Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Sir Thomas Thumb

The start of the week brought with it a Monday morning presentation. The class had been working on a Pictorial Narration project for five weeks, and time was finally up, we had to present our final pieces. At the start of the semester we all had to choose a story/ fairytale from the not so lucky dip.

I chose Tom Thumb, a story that I was not at all familiar with. So my initial starting point was to find out what this children's story entails. What I did discover was not pretty; little Tommy has a terrible time. He is forever getting into accidents and sadly after many years of hurting himself he dies when a spider breathes on him! So not the most happy children's story I have read!

The purpose of this project was to tell the story through another form of visual language. This could be anything from road signs to paint swatches. After lots of research into the various visual signs available I decided to explore medical language as I thought it was fitting to my story.
I looked into medical and death records, as well as the language used on prescription labels.

I decided to produce both a medical and death record to explain the story. I was able to adapt the information on these records to suit the story; changing the NHS to King Arthur's Health Service, using the Round Table logo as a corporate identity and most importantly fill in all sections with information about the story. The prescription I made was for Growth Hormone as I thought it was important to get across to the audience that he was quite a small guy!

After producing these final pieces I still felt I needed something to connect them all together so I went back to my sketchbook. I found an image of medical files and how hospitals, etc use colour coded lables to identify a patients file. Letters and dates are applied to these files, so I decided to do the same. I got myself 25 files and put labels on them all, so that they acted as a decoy. Only one of them contained Tom Thumbs information and I wanted someone in the class to try and find the correct file.

On Monday I decided to wear my mum's stethoscope (to try and portray a doctor!) and asked my presentation group to take on the role of medical students. I then asked one member to take the prescription and find the patients file from the pile I gave them. After a little bit of thinking my volunteer managed to work it out. From there the group were able to read through the medical file and discover the unfortunate life of Sir Thomas Thumb.

I felt everyone in my group produced some really interesting final pieces. We had all used different forms of visual communication, but each worked effectively. Whilst some people, like myself, relied on text other group members told their story through signs and even blue prints. It was really good to try and work out what story each other had been given. It was also another project which didn't rely on computers, people could make things by hand or produce pieces which people could interact with. As time goes on I am really starting to enjoy creating designs such as this.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Disneyfication of Culture

Fridays lecture was entitled the Disneyfication of Culture and was given by Hans van Koten. He spoke to us about this 'disneyfication', a term used to describe a global phenomenon which effects the whole of culture; from entertainment, retail and even education.

On leaving the lecture the main thing that stuck in my head was a short video clip which we watched. During this video we were presented with clips from various Disney films while someone spoke about what the footage could be portrayed as. One example given was Beauty and the Beast and how it promotes domestic violence. I have to admit in the clips that were shown I could understand someones reasoning behind the statement made. However I do feel that these children's films have been over analysed. Yes some of the clips depict anger, but it doesn't mean to say that a child watching said film will grow up to be the same.

The female characters in the Disney films were also discussed. It was highlighted that all these leading ladies are thin, with large breasts! and that this stereotype of the ideal woman could have a negative effect on young girls. I do think that in today's society there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way but I really don't think young children pick up on this from Disney films, I certainly never.

A further point was made that even though some of these leading female characters are very independent, they are always saved by the leading male. Is this sexist? I don't think so, I really just think its a story line that has been repeated through out history and will continue to be done so. After discussing these points with my flatmates, one of them made the point that if someone wants to make Disney seem racist or sexist they will find something to suggest this.

Apart from the discussion on Disney clips the other part of the lecture which I found interesting was about the Disney Parks. Disney has over 100,000 employees however they get paid a pretty poor wage. The workers in the theme parks are referred to as 'cast members' which I find a little bit strange. It is if they are part of an act, a show that we are all taking part in. One statement that stayed in my mind was about how they have streets with lots of houses that the theme park visitors go inside. However once inside they are nothing more than cleverly decorated shops, which we then go on to buy merchandise from! So are we part of the bigger act? Or are we not even aware of that the 'show' is going on?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

3D Typography

Work is now underway for the 3D Typography Exhibition which will take place on the 26th of Feb. I can see a lot of late nights and lunch times taken up with constructing and painting, as this date is scarily close!

We were all given a fruit earlier this semester, and we had to investigate it in detail. In my case, I received the humble raspberry and I decided to look into its history, uses as well as the health benefits that it possesses. From there we had to design a broadsheet containing information on our given fruit or veg. After choosing my image and 'attention grabbing' heading I got to work on my broadsheet. But after feedback from my tutors I had to make a few changes (on several occasions!) which lead me to not liking the project that much.

However part 2 has arrived, and after some initial panic over the time scale we have been given, I am starting to really enjoy the project. We have been asked to create an installation which communicated characteristics of our plants through the use of 3D typography.

Having come straight from college I have never had the opportunity to make an installation and I think its a really interesting approach to graphic design. Many people assume that this area of design deals only with computers and flat images, but the course is definitely breaking that myth.

