Constellation : The Meshwork of Objects •1•

Having found out that my topic for Level 5 constellation would be the Meshwork of Objects, today was the first lecture. In the lecture we explored the concepts of things and object and how we interact with the world around us. The work was very philosophical in nature and so explaining the concepts discussed may be slightly beyond me. I feel that my Constellation posts will steadily become more and more detailed as I progress through the course and come to understand in more depth.

The gist of the work we did was in looking at how we project on to the objects around us as we move through the world, as well as the effect they have on us. This was a tough concept to get my head around but we were given a practical demonstration using clay. We were asked to take the clay and form it into the tallest, most slender human figure we could manage.

As we constructed our figures many of us, including me, had a great deal of trouble. Clay, being so malleable, is easy to shape, but also not the best at load bearing, so many of our creations either fell apart of slowly sagged over time. As they did so, we balled the clay again and started fresh. As this continued the clay became dryer, less easy to shape and harder to stick together. It was a challenge that just kept getting more difficult.

Jacqui, our lecturer, explained that this was in order to demonstrate her philosophical question. Because it was evident that we were acting upon the clay, manipulating it, as it was simply an inert object. But what she wanted us to understand that, as we affected the clay, the clay changed and refused to to be worked. The clay changed its properties and stopped many of us from creating what had been asked of us.

From this, I learned that objects may appear inert and unchanging. But as we move through the world and interact with them, our experience of them is what makes them real to us. A car for example, is simply a part of modern life. It is a thing we use to commute. But when a car breaks down, it has affected us, we aren’t going anywhere. And that’s when we truly notice it. In short, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

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On Display Brief – Brutalist Architecture

My Chosen Topic

After a significant amount of research I decided to go, simply with what sounded best. Of the five topics available, I chose Brutalist Architecture. My reasoning for this is my immediate fascination with the structures I found, as well as the whole design philosophy behind Brutalist design. The creation of beautifully simple and utilitarian buildings has already been done, others have spent their energy bringing these creations to life. All that’s left for me to do is to highlight them and exhibit them in a unique and memorable way.

Brutalist Architecture Exhibition Ideas

While I have a very solid basis to work from in Brutalist Architecture, I still need to build my own unique take on the subject. I could focus on an area, on a specific designer, on a critic, the first breakthroughs in the design philosophy, or even the last structures built before Brutalisms sudden decline in the mid 1980s.

Idea 1

Explore a particular city or country where Brutalist Architecture left a significant mark and delve into the culture and political landscape that fostered the movement. What are the associations people of the area feel on seeing the grey, gaunt buildings. Are they a symbol of socialist utopia, cheap, simple civic projects for the masses? Or are they seen as a symbol of social divide, segregating the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’?

Idea 2

Use a giant mural of a world map, exploring the concentration of these structure by city or country to explore where the design philosophy was most prevalent (UK, Eastern Block, Western Europe, US, Australia, New Zealand). Explore why some areas of the world chose Brutalism while others did not. What the political and social climate of those places were at the time and what that says about Brutalism as a design philosophy. How does the climate generate Brutalist design and how does the design change the climate?

Idea 3

Possibly also using a world map mural, I could track the structures seen as the most significant in the Brutalist movement. Explore the background of the designers and architects. The praise and criticism the structures received and the way the style as a whole evolved throughout its time in the limelight.

Idea 4

Explore why Brutalist architecture ever gained popularity since it was so contentious a design philosophy throughout its lifetime. Was it necessity since it was cheap and basic in many respects? Was it reactionary? Owing to its complete break with previous styles of the 20th century? Or was it simply that it had never been done and someone thought it would be cool to make something completely different?

Making my Mark

In our recent brief to create 100 marks or logos to represent our unique design practice, I learnt a great deal about what works and what doesn’t.

Our pieces were awarded points by other students who each had six stickers to award. Three blue for professional execution and three orange for creativity and communication. There are more details of this in a previous post of mine.

I had three or four designs of my 100 which received some awards, which I was very surprised by. If these I chose my personal favourite and decided to further refine the idea, refinement not being an option during the brief owing to the shear volume of work demanded.

#85 The Wave

This piece was a personal favourite of mine so I’m glad someone shared my feeling. I’ve since done some sketching to advance this design and I’ve explored numerous variations.

