The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising: A Review.

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is situated near the bustling London hub of Notting Hill, having recently moved from it’s previous location in a mews neighbouring Portobello Road, due to ever increasing visitor numbers it eventually outgrew the premises. Because of this recent move, much of the museum is still in somewhat of a limbo. However, there are two rooms currently open to the public to view at a 50% discounted rate, while the rest of their artefacts are set up in the remainder of the building.

We enter the museum through the gift shop, giving us a sense of foreshadowing as we pass the retro style products and brightly coloured postcards. As we progress into the museum itself, the reason for their increasing visitor numbers becomes clearly evident. What we see is two rooms, connected by a central doorway, the first of which documents the iterations in graphic design of the most popular and well known brands of the modern era. We’re able to see the many styles of packaging used by Cadburys on their famous Milk Tray, throughout the product’s history; from the victorian era’s ornately decorated cream box, to today’s smooth finish and iconic shade of purple, Pantone 2685C.

The next room shows us the range of products available in each decade of the 20th century, as a “consumer timeline”, a select corner of this room is devoted to the other elements of packaging rather than purely the design. Two cases explore the innovations in packaging technology and materials, such as; airtight tins, bottles, crown caps, folding & waxed cartons as well as how a design can be applied onto them. Adjacent to this, another case investigates the origins of the brand name, explaining how a product may fail, but the name can be reused in future by the manufacturers. For example, Unilever registered the brandname “Wisk” in the 1920’s, and first applied it to a scouring powder, this product failed and the name has since been used for washing powder, paper dishcloths, and multi stain remover.

The “Consumer Timeline” displays packaging items and a few select posters from the Georgian and Victorian era’s, each decade of the 20th century, and the 2000’s to present. Each decade has it’s own individual display case, with the biggest being those of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. The layout of the objects makes it simple for us as viewers to see and appreciate the graphic styles of branding and packaging during these moments in history. It also shows us the trends in advertising and marketing, noticeable by the language and imagery being used in the designs. It’s easy to compare era’s and appreciate the advancement of society, through the inventions in packaging and production technologies. For example, we can see the use of imagery change from printed paintings to photography in the 60’s with the invention of colour film, and the introduction of thin plastic as a packaging material in the 70’s.

For those with graphic design knowledge and those without, the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is not to be missed. For us artists, it’s a unique look into the history of product branding in english speaking countries, but for everyone it’s a nostalgic and evocative journey back in time.

The Role of Branding in Food Landscapes

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Before this session started, we were instructed to read an article from Gastronomica, titled “Authenticity in America: Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising” by Joshua Freedman and Dan Jurafsky. In the article, the authors discuss and investigate the language used on potato chip products and their links to social class; comparing the complexity of the sentences on the back of the packets in two price dependant groups. They found that the expensive chips used more complex language (as measured by the Flesch-Kincaid readability test) and more words overall than inexpensive chips. There was also a distinct difference in the linguistic style of the buzzwords used in each of the chip groups – in that the inexpensive chips had words that were easier for that demographic of consumer to relate to. In addition, the expensive chips mention health 6 times as frequently as the inexpensive chips, as their manufacturers understand the needs of their target audience as affluent, health (appearance) conscious consumers.

After reading this extract, we compared and contrasted the language used on our own selection of crisp packets, choosing brands such as Tyrells, Kettle, Monster Munch and a brand of popcorn who’s name escapes me. We did this in pairs and later on as a whole class, but what my partner and I noticed when we compared a packet of Monster Munch with my Kettle chips (brought from home) was this:
The design of the kettle chips – plain, minimal, white, clean, graphically on trend, suggests a healthy artisan product. It screams superiority over the other crisp packets in the aisle, I know this because I choose them every morning for this exact reason (other than the flavour, they’re plain.) but when I decided to compare the nutritional values of these two crisp packets, we noticed something very interesting indeed. The Kettle chips actually contained more fat than the monster munch, and therefore are much more unhealthy. This surprised us considering the visual language that the packet uses.

