Category Archives: My Work

Typographer of the Week: Paula Scher

Known as the “titan of postmodern design”, Paula Scher is a highly influential graphic design who has done countless of groundbreaking projects with notable brands and even important government agencies.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scher is responsible for both the polished corporate-ness of the Citibank logo and the loudly expressive poster designs of historic Public Theater productions like Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. Despite the disparate nature of the designs and their messages, Scher executes them perfectly. She mentions, “I think all design matters and all design deserves to be intelligent.” – referring to not just designing for the “public good” but for all designs.

In the video, What Design Can Do 2012, Scher tells many interesting stories about how her massive projects have begun (mostly by pro bono logos). One of her projects was “The High Line”, where Scher herself, had almost zero faith that the project would take off. Nonetheless, she did the logo for the High Line, where they gradually implemented her design into the area and collateral designs. She mentioned, “the logo, when combined with a terrific activity, product or service, it begins to resonate.” Like the High Line, before it was built, the logo was just a logo.

The High Line

Madison Square Park

This is another project by Scher. In the rebranding of Madison Square Park, what stood out the most to me was the choice of using “MAD. SQ. PK.” as their logo. Her rationale was that NYC loves abbreviations – SoHo (South of Houston), NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) and so on. Scher identified a significant and unique aspect of the NYC culture and incorporated it into Madison Square Park. As people easily get confused with Madison Square Park with Madison Park, they do not have a strong impression and think that this park is rather ordinary and dull. This really shows that as designers, we are never only subjected to the visuals. Today, designers are more like “problem solvers”, conceptualising and then conveying ideas to the public.

NYC Parks

Lastly, Scher has worked with NYC Parks, with a condition that she was allowed to redesign the signages of the parks. The previous signages were cluttered and inconsistent (and an eyesore to Scher). With Scher’s design, a modular system was adopted, which made the entire design system extremely consistent and neat. She even emphasized on the guidelines for the workers to follow as there are many parks all around NYC to ensure consistency. Even though Scher was known as a “graphic designer”, I felt that her roles were expanded as she had to consider the user experience for several of her projects.

Overall, Scher is an extremely influential and skilled creative. As seen in the video and her projects, she is critical and logical in her thinking and consistent in her works – attributes which all designers aspire to be.

References:
https://www.pentagram.com/news/paula-scher-works
https://99designs.com.sg/blog/famous-design/paula-scher-titan-of-postmodern-design/

https://fontsinuse.com/designers/369/paula-scher

03 Ego: Artist Research

To start off this project, I would be mostly looking into how these artists used colours and put them together harmoniously.

Vanessa McKeown

McKeown photographs ordinary daily objects and manipulates them into quirky photo illustrations. The colour schemes used were mostly pastel as it gives off a softer look. The lightheartedness in the photos is a perfect combination of the quirky and fun interpretations of the objects.

Other than the use of colours, my illustrations were inspired by her as well. My overarching concept would be to make ordinary, daily objects relatable to my experiences and memories, which will make up my equation of “Me+Environment=______”

 

 

 

Tom Haugomat

Tom Haugomat is an illustrator based in Paris, France. The use of light and a pastel cooler palette in Tom’s work is reminiscent of American illustration from the 1950’s and ’60s.

The evident use of light and colours made his work seem beautifully in harmony, whether is it using shades and tints, or analogous and complementary colours.

 

 

Malika Favre

Malika Favre is a French graphic designer and her distinct and often very sexy style has made her one of the world’s most sought-after. Her works are bold, minimalist, and instantly recognisable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, I found these artists extremely helpful in terms of visualizing how colours can be utilized to create a certain mood or to set a contrast in a composition. Although not all of their works fall under the typical colour rule, as some might be split complementary etc, it is interesting to see how these colours can be put together harmoniously.

 

02 Forrest Gump: Final

These are my final designs! I’ve made the most changes to the 3rd and 4th design. Here are links to my research and process.

