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Posts from the ‘Notes’ Category

How to be a Graphic Designer without losing your soul

“With the ability to produce so much work, it’s harder to know whether what you are doing is any good.”

– This is definitely true and kind of a major smack in the face, especially since more and more people have access to the commonly used design tools, essentially anyone can become an amateur graphic designers or typographer.


“Modern designers must use the gift of iteration to work towards a conclusion rather than as an opportunity to explore every known avenue.”

– This is interesting because I guess I always tended to think that iterations should be completely different explorations in a sense – try the outrageous, even if you don’t think it will work, just do it and see – that’s what I saw iterations as, so I guess I was being a little too broad in my explorations sometimes when a teacher asks for 2 or 3 iterations – instead of starting over from scratch each time, I guess just try to make each one better than the next.

“…There is no advantage in this ability to experiment if we don’t use it as an opportunity to leap into the void.”

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18 Mar 2013

Visual Confections by Tufte ~ Notes

  • A story is a progression of noun-verb incidents.
  • A confection is an assembly of many visual events, brought together and juxtaposed. They tell us another story.
  • Structures that organize information should be transparent, straightforward, obvious, natural, ordinary, conventional – with no need for hesitation or questioning on the part of the reader. – Some ‘confections’ can just be way too complicated!
  • Visual confections tend to use compartments and imagined scenes to combine imagery into one piece.
  • Descriptions of confections seem to provoke the language of miracles, as familiar elements find renewed meaning in astonishing arrangements…
  • Confection-makers cut, paste, construct, and manage miniature theaters of information – a cognitive art that serves to illustrate an argument, make a point, explain a task… narrate a story.
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8 Feb 2013

The Armature, the Grid, and Grid System ~ Notes

Grids are essentially.. “frameworks devised to assist hierarchy…”

  •  Armatures underly and bind elements … by “intuitively” divided space. Armatures employ principles of alignment, visual proportion, balance and harmony similar to… a satisfying drawing.
  • Grids also underlie and bind elements but with structural in addition to visual rules
    governing placement. Example: 
    Newspapers … utilized simple columns to accommodate changing content day to day… helped to order masses of text. Efficiency and accessibility in typography joined the points, lines and
    planes of abstract art. In the end the principles of abstraction proved elemental to grid
  • Grid systems put similar principles to work except within a calculated program. This
    mechanical plan for the placement of elements typically spans pages.  All areas comprising the sum total of any given space work under the grid’s close supervision.
  • Brockmann’s treatise signaled the consummate arrival of “systems thinking” for typographers. Modularity in typographic structure: interconnected small, equal and repeating parts that comprise a whole. “Working with the grid system means submitting to laws of universal validity”

Each whole is the sum total of its configuring parts.



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4 Feb 2013

‘Art’s Little Brother’

by Rick Poynor.


“A key issue to keep in mind … is that all art is designed even if it endeavours to appear otherwise,” – Alex Coles

  • I think this is a great quote concerning design and art in general. Things always have some sort of design behind them and were created by a designer whether you may not initially think so or not. As a growing artist and designers who’s continuing to learn, I try to look at everything through a designer’s perspective and I really surprise myself sometimes when I realize that the smallest, most common things that you barely even notice on a daily basis (doors, hallways, stickers, streets, cars, etc.) were designed by somebody and had a lot of thought but into them, even though it is second nature for us to kind of be numb to that fact…

“The established positions of art and design in the cultural hierarchy go unchallenged.”

  • This is interesting to me… seemingly, no matter how much people argue that art and design are so tightly correlated, everyone accepts the fact that they are separated… This makes me wonder if it’s because art critics and people who aren’t strictly in the field of design continue to separate it, or if the designers themselves want to keep it separated…

“… Collings suggests that the essential difference between design and art is that design has function while art has mystery…”

  • To an extent  I’d agree with that, but I’d also have to disagree.. I think design most definitely can be mysterious. Whether it’s a building facade, a chair, or a a company logo, I think the mystery all lies behind the ‘How Did They Do That?’, ‘Why Did They Do It That Way?’ thoughts.. The process of design, I believe, is the mystery… as stated further in the piece – “The mystery comes from the way that our expectations of form’s conventional possibilities and limits are overturned. The sensory, intellectual and emotional satisfactions they offer as pieces to look at, think about and react to – as well as to use – are akin to the experience of sculpture.” (I guess they worded it better than me!)

“We seek retinal pleasure, things to run our eyes over, colours, lines, textures and shapes to explore and inhabit, and design has no hesitation in supplying these experiences. Design is becoming more elaborately layered, more spectacular, more pervasive in our lives. Design, rather than art, is foremost now in embodying the visual spirit of the age.”

  • Self-explanatory 🙂 Great explanation to the importance of design in our modern world and it’s impact…


“If art is so important to our social, mental and spiritual well-being, why should we keep them apart?”


17 Jan 2013

The Timeless Way of Building ~ Notes

Notes on ‘The Timeless Way of Building’ by Christopher Alexander.