This seminar inspired me greatly to investigate this topic further as part of my 1500 word essay. I’d like to explore the role that marketing takes within graphic design, particularly in the food market since there is so much product competition. I want to investigate, perhaps, both the textual and visual language used in meat products and vegetarian products after a recent rise in the number of vegetarians, brought about by change in society’s view on animal welfare.

Ethics, ideologies and the practice of design

Monday, November 9th, 2015

This lecture covered the ethical practices involved in design, and questioned the moral standpoint of ourselves as emerging designers. We began by comparing and contrasting three different, select quotes from different designers and discussing which one we most related to and why.

Quoted by Clive Dilnot in an article titled “Ethics in Design: 10 Questions” in the book Design Studies: A Reader by Hazel Clark and David Brody – designer Victor Papanek (from Design for the Real World) says:

“Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed … As long as design concerns itself with confecting trivial ‘toys for adults’, killing machines with gleaming tailfins, and ‘sexed up’ shrouds for toasters, telephones, and computers, it is about time that design as we have come to know it, should cease to exist.”

Dilnot also cites graphic designer Jan van Toorn (1994, p 151 and 1997, p 154):

“Capitalist culture organizes people as buyers of commodities and services [and] … transform[s] information and knowledge into commodities … The corporate conglomerages of the culture industry have created a global public sphere which does not offer any scope for discussion of the social and cultural consequences of the ‘free flow of information’ organized by them. The fusion of trade, politics and communication has brought about the sophisticated one-dimensional character of our symbolic environment, which is at least as menacing as the pollution of the natural environment.”

In both these quotations the authors make a comment on the state of society and capitalism at the time, with aesthetics and function held at a higher value than environmental or societal impacts. To a degree I can agree with the viewpoint, designers should take a stronger stance when it comes to creating goods or services that they take moral issue with, however you have to take into account that not so many of us can be so lucky to pick and choose what work we take on. Unfortunately I feel as if issues of this nature will always be around because of out basic nature as human beings. That being said, this next quotation offers an alternative viewpoint, designers should strive to create change and make a positive impact where they see opportunity to make a difference;

In Lucienne Roberts’ article ‘Being good: Most avenues take me back to ethics’ (2006) in Eye magazine, she writes:

“For many designers the property of goodness (if there is such a property) lies primarily in aesthetics. When a piece of work is deemed ‘good’, really what we mean is that it is either to our taste or that we think it has merit for expressing the zeitgeist or being ground-breaking in some way. Interestingly, if we consider aesthetics further it relates to ‘goodness’ in a more ethical sense too. Is our work good if it engenders happiness for example – if it adds to someone’s quality of life by making the world a more beautiful (I know that’s a loaded term), delightful or pleasurable place?”

In response to this, I will build on what Roberts says in relation to aesthetic value of work. I feel that all designers should be proud of the “look” of their work, everything we create should meet our aesthetic standards otherwise what’s the point? So much of our opinion on something is made up simply from how it looks, often design is there to serve the purpose of advertising (in a range of ways) so this factor in itself is vital to that goal. Although the author mentions personal taste, I think arguably designers have a superior taste in aesthetic, as opposed to those with little artistic knowledge or appreciation; since its our job and driving force in life to understand the principles behind design that make it “good”. It is however, up to the end user or viewer to decide wether it makes them happy, or adds to their quality of life, because if so – then a job well done.

The final quotation we looked at took a more “by the book” approach to the ethics of design, instead focusing on the ethics and professionality of taking on a project.

The American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) outlines in their AIGA Design Business and Ethics guidelines for ethical standards:

“A professional designer does not work on assignments that create potential conflicts of interest without a client’s prior consent. A professional designer treats all work and knowledge of a client’s business as confidential. A professional designer provides realistic design and production schedules for all projects and will notify the client when unforeseen circumstances may alter those schedules. A professional designer will clearly outline all intellectual property ownership and usage rights in a project proposal or estimate.”

