O-Positive (that is to say typography!!)

I want to kick off this post by saying that for a really long time – like, until my lecture on Wednesday – I wasn’t even aware that there was a difference between a font and a typeface. I just kind of figured that they were interchangeable. So clearly that lecture was a learning experience. Consider me educated!!! (And, in case now YOU’RE wondering, “Just what IS the difference??”: The typeface is the design of each letter in the alphabet. So like, Times New Roman, Comic Sans, etcetera. Once you get in to using italic, or bolding, or variations like Calibri Light, then you’re talking about fonts. Who knew?!) Despite it’s prevalence in our everyday lives, I am relatively unfamiliar with the wonderful world of typography. I feel like this is largely due to the fact that we’re pretty used to seeing a wide variety of typefaces ALL THE TIME: on posters, in books, on your computer screen, everywhere. And if the design is good, usually we don’t even really notice it, apart from reading the text. It’s only when typography is poorly done, like if it’s ugly or out of place or hard to read, that we take note. So when I was trying to consider successful examples of typography – or just examples of typography to analyze in general – despite the fact that it’s EVERYWHERE, I really had to wrack my brain to think of some! I did finally come up with the resulting list though, so I hope you enjoy it! It contains two examples that I really like, one that I find fairly effective albeit not particularly attractive, and one that I’m not so into.

BOY “Mutual Friends” album cover

I am a big fan of this use of typography!! Because the image is so simple and muted, I feel like it would have been a mistake to chose an energetic, in-your-face typeface. By picking something bold but minimalistic and clean, the type co-exists nicely with the image instead of overpowering it. Having listened to this album, I can attest to the fact that the overall vibe cultivated by this text and image pairing – mellow, spare, warm – is really in line with BOY’s sound. Looking at the album art and listening to the music leave produce the same feelings in the consumer, if you know what I mean. I’m not confident but I would guess that the typeface being used here is Futura (or something quite like it), which can most commonly be found in the films of Wes Anderson! SPEAKING OF WHICH!

Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”

I know, I know: Wes Anderson is a cliched and uncreative choice to discuss because it’s SO DONE. But when I was trying to think of typography that I liked, his choices came immediately to mind because he work is so stylized and lovely that it stands to reason that of course his typography choices would be too. I find that they almost always succeed in capturing or adding to the mood that he is trying to create. The font he uses in this credit sequence in his film “Moonrise Kingdom” is really lovely and whimsical, which is also the pervasive mood throughout the film. This font also evokes the seventies through the bold capital letters and retro colour, and this is accurate because the film is set in the seventies! Additionally, the music during this section of the film is sort of bright, charming instrumental music, and this is a cheery font! I also really like the way the text is positioned and aligned. It is nicely centered and I like the way that the “Wes Anderson” text lines on the line created by the sand. The tone of this film is eccentric, dreamy and comical and this font reflects that with it’s loopy letters and big swirls. I also really like how the colour of the type matches the colour of the suitcase on the right!! For anyone who’s curious, the font in use here is called “Tilda” (I wish I could claim to know that off the top of my head, but it actually came up as a part of the Google results.)

Rice Krispies cereal box

Frankly, from a personal standpoint I am not a fan of the majority of cereal box typography I see. I find a lot of it mildly tacky and unattractive. HAVING SAID THAT, it does work for the product it’s selling. The bold, bright font works to grab the attention of the casual grocery shopper, and even more important, the CHILDREN of the casual grocery shopper! Because generally that seems to be the demographic that most cereal ads are trying to appeal to. They want the product to seem fun and exciting so children will try to convince their parents to buy it for them. In this respect the typography is largely succeeding because the rounded bubbly letters with their rounded edges and blue shadows suggest “child friendly!!!”. However, (while this isn’t a direct commentary on the typeface) I feel like the text would be more appealing to kids if it was more colourful. That might actually weaken the overall box design, but from a purely typographic standpoint, based on the demographic I feel like it would be an improvement.

Mystic Muffin signage


This is an interesting REAL LIFE example of typography because I took this photo at Mystic Muffin down on Jarvis Street! In terms of food I really love it because it is cheap and the signage does not lie – the apple cake is REALLY good. However tragically I’m not really digging the typography they’ve got going on. It’s kind of a wild jumble of fonts and none of them match. The main sign that says “Mystic Muffin” in red, doesn’t really work – based on the “mystic” part of the name, you might expect the letters to be kind of swirly and whimsical, to evoke a sense of “mysticism”, I suppose, but instead they are big and bubbly and kind of goofy looking. Then, underneath that, there is a smaller sign containing not one or two but THREE – count ’em, three – typefaces, all completely different and none-complimentary to each other. One is blocky and bold, one is kind of whirly-curly, and the third is an italic kind of deal that looks like it’s imitating real hand writing. I don’t know WHAT they’re trying to evoke through all these fonts because they’re all completely different! Perhaps they were just fond of all three and didn’t want to choose? Likewise, the apple cake sign to the left boasts another completely different font. It’s at least somewhat similar to the main sign in it’s boldness but it’s still pretty different. Altogether, the typography doesn’t evoke anything or add to the design of the restaurant’s exterior at all. It’s just random and ineffective. (Having said that, if you ever want good cheap food and friendly service I would highly recommend it!!!)

