Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Revolutions Exhibition

Back in April, I went to see this exhibition about the album cover in The Civic Gallery in Barnsley. This is a subject that brings together my two greatest passions - graphic design and popular music - and I'm pretty sure this will be the subject of my dissertation.

The album covers were laid out in chronological order, starting with the first ever illustrated album cover designed by Alex Steinweiss in 1939, and going through to releases from 2009 such as Roots Manuva's 'Slime and Reason'. The show also covered four formats: vinyl, cassette tape, compact disc and digital releases.

The exhibition had some brilliant pieces of design on display. The Rolling Stone's 'Sticky Fingers' LP from 1969 designed by Craig Braun and Andy Warhol shows a crotch complete with real zip. 

I liked Peter Saville's design for New Order's 'Unknown Pleasures' - it often tops the Top 100 type lists.

My favourite piece of music packaging ever is for 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Floating In Space' by Spiritualized, designed by Mark Farrow's design house in 1997. My older brother was a big CD buyer in the 90s, and knowing he owned it, I raided his collection to take a closer look. 

I think the packaging is so brilliant because it takes the pill analogy and carries it through immaculately. From the silver foil blister pack containing the CD 'tablet', right down to the 'Patient Product Information' booklet.

The copy writing is superb. The musicians are 'active ingredients', the recommended dose is to 'play once, twice daily', and the possible side effects include 'delirium, a sense of intoxication and visual and auditory hallucinations'.

The exhibition was excellent, concise without missing anything important out, and who knew Barnsley had such a little gem of an art gallery? I could write about this subject all day, but I'll stop here. Hopefully I'll be able to write 10 000 words on the topic for my dissertation.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Boom! T-shirts Website

Boom! T-shirts' online shop is a website that is really making use of Adobe Flash CS4s new 3D capabilities. Normally I might think this was backwards design ("ooh look what our fancy new piece of software can do, now how can we use it") but this site genuinely has a sound little concept for showing off t-shirts and it has been executed really nicely. What's more, this is clearly made by graphic designers, for graphic designers and in these cases companies really have to pull out all the stops in order to impress.

Well, it's really impressed me. Check out the 'About' section too - it's written with a really nice tone of voice.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

BBC Radio Branding

I love to see a good, consistent brand. When the BBC brought the branding of their different radio stations into line a couple of years ago, I think they did a really good job (it was done in-house).

This is how they looked before: disparate and a little bit stuck in the 90s.

The new set uses the Radio 1 logo as a starting point and takes it from there. I love the cleaner, refreshed look, each logo clearly under the same umbrella brand but also managing to keep a character of its own. There are some clever little graphical elements that communicate the nature of each station too. I also love the font used for the numbers - though I'm having a hard time identifying it. 

If I had any criticism it would be that the concept for the Radio 3 logo is executed a little clumsily. I think that the Radio 7 logo is the weakest - I don't like the rounded corners of the 7 and the smile is quite hard to read.

Overall I think it's a really successful overhaul. The BBC can be a bit of a straight-laced organisation at times so these could have been a lot safer. Actually, the logos retain a lot of character while still clearly belonging to the same brand: no mean feat.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Antony Gormley's One & Other

Antony Gormley is probably most famous for his sculpture 'The Angel Of The North', but he has been creating artwork for 25 years. Gormley's sculptures are often human figures. His last project was 'Event Horizon', when 31 of his figures were placed in prominent locations around London. His latest piece of work is called 'One & Other' and his idea is quite simple: for 100 days, 2400 members of the public will stand for one hour each in Trafalgar Square on top of 'The Fourth Plinth' - an empty statute stand built in 1841 that was never filled due to lack of funds. The whole thing is streamed live on a 24 hour webcam.

This is how the man himself explains it.

The project is 3 weeks in and I think this is a great piece of art. I like the collaborative nature of it - it can be whatever the British public make of it. So far people have have been doing some really interesting things for some very worthwhile causes - charity is often the main theme. I think this is something our country can be proud of.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Animal Serifs

My all time, desert island, top two logos with serifs changed to look 
animal-like, are...
This is going to be quite a short post because these logos speak for 
themselves but I think they're clever. I wonder if this concept can or 
will be used again? Also, I would like to nominate Century (used in 
the for the Bulldog logo I think) for the font with the coolest lower 
case 'g'.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

This post is about a website that I got quite addicted to in April called Logo Tournament. The basic premise is that when a company wants a new logo, they set up an online competition and designers submit entries of their logo designs. The contest holder picks a winner who earns a pre-determined sum of $250 or above. If there are fewer than 30 entries, the holder gets their money back. Simple.

