Contemporary Practice – Week 1: Introduction

Workshop Challenge

Quadriptych
My updated quadriptych.

Who are you?

My name is Cat McLaughlin. I was born in Scotland but I spent time living overseas in Europe growing up, which has shaped me and broadened my horizons. Being exposed to different cultures and learning new languages at a young age had a massive impact on how I view the world. I also love to travel and experience new places – the world is full of inspiration.

Music is a big presence in my life (and is the basis of so many of my friendships!). Punk rock’s energy, music, DIY attitude and alternative aesthetic has had a huge influence on me as a person but also as a designer. I love a broad spectrum/eclectic mix and embrace other genres too and can usually be found listening to something music-oriented while I create.

Other things I’m inspired by are photography, typography, film, graphic novels and animation. I’m also incredibly inspired by playing with colour, light and experimenting with different media. The natural world is often a source of inspiration too.

What is it that you do?

Currently, I would describe myself as a multi-disciplinary designer. I have a background in textile design and interactive media, and I enjoy using these skills across different disciplines, including graphic design, web + digital design, animation, print and knitwear design.

I have been doing some freelance graphic design – recent projects have included designing album artwork and printed posters for a local band and creating a visual identity for an alternative fine jewellery brand.

I also work at McGowan Marketing, a Scottish Borders-based marketing agency, as Creative Designer, where I oversee all things design, working across print + digital, branding, visual identity, web design & development and beyond. Our clients vary from small local businesses to charities and organisations and include the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, Borders College, Visit Kelso and Energise Galashiels Trust.

After graduating with a BA Hons in Textile Design in 2005, I started my own label, WildCat Designs, a collection of handmade knitwear accessories. A pivotal moment for me was combining my love of retro 8-bit video game graphics with textiles when I designed some unique scarves!

Where are you?

I’m based in Scotland. My home town is Edinburgh, and generally, pre-Covid, I had been splitting my time roughly equally between the city and Galashiels, where I work, but recently I have been in the Borders more with occasional visits to Edinburgh.

I definitely think location has an impact on my work – I have found spending more time in the countryside a welcome break from the madness of city life but enjoy going home to Edinburgh when it all gets too quiet. I love exploring the city streets for visual inspiration and there is always a plethora of interesting exhibitions to visit.

Why Design?

Design, to me, is fundamentally problem-solving. At its core, I think good design helps to communicate ideas in a clear, effective way.

First draft of my quadriptych.

Following some feedback from one of my peers on the Ideas Wall, I decided to look in more detail at a selection of punk rock graphics, including album posters and flyers to get a better sense of typography and style.

My pinterest board with visual research

I then sourced a font called Moshka to help achieve a more grungy look via misprintedtype.com, created by Eduardo Recife. To marry the elements together better I added some textures as well as swapping out the photo for a more recognisable Edinburgh landmark and going back to something closer to the original sketch for the overall design.

Initial sketch with quadriptych ideas.

Week 1 Resources & Lecture

Intro Design

Adrian Talbot has a background in traditional graphic design but an output that encompasses a much broader spectrum. Coming from a textiles background, I was already very familiar the brand identity he developed for the Crafts Council.

I delved further into his typographical work and explored his typography work on the Talbot Type website. One font which particularly caught my eye was Kong Script, a script font with geometric forms and clean lines. I particularly like how they used animation to show off the typography.

Kong Script by Talbot Type

Julian House discussed how design becomes a visual language that comes from different cultural reference points. Adrian describes Julian’s style as a hybrid of design, art, typography and illustration. His work + techniques moved from being print-based to expand into developing worlds for projects to inhabit across different media, such as moving image, print and beyond.

Video art by Julian House for Primal Scream

I particularly liked the bold graphic style used in the music video he created for Primal Scream, where a visual language was established, based on the design for the Exterminator album artwork, featuring a collage-style approach with an energetic use of colour and stencilled type.

The idea of design becoming a sign-post for the identity of a band and their cultural background and influences is something which also resonated with me. I also feel you could broaden this and say that the same thought-process can be applied to developing a brand’s visual identity.

Ultimately I am inclined to agree with Adrian Talbot’s view that good graphic design is about effective storytelling, not just making something that’s visually appealing.

My notes on this week’s practitioner case studies and learning resources
Notes from Week 1 Resources.

Reflection on this week

This week has been challenging at times – I have sometimes felt a bit overwhelmed with all the new platforms to get used to, and encountered a few tech issues which slowed my progress somewhat as well. I know it will take time to adapt to studying and settle into a new routine. I have found the lectures and course materials really interesting so far. They have definitely got me thinking about different ways of approaching design and sparked off a few new ideas. It’s also been good to start virtually meeting and exchanging ideas with my classmates via the Ideas Wall too.


References

Shaughnessy, A. and Brook, T. 2009. Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio. London: Unit Editions.

Michael Wolff. 2011. Intel Visual Life [Short Film] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfMw8aMzIKQ [accessed September 2020]

Abstract: The Art of Design. 2017. Season 1, Episode 6: Paula Scher – Graphic Design. [Netflix Documentary] Available at: https://www.netflix.com/title/80057883 [accessed 22 September 2020]

https://www.talbottype.co.uk/
https://www.talbottype.co.uk/kong-script/
http://www.misprintedtype.com/
http://visuelle.co.uk/