Contemporary Practice – Week 3: Fields of Practice

Lecture 1 – The Effect of Globalisation on Design

My lecture notes

It’s clear that globalisation comes with both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it’s possible to collaborate in a much broader way than ever before – a cross-fertilisation of ideas, language and culture can result in some really interesting design. One of the negatives can be the sheer volume of information to filter through in our inter-connected modern lives.

A recurring theme with several of the practitioners is that, despite the advances in technology allowing for digital communication, building relationships with clients on a human level, with real face-to-face interaction still has a value today and in fact can be key to success.

In a similar vein, despite the versatility of digital formats such as the PDF, there is still a benefit to having access to the tangible, printed object. Drawing from my own experiences, I have definitely found that it is incredibly useful to see a physical, printed copy of a proof – particularly with the differences in how different monitors display colour and the shift between how something looks on screen versus in print.


Lecture 2 – Guest Lecture

On the subject of globalisation, I was interested to hear the story behind the packaging and branding design for the Chinese feminine care brand who took a radical approach, seeking out a UK design agency, Pearlfisher, to create their brand identity. In the East, western-style branding is often perceived as luxe so this was key to making a product that can be seen as quite a taboo subject in Chinese society more appealing to consumers.

Packaging for Chinese feminine care brand Fémme. Image via The Branding Journal

Reflecting on this game-changing way of looking at branding products in the feminine care category closer to home, I looked at some British brands that have been disrupting the market with their branding and design approach.

Photograph of Hey Girls packaging.

Brands I have encountered that are challenging established brands in the feminine care sector, such as Bodyform and Tampax:

Hey Girlsheygirls.co.uk

Social enterprise; period pads created from natural, sustainable and biodegradable materials; “buy one, give one” scheme to help tackle period poverty. Their branding uses photography and a font which looks handwritten – this makes them stand out visually against other products on the shelf, gives the brand a personality and makes it more relatable to women and girls.

TOTM packaging.

TOTM (Time of the Month) – totm.com:

Period products made from organic cotton and non-toxic, biodegradable materials; percentage of profits donated to charities Binti International and Endometriosis UK. Their packaging uses bold, eye-catching colourful patterns with the statement “I am organic” printed on them.

Flux undies
Flux undies packaging.

Flux undies – fluxundies.com:

Washable period pants, a reusable alternative to tampons/pads, made from renewable, compostable & biodegradable materials. Addressing period poverty: for each purchase made, a reusable cloth pad is donated to a girl in need. Their branding has an approachable, retro feel with soft pink colours and a slab serif with rounded edges.

It’s notable that all 3 of these brands are in some way giving back to society and have a very eco-conscious approach to raw materials (and product packaging). This backs up the point made in the lecture that modern consumers have high expectations of brands and value authenticity as well as brands they can respect.


Reflection on Week 3 Resources – Non-Format

Some examples of Didot type specimens. (Google image search results)

John Forss of Non-Format talked about how he was influenced by the 1990s work of Art Director Fabien Baron, known for his work in fashion editorials. He often uses the font Didot, chosen for its clean lines and classic but modern style, which has become synonymous with famous fashion brands, for example Vogue magazine and Baron’s revival of Harper’s Bazaar with his refresh of the magazine’s masthead circa 1992:

“Baron commissioned Jonathan Hoefler to create a new digital Didot, a kind of super-Didot, drawn in extremely large sizes that allowed the type to be set in enormous display sizes while still retaining its razor-thin lines.”

– Eye Magazine, Autumn 2007: Through thick and thin: fashion and type
A look at some recent covers of Vogue magazine (UK Edition).

Fabien Baron’s agency Baron & Baron is responsible for the rebrand of fashion retailer Zara last year – this is another example of conforming to the Didot style typefaces seen throughout the fashion world, in this case with the use of negative kerning. I think the fluidity and more rounded shapes of the type forms give a sense of femininity to the updated brand.

Zara logo rebrand. Images via typeroom.eu
Zara_old-vs-new
Left: previous Zara logo circa 2011. Right: new logo introduced in 2019.

Something I had not consciously been aware of prior to researching it, is just how ubiquitous this style of typeface is within the fashion landscape, as seen in the logos of Dior, Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Gucci, even Tiffany & Co – and it’s not uncommon to find similar styles in beauty branding too, for example Lancôme or Clarins.


Workshop Challenge 1: D&AD Award Winners 2020

Explore the categories of the D&AD award winners 2020 and consider how this impacts on your views of design terminology, consider the overlaps and points of change, difference and similarity.
My Editorial spread design.

The annual D&AD Awards cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and categories of design. Receiving one of the D&AD pencil awards is a recognition of excellence in design. The 2020 winners included a wide range of creative output, from advertising, product design, experiential design to animation and typography.  

Universal Sans, a variable typeface designed by Briton Smith. Image via universalsans.com

In the Typography category, Universal Sans particularly caught my eye. The Family Type foundry received a D&AD Black Pencil award – the “ultimate creative accolade, reserved for work that is ground-breaking in its field” – for an innovative typeface they created called Universal Sans. It’s a modern sans serif which builds on and is inspired by the simplicity and clean lines of typefaces such as Frutiger. The typeface is highly flexible and adaptable, with a broad range of glyphs and full OpenType functionality.

universal-sans
Details of the individual glyphs and customisation. Image via D&AD

You can generate and download your own customised version of Universal Sans from universalsans.com, a purpose-built web application. I investigated this for myself and found the level of customisation available to be quite eye-opening! I think it’s really interesting to see rapid change through developments in technology and variable fonts are definitely a game-changer, whether they are used on desktop or on digital platforms such as websites.