CRAP Part 2: One Period’s Treasure is Another Period’s… Treasure?

Hello and welcome back! If yesterday’s post was about CRAP in the here and now, today we’ll expand on this and see how the designers of today are borrowing from the art styles of the past. Today’s current-day example also features the star of many of yesterday’s posters, Mr. Jake Gyllenhall!!! What a crazy coincidence!! It actually is, though. You’d figure I really like Jake Gyllenhall or something, huh? Well, I think he’s fine, but I’m pretty sure I like him no more or less than the average person. However, it just so happens that he’s been in a lot of movies with interesting posters! So props to him for that.

Nightcrawler, 2014

This poster is for the 2014 film Nightcrawler, and I find that stylistically its recalls the work of one of ye olde pop art masters of the past. Any guesses?

*Here is some room for you to guess*

WELL, if you guessed Roy Lichtenstein, you’re correct!! In my humble opinion, the Nightcrawler poster definitely takes some cues from Mr. Lichtensteins’s bright, bold work. Let’s look at an example!

Roy Lichtenstein Girl With Hair RibbonLichtenstein was known for newspaper comic style images such as the one above, and was also notable for the fact that his style embraced commercial design. Obviously, there are some big differences: The Nightcrawler poster is more of a photo than an illustration, and thus lacks the thick black comic-book outlines of Lichtenstein’s work. However, it features similarly bold colours and focuses prominently on the human face. As well, we can really draw a parallel between the poster’s and Lichtenstein’s use of pointillism. Lichtenstein rarely left any blank space in his work, and here too images and colours fill the entire poster. I also find the similarities between these pieces interesting because Lichtenstein did “commercial-style” work, and with this example his style is serving as inspiration in a piece of design that IS being used for commercial purposes.

20 or 30 years from now, it’ll be interested to see what styles and techniques from THIS period are still being used or interpreted!

CRAP part one: Let’s find CRAP in our everyday life!

The design world is FULL OF CRAP. I mean FULL of it. And I don’t mean, like, 💩. Though odds are there’s some of that going on too. It’s a fact of life, people! AnyWHO, moving on now to design CRAP: we’re talking

C ontrast
R epetition
A lignment
P roximity

Sound unexciting? NONSENSE! CRAP is super exciting, because by being aware of these four lovely concepts we can produce some really beautiful design. Your fave album cover? CRAP. (Unless this is your favourite album, because I’m sorry, I will never get why they chose this cover art. ALTHOUGH check out those contrasting colours!) Your history textbook? Probably CRAP. That birthday card you bought for $.99 at your local dollar store because it’s your Mom’s birthday and you just remembered that you hadn’t bought a card yet? Well… hopefully, CRAP! Good design is truly everywhere and there’s some pretty fab examples of CRAP in action out there.  LET’S CHECK IT OUT!

Example Numero Uno:  I looked at a lot of really great, interesting movie posters while working on this blog post, but the one set that drew my attention were the posters for Denis Villeneuve’s 2014 film Enemy. One big reason for that was because they were all really cool posters. The other reason these posters all really stuck out to me, though, is that there is very little cohesion between the four posters. They do contain some similar elements: a couple use the same font, Jake Gyllenhall appears in two, and at least two make some use of spider imagery. But there’s really no sense that, oh yeah, these were all totally done by the same guy and in line with one concentrated vision. They could basically all be for totally different movies! Personally? I don’t get it. I’m no commerce student BUT I feel like that’s a pretty ineffective marketing strategy! So that was kind of strange.

enemy-ver2-xxlgenemy-poster 2


However, MARKETING QUIRKS ASIDE – I find that each poster stands up really well as an example of good graphic design on its own! As individual posters they’re all quite striking. Though I’m including the whole set in this point for viewer interest and to illustrate my point, the one I’d like to focus on in terms of CRAP principles is this black and white one.

It’s immediately evident that this poster is making effective use of contrast.  The stark juxtaposition of white on a solid black background allows for some interesting silhouettes: The white key shape pops out right away, and within the keyhole is a spider. It’s intriguing imagery! The title also stands out really clearly.
This poster is also a good example of alignment: if you ran a line vertically down the middle of the poster, it would be nearly symmetrical. On top of the fact that this is good design, I’m a BIG fan of center alignment and symmetry, so I’m very fond of it’s use in this example!!