As you can see from the image, I was still open to any kind of alterations. The only consistent theme is clear geometry and a wave as the central theme. I feel that this is personal to me because I have always lived costally and been an avid surfer and lover of water sports of all kinds.

I have two main lines of design going forward. They are marked in each stage by a letter for the design avenue and a number for the stage of design.

‘A’ Series

The ‘A’ series follows most closely to the original sketch in the 100 marks project. I wanted a wave which emerges seemlessly from the circle in which is sits, that comes to a sharply defined point in the centre.

Using a series of handdrawn geometric shapes, I aimed to give the mark the cleanest finish I could. I also settled on clean, clearly defined lines throughout with no texturing or complexity to allow the image to be shrunk and still be recognisable.

‘B’ Series

Both series were designed in tandem and simply labelled afterwards to define them. With the ‘B’ series I was aiming to experiment with the use of negative space. Clean and simple is great, but a wave is just a wave. There are numerous brands which already feature this and I was worried I’d become one among many.

I decided to create a logo with two waves opposite and the reverse one another, within a geometric shape which would be filled and leave the waves outstanding in negative space. This had the added benefit of creating an interesting shape in the centre that at first glance seems random until you realise it is a set of waves.

Trying to make this logo implicitly oceanic rather than simple and explicit was a goal of mine. I wanted it to have depth and character. I think this design did a fairly good job at that and so I’m planning on moving to the next step and digitising it in Adobe Illustrator.

Here are my two most advanced designs to date. Each is handdrawn to a greater degree or accuracy and detail. I will likely also digitise the ‘A’ series design at a later date.

Brutalist Architecture – Preliminary Research

Brutalist Architecture as a term was coined by the Swedish architect Hans Asplund to describe Villa Göth in Uppsala, designed in 1949.

The hallmarks of Brutalism are typically building that are massive in character, strong, fortress-like designs primarily made from exposed concrete. ‘Brick Brutalism’ combined this with rugged brickwork. The raw, utilitarian design approach enjoyed popularity from the 1950s falling from favour by 1980. It was seen as a reaction to the frivolity and unnecessary intricacy of early 20th century modernism.

This style of architecture was largely used in Institutional building and Government civic works projects (tower blocks, shopping centers etc). The reason behind this may have been its utilitarian nature making it cheap to produce in quantity for Governments with tight budgets post WWII.

Brutalist architecture usually consists of repeated modular elements forming specific functions. It is a very bare bones approach. Details normally hidden are left on display to purposefully betray the nature of the buildings use. For example the Boston City Hall (1962)

The strikingly different and projected portions of the building indicate the special nature of the rooms behind those walls, such as the mayor’s office or the city council chambers.

despite their fortress-like constructions, Brutalist architecture seeks to leave everything on show and be entirely transparent. Possibly this why the style is commonly associated with a socialist Utopian ideal. No wander then, that Charles, Prince of Wales views many Brutalist structures as ‘piles of concrete’ and expressed the opinion that what rubble the Luftwaffe left behind after bombing much of the UK’s cities was less offensive than what had been built in their place.

Today Brutalism is beginning to see something of a resurgence with many such structures receiving listed status across the UK as sights of national heritage. There’s no doubt that Brustilst architecture is controversial and divides opinion. This in itself is why it is an interesting topic to me. I’m not a fan of overly fancy architecture with unnecessary bells and whistles. I like the minimalism of Brutalism and I think that the philosophy has the propensity to create beautiful works of architecture.

Idea 1

Exploration of the divide caused by Brutalist architecture, possibly down social lines with regards to its use in low cost projects such as public housing and civic works project during times where funding was scarce. Why do some people like it and some hate it? Are there beautiful buildings created in this style that have been beneficial and been loved by those who have lived around, lived or worked in them? Possibly a system which would allow exhibition goers to air their views and vote on certain designs.

Idea 2

Exploring the associations people make when they view Brutalist architecure, how does it make people feel? Was does it make them think of, is it a depressing reminder of times of poverty or a functional design philosophy that allowed society to move forward?

Idea 3

Focus on the work of a select number of Brutalist Architects, explore their views, their creations and display them for people to make their own judgments.

 

Beyond Borders – Preliminary Research

For this brief we have five weeks to design an exhibition complete with branding and accompanying ephemera materials and any other optional media such as an app or website etc. The brief allows us to choose from one of five broad topics. In this post I will explore the merits and possible ways I can implement each of the five topics.

