Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Importance of Packaging

I received a new brief the other day: 'produce the packaging and accompanying surface graphics for a revolutionary new food source' ... 'be imaginative and conceptual, think fish fingers and space duct, chili chocolate and rabbit burgers, recycled rice paper and pop tarts.' I have to combine bronze and vinegar to come up with a new food source, and I am guessing it won't be very tasty! This got me thinking, can packaging help sell anything?

Ever since food was transported it required some sort of packaging whether this was for protection, preservation or storage. Over the years materials have evolved and food can be contained in paper, plastic, wood or tin. Not only will the choice of material 'guarantee the safe keeping and convenience of our foodstuff' it helps us identify the product within.

During my research into packaging design I discovered some unique and innovative pieces of design. Many of these products I would happily buy and never open, just so that I could keep the packaging. Maybe this is because I am studying graphic design (or a bit sad!), but just to make sure I asked a few friends and members of my family whether they are influenced by packaging. The majority said yes. These individuals probably wouldn't buy a product and keep the packaging, but something drew them to the product in the first place. What was it? The surface graphics? Bold use of colour? Expensive looking paper? Clean typography?

Packaging can help attract the consumer's attention and therefore help sell and promote a product. Most people judge a product by its packaging. We all probably go into our supermarkets and look at the outer packaging and think yes that should be yummy, even though we can't see the product inside it! It is fair to say that most people presume that smart price food won't taste as nice as the brand name variety. What are we basing this on? Price? Look?

Sometimes packaging costs more to produce than the food source contained inside. Attractive packaging is seen as the key to get consumers to buy a product, and often the consumer will think that the food is of higher quality. However when you think about how much it costs to print a single colour image onto white paper for a smart price product compared to the price of a full colour job for the brand name alternative what is it that we are really paying for?

If graphic designers do their job well they can market and promote any product. A company could be producing chicken pies made from the worst pieces of meat but pop it into an expensive and attractive piece of packaging the consumer would instantly presume they are buying a good quality product. So it could be said that packaging is almost scarily important.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Festival of Shopping

At the moment of writing this blog it is exactly 61 days, 14 hours and 21 minutes to Christmas! But whos counting?

The "official" countdown to Christmas starts on the 1st of Decemeber, a day when many younsters and indeed myself excitedly open the first door of their advent calenders! However it is fair to say that most of us start thinking about Christmas well before it even gets to this day. But why is this?

It is only mid-October yet on a recent visit to my supermarket I was bombarded with Christmas presents, stocking fillers and glitzy tree decorations. And even though we have exactly 61 days to buy all our presents you suddenly start to panic. You start to hear of people that have already got their presents bought and wrapped. The exceptionally well organised even have their cards written (I am slightly ashamed to say my mother is an example of such an individual). So why is it that Christmas starts so early?

I went online to see what other people thought in relation to this question, and the vast majority of online blogs I viewed gave the same answer as myself: money. Christmas is becoming more and more commercialised, with big businesses making thousands of pounds of profit during this festive season. It seems to be that the public just spend, spend, spend at this time of year. But is it the shops faults? Or are we to blame for buying into this festive frenzie of shopping? We now live in a world that is very materialistic, and people are almost in competition with one and other. Who has the newest gadget or the biggest tv? We are always wanting something new, or buying into the latest trend. So lets be honest, if we woke up to a single handmade present on Christmas Day we would be pretty disappointed.

So have we all forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? I had to type that very question into google, so the answer for the majority of us is probably yes!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Making Connections - Part 2

Activity 2B of the Making Connections assignment, for Design Studies, requires us to have some good old chitter chatter. Our group got together and spoke about the ideas we came up with in the brainstorming session. I found this very useful as looking back at our notes I felt that we never really spoke about design in that much detail. During the time we set aside for discussion we looked back at our work and started making connections between the statements we made and design.

Activity 2C was allocated four hours and during this time all we had to do was think - as this "is a vital part of the design process." During this time I reflected on the ideas raised in the previous task, and chose a few to pursue in more depth. "Design is a subject that intersects with other disciplines." Taking this on board I decided to relate health to design.

The chapter that I chose to brainstorm was the Law of a Few. This section of the book focuses on word of mouth epidemics, and how it only takes a few people to start a trend. In todays world the easiest way to get a message out their is through advertising, whether this be billboard posters or commercials on television. So how is it then that we often don't take that much notice of government health campaigns? How can design help promote health awareness?

I decided to complete another brainstorm to help explore this idea further. I looked at four main areas: health awareness, advertising, online networking and celebrity culture. I think one of the biggest problems that the government faces when raising a health issue is getting people to take notice. It is only once people do this that they can start taking action. So how can advertising help?