This is basically about working with a client and being respectful and professional while doing so, I believe the service we provide is not only the end graphic product but also the service during the creative process, and I absolutely feel that the way you present yourself, and the way that you work, are more than vital in securing future projects.

The Labyrinth of the Library

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

In the second part of today’s session we were sent off on a trail of discovery in the library. We began by choosing an extract of text from a selection in front of us, and were sent to gather five references from different books. These references were linked in the way that each book we found must be referenced in the previous one. By doing this we were able to see how topics can be interconnected and share similar themes and ideologies. However, the large majority of us encountered problems with the task since LCC’s library is not really that extensive. As we followed a more sociology based path, the first book we looked at referenced only french texts, and the second was written in the 1800’s. To get around this, we simply had to choose books that spoke about similar subjects or were by the same author. We managed to gather three references from our endeavours which are as follows:

  1. Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. By Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. 365 ff.
  2. Sartre, Jean-Paul. Search For A Method. New York: Vintage, 1968.
  3. Marx, Karl. Selected Writings In Sociology & Social Philosophy. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 1967.
  4. Shiva, Vandana. Making Peace With The Earth. London: Pluto Press, 2013.

This exercise taught us the importance of following an essay plan, as going off on tangents can be extremely time consuming, and although they can be a positive thing for your work, are often detrimental to the project. This is true both for the actual written element of an essay, and the research (particularly the research). It also showed us the importance of how more academic subjects can inform and influence design practices, critical theory is vital to understanding the context and deeper meaning of graphic design areas.

Branding Choices – Week 1 – Intro

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

At the beginning of the session our first introductory task was to create a brand for our tutor. We were given basic information about her job, qualifications and nationality and had to create some kind of brand, be it a logo or simply some guidelines. As well as this, we were offered the chance to ask three additional questions (as well as eavesdrop on others) to get extra information that may inform the visual language we were using. Without going into too much unnecessary detail about what our small group created, I will instead focus on the importance of what it taught us. We learned through this task that creating a brand for somebody you don’t really know that well is pretty hard, as branding must communicate so much while being so little. It’s difficult to do that for somebody you already know, let alone one you’ve just met. It mainly reminded me of the client-designer relationship, and the importance of asking the right questions to create a strong design that represents them, their ethos, and overall character.

The Author

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

This lecture focused on the idea of a designer as an author, which I know is a very important thing in the industry, particularly for freelance designers, at the moment. My initial response is to think of the author of a book, they arrange words and language into prose, novels, and stories – the authorship here is undisputed, but when we come to the world of art it’s a bit more of a grey area. In the world of photography, artists employ the use of a watermark to assert their authorship and tackle creative theft and plagiarism. In the same way, illustrators subtly apply their name or signature at the edge of the composition, in a place where it would be difficult to crop out or remove (same applies to watermarks).

But when it comes to design, asserting authorship is much more difficult, as in the case of Graphic Design, we are nearly always designing for a client – unless we’re branding ourselves. Because of this designers can’t place their name onto their work like a watermark, and in the end the client will end up owning the rights to distribution of their visual material. I’ve often found that, as a student, when I try to research and look into which designer is behind some famous corporate brands, I can’t find any information about the designer, and ultimately I think that’s down to the above reason.

I personally believe that designers ARE authors, in the same way that writers form literature through carefully choosing their language, storyline, and characters; graphic designers arrange carefully choose typeface, colour combinations and arrange them into a layout. But again, they’re doing this for a client, and more often than not a client will work together with the designer, pushing their own ideas and requirements onto them. In this way, you could argue there is perhaps and element of shared ownership over the outcome produced.