Part (1/3) Artist Research

Part (2/3) Design Process

Part (3/3) Final (This post)

For this piece, it’s all about perspective and looking at the world in a new light. I chose common elements which we see on a daily basis, such as the buildings and the landscape, and manipulated them. The warped effect especially, allows the viewers to experience how looking in a new perspective looks like visually – different and surreal. Even for the buildings that I chose, they have their stories. I wanted to show that these “common elements” could actually reflect political and social issues in a particular country.

“You’re a bird brain!” 

This is an insult that uses an animal’s natural characteristic to portray it in a human context. Similarly, when I researched about anthropomorphism, I felt that using this approach to portray certain characteristics would be useful and interesting. Not only is it not literal, but it exaggerates the persona in a fun way. Therefore, I used the head of a bird on a human body. The whole idea is to poke fun of consumerism. Humans are so obsessed with keeping up with the latest technology that it is redundant and that they fail to notice their surroundings. The unrealistic scale of the iPhone also exaggerates how the figure intently looks at the screen, without realising the surveillance camera lurking in the background.

草莓族 ; The strawberry generation. 

The third design explores how youths in this generation are vulnerable and weaker. There is a stereotype of how 21st century teens are, the “strawberry generation”. When troubled teens are being tackled with a problem, some might turn to a substance abuse to escape reality. Being addicted to this destructive lifestyle would be an endless pit of no return, portrayed by the waves that surround the girl and the rope attached to the leg.

For the last design, the first half of the quote which says “You don’t want the truth” is being portrayed through the VR goggles that he is wearing and it suggests that he is living in denial, living in his own world. The second part “you make up your own truth”, is being portrayed through the noodles and chopsticks and the interpretation was that “making up the truth” is a nonsensical thing and that it has no grounds. Thus, his brain matter is being replaced by noodles, something without cognitive thoughts.

Feedback

The comments which I’ve gotten was that the effort in the research before choosing individual elements was good. Also, it was apparent on how my designs were inspired by certain art movements, such as Russian constructivism and suprematism, and that it ties in with my designs. However, some changes which I could’ve made to the designs were that:

  • 2nd design: maybe show more signs of struggle. eg, the wires tangled him in a more suffocated way, maybe adding another one from the other side.
  • 3rd design: The candy wrapper was not very clear and I should replace it with a candy and the wrapper beside instead.
  • 4th design: Make the VR goggles more apparent. eg. add wires, use a more boxy VR goggle instead.

Comments from my classmates:

  • The composition of the design is good.
  • Consistency shown through the designs.
  • Balanced use of black and white.
  • Like the concept and style.

Reflection

All in all, I felt that this project has pushed how I conceptualise even further. From using quotes, it was not as easy to have new interpretations and meanings to them. As this project lasted for a few weeks, I could also see the gradual progress and improvement of the concepts and design composition of my works after the consultations. The silkscreen part was an eye-opening experience for me and it wasn’t that easy after all. For my case, some intricate details got lost along the way, either because the inked has smudged or that there was too much ink. Other than these experimental moments, the nature of the project, stemmed from movie quotes – something which I felt that we could all personally relate to or are interested in.

02 Forrest Gump: Design Process

Link to design research: Part (1/3) Artist Research

First and foremost, to start of the next part of my project, I searched for quotes which intrigued me or left an impact on me. They were mostly from movies which I personally like.

Quotes:

  1. You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. – Doctor Strange, 2016.
  2. The things you used to own, now they own you. – Fight Club, 1999.
  3. The lower you fall, the higher you fly. – Fight Club, 1999.
  4. You don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth. – Memento, 2001.

Methodology/approach

Basically, I broke down the quotes to identify the key points which lead to an overarching focus. Words such as, “looking”, for example, suggests perspective. Things which I could directly relate to are eyes, sight, light and direction. From there, I searched images which suits the threshold/halftone effect, without compromising the details after the effect was placed.

For this quote, I wanted it to suggest a different perspective of seeing the world. Firstly, the keyhole was a starting point. As an element that constricts the “view of the world”, I thought that it would be good to work around it, thus, the warped buildings and scenery around it. I was inspired by the Russian constructivism art movement and I used the starburst effect to lead the viewers’ eye to the keyhole and eventually, towards the eye.