Advertising can be very successful in promoting a topic but only if it grabs the public's attention. When it works not only can it help effectively communicate a message but it gets the information out into society. Producing something that gets the public excited can be difficult. Many of the most successful tv adverts at the moment use humor, for example: compare the market and cadburys chocolate. The commercials themselves don't contain much information about the product they are promoting but because the clips are funny it gets people talking and the brand name sticks in your head.

Online websites are big business these days due to the increased use of the internet. People are now using social networking sites such as bebo and facebook to communicate with one and other. Having online adverts that appear when entering sites such as this would be a perfect way to reach thousands of people. Not only would they be informed they would most likely go on to tell their friends.

Finally I decided to look into celebrity culture, and how our obsession with famous people can be used to promote health. Many big brands use well known faces to promote their products, and they usually gain an increase in sales and a good profit for doing so! I think that getting popular stars involved in health campaigns would have a positive impact. The public would probably take more notice and therefore there would be an increased awareness.

I have to admit that I struggled during the brain storming session to see how areas such as politics, environment and social science related to design. However after the discussion stage of this task and taking time to think about the subjects that were spoken about I can see that design has something to do with every discipline imaginable.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Cleaner, Talking, Town!

During the Design Studies lecture on Friday I had to pick three words from a wide selection contained in the slides. The ones that caught my eye were: cleaner, talking and town. Our task was to come up with a story connecting these three words, and I have to admit that I struggled!

To help form some sort of idea I completed a short brainstorming session. I even got my mum and dad involved in order to see how these words are perceived by different people. The issue of location was raised and how depending on what country this indiviudal worked, their outlook on life would completely differ. For instance a cleaner working for a town in either Germany or Holland may feel they have a fulfilling job. These countries tend to take much more pride in the environment and their town's appearance. Therefore a cleaner working here may be talking about job satisfaction.

However if you consider a cleaner working in India, a very different picture would be painted. The standards of cleanliness would be much lower and the cleaner themselves would probably be much younger. It could be a child doing this job; working long hours for very little pay. What would they be talking about?

What about the UK, how are cleaners perceived here? It is fair to say that they probably don't get enough credit and in all honestly we tend to be a society who under values them. Afterall if cleaners didn't do their jobs disease would follow. I would therefore presume that cleaners probably feel that they don't get enough credit or respect for the job that they do.

So back to the three words - cleaner, talking and town. I decided to link them with the following situation: A cleaner working in a run down area in the UK is discussing how neglected the town is. They feel that the work he or she does is completely pointless - forever picking up litter and washing off grafiti. Is there any point? How is it going to improve things? Can removing a little vandalism solve the 'real' problems in this town? The answer is yes! As the 'Tipping Point' explains small changes can have big results, so these tedious jobs which feel pointless at times can infact be extremely worthwhile.

Friday, 16 October 2009

What is good design?

I was asked today whether or not pizza flyers are well designed. My initial response was no; not only do they use terrible typography and poor photography they combine this with a mishmash of bright colours and unusual layouts. However I was then asked if I had used a pizza flyer? Do I have one in the house? And could I locate it quicker than I could a pen? The answer to all the questions was yes! This got me thinking, are these garish looking flyers really examples of bad design?

If asked what good design is most of us would describe it as something creative, visually striking and attractive. However when I really thought about it something is only well designed if it meets the brief and therefore the needs of the client. Therefore pizza flyers are designed in this way because they are simply expected to look like that.
It was suggested to us today, that if we had a "well" designed pizza leaflet with great typography and a clear layout we would associate it with something a little 'posher' than you regular fast food delicacy! We would then assume that because of this, the food would take forever to make and when it did arrive it would come with a rather hefty bill!

Graphic designers have therefore intentionally designed flyers in the way I described above as the public have an image of what they expect in their head. They want a leaflet that is cheap and cheerful, one that suggests quick service with a low cost. And in all fairness that is what we get!

This expectation of how something looks isn't just applied to pizza flyers, it can be seen in so many areas of graphic design. Film posters promoting a new comedy wouldn't use the same typography as an advertisement for say a serious world war 2 story. A michelin star restaurant wouldn't use the same style of menu as a small country tearoom. Banks rarely use illustration and opt for photography in their leaflets as it promotes a more serious image, one which suggests trust and security.

We have so many expectations of how things should look that we often influence what these products actually look like. As graphic designers it is important to know what message your design is communicating in order to make it a success!

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Last night I went to see Disney Pixar new film; Up, and I have to say that I thought it was a brilliant piece of animation. It had the whole group of us in fits of laughter and even reduced a few to tears!