Essay Planning

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Click here to view: CTS Essay Presentation

Project 03: Genius Loci [Short Film Research]

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Making Space – Louisiana

First of a three part documentary series about teenage dancers across the USA

Directed by Petra Collins

Vimeo Link: https://vimeo.com/119167199

As part of my research for the Genius Loci project, I stumbled across this documentary on Vimeo. I enjoyed the cinematography and audio style, so I felt it appropriate to share here.

The video starts with simple stationary shots of the inside of the school, no people present only empty hallways, there is no sound until 12 seconds in. I like the way that this works because the viewer is allowed to make an assumption about the location, and also creates an element of anticipation. We’re given visual clues that it’s a school in the way of close up shots of photography on the wall, as well as a long display case of trophies. The sound kicks in and we’re introduced with the sound of drums and visuals of cheerleaders. What happens next is really quite effective, the director has used slightly slowed down clips of the individuals while simultaneously playing over interview style audio. What I like about it though, is that it’s a fresh approach to the traditional style of interviewing – it’s not a continuous shot of the interviewee sat in front of a backdrop telling their story. Instead, it’s shots them doing what they do, while their personality is communicated through their voice. The visuals don’t stagnate like a normal interview, the viewer is getting fresh imagery while listening. I think because of this it’s quite attention grabbing, the disconnection between the visuals and audio creates an intrigue. There are only 2 or 3 clips that use connected audio.

Arian Foster – “Where We Dwell”

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/118380572″>Arian Foster: “Where We Dwell”</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/toddmartinfilms”>Todd Martin</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Directed by: Todd Martin / Evan Metzold / Anderson Wright

Vimeo Link: https://vimeo.com/118380572

Part 2 of my research for the Genius Loci project, I found this video really empowering and inspirational, the cinematography is amazing and I think the reason it’s so successful at envoking these feelings, is because the visuals are incredibly strong.

This piece of film communicates a narrative, linking a poem by Arian Foster to the discipline and training involved in sport. The viewer is presented firstly with imagery of a man running down an empty, foggy road, which in itself is quite striking. We see the man struggling for breath in the middle of the road, which is when the dialogue audio comes in. The clips reflect the language in the poem being spoken, for example, for the line “when light is at war with dark” the viewer is shown a city scape at dusk, with a bedroom light being turned on. For the line “where warriors whisper hymns” the director has used a shot of a football team huddled together before a match repeating a prayer. The narrative that’s being communicated here is the sense of failure and difficulty, then we see athletes putting in hard graft and practice, then finally imagery of these athletes succeeding in their fields. The final shot we’re presented with returns to the first one, of the man struggling for breath in the middle of the road, where he lifts his head and with a determined stare continues to run. I found this piece of film very inspiring and motivational, which is obviously an important thing because it means the director was successful in communicating the narrative, I also find that the style of language used in the poem does most of the work, but the quality of shots is very high indeed. Overall it’s well produced, the imagery and audio work amazingly well together. What I plan to take away from this builds onto the previous film I researched – in Making Space I enjoyed how the audio interview was disconnected from the visuals, in that they showed the subject in alternative shots to them speaking. In Where We Dwell the audio speech is disconnected because it’s a poem being read over the top, but what I’ll take away from this video is how the director has made the actions happening in the visuals reflect whats being spoken about.

Typography & Communication

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

In todays session we examined a text titled ‘The Grand Design’ by Robert Bringhurst, from his book titled ‘The Elements of Typographic Style’. This text introduced the role of typography within graphic design, why it’s important and how we can use it effectively. Bringhurst makes many valid points about the topic while simultaneously making ridiculous statements, overall i find his writing style extremely odd and perhaps aged in it’s style, it reminds me of a letter of correspondence written to the British Medical Journal that I read as part of a previous CTS topic.