Though I love movie posters, and frankly could have rambled on forever in this post about the MANY CRAPpy examples I found in my web wanderings, I decided I needed to expand my horizons and went off in search of CRAP design principles elsewhere. Somehow I eventually landed on

Example Numero Dos: http://builtbybuffalo.com (And by “somehow”, what I really mean is that I googled “snazzy websites”.)

Built By Buffalo

It is, in fact, fairly snazzy, no?! In any case, it’s definitely CRAPpy. There’s definitely some contrast: The blue-green and red-orange that feature prominently into the colour scheme are nicely complementary and the black text stands out on the white background. The repeating hexagon pattern, creating a honeycomb of links, addresses the R. Likewise, this delightful honeycomb effect would not be achieved without solid alignment work! The whole web page is really nicely balanced – all elements are evenly distributed. And finally, we see proximity at play in the hexagons, in both the fact that the shapes are closely clustered and in that many feature similar elements: arrows, “B”’s, and text. These elements are well distributed in that they’re close enough to maintain a sense of cohesion but never right next to each other, which maintains that sense of balance that I mentioned before.

In general, I like the concept of the CRAP principles and I think they’re a useful point of reference to have when designing. It’s probably not impossible to have a perfectly nice design without having a single one of these elements present; however in my googling escapades, and in life in general, when I think of examples of design that I particularly like, almost all employ at least one, if not more, of these principles. They generally do help you make arrive at a more striking, effective, and clean result. Having said that, I think it’s important that as a designer, or – dare I say it – artiste – you don’t get too hung up on these principles. If you can use the principles to refine your creative vision, then WONDERFUL! But if you get to the point where your imagination is being hampered by your quest for CRAP success – which I could totally see happening – then maybe chill out and reassess: is it really that important to have all the CRAP principles incorporated? No way! You can totally have a successful design with just one or two. And the way I see it, if you have a good design, odds are it’s already making use of some CRAP principles. (And if not, well, maybe it actually is a piece of crap?)

Tomorrow: we’ll delve into the exciting world of historical graphic design and its modern applications!

A Class-mas Carol: The Ghosts of Digital Media Past, Present and Future (Who Am I? Who Will I Be?)

First day of class, second class of the day: Digital Media Production. Was I excited? Indifferent? Asleep?

Well, nope, no, and thankfully not. Unfortunately and perhaps rather embarrassingly for a Media Production student, the most accurate way to describe my feelings at the time is probably “internally screaming!!!!!”

Before you judge me for being a Media Production student with an aversion to Digital Media, I feel like I deserve a chance to explain myself. In the past my relationship with digital media has been somewhat rocky. There was the time I went to the Tech Fair in Grade 6. At the motion graphics workshop where we learned to animate fish, I only managed to make mine swim halfway across the screen before he did a flip (sadly, not on purpose) and then melted into a sad puddle of squiggly lines. Meanwhile, on the computer next to me, my friend’s fish did several glorious laps of the screen before a hook dropped down and reeled the fish up out of the ocean. Then there was my Grade 10 Communication Technology course, in which the only real skill I managed to acquire was the ability to photoshop cat heads into a variety of ridiculous situations. And there’s the fact that, for many years, I refused to have any social media accounts other than Facebook, because I was afraid that they would consume my life even more than Facebook was already doing, in a way I didn’t particularly like.

Despite all this, the field of Digital Media Production really intrigues me. I find the way in which media and design shape our lives fascinating and would love to know more about the theory and processes behind these influential mediums. I’m amazed by the things that people create using programs like Photoshop and Aftereffects. And it’s pretty wild how many ways digital media shapes our lives. It’s used to stay in touch with friends, to find jobs, to advertise, to make art, to learn and to teach, and to play. As a student in Media Production, it seems pretty important to not only understand the role it plays, but to also be aware of how I can use its power.

Thus, I enter this course with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I’m eager to put my digital media struggles behind me and embrace the medium, but I know that there may be some challenges. My biggest obstacle will no doubt be – and always has been – that I am afraid to mess up. I need to be open to pushing my limits and experimenting, with the knowledge that while I may fail, I can build from that failure! It’s difficult for me to work like that, because I truly am a perfectionist in the most obnoxious sense, but I think it will be vital to my growth as a Media student and creator. My goal for this  course is to become comfortable and confident with the programs we use in class, so that I can create work that I’m proud of. In short – *gazes wistfully off into the distance* –

I want to make a fish that can actually swim.

Until next time, dear readers, when we delve into the exciting world of CRAP!