The film itself had a very good story line that both adults and children will enjoy: " Carl Fredricken, a 78 year-old curmudgeonly balloon salesman, is not your average hero. When he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America, he finally fulfills his life long dream of adventure. But after discovering an 8-year-old stowaway named Russell, this unlikely duo soon find themselves on a hilarious journey in a lost world filled with danger and surprises."
After speaking a little more about the film today, I became interested in learning out more about the making of the film and the design process that the animators have to go through. I went on both the disney and pixar websites to gain some inside info! I discovered that in preparation for their assignment on 'Up' members of the creative team went on their own adventure to South America. Once there they fell in love with the scenery and were left facing the problem of how to design a place that looks 'otherwordly and yet still believable'. To do this the team took thousands of photographs and made many sketches. The images of the vegetation, etc that was captured during this research, can be seen throughout the film.

An area which was discussed online and I found very interesting was the character design:

I thought this was conveyed brilliantly, you could instantly tell what type of person each character was. This didn't necessarily apply to the human characters but the animals too.
The amazing attention to detail was something else that surprised me. I learnt online that one of the technicial directors calculated that it would take between 20 and 30 million balloons to actually lift Carl's house. The team used between 10,297 and 20,622 balloons for most of the floating scenes. The number varied from shot to shot 'depending on the angle, the distance, and the finetuning the size so that it feels interesting, believable and visually simple.'

Even though I knew that a lot of research and planning goes into making an animation I didn't realise that the details were so precise. This hard work has really paid off as the film is definately worth seeing!

Making Connections

"Design is a subject that intersects with so many other disciplines (science, psychology, social studies, geography, politics, economics) and at undergraduate level you need to start making those connections by taking an interest in things that, at first sight, don’t seem to have a lot to do with your chosen subject."

For assignment 2A our Seminar group had to brainstorm each of our chosen topics from Assignment 1B. Working in a small group was encouraged as we could all work on our chosen chapters but were able to help one and other. This assignment's purpose was to help us think differently; both as individuals and as a group. Prior to starting the brainstorming session we read over the rules. The one that really stood out for me was that "there are no dumb ideas". Everything that was said had to be written down, no one could dismiss an idea as silly or stupid. I think this encouraged us all to contribute a lot more.

We decided to set ourselves a time limit of ten minutes to come up with as many ideas relating to each of our chosen topics. After allocating a note taker we got to work, remembering that the assignment requested quantity rather than quality. After completing this process for all three topics, we decided to take a well deserved break! I found this very useful, it was good to take time to think and reflect on the work we had just done. On our return to the studio we all had a few ideas that we went on to discuss further. After looking back at out brainstorming session we realised that we hadn't come up with that many ideas that related to design so we have organised a pub lunch so that we can have a good blether for task 2B. Aswell as a wee drink!

At college we never worked in groups so this process is fairly new to me. However I have been really enjoying it, and I think it a crucial skill to have, especially when working in the Creative Industries.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


During break the other day a group of us were discussing tattoos. One of my classmates told me that he could picture me with a sleeve. This made me wonder if I did have a sleeve tattooed would people treat me differently? Would I change from an innocent looking girl to a wild child with a radical outlook on the world?

Its amazing how we instantly stereotype people by how they look, and often don't take the time to get to know them first. I decided to look up this topic online and found many webpages dedicated to this subject. One website explained, "Many "minority" groups have long complained about being judged solely on their appearance. People of these groups are automatically stereotyped into a class of certain expectations. The body art community is no exception. From schools to the work force to every day life, people with body art are generally perceived as rebellious and irresponsible."

As someone who has a tattoo myself I would like to think that I am neither rebellious or irresponsible (The fact that I am in the process of getting it removed may go against that argument!). However I know many people with tattoos and I think its a great way of self expression and many of the designs are great works of art in their own right.

However will my friends that have tattoos go on to have problems when finding a job? For instance would you be allowed to get a job for the government if you had a visible tattoo. Would people not take you as seriously? Or could it go in their favor? If you worked in the Creative Industries, for instance, your employee may welcome body art and see it as a sign of creativity.

Another topic that got raised in a chat room was how footballers don't get negatively stereotyped for having tattoos but heavy metal rockers do? To be honest I don't think this is at all fair after all aren't they both doing a job that they are passionate about? Why is it that celebrities, pop stars and sports people don't get discriminated against but others might?

After looking at online articles relating to this subject, I decided to find an image to attach to my own blog. I would like to know whether you think this young gentleman falls into the common stereotype or not?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Cinema Tickets

Why is it that we keep a hold of our used cinema tickets?

After all there is no real use for them. They can't get you back into the cinema for free, and even if they did you would have to sit through the same film again. Which in the case of some films would be a pretty terrible experience.