Beyond Borders

This is one of the broader of the topics available. It could refer to any kind of human borders, physical or metaphorical. My immediate thought was to focus on the physical barriers being implemented around the world, the reasons behind them and the effects they may have, both positive and negative (most likely negative).

The topic of securing ones own plot of land and barring others from entry is one that appears a great deal in the modern world. We are an expanding, global society and many wish to cling to the status quo of hard international borders. Currently in the news there are numerous examples of conflict and dispute over territory, these include:

  • Brexit
  • Donald Trump’s Wall with Mexico
  • Catalonia Independance
  • The Syrian migrant crisis
  • Tensions in Ireland (not helped by Brexit)
  • Ukraine crisis (annexing of Crimea)
  • The disputed Wast bank and Golan Heights and and blockade of Gaza by Israel
  • Multiple nations aggressively pursuing land grabs in the East China Sea
  • Sectarian violence along the India – Pakistan border
  • Territorial disputes regarding drilling rights in the Arctic

All of these ongoing disputes are often featured in the news and contain a lot of public interest. They make a strong impression on me, in particular they show how it is part of human nature to want to lay claim to as much as possible to avoid your neighbors gaining any advantage over you.

Idea 1

I could make my exhibition an exploration of humanities history of being a tribal species who have always had an ‘us against them’ mentality and been very distrusting of outsides. There is a lot of research that talks about how humanity has advanced so quickly and developed modern society to such an extent in such a short space of time that we are now hamstrung by our cave man brains which still act on fear, aggression and primal instincts. I could work on the idea that this is something to be overcome and explore what we could do to negate this issue.

Idea 2

An exploration into why charismatic leaders are so easily able to gain the support of a populous to mandate jingoistic and inflammatory policies. For example

  • The Irish Troubles are founded in sectarian violence between Catholics in the Republic and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
  • Donald Trump gained huge support in the US for his isolationist policies and questionable border wall with Mexico by repeating a jingoistic anti immigrant narrative in order to scapegoat foreigners as well as ‘the establishment’. Much of what he touted as fact has been objectively proven false, but this did not undo his work to undermine his rivals.
  • Similar to Trump’s rhetoric, the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union on a very shaky platform of anti-immigration and half truths or flat out lies about the benefits it would bring to the UK, both financial and political.

Idea 3

I would focus on one issue, preferably one with the widest impact such as the migrant crisis. I would highlight the issues that caused it, the reaction by European countries and the rest of the developed world to the plight of refugees and the public commentary on the subject, both institutional media and public opinions. I would do my best to give an objective assessment, highlight and dispel the myths propagated on both sides of the argument and simply allow people to reflect on the issue and come to their own conclusions with unbiased evidence.

 

 

100 Marks – My favourites

In the hundred marks brief, each person had to sketch a hundred marks that related to them and their practice. The aim was to explore as many avenues as possible and end up with a promising final product by refining down our ideas and cutting the less promising ones. The exercise itself was to highlight this method of design to the course. I certainly learned a lot from the experience.

Each member of the group worked individually and thus produced unique outcomes. This post is an exploration of my favourite pieces I saw in the exhibition stage.

These three sets of work all followed the same pattern as my own. They used almost exclusive black ink on a white background. I really like the experimentation in all three with weight, density and the inverting of colour. All three exhibit experimentation with negative space and type hybridisation.

These are three examples of a more abstract approach being taken. All three feature colour variations but all three have approached that in different ways. I was particularly impressed by the gold on black elephant (top left). It manages to be very abstract while still clearly capturing the essence of an elephant. The gold on black gives it a very premium feel, not only with the colour scheme but the gleam of the gold on the matte of the black paper. The unending line drawing that makes up the elephant is also an interesting and aesthetically pleasing addition, it gives the mark a unique and eye catching quality.

The work on the right hand side is equally interesting for its use of colour. The almost smeared effect of the colour is highly abstract and playful. While the black ink which has been overlaid is neat and organised, offering a pleasing contrast and professionalism. It’s suggests a creative mind with strong technique. A very similar effect is shown in the bottom left hand side image. The random, energetic colours have been sprayed or painted into stenciled shaped, making them clearly defined without using a solid border.

