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. 


Exhibition Way-finding

In my exhibition, patrons will need a simple and clear system of signage that helps them navigate the exhibition and see it in a manner and order that it was intended to be displayed. I need to insure that the system is understandable and in-keeping with the theme of the exhibition. Maintaining a consistent style throughout every aspect of the exhibition will be critical to drawing people into the world I am aiming to create and allow them to be more fully immersed in the work surrounding them.

The first method I researched was simply signage on walls and signs demarcating routes, floor numbers and containing information on what each area contains. This is very simple and effective. The use of colour coding is also very appealing as it fits with my theme of bringing colour to a slightly lifeless and cold environment.

The other method which I found very impactful and playful, was the method of printing or otherwise laying the information out on the floor so you simply follow different paths through the building as you progress. This, again can employ colour coordination, routes of varying colours take you to different areas or floors, each area may focus on a different aspect of the exhibition.

One thing I want to create is an interactive experience. I want to show that the human interaction with our surroundings is what can make them beautiful and intriguing. One concept I have been mulling over is the idea of allowing the visitors to leave their own impression on the exhibition in the way the graffiti artists of Berlin did with the buildings there. Not only allowing them to feel more connected to the exhibition and the subjects it explores, but also leaving the place different to when they found it. I want the exhibition to change and evolve as time progresses so each visitor experiences something new. It may even lead to people returning to see what has changed.

To achieve this I want to incorporate the interactive elements with the structure of the exhibition, notably, the way-finding system. If I was to have large concrete blocks with arrows and lettering engraved into them, they could act as large blank canvasses for people to paint onto. I could have sharpies or spray cans on hand for people to doodle on the concrete as graffiti artists would sign a wall. As time progresses, some drawings would be overlapped or covered by new ones. In time the blocks would become pieces in the exhibition. Works of art in their own right.


This is a link to an artist called Sam Cox, he creates exhibitions which consist of entire rooms where he has doodled on every surface in a constant stream of shapes and colours. I want an effect like this, where every inch of the signage is a canvas for people to express themselves and let their playful side come out.

Doole Man

In Glasgow

Another aspect that I think is important is to tie in the colour scheme which marks out individual sections or floors of the exhibition. When creating my typeface, I used a colour scheme taken directly from one of the buildings that was part of the Berlin Turmkunst (Tower Art Project), the Bierpinsel (Beer Brush).


I used swatches taken directly from the Bierpinsel and applied them to my type. It occurs to me that the front of the building is coloured in a pattern of ascending horizontal layers. It would be a neat tie in to use these colours as stages of the exhibition. Starting with the red base and building up through the teal, purple, off-white etc. I will explore these concepts and mock-up designs and write about the outcomes in my next post.

Apply my brand to ephemera

At this late stage of my project I have settled on a final brand identity. It IS the final identity because even if I wanted to, time has run out for that. But luckily I quite like it. In order to present it in a manner that will allow my audience to understand its real world application, I have mocked up a number of pieces of ephemera across numerous media.

The poster and ticket design are the basis on which all these other elements revolve around. I did this in order to create a consistent visual brand. Here are my completed pieces.


I’m happy with the results of this work. I have tried to not simply reprint the same poster image again and again. But to adapt the signage for each piece while maintain the overall theme. I have to say that despite the rocky start I had on this project. The results are far more promising than I had originally anticipated.

I had considered making a mobile app for the exhibition, but given the nature of the subject, anything that I could include in an app would simply act as spoilers for what would be to come in the exhibition. I may create a webpage to simply work as an advert for the exhibition. Explaining a brief overview of the history  behind the topic and including some images and explanations of the exhibition, akin to a teaser trailer for a movie.

My next step will definitely be to establish a way finding system within the exhibition. I want people to be guided around in a unique way that is in-keeping with the theme of the  exhibition itself. I will explore this in my next blog post. I already have some ideas in the works.

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. 

Exhibition Animation First Attempt

As my project has evolved I have changed my main focus multiple times, bouncing around different ideas and trying to find a topic that would hit the spot and allow ideas to flow freely. At this point I have landed on the renovation and re-invigoration of Brutalist structures in Berlin. I am exploring the structures themselves, their place in the life of Berlin and the way in which people’s perception of them has changed.

The primary point I am going to explore the ‘Turmkunst’ (Tower Art Project) that began in 2010. Where a number of old buildings, including Brutalist structures were left to the whims of a number of notable Graffiti Artists, to turn into their own canvases and do with as they wished.

The term ‘Brutalist Playground’ which I am using as my title describes both the free reign architects had in rebuilding Berlin in the time immediately after WWII, as well as the open sandbox these buildings then came to represent for contemporary artists.