I tend to keep my cinema tickets, bringing them home to spend the rest of their lives in a small box alongside other random artifacts collected over the years. It made me wonder why these small tattered pieces of paper are so sentimental to people?

I am sure some individuals have kept their stubs from every film they have ever seen. But I wonder whether, like myself, they are stored away or are they looked at from time to time? Are they seen as souvenirs? A physical reminder of an outing?

There will also be many cinema goers who throw their tickets away, seeing them as useless pieces of paper. Rubbish. However for me these small bits of paper are rather special. Looking through my small collection I can easily assign a memory to each and every one. And I think thats probably what most people love about them!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Mind Mapping

Prior to my assignment for Design Studies I had never used mind maps. I had used spider diagrams on many occassions, thinking that they were the same thing, but I have since learnt that they very different. Mind maps can be very creative, with the use of colour and imagery encouraged inorder to help the user distinguish between the information and also to remember as many facts as possible.

For Assignment 1A I had to use Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping technique to produce a summary of The Tipping Point. Doing this is intended to help us "learn a method of summarising complex information that is useful for everything from remembering the content of books and lectures to planning essays and making notes in briefings and tutorials."

The Designs Studies Module Handbook advised a twenty minute time limit for this task which I tried to stick to. This was an individual project but it was recommended that you work collaboratively, as talking to others can help you remember sections of the book which you may have forgotten about. Firstly I wrote the book’s title (The Tipping Point) in the centre of an A3 sheet of paper, then drew branches for each of the six chapters. I went on to draw branches from each of these six headings, each line of thought contained information on the main topics from each chapter. I tried to complete this section of the Assignment from memory alone. However after discussion with my classmates I was reminded of other sections of the book, which I went on to add to my mind map.

For Assignment 1B I had to pick a chapter of the book which I found interesting and complete a more indepth Mind Map. I decided to look at 'The Law of the Few' as I found this section of the book quite fascinating. This time the Handbook suggested a time limit of fourty minutes, however I was allowed to use the book for help if I needed to. I tried to do as much as I could from memory but I did have to look through the Tipping Point adding any information/ theories/ research that I had forgotten about to the mind map.

"The third part of the assignment revolves around the idea of evidence. Nothing Gladwell writes is based purely on his opinion, but on what he has found out, and that in turn is based on research based evidence." I had to go through the chapter of the book, that I had chosen to look at, and highlight names of authors, researchers, or any papers which had been mentioned and add these to my Mind Map. I was surprised at how many different names and research programmes I discovered during this section on the task.

The final part of the assignment is to complete a blog (which you are reading just now!).

Reflecting back on this assignment I have to admit that I enjoyed using the Mind Mapping technique. Having never used this before I found the instructions very easy to follow and the technique easy to pick up. One of the most important elements for me was colour. I found using a different coloured pen for each chapter of the book really helped to separate the information and facts I had written down, aswell as showing a clear line of thought.

Using uppercase writing made the information presented much easier to read. What was also helpful was the use of different sized lettering; large words for the title of each chapter, medium sized characters for sub chapters and then smaller text for all other information. This made finding key pieces of information amongst the vast amount of words much easier. Finally I felt that being able to work with others on this assignment very helpful. Discussing the book and the Mind Maps themselves with my peers made me remember sections of the book that I had forgotten. Amending my Mind Map by adding these forgotten facts helped spark of more topics which otherwise would never have been mentioned.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Web Design

One of my projects is to create my own website which will contain my biography and portfolio. After researching various websites I have to say that I think simple designs work best. Many of the webpages I viewed used Flash, and I have to admit that I found myself becoming impatient whilst waiting for them to load. The main worry with sites such as this is that many people become bored and click of the site before it is loaded up. In the case of a portfolio site, this could be extremely damaging. If clients and indeed the public dont see your designs it will limit your chance of getting work.

Over the next few weeks I hope to learn how to create a website that is easy to use and navigate. One where the simple layout enhances the pieces of work which will be on display. Hopefully the simple design I intend to create is a success!

Thursday, 1 October 2009


So, I was given a new brief this week - to research vinegar! I thought the lucky dip had failed me again, but I have since discovered that vinegar is used for a lot more than just a bit of flavour on our fish and chips! Not only are there lots of different kinds of vinegar ranging from rice to coconut, it is used for medicinal purposes and is pretty good at cleaning your dirty windows!

However what I think is good about this assignment I have been given is that I have no idea what the end product is going to be. I can look into the historical, cultural, nutritional and visual properties of this food. I can go off in tangents and record my ideas through sketches, photos, drawings and notes.

I have never worked like this before but I think it is a very interesting approach, and lets just hope that the things I discover prove useful for the next stage of the project!