My Thoughts

I truly think I missed the ball slightly on this because I was under the impression we should use only black and white to ensure the marks would work geometrically and not simply rely on interesting colour. I would like to revisit my work and possibly digitise and colour a few of the designs and even to use different techniques like paint spray or screen printing to create interesting textures.

All in all this was a very eye opening task to have undertaken  and I have learned far more from seeing how others have approached the task than how I did. I’m eager to experiment further and possibly have a final design for my brand to include in my portfolio.

 

One Day Branding Task

Dave arranged for Gareth Strange, a notable designer, to come in and work with us for a day. In groups we randomly selected a brief for a fictional company to update and re-brand. Our group, consisting of myself, Laura Fieldhouse, Angharad Wallace and Tom Collins, selected a Bristol based barbers shop called ‘Craft & Kin’.

The brief outlined a number of considerations and aims for the company’s brand identity. The company consisted of two members. They wanted to emphasize the close and personal nature of the company’s services and the wide range of treatments on offer. They also wanted to move away from the now, ironically, mainstream hipster barber look, while maintaining the gentleman’s barber atmosphere.

This was a deceptively complex brief in the end. Owing to the fact that all the barbers shops any of us could think of, find online or imagine were exactly the hipster stereotype that we were specifically asked to avoid. The concept of establishments aimed at ‘gentlemen’ is a very classic and vintage notion i.e hipster.

We decided to start from the bare basics. Starting with the etymology of the words ‘Craft’ & ‘Kin’.

  • Craft

noun
An activity involving skill in making things by hand.
“the craft of cobbling”
  • Kin

noun
One’s family and relations.
“many elderly people have no kin to turn to for assistance”

 

These words have imply a personal, friendly experience, tailored to the individual customer’s preferences. We decided to compile these and the keywords from the brief into a kind of mood board.

Here were some of my initial sketches with the thought process noted besides them. We did a large quantity of research on Bristol: it’s history, culture and major events. Unfortunately Bristol is a very fashionable city, which, unfairly, means hipsters. I asked our local bristolian, Dan Butler for his ideas on the topic. Besides cider and hipsters we couldn’t come up with much else.

After some more digging, Laura discovered that Bristol is the worlds largest manufacturer of hot air balloons and hosts the annual International Balloon Fiesta.

2016-Bristol-Balloon-Fiesta

On its own, this would not be enough for a logo as the company was hoping to expand and grow. Should they open locations outside of Bristol, the relevance of this would be lost. We decided to explore the idea of combining a balloon with the traditional Barber’s pole. I set about creating a number of sketches.

These images were what we based our pattern and colour scheme on. We also needed examples of balloons to work from. There were two primary designs we wanted to explore.

My preferred design was the perfectly spherical model. However after exploring the two designs in colour, we decided they featured too much similarity to to logos such as Colgate, with the blue, white and red colour scheme. And too much like Google Earth in form.

We decided to change the form and colour scheme to something less aesthetically clean and more hand drawn in order to avoid the likeness to the existing logos, as well as conform to the artisan feel the brand was expected to achieve.

After some adjustments of the number of stripes across the balloon. We decided to digitize the logo and begin mocking up ephemera and a shop front.

Here are my shop front mock ups. I can’t say I’m overwhelmingly impressed with the outcome. We had some level of creative disagreement throughout the design process which left us very short of time to produce a final piece to present. But we made the best of what we had.

wallpaperPrice list

Here are our mock-ups of:

  • Pricing list
  • Appointment Cards
  • Interior Wallpaper
  • And Business Cards

My thoughts

The feedback we received was generally positive. There were some concerns that the logo looked, at first glance, like a light bulb. This was a worry I had prior to our presentation, however we were happy to receive any and all feedback to help us improve. We have already agreed to refine and perfect this idea in our own time as a group, to create something worthy of displaying in our portfolios.

As I said previously. This assignment was deceptively difficult as  we were asked to create a non hipster brand in a very hipster location and in an overwhelmingly hipster industry. We had a lot on our plates and very little time and the internal disagreements we suffered reduced our effective team to three. We did have another concept to display, but I haven’t had access to any of the relevant files and had little to do with that project in any case.

Given time I would be eager to have a crack at some of the other re-branding tasks set in the session and see if I could make something of them. I am happy to go off and do independent work, but not the best and making up a brief for myself. So these mock tasks are ideal for me to improve my work and fill out my portfolio.