However, the buildings seem randomly placed. Also, the overall balance seemed heavier on the right as the values are darker towards that direction. Hence, I made some minor changes to it:

I have replaced the buildings into iconic and controversial buildings. The Petronas twin towers, the Eiffel tower, Taipei 101, Burk Khalifa, Antilia and the World Trade Centre. These building ties in with the concept behind this design, which is – looking at the world in a whole new perspective, where even each iconic building has its own story. Many issues in this world are being masked, such as political issues. The media tends to be biased and it overrides issues which they do not wish to show the world.

Buildings from left to right: World Trade Centre (NYC, United States), Taipei 101 (Taiwan), Antilla (South Mumbai, India), Eiffel Tower (Paris, France), Burj Khalifa (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) and Petronas Twin Tower (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

Upon researching about which buildings to use, I thought that it would be good to include these skyscrapers as they are iconic to their countries. They compete for the title of the worlds tallest building and currently, the Burj Khalifa, stands the tallest at 828m high.

Other than these skyscrapers being a symbol and reflection of the city’s wealth and ascendency through the economy and rich history, some of them do have an interesting story.

For example, Antilla. Antilla is a private home in South Mumbai, India, and is owned by Mukesh Ambani.  It is the world’s most expensive private residential property, valued over $1 billion. Its controversial design and ostentatious use by a single family has made it famous across the world, with severe criticism in the architectural press and mockery in popular media. The home consists of 27 floors and 600 staff to mend it 24/7.

After researching about this particular building, I understood the irony that the media conveyed. Antilla was referred to be “Soaring Above India’s Poverty”. This phrase was extremely impactful to me as although I knew that slums existed in India, I didn’t know the controversy which a single building can cause.

 

In this design, I used a combination of threshold images and a flat circle as the background. The main element and message was portrayed through anthropomorphism, the showing or treating of animals as if they are human in appearance. I felt that this was a unique approach to portray certain characteristics which I did not want to make it seem too literal. By adding animals’ natural characteristics or perceived characteristics to humans, it exaggerates the persona in a “fun” way. I used the head of a bird on a human body, and it pokes fun on consumerism. It can be also be interpreted as “bird brain” and that humans are so obsessed with keeping up with the latest technology that it is redundant and that they fail to notice their surroundings. The unrealistic scale of the iPhone also exaggerates how the figure intently looks at the screen, without realising the surveillance camera lurking in the background.

Generally, there were not many changes made to this design. I’ve only edited the end of the cable as the original shape of it looks like a wine bottle due to the shadows and threshold effect. Instead of having the wires to dangle from the top, I made a one of it strangle around the figure, suggesting the unnoticed tension and lack of awareness by the figure. I felt that this additional element strengthens the narrative behind this design.

     

My initial design for this quote came off very literal. Although I liked the contradiction of the quote itself, I felt that this design needed a deeper interpretation of it – not just a girl flying and a girl falling.

The second design was ironic and can be perceived as both flying and falling. With the flipped landscape at the back, it seemed like the girl is falling. But, with the hand and the rope, it seemed like the girl is levitating instead.

 

The third design compromises of an entirely new interpretation of the quote. It explores how youths in this generation are vulnerable and weaker. There is a stereotype of how 21st-century teens are, the “strawberry generation”. When troubled teens are being tackled with a problem, some might turn to a substance abuse to escape reality. The lower they fall, the higher they get. Drugs are being associated with candy, or as such, is seen as “candies” to the youths. Being addicted to this destructive lifestyle would be an endless pit of no return, portrayed by the waves that surround the girl.

Some feedback which I’ve gotten from Joy and my peers were that the 2 halved circles stole the emphasis of the girl, instead of placing the focus on her. The play of basic shapes also coincidentally looked like a pill. The use of the candy can be more subtle as well.

For my last design, I experimented with the use of typography. I deconstructed some words to the point where they became incomprehensible and made use of vowels. Essentially, these are what makes the spoken truth.

However, a major flaw in this piece would be that it lacked emphasis as the values of all the elements are dark. Thus, I felt that it lacked unity and harmony in the overall composition.