I find it difficult to identify a correlation between Bringhurst’s writing style and the subject matter, as I personally consider Typography to be very controlled, considered, and principled. However, the author makes frequent references and to other art forms and specialisms, comparing them side by side which I don’t find successful. I notice that the way this text has been written follows the authors thought process, which is relatively erratic and most of the comments he makes I find to be overly pretentious. For example, Bringhurst talks about one of the principles of durable Typography always being legibility, and then goes on to say “another is something more than legibility; some earned or unearned interest that gives its living energy to the page. It takes various forms and goes by various names, including serenity, liveliness, laughter, grace and joy.” I feel somewhat disappointed that the author makes a point that I can almost agree with, and then goes and lets me down by stating something utterly ridiculous.

Bringhurst’s analogies to other specialisms, particularly music, are commonplace. He says “Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation, full of endless opportunities for insight and obtuseness. Much typography is far removed from literature, for language has many uses, including packaging and propaganda. Like music, it can be used to manipulate behaviour and emotions.” he further states that Typography is a performance art, which I completely disagree with. To some extent however, I do agree with his analogy to music, as the key purpose of both art forms is to communicate.

As it was strictly linked to the invention of printed type, no typography had been created before the mid 15th century, before this there was only the art forms of calligraphy and script. The art of typography, described by Gerrit Noordzi, is  “writing with prefabricated letters”, but the definition is widely argued among designers. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, typography is “The art or practice of printing”, however this definition (nor any of the further definitions) mention specifically the printing of letterforms or type. As a designer I feel as if this is inaccurate, I would supply my own definition of typography simply as “the art of arranging type”.

I will refrain from saying that the type has to be arranged legibly or in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, as fundamentally the use of typography is to communicate – and thus its appearance is subject to the theme or message it’s conveying. For example, it would be inappropriate to write an obituary in Comic Sans.  To lead on from my earlier discussion about Bringhurst’s analogy to music, I would counter that by comparing Typography to Fashion – in the way that both forms are again an act of interpretation, typography interprets a text and displays it appropriately, similarly with fashion you dress for an occasion; representing the same person every time but dressing differently according to the demands of the situation. Both skills communicate a character, either of a person or a text, and place them with the correct visual style for the situation and purpose.

Holding Text: Uncreative writing in the digital age

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Somewhat questionable statements from a generation past their bed time.

one time I went grocery shopping with my moms friend and she’s an amputee so we parked in the handicap spot and then when we were leaving the car some white lady started screaming at her from across the lot saying she should be ashamed of herself for parking in a special stall when she’s perfectly healthy so my moms friend calmly removed her prosthetic hand and threw it at the lady #theswagchronicles

Do you ever start telling your parents a funny story but then you remember what happened was illegal

Born too late to explore the Earth, born too soon to explore the Galaxy. Born just in time to post memes on tumblr dot com

LIFE HACK: disguise your nervous breakdown as a series of jokes

I took a shit in my grandma’s cat’s litterbox when I was like 13 and my whole family was wilding out trying to figure out why the cat took such a huge dump. Then they took her to the vet and we found out she has feline HIV so in a way, I helped her.

People who can’t handle all black outfits are weak

“It’s all about personality,” I tell myself as I read my follower count

contestant on singing talent show: i quit my job for this, dropped out of school, I left it all… just for this moment

me: nobody asked you to do that though

currently writing a book about a girl who is poor and wants to make money so she asks the neighbors if she can mow their lawns for cash but she doesn’t have a lawn mower so she has to eat every blade of grass.  it’s based on true events that I made up

you came to the right neighborhood here take some lemonade

the denny’s tumblr is no longer an actual advertising platform for a restaurant chain but a bizarre and vaguely threatening performance art piece 

Me: *withdrawing money from the atm*

Girl Scouts posted up across the ATM: Wassup playa!!!

Me: OH SHIT!!!

ideal relationship goals:

• me: hey you wanna come over and nap

• them: yeah

i dont think my friends understand. when i say my room is messy i dont mean “cute” messy where i have a jacket hanging here and there i mean messy as in fuckin trash island where garbage citizens hold elections over who will become the next trash overlord it’s fuckin gross