Circle Line – Psychogeography


“Psychogeography: a beginner’s guide. Unfold a street map… place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw round its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle, keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go, in whatever medium you favour: film, photograph, manuscript, tape. Catch the textual run-off of the streets: the graffiti, the branded litter, the snatches of conversation… Go out into the city, hungry for signs and portents, and see what happens. Open your mind, let the guiding metaphors of the walk find you.”

– Robert MacFARLANE, reviewing the writing of Iain SINCLAIR
The philosophy behind Psychogeography is fascinating. It reads somewhat like the practice of mindfulness. The notion that we go through much of our lives without truly being conscious of our surrounding and attempting to combat that by making a concerted effort to throw off a routine and mix things up. 

I am certainly guilty of, at times, wandering through life without taking the time of notice things. For example driving, I can perfectly easily arrive at a destination having driven there in a kind of uncocious autopilot. I drove perfectly well, but I didn’t truly experience the journey. 

I am not naturally good at looking at thing son a philosophical, none linear way. That is why I chose to study this module. I want to expand my thought processes to allow me a greater pool of knowledge from which to draw. 

The idea of this brief, I am coming to understand. Is to take the unique experiences you undergo as you travel through the world and convey them as best as possible to a wider audience. Each journey, even along the same path, will be entirely unique. The weather, the sounds, the temperature. Each will have changed subtley from one day to the next. 

This may sound like I am using layman’s terms to understand a very complicated concept, but that is how I am able to invisage the philosophy and so writing about it allows me to reinforce what I have learned. 

I intend on using this time to challenge my preconceived ideas and to review my thought process in rider to widen my perspective and allow me to appreciate ideas I may previously have dismissed. 


Circle Line #1

In our first field lecture with Chris, we were given an insight in to the work of the previous year’s group. They had created an 8minute, abstract documentary style video exploring the visual language of the Circle Line. 

The intention behind this video was to bring a sense of the circle line’s past in an implicit manner through the use of editing, animation, visual effects and musical composition. They used both their own and archival media in the form of footage and audio recordings. 

We were shown this work in order to convey our own brief that would follow in a similar vein. The course seems to have a great deal in common with Psychogeography which was one of our potential topics for our Subject ‘On Display’ brief which I had previously completed. 

In order to demonstrate the concepts we would be employing, Chris took us on a nature walk along the banks of the Taff river and told us to record anything that came to mind. Sights, smells, memory triggers, colour patterns, shapes, textures, anything at all. 

Sasha the Staffodshire Bull Terrier 

Lleuci the Shi Tzu 

The river Taff

I am not naturally good at thinking in entirely abstract ways. I like the media I consume to be quite matter of fact and to be explicit with its meanings. But I am beginning to understand the purpose of all this. We are aiming to appeal to a very base and pure idea of the world around use. Rather than explaining it in a linear manner we attempt to show the individual impact it has on the viewer. 

Pet Portraits

This blog is primarily a tool to enable me to record my learning process as I progress through my university course. One aspect of that, for me. Has been to take on design work outside of work parameters in order to improve my skills. 

Over the past months I have been working to build a pet portraiture business in order to help pay my way while I study. Although it does not strictly come udner the rubric of Graphic Design, it has always been a hobby.

Illustration has allowed me to visualise work before attempting to recreate it digitally. I’ve never posted about my portraiture work before. But I feel it is relevant to my practice, so why not? 

I was commissioned to draw a Weimeraner called ‘Blue Bell’ as a Christmas gift for a client. I was given free reign to select my favourite image from a great number. 

Bkue Bell the Weimaraner

This was my favourite image. I like to capture dogs looking composed and relaxed. I also was happy with the lighting, it is natural and comes from one distinct source. 

Stage On

I always work entirely free-hand, I find that although it is never truly faithful tot he image, I manage to capture the likeness of the subject and add my own twist. Who wants a photorealistic portrait agent hey already have the photo? 

Stage Two

Once the basic shape is refined to my liking I begin to add the darkest shadows first. 

Stage Three

I begin building layers of shade and texture into the picture, I do patches alla cross the body instead of completing it section by section to ensure I don’t have disparity in contrast or  shading. 