I heard about the site through one of Facebook's targeted ads - which I invariably ignore. What was different about this one I wonder? Whatever it was, I immediately thought this sounded like a cool idea and started submitting entries. Despite having a 9 to 5 job in Sheffield, I put in a fair amount of time into this new venture, often working on the train to and from the office. Within 2 weeks I'd won 2 competitions and, to my surprise, actually seen payments go into my paypal account (minus the website's commission) that added up to a little over 300 quid.

You can see my entries here. One of my winning logos was for an American iPhone App development company who are now using the logo on their website, although I don't like the design of their site. My other successful entry was for a skate shop also based in the U.S who have used a part of my design on their website too, again in pretty bad taste.

The more I think about Logo Tournament though, the more doubts I start to have. For what the client gets - often hundreds of different logo designs - it's very good value for money. Maybe a site like this cheapens the art-form of graphic design. On the other side of the process, good designers can put hours in and only one designers earns any money.

I do think there are some positives: quite a nice little online community, fledgling designers being able to work on real briefs, established designers having a punt for fun, the client having a big choice for a small amount of money.

I stopped going on Logo Tournament after about the third week, mainly because I didn't have time but I might start submitting entries again. Anyone else have any thoughts? Is Logo Tournament cheapening design as a trade or mutually beneficial for both parties?

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Greengrocers At Converse Don't Polish Their Apples

I really liked this advert for Converse All-Star trainers. It's just really simple - someone wearing the shoes at a music festival. It's almost as if they're just showing us the type of person and the setting that they see their trainers being in. Converse All Stars and rock music have got a history together - from John Travolta in Grease to Kurt Cobain - and the company are playing on this fact.

I think it's really intersting that the trainers in the shot are dirty. We all know Cons look better after a bit of wear and it looks like Converse now know it too. I've been trying to think of other situations in which the product in an advert would be worn or used and I'm struggling. In a world where images are so often CGI or retouched to death I like the fact that this is going the opposite way.

The advert manages to convey so much and all without words - it's universal enough to work in any country. I think it's a good piece of work.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The School Of Athens

Time for another Rome-with-Professor-Hann-link blog post. The facts... The School Of Athens is a fresco painted by Raphael in 1510 and is located inside a chapel in Vatican City. It depicts a lot of well known Greek philosophers. Plato stands in the middle, pointing to the sky. Next to him Aristotle holds a copy of his book Ethics. Pythagoras can be seen on the left teaching his mathematical theories. On the right Euclid (the so-called father of geometry) is drawing with a pair of compasses. I think this is the reason that professor Hann used to show us this painting nearly every lecture. I especially like how Raphael has painted himself into the scene over on the far right, looking out at us wearing a black beret. Another point of interest is Raphael's sound use of perspective. All the lines of the building converge to a vanishing point - a technique that was largely absent from artists' work before the Renaissance.

I was inspired by this painting because for a start I knew a bit about it already and seeing it in real life really made an impression on me. The painting must be a sort of personal tribute to Raphael's heroes - he was apparently well versed on Greek philosophy. It's also interesting that it is Pagan subject matter in a Christian chapel. I also love portraiture and this was some of the best I've ever seen.

The Pantheon, Rome

Yesterday I got back from Rome. I know the brief for this project specifically states that this blog shouldn’t be ‘a collection of summer holiday snaps’ but in terms of creative and cultural inspiration, Rome just can’t be beaten.

The first thing I want to write about is something that came up in Professor Hann’s architecture lecture in second year Design Theory: The Pantheon. The Pantheon was built in 25AD by the Romans and is famous for its incredible dome. The dome is 43 meters in diameter with a 9 meter wide hole, or oculus, in the centre which is the building’s only source of light. I read that a sphere would fit perfectly inside the dome – the dimensions are accurate to the millimetre.

The reason I find this building so great is thinking about the engineering feat that was achieved over 2000 years ago. The dome is made of concrete (a material that Prof Hann told us the Romans worked out how to make and then mankind forgot how to make) and tapers from 6 meters thick at the base to 1 meter thick at the top. The weight bearing supports are hidden inside the walls. It is still is the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world. I think the level of technology achieved so long ago is pretty amazing. When it rains though, the floor under the oculus gets wet. Is that bad planning?