     

I made drastic changes to the next version but it didn’t seem to work. For this piece, poppies and the snake were representing the toxicity which making up your own truth can lead to. Similarly, the sense of direction of the words did not work well with the snake and poppies.

That’s about it for my design process! I will be making more changes to the 3rd and 4th design which will be posted in the final post.

02 Forrest Gump: Artist Research

To start off project 2, I’m going to share about some artists or art movements that inspire me.

SURREALISM

Salvador Dali (1904-1989), a Spanish surrealist, is a highly imaginable individual who enjoys indulging in unusual and grandiose behaviour. It is said that he evoked his dreams and hallucinations in unforgettable images, as seen in many of his works.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali.

Rene Magritte (1898-1967), a Belgium surrealist, is known for his witty and provoking images. He depicts ordinary objects in an unusual context, challenging the observer’s preconditional perceptions of reality.

The Therapist (1937) by Rene Magritte.

Both surrealist exemplifies the great lengths that creativity can reach. We normally perceive an ordinary object as normal and dull looking. But, having to challenge our perception would be the next step to obtaining new and interesting interpretations of the same object – which is what I look forward to for this project.

RUSSIAN CONSTRUCTIVISM

     

 

Russian constructivism is a movement that was active from 1913 to the 1940s. It was a movement created by the Russian avant-garde, but quickly spread to the rest of the continent. Constructivist art is committed to complete abstraction with a devotion to modernity, where themes are often geometric, experimental and rarely emotional. Constructivist themes are also quite minimal, where the artwork is broken down to its most basic elements.

I found this artistic style effective and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. As mentioned, having new and different interpretations of an object would be what I am looking forward to and utilizing basic elements would create a sense of unity and harmony in my designs. There would be a balance of flat basic elements and detailed threshold/halftone images, thus, neutralizing the complexity.

Other than Russian constructivism, I have also chanced upon a similar art movement which inspires me.

SUPREMATISM

    

Suprematism focuses on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors.

Both movements mentioned above are interested in the abstract design and the self-containment of a specific work, however, because Russian Constructivism was acknowledged after the Revolution in 1917, it carries an overtly political manifesto as well as a practical application of the arts for worldwide revolution.

Personally, I felt that these artists and art movements served as a really good starting point for this project. It shows a great play of ideas and how simple shapes can be translated into an artwork.

https://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/salvador-dali/the-persistence-of-memory-1931.jpg

https://www.renemagritte.org/the-therapist.jsp

http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/constructivism/

Modernism and Russian Constructivism

01 My Line is Emo: Final

This is my final post for Project 1: My Line is Emo! Here are some links to my process and research.

Part (1/3) Mark Making Research 

Part (2/3) Process/Experimental Stage

Part (3/3) Final Outcome (This post)

After the consultation, I worked on my theme and my 6 chosen emotions.

L O V E
C O N T E N T M E N T
F E A R
I N S E C U RI T Y
R A G E
S U R P R I S E

VIVID DREAMS

I named my project “Vivid Dreams” as my concept was to explore and understand how dreams and the subconscious mind can relate to emotions. I picked significant moments in my life which was impactful to the point where I actually dreamt about them.

“Dreams” is an interesting theme. By studying how the subconscious mind and dreams work, I hope to be able to amplify certain emotions and express myself even better – conceptually and visually.

 

LOVE ; they say ‘love is like a drug’, I say that’s true.

With the use of paintbrushes and diluted ink, I drew thin and light brush strokes intersecting. It looks like strings intertwined, a symbol of love, and that they are floating rhythmically. I used pen and pencils to draw over the water colour brush strokes to accentuate the direction. These lines altogether, guide the eyes – left being the starting point and to the right, where it seems as though it is floating freely. In my opinion, love and happiness coincide. One can view this as love and the feeling of ecstasy because you’re in love.

 

CONTENTMENT ; I found happiness in the simplest things in life.

Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that truly brings us happiness. If we keep wanting more, then there will never be an end to when we will be satisfied with what we have. I portrayed contentment as full circles of different sizes and gradients – representing how individuals perceive contentment differently. Rounder shapes tend to give off a lighter and happier mood. Mixed with shapes of different scales, it creates a sense of depth, movement and unity.

 

FEAR ; I fear losing my happiness.

Although I do not show what I fear, deep down inside, I am constantly worried about the unfortunate things that might happen. Being jaded, I would want to cling onto my happiness as much as possible – but life is never fair. I represent my fear with rounder and softer shapes as compared to distinctive sharp ones as I feel that my kind of fear is subtle yet it can accumulate to become overwhelming. Although I used more organic shapes, which may sometimes contradict the emotion of fear, the uneven edges of the watercolour patches and lines represent uncertainty and uneasiness. The water colour spreads out on the paper unevenly with a gradient, representing the fear (the darkest portion) and how it slowly gets to me (represented by the thin contour lines, showing a spreading movement as well), until I hit the point of extreme anxiety.

 

INSECURITY ; Trapped in an abyss of negative thoughts, when will I ever get out?

To portray insecurity, the act of repetitive negatives thoughts, I used brushes and circled them on the paper, creating layers. In this particular emotion, I felt that the cropping was extremely important – whether to centralise the circular patterns or not. I finally decided on centralizing it as it was more balanced and that it gave a sense of direction inwards.

Inspired by Sol Lewitt’s Scribbles, I felt that insecurity and the automatic technique used with different densities go well together.

Earlier versions: Made with brushes, crushed paper and crushed news paper. (Left to right)

My earlier versions of insecurity were mainly experimenting with layers of paint, using crushed paper, tissue paper, etc. My aim was to create a radial gradient that showed layers of ink.

 

RAGE ; Chaos from within.

These marks started off as experimental marks made with knives/sharp carving tools on paper. I liked the cuts on the paper because of its texture and how expressive and meaningful the marks were. I made several versions and finally decided on one with had more depth. I painted the background black and made scratch marks by using different kinds of sharp tools, some with white paint on them. If you were to look (or feel) closely, the final piece had a horizontal gradient of black in the background and also in the textures (top being the most concentrated).

Earlier versions: Black ink on white paper, black ink on black background (2nd and 3rd) and black and white ink on black background. (Left to right)

I started of scratching up the white paper with black ink, but I felt that it lacked expression. Thus, I made more versions with a black background and played with different sharp tools.

 

SURPRISE ; Expect the unexpected.          

Inspired by the masking tape layering technique by Ed Moses, I used masking tape in the middle as I splattered paint onto the paper. I wanted to emphasise on the contrast between the blank space and the marks – representing ambiguity. It was also interesting to me as the focus point was actually the blank space, rather than the marks.

 

Feedback

Comments from Joy:

Overall, it was good

  • how I considered using different types of paper to create the marks
  • how I emphasized cropping (for insecurity)
  • how I used lines, contour lines (even though subtle), in my work (love & fear) and explained it with how it had a sense of direction and flow.
  • if I were to split my emotions into 2 boards (love, happiness, fear & insecurity, rage, surprise) – one has more deliberate shapes, the other has more of an automatic approach.

Comments from my classmates:

  • Nicely done and well thought through.
  • Loved the explanation and emotions
  • Liked the compositions
  • Some mentioned favorites were fear, surprise, contentment and insecurity.

 

Reflection 

Upon completing “My Line is Emo”, I felt that this project had a great potential to explore how I am able to express my emotions on paper – using various mediums, tools and materials. Although these may seem insignificant at the start (I mean, black paint and black water colour, newsprint paper and watercolour paper, how much can they differ right?), but the varied results surprised me. Through the experimental stage, I had the opportunity to explore the properties and therefore, I was able to push myself further to create lines with meaning and how the interaction of design elements can bring about a certain expressive quality/emotion.

This project led me to discover more about myself and assessed my emotions and translate them into visuals – something which I found difficult to do before this project. If I were to recall, I could barely express how I feel most of the time.