An even less conventional approach to type design was an entry by Dublin design studio Rothco, called The Book That Grew. The client, AIB, wanted to change farmers’ perceptions of grass, to enable them to become more sustainable. The agency created a book from grass, where the words, diagrams and pages were shaped by grass roots as they grew. It’s a real, tangible message demonstrating the power of nature. This example shows that some designs can overlap multiple categories or even defy categorisation altogether.

Marvel postage stamps. Image via D&AD.

In the Graphic Design category, comics artist Alan Davis illustrated a set of Marvel postage stamps for Royal Mail. These could be considered traditional illustration but in miniature form. They were also accompanied by a sheet of stickers with onomatopoeic words often seen in graphic novels to add an interactive, fun element for fans.

Product illustration for Nissin Foods. Image via D&AD.

Another take on illustration in the Posters category was Heavenly Taste – as set of posters and packaging designs for the Japanese market which took inspiration from traditional figures in mythology, representing the flavours in each product. Shigeki Yuriko Yamane created illustrations that evoke styles seen in authentic Eastern art.

lg2 Toronto created unusual product packaging for Subjectif, a range of 12 wines which was designed to be chosen based on merit, as opposed to external influences. The dual-layered labelling cleverly disguises the variety, which is only revealed once the wine bottle is empty and light can shine through the glass.

In summary, I feel that putting a label on something can be a narrow way to view it and it’s important to have an open mind about how to define design. Some of the most interesting pieces of creative work are difficult to categorise, but therein often lies the point of interest – the fact that they could be viewed in more than one way.

Earlier draft of editorial layout
Another variation I tried but decided it wasn’t quite working.
Initial sketch of layout ideas

Visual Research

Editorial spreads – Metal Hammer magazine
Editorial spreads – Vogue (UK)
Editorial research – PhotoPlus Canon Annual (bookazine)

Workshop Challenge 2: Breaking the Boundaries of Graphic Design

10 examples of different types of modern design practice:
  • Branding
  • Typography
  • Packaging Design
  • Editorial Design
  • Book Design
  • Exhibition Design
  • Web Design
  • Illustration
  • Motion Graphics
  • Print Design
Choose a piece of design that breaks definitions of design practice and write a paragraph describing this practice.
Artwork for Bjork’s album “Medúlla” – image via www.bjork.fr

I have chosen the record cover art produced for Bjork’s 2004 album Medúlla. To me, it defies categorisation because it’s not just a photograph or image with some text overlaid – it incorporates physical typography (in the form of a necklace made of black “bones” spelling the title Medúlla), a unique way to add words to an album cover as something tangible. The photography by Inez + Vinoodh is also a reflection of the music, with Bjork depicting “this reclusive character that hand-makes the whole world around her,” that embodies the spirit of the album, wearing a cocoon-like mask woven from hair and was inspired by women’s handicrafts, which ties in to the overall concept of going back to basics – the music features a cappella vocals and the name “Medúlla” is based on a Latin word, meaning inner part or core of a plant or animal structure.

Come up with a new term that describes this area of work.

Emotional Design – As a whole, this approach could be described as creating a design which stems from an emotional response to the music, but this way of working could be applied to many different types of creative output, beyond this initial example of producing album artwork for a musician’s collection of songs. For instance, when developing a brand identity, the choice of colours, style and typefaces selected could be based on the emotions that the brand name evokes.


Reflection on this week

This week I was interested to see the diverse and broad-ranging new terms that were presented on the Ideas Wall by my fellow classmates – along with the rest of my recent learning, it’s definitely made me rethink what could come under the umbrella of “design,” and that sometimes trying to classify or label it can actually be detrimental. It can even result in missing the point of the message that piece of design is trying to convey.

Design is a wide field and the lines between what might historically have been viewed as separate roles within the industry are becoming increasingly blurred, particularly with advances in technology. Being a designer is ultimately more about how you view the world and solving problems with your creativity than the words used to describe the way you practice design.


References

Walker Art Center. 2010. Drawn Here (and There): Non-Format. [online lecture] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96R2vgcFg_Y&feature=emb_title [accessed 10 October 2020]

https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2020/232939/universal-sans/
https://universalsans.com/
https://familytype.co/
https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-pencils/
https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2020/232937/the-book-that-grew/
https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2020/233113/marvel-postage-stamps/
https://shop.royalmail.com/special-stamp-issues/marvel/marvel-presentation-pack
https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2020/232674/heavenly-taste/
https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2020/232945/subjectif/
https://www.typeroom.eu/article/fabien-baron-redesigned-zara-serif-logo-and-new-typographic-debate-has-begun
http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/through-thick-and-think-fashion-and-type
http://www.bjork.fr/Medulla-Inez-Vinoodh
https://www.inezandvinoodh.com/?s=bjork
https://slate.com/culture/2004/12/the-year-in-culture.html
https://shop.bjork.com/product/bjork-medulla/
https://www.dandad.org/
https://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2016/09/feminine-care-china-tampon-brand-femme/
https://www.heygirls.co.uk/
https://www.totm.com/
https://www.fluxundies.com/
http://baron-baron.com/
https://www.zara.com/uk/