaged in a kind of dialogue: with the past; with the culture of the present; and with the audience of the future.”  – I liked this quote. It’s hard to explain, but I can agree with this to the extent that creating something new does, at least, consider every single aspect of time (past, present and future) in order to be noticed or even a success.

The first article is about ITVs rebranding – “Rebranding ITV was meant to generate a warm glow – not the heated reaction it received from viewers. By Rick Poynor”. What I get from this article is that people are far too harsh on a mere TV channel logo changing. I think most viewers were too quick to find the negatives in the new logo. Personally, I like the logo, especially how it picks up the colours of the background photography or video and blends in with it – it’s really effective – and I think the softness of the typeface does give off a bit more warmth compared to a harsh serif font. At the end of it all though, it doesn’t really change what’s put on the screen, or what you choose to watch, does it?

“The designs are fresh, youthful, unforced and contemporary in mood, without succumbing to the constraints of an over-strict European Modernism, or becoming self-consciously avant-garde.”

Januzzi: “In particular, the works of the 1950s and 1960s tell the story of a period when things were invented, made easy and brought to the attention of a large heterogeneous public. These posters demonstrate the will, by means of fabricating images with meaning, to make a new and better world”.

Article: Go With The Data Flow (Mark Webster)

I feel like this article spoke to me the most. Lust are have used technology in many clever and (what appears to be) simple ways.

For instance, the lamps filter I thought was very clever – responding to data (metadata) from social media networks, explaining ‘how’ the internet works in a beautifully soft way (flickering and moving lights), that otherwise hasn’t particularly been tried out before.

It may be my age, but I do find technology and design an interesting pair. And Lust proves to be a very successful company with this mix, for example, PolyArc (an interactive installation in France) Posterwall for the 21st Century (similar to PolyArc but with added features), and the best one, Digital Depot (2003) a permanent exhibition (Museum Boijmans Van Beunningen, Rotterdam) which even had 10 commandments to help guide through the design process:

1.The art object is more important than the technology.

2. Keep the interface transparent: _no Doom-like navigational console; _no flying, bouncing, rotating navigational elements; _no ‘burnished aluminium’ skins; _no bevelled buttons.

3. Keep the interface and controls easy and intuitive: _touch instead of cursor; _finger instead of mouse.

4. User must have direct ‘contact’ with the art object – touching a lamp turns it on.

5. No ‘start screen’ – always ‘on’.

6. No ‘menu system’; _no buttons, icons, menu bars, pull-downs, pop-ups; _to zoom, just pull on the object, instead of using a zoom slider.

7. Use ‘proximity’ as much as possible – things turn on because user is close to it.

8. Multiple users at any time.

9. No monitors, keyboards or mouse.

10. Resist using existing metaphors: _clouds, webs, networks, cities; _navigational compass or small overview map.

It’s always good to have a bit of humour too.

Article: Told in Pictures (Clare Walters) 

“Not only can wordless picturebooks be beautiful objects themselves, they also offer a different kind of ‘reading’: one that requires the child to look at each picture carefully to decode the story.” – I couldn’t agree with this quote more. With picturebooks it’s all about looking at every single detail, finding a personal response and having your own original meaning as to why an artist has done what they’ve done.

Walters then goes on to explain that comic strips are a type of format for wordless picturebooks. I think the best example she gives is Raymond Briggs’sThe Snowman (1978) which then became  the widely known animated feature film.

“Paradoxically, a wordless picturebook isn’t necessarily devoid of words. There is almost certain to be a title, and this may provide a clue to what is inside, say, the name of a character, an emotion, or a time frame.” 

Briggs: “The whole point of illustration is that it is literary. If not, it remains a drawing only.”

All in all, I think Eye magazine is an international review of graphic design. It’s very useful to read other people’s review and perspective on subjects/topics (most I’d never come across if I hadn’t have read it in Eye…). I like that they tell you to refer back to previous volumes and issues to get a better sense of each article, and enticing you to subscribe to them. The articles are very well written, some a little too dense for my liking, but then again more of the topics probably need explaining, or it encourages you to research into them more.

I would buy Eye magazine again, and I would definitely recommend it to my classmates.


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