Stage Four

I continue to add further detail,each breed is different, some longer rhaired dogs require a lot of detailing in the fur as it has irregularities. But Blue Bell is beige and short haired which made things easier. 

Finished Piece

Each portrait takes several hours, start to finish, but I always enjoy the process. I think people interpret so much expression is dogs faces, so capturing that is very important. 

New and (hopefully) Improved

My personal tutorial gave me a new lease of creative life and I quickly began redesigning my project, taking all the best bits of my existing work and applying them to a fresh design.

 I immediately began scouring the library and the web for ephemera designs to act as inspiration, as a kind of mood board. One place I found a lot of useful resources was on Pinterest. It’s not much use for academic work as very little of it’s work is sourced. But ilI found some fantastic ephemera designs. 

Using these as my inspiration. I decided to create a grid design with a series of related images. 

Here is my completed poster design. I decided to give LenCorbusier pride of place in the center of my poster as it is difficult to talk about anything Brutalist without mentioning him, he’s the linchpin.

 I did try the poster on a white background, but the contrast between true black and the vibrant colours of my design gave the image far more force. My options were really only on the monochrome spectrum as the coloured text would be lost of a coloured background. 

David had suggested I use a typeface called ‘Akkurat’ but I was unable to source it and so I decided to go with Helvetica. The reasons for this are numerous. It’s a clean San serif font, given the topic a serif font would be inappropriate. It is also versatile. It comes in many weights and styles. It’s also just a really good fallback for most projects. 

Im really pleased with my poster at this point and it was the driving force behind the rest of my ephemera. 

Here is my ticket design, entirely derived from the poster to maintain a consistent graphic style.

I also mocked up a bus stop poster in order to demonstrate its aesthetic in a real world scenario. 

My T-shirt design with exhibition and venue logos (front)

And the same imagery as the ticket (rear)

My Thoughts 

I’m really pleased with the direction my project is taking even if it is at an alarmingly late stage. I’ve gone from doing what I can to have something to present, to taking a lot of pride in my work in a short space of time. With my new design principal finished and ready to apply to the remaining aspects of the project, I am confident I can complete the task on time and to a high standard. 

Personal Tutorial and work overhaul

I recently had a brief personal tutorial session with David. I showed him my ephemera and animation thus far and he seemed to have some positive things to say. He also, however, had a lot of useful advice and constructive criticism. 

We agreed that the typeface, although he liked it. Was barely legible when overlayed on a concrete background being of the same texture. The blending between the two was blurring the outlines of the type. 

He also suggested making the most of the type’s ability to push the exhibition’s message. It was suggested that I leave the ‘playground’ section of my ‘BRUTALIST PLAYGROUND’ title in full colour, to emphasise it’s playful nature. But to desaturate the word ‘brutalist’ to juxtapose the two words. 

Another suggestion was that ‘Brutalist Playground’ should act as both the title and logo of the exhibition. The typeface is far two abstract to work as body text and so I should explore other potential typefaces to work as my body text. 

 I found this brief encounter very helpful as I felt that my project had, once again, started to stall. After the meeting I immediately set to revamping my work and In my next post I will showcase my new and improved designs. 

Creating my Ephemera

Having created my typeface I have been trying to move forward with my project while taking the advice I was given in my recent tutorial session.

One piece of valuable feedback I got was to clarify my message. I needed to take a stance or try to educate people. My idea had been to make Brutalism more appealing. Or simply to help people understand its appeal if possible.

I was told that possibly my typeface was not playful enough. It was well received but it didn’t reflect my message. My solution has thrown up some interesting results.

So here is my finished typeface as it will look in my ephemera. I wanted to retain the rough concrete finish but add a little flamboyance. The colours are taken directly from a building in Berlin, the Bierpinsel (Beer Bush).

The Bierpinsel (Beer Bush) originally intended to look like a tree, it was completed in 1976

So this funky looking building was part of some work I have already been trying out. There was an effort to spruce up Berlin starting in 2010 called the Turmkunst (Tower Art) project. Notable Graffiti artists were given free reign to paint building such as the Bierpinsel.