“A pattern language gives each person who uses it, the power to create an infinite variety of new and unique buildings…”      – Chapter 10, opening page

  • I think this can easily relate to Graphic Design if you consider the ‘pattern language’ to be a grid or a uniform understanding that we are all enabled with, and it is up to each person who has that access to create something new and original out of it (create a new and unique building). Since Graphic Design always stems from the same place (a designer trying to create a piece that works around a specific grid/layout), it seems like it may be easy to get stuck in the same old pattern.. however, it’s up to those who have that ‘power’ of knowledge of desirable design to use it to it’s full potential and create something out of it that hasn’t been done before…

“The patterns which are typical of other barns are still present in these two barns; but the way in which the patterns are combined is utterly different” – p.178

  • This most obviously relates to Graphic Design in how all Graphic Design can be broken down into one thing: a basic grid or layout, but how things are arranged (their ‘patterns’), what colors are used, the variations in weight and size, etc., are all what makes each piece different, even though they are all essentially built with the same structure.

“It is not the idea of copying which is at fault…this image, which the farmer has in mind… is a system of patterns which function like a language.”

  •  As Graphic Designers, we all share this ‘language’ of what is successful design and what is not, so the notion of ‘copying’ is a common one, although it isn’t copying since it is already part of our language that we understand, we just need to alter it in some form. It would be impossible for a Graphic Designer, or any person in general, when prompted to imagine what a Magazine cover looks like, to not have an image pop up in their head. That image of a magazine cover is successful as a language and therefore embedded in our system, so no designer would approach  a Magazine Cover design with absolutely no recognition as to what’s already been done successfully.. (I wanted to go on but I lost my train of thought….)

 “When the barn builder applies the patterns for a barn to one another in the proper order, he is able to create a barn. This barn will always have the particular relationships required by the patterns; however, all other sizes, angles, and relationships depend on the needs of the situation, and the whim of the builder.” – p.183

  •  It’s true that Graphic Designers have a particular “template” or “rules” in their head that base what they create their designs off of, but all designers will create something different based on their individual creativity and personality, and what circumstances the design is intended for…

“But overall, throughout the differences, there is a constancy, a harmony, created by the repitition of the underlying patterns.” – p.191

  • No matter how many strikingly different kinds of designs there are out there, or different styles of creativity, they all will essentially have a similar underlying layout or grid, which if people take the time to dissect and understand design, they will notice (which is essentially one of the cores of my education – learning how to dissect these designs to see that no matter how different they are, they all start out the same way).

“The patterns, which repeat themselves, come simply from the fact that all the people have a common language, and that each one of them uses this common language when he makes a thing.” -p.209

  • Pretty self-explanatory :p


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12 Jan 2013

Sluggish Sketches


For ‘Sluggish’ I was trying to get at the idea that it is slow-moving, un-caring, and lazy. I wanted to letters to be moving apart from each other, going from fast (or normal) to slow, and extremely slow. I also wanted to letters to have an organic feeling since the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Sluggish’ is an actual slug, so I wanted to be sure the letters didn’t seem to digital or edgy.

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15 Nov 2012



I couldn’t agree more with this poster. Not only do I feel Typography is such a beautiful thing to study and practice, but there is so much respect for hand-lettering that I think is lost nowadays due to technology and printing. This is a dynamic composition since you have this bar going across diagonally that really emphasizes that hand-lettering is a lost ‘ART’, not just a skill. The various decorative typefaces are very interesting and play off of each other since they’re all so different. The words also kind of jump off the board and come at you, which also caught my eye when I saw this piece. I’m not sure who did it or where it’s from, but I think it’s gorgeous and I only wish that one day I can accomplish such precision and perfection in my hand-drawn designs.

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12 Nov 2012

Jan Tschichold

Here’s another cool poster I found breaking down letters, this one is by Jan Tschichold. Just like the Baskerville poster I found a while back, I think this one excellently represents how letters are formed from basic circles and lines. I’m not sure what typeface this is but I would assume it’s an old style serif because it’s very classical-looking, is obviously a serif, and there is not significant contrast in the thickness and thinness of the letterforms.

12 Nov 2012


Reform & Revolution

  • Some designers thought distortion of the alphabet was gross and warned against it
  • Avant-garde designers rejected the quest for essential letters grounded in the human hand and body
  • At the Bauhaus, letters were constructed from basic geometric forms – squares, circles, triangles

Type as Program

  • Wim Crouwel created designs for a new alphabet purely from straight lines… these letters were designed for optimal display on a video screen.
  • In the mid-1980s computers and low-res printers made typography more accessible to the public
  • PostScript and high-res printers in the 1990s created less contraints for type designers.

Type as Narrative

  • Designers became unsatisfied with clean, unsullied surfaces and wanted to make letters more harsh and disorderly
  • Template Gothic is designed based on letters drawn with a plastic stencil
  • Dead History combines Centennial and VAG Rounded – manipulated the vectors of readymade fonts (strategy often used in contemporary art and music)]
  • Beowulf was the first typeface to have random outlines and programmed behaviors



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3 Nov 2012

More Modular Type

This is another really attractive modular type system I stumbled upon. Obviously the colors are what attracted me first – they are very harmonious and calming – the words aren’t jumping out at you! One thing I noticed is right at the top, the N and U essentially mirror each other, but the artist used different colors, which helps to differentiate between the two. I enjoy that not all parts of these letters are strictly the same (the stroke weight of the T is larger than the U right next to it). This variation makes the typeface very interesting and fun to look at. I also enjoy the use of square and circular shapes, not just one or the other. The texture within these letters are also very intriguing and captivating – resembles wood or marble.

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1 Nov 2012