Looking at the rest of my classmate’s projects has also shown me that with just 6 different emotions, we are able to come up with so many different ideas and expressions. Overall, this project was fruitful and very enjoyable.

 

01 My Line is Emo: Process/Experimental Stage

After I have done my research, I was given more time to experiment and explore as many mark making techniques as possible during the subsequent classes.

In this stage, I was primarily trying out different and unique methods of mark making. To achieve as many different results as possible, I varied the medium used, the type of paper and the mark making tools. With every variable changed, there was a great difference. For example, a brush with normal black paint on paper as compared to a brush with diluted calligraphy Chinese ink (less viscous/thick) on water colour paper would differ. (As shown in the next 4 pictures)

1 Brushes

I started with very basic tools, such as brushes of different bristle hardness. I used brush strokes of different density and directions.

These were created using soft calligraphy brushes. I diluted the ink to allow the paint to flow freely onto the paper and to achieve a softer look to it. As I noticed that the diluted ink crumpled the paper, I tried the same technique onto water colour paper instead.

The water colour paper gave way better results and I really love how the ink spreads out with a gradient. Materials really DO MATTER.

2 Knives and Sharp Tools

In this piece, I wanted to portray anger. I started off with slicing up and scratching the surface of the paper. However, the results were not that good – a bunch of holes and torn up edges. In my other versions, I applied black paint for the background and then scratched up the surface. Surprisingly, when the paint dried up, the cuts and scratches made an interesting texture and an aesthetically pleasing yet chaotic look, which I really loved. Perhaps, for my future versions, I would like to consider more about what design elements I could deliberately relate this to so that it would not just be a random scratched up piece of paper.

3 Playing with Fire

For this piece, I was just curious and started playing with fire. Although I did not have much consideration of what emotion this would be, I thought that maybe “Longing” would be something interesting to think about.

4 Cling Wrap

I happened to chance upon the cling wrap in the classroom so I went about experimenting with what I could do with it. I applied paint with different viscosity and got many results – the more diluted ones had this “web” effect while dryer and thicker paint had almost no effect. From the top to the bottom in this picture, I applied a decreasing amount of pressure on my brush.

5 Strings & Press Machine

This was made using ink and the press machine. I always make 2 versions whenever I placed my mark making materials into the machine as I felt that the positive and negative outcome was very interesting and both had its own unique look. One seemed clear, with higher contrast, while the other one, made by pressing it the second time on the paper after it went through the machine, had an x-ray look to it, with gradient patches around.

6 Styrofoam

This is similar to the one above, where I used the press machine. I did a little pressed marks manually as well.

7 Round Objects

For my “happiness” emotion, I wanted to make round, circular marks that looked as if they were floating. Thus, I tried different container sizes and pressed them down with some paint. I mixed white paint onto the containers to break off the monotonous black circle pattern.

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Some patterns made by my mark making tools did not turn out the way I expected it to be. This could be both good and bad – It is good because interesting marks can be made but it is also bad because the marks may contradict the intended emotion that I wish to convey. Another interesting thing that I realised through various experimental methods was that these emotions overlap and coincide with one another. Perhaps, this was why some emotions looked similar or gave the same kind of “feel”.  This was a challenge to me as I wanted each emotion to be expressed clearly with just the use of visual qualities.

Here are some examples of contradictory marks.

8 Fingers

For “happiness”, I tried using my fingers to create these round ovals. However, I felt that the scale was not suitable for the emotion strip as they were too small and would result in a very congested look when being seen from afar. In addition, if the circles were to be further apart, it may come across as “sadness, isolation, neglected” instead of “happiness”.

In this piece, I drew contour lines using a pen to break off the monotonous look. Although I loved the mix medium idea, it did not bring much meaning to this piece as “happiness”.

9 Bubble Wrap

The bubble wrap was intended to create round circles and a bubbly effect, suggesting “happiness”. However, if I were to manipulate it, dragging it across the paper and blurring it, the marks made would come across as “fear” or “sadness” to me due to the distortions and lack of clarity.

This sums up most of my mark making during the experimental stage. Moving forward, I would like to come up with a concept that links up the 6 emotions which I chose.