The image has been edited by yours truly. I simply desaturated the background to highlight the vivid colours of the building itself. It’s a really beautiful example of the human interaction with architecture which I want to explore in my project.

I used the colours by taking swatches directly from this image and applying them in a semitransparent later over my letters. This left me with a vibrant typeface without the loss of its bare bones feel.

My reasons I chose the Bierpinsel for my colours are. One, I loved the random assortment of bright colours, some floors are one colour, some two, none of them matching any coordinated layout. And two, because I want to tie every element of my project together to showcase the beauty of Berlin’s Brutalist structures to best effect.

Using this new typeface, I decided to apply it to some ephemera and see if it would make a good base for a mark that would carry across platforms. As of yet I’ve only created an exhibition admissions ticket, but I’m really pleased with the outcome.

It’s very simplistic, but this isn’t an issue in my opinion, I think a crisp, minimalist design is inkeeping with the ethos of Brutalism. I played around a little with the vibrance and contrast of my colours and I think it has improved the final product.

The white bar on the edge may be preferred in the final design to allow the concrete element to be kept separately once the ticket has been used to gain entry. But that is yet to be decided.

I’m pleased with my progress thus far and I’m eager to see where the next big break in my project will come.

Brutalist Berlin – Examples

While I have done a lot of research on Berlin and its architectural history, I have neglected to make a blog post exploring these buildings and explaining how they have influenced my designs thus far and how I will utilize them further in my project.

After the devastation of the Second World War in Berlin, architecture became a discipline where new technological solutions, techniques and future-visions could be demonstrated. Divided Berlin became a showcase for the Western and Eastern powers and public building projects became conspicuous expressions of attempted supremacy. While the architectural progression of Soviet-controlled sector was generally guided by a Communist worldview, the Western sectors – trying to reflect architecture styles prevailing in the wider world at the time.

The Research Institute for Experimental Medicine – part of the Free University in the south west of the city.

This behemoth is known colloquially as ‘ The Mouse Bunker’ as it is an Animal Testing Facility (the bunker part is self explanatory). Completed in 1980 this is a perfect example of the unique kind of flamboyance that brutalism can throw up. It’s grey, weather stained exterior is forbidding and grim. But it has this form akin to a battle ship which lends it a strange beauty. It looks as if it’s a war ship squeezing its way down a narrow canal in this image.

The Bierpinsel (Beer Brush) – built as part of the Schloßstrasse U-bahn station from 1972-76

The 46m high Bladerunner-esque Steglitzer Bierpinsel. Added to lessen the impact of the connected flyover and containing a restaurant, it was originally clad in red fibre cement panels. Starting in April 2010, several prominent graffiti artists painted the exterior of the structure over several weeks, as part of the Turmkunst (Tower art) 2010 project – an exhibition of street-art taking place both in and around the tower.

This is a powerful example of the human interaction with these buildings, They are blank canvases that can be interpreted by those around them. I think the design of this building is really striking and beautiful colour or no.

The Pallasseum apartment block

This huge apartment block near Kleistpark was completed in 1976. It became much-maligned, receiving the nickname ‘Social Palace’, until recently undergoing many improvements and being rebranded as the ‘Pallasseum’. It has a total floor area of 37,000 square metres, houses approximately 2,000 residents and spans a Second World War high-rise bunker.

I love the way that in their attempt to rebuild and redefine the architectural landscape of Berlin, designers simply slotted this great big building over the top of an existing building from another era. It looks like it has been carelessly stacked on top to be saved for later. This is another way in which the playful side of brutalism can be seen.

An apartment block in Wilhelmstadt, Spandau.

I couldn’t find information on the date that this was constructed. But what fascinated me was the integration taking place in this structure. Its mathematically perfect angular frame is softened by the greenery on every level. It’s almost like the vertical garden designs currently in vogue in major cities. The human interaction with these buildings is what makes them special.

These are just a few examples of structures I have studied. They are the inpiration behind my typeface design in my previous posts. All the angular wedge shapes are inspired by those on brutalist buildings.