Here is an example of the Tower Art Project’s impact that I have looked at closely. The ‘Bierpinsel’ (Beer Brush’ was originally part of a railway station finished in 1976. It has recently been repainted (right) and is being converted into a restaurant.


So here is my finished piece. It is by no means what I will present at my final presentation, but I am pleased have done it and to have brushed up on my Adobe Aftereffects skills as basic as they may be.

The idea behind this was to emulate the Graffiti Artists impact on the bare concrete of the Brutalist buildings of Berlin. The human experience and interaction with these structures is what make them valuable to society, so I felt that was an important angle to focus upon.

The concrete was a hassle to create, as my type was originally going to stand proud on a plain background. Each word of my title was created on the same image of concrete, which meant placing on line above the other would leave an obvious seam in the center. I therefore had to work out how to duplicate the image and weld them together in a way that removed any visible seam.

Concrete seamconcrete seamless contrast

This was an obscure but quite simple task, I created a continuous repeating pattern with the image of the concrete, before molding all the seams so that they blended perfectly into one smooth surface.

brutalist playground coloured1036958392..jpg

I then placed the text over this background and traced a path over the lettering, making sure to completely cover every letter. I then set that path to steadily peel back and reveal the lettering as the video progressed, so as to give the impression of it being painted on. I then found a YouTube video with the spray can sound effect (if you missed this, please re-watch the video with sound, it really makes it less mediocre). This was what I was most pleased with. The audio was pretty closely if not perfectly synchronized the moving of the imagery on screen.

My Thoughts

It really is amazing how much research and development it takes to produce even something as simple as a basic 12 second animation. It took several hours, if you include the time I spent watching YouTube tutorials to understand each step of the work. I am no expert at using After Effects. I feel that although this piece is not up to standard for my final presentation, it has set me up well by giving me a base on which to improve.


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 inspired typeface 

In my work on the ‘On Display’ brief I have struggled to produce polished work since nailing down a solid basis for my work presented me a lot of a difficulty. Now that I am at the stage of building my brand identity I am pleased to be progressing more smoothly. 

I have been mulling over the idea of producing my own typeface for the project for a while with sketches and doodles of how it could look. But recently I decided to collate all this and design my own typeface. 

Original ideas

My first idea was to create a type that had the appreance of segmented concrete construction inspired by the techniques of Brutalist Architecture. One hallmark of the movement is the replacement of tradition methods with a Lego esc construction of large blocks. 

This idea, although solid in theory, led to one quite ugly and simplistic lettering that I felt had limited potential. So I decided to adapt front there. 

Typeface exploring the use of Brutalist shapes

Here is my first really attempt at an abstract typeface that follows the forms I have found while researching Brutalist Architecture. I was honestly very pleased with this work. 

I found it very difficult to balance the need for it to resemble the structures I was trying to emulate while remaining legible. But I think I achieved a happy medium. 

The issue with this piece was that a classmate was doing a very similar piece and after seeing it I admitted to him that his was better and decided I’d have to do more to distinguish mine. 

Concrete effect typeface in 3D

Here was a brief doodle I did while pondering my project ideas. This was going to be in regards to the topic of my project being the misunderstanding people have when it comes to Brutalist Architecture. 

My idea was that I would explore the reasons people see Brutalist buildings as so hideous and oppressive and seek to educate them of the philosophy of Le Corbusier and the socialist and populist ideals he harboured. 

Angular concrete type 3D
Here is my most advanced illustration of the typeface I have since decided to continue with. The exaggerated strength and thickness of the lettering was very intentional. 

Almost all the letter are designed to resemble solid blocks with details to distinguish letters being indents in the blocks rather than empty space. I wanted to create something geometric and angular that would follow the line software Brutalist design while remaining simple and legible. Nothing extrvigent as Le Corbusier intended for his structures. 

Digitised Typeface

Although the colouration will require much adjustment from this point (the type was created in CMYK so in RGB it looked a sickly green. I chose these colours because they looked far crisper for display purposes). 

As I mentioned, with such abstract typefaces, the concern is with striking a balance between being true to the brief (emulate Brutalist forms) and allow the type to be legible. 

It is difficult to judge this having poured so much time into the work and become so familiar with it. I asked my flatmates and some members of the course and they had no issues with it. But feel free to leave a comment with your opinion. 

I am broadly happy with the outcome and this will allow me to progress by incorporating this typeface in my ephemera and my animation work. I will refine it further, however. It needs some organic texture, concrete isnt smooth. I also need to nail down a final colour scheme.