For my exhibition piece, I have sourced plant pots and canes in order to construct a 'raspberry plant'. Onto the cane I intend to added 3D lettering which spells out some of the health benefits associated with this delightful fruit! So over the last two days I have purchased goods from the early learning centre, hassled shop assistants to give me the buckets that flowers are kept in, kindly given canes from the workshop and took part in some outdoor spray painting!

I am really looking forward to seeing what the rest of the class is going to produce. The opening night will hopefully be a nice reward for all the stress and hard work put in during the course of the week!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Assignement 2E

For the final part of this assignment I had to return to my original three photographs and add one word to one of the pictures. The intention being to get the majority of people asked to come up with my 'target' story. I therefore decided to add the word honeymoon to my image of the hotel. Here are my results:

  • Jackie, 47, Retired : Woman planning her honeymoon destination.
  • Belinda, 48, Receptionist: Woman getting married and going away on honeymoon.
  • Jen, 22, Argos Worker: The old woman's necklace was found in the trunk underneath the skyscraper.
  • Kirsten, 22, Fashion Student: Lets get packing for the honeymoon.
  • Gillian, 22, Argos Worker: On our honeymoon he said he had a surprise. He pulled out a necklace from his suitcase.
  • Tom, 19, Town Planning Student: The girl goes on honeymoon to this expensive hotel.
  • Levi, 79, Retired: Woman gets married to her true love. They pack up their belongings for a honeymoon together.

I think my experiment has agreed with Barthes theory. He suggests that images can depict various messages. These messages may be picked up by some individuals but not others. Cultural knowledge plays a big role in what people will interpret from photographs as the degree of knowledge on certain subjects will vary amongst different members of the population.

Activity 2C and 2D show how different people pick up on different messages from the images I showed. Some people had similar stories but some varied greatly. Finally Activity 2E also supports Barthes theory. In the Chapter, I read, of the Rhetoric of the Image Barthes explains how important the lingustic message is. He identifies that text is needed in order for the audience to confirm what is behind an images meaning. My experiment shows that by adding the word 'honeymoon' the majority of people came up with similar stories which were very closely related to my 'target' story. I think its quite interesting how by adding just one word it can change peoples thoughts on a series of images.

Assignement 2D

For Activity 2D I had to choose one of the stories from activity 2C. I decided to go with Elaine's story: The woman in the photograph has booked in the hotel for her honeymoon, as she is currently engaged to be married.

I chose this story as I was getting a similar response from other people I asked, and I thought it would be easy to get everyone to come up with the same story by adding an image of a wedding cake. I was wrong! Here are the stories some of my neighbours came up with:

  • Kirsty, 19, Geography Student: A woman has got engaged and is planning her wedding and where to go on honeymoon
  • Cheryl, 18, Primary Education Student: A lady goes away on vacation and ends up at a hotel where there is a big wedding.
  • Hanan, 20, Dentistry Student: A girl goes to Las Vegas to escape her daily routine. She stays in the best hotel, it is there she bumps into the man of her dreams. They go on to get married.
  • Gillian, 18, Geography Student: A girl says yes to marrying a man she doesn't want to. They decide a venue, cake, etc. On the big day she receives something old (necklace). Decides she doesn't want to marry the man and packs her things and leaves.
  • Kirsty, 19, Primary Teaching Student: Bride arrives at hotel with suitcase. She walks past her cake as its brought to hotel. Her mum gives her a gift; on opening it the girl smiles. It's her mums own wedding necklace.
  • Amy, 18, Medicine Student: Lady packs her bag to go on holiday to New York. She goes sight seeing and meets the man of her dreams. They get married and eat a lot of cake!
  • Nicole, 18, Psychology Student: A lady was having her wedding abroad and this is before she cut her cake.
Even though all the people asked to take part in this experiment mentioned marriage and being in a hotel none of them came up with the exact story that I chose to investigate. On reflection I may have chose the wrong image to add to my random selection of photos. Unfortunately due to time restrictions I was unable to add a fourth or fifth image. However I think doing so would probably take the viewers further away from the target story.

Assignement 2C

'Talk to people' was the title of the next part of the assignment. I had to take my photographs and find a selection of people. I then had to ask them to look at the images and tell me what they thought is going on in the photographs. The intention was for them to produce a story that links all three of the images together. Due to the time scale of this assignment I had to use people I knew, so I got my family, flatmates and classmates on board! Here is what they got from my three images:

  • Peter, 56, Primary Teacher: Booked into a hotel to stay for the night. Found this trunk and opened it to find a valuable necklace inside.

  • Elaine, 47, Nurse: The woman in the photograph has booked in the hotel for her honeymoon, as she is currently engaged to be married.

  • Claire, 20, Nursing Student: Girl throws herself of this high building. The trunk is found in her room and inside is the piece of jewellery.

  • Andrew, 23, Business Student: A man books the penthouse suite in Paris for Valentines Day. He packs his big suitcase for the journey. On arrival the woman puts on her favourite green top and they head to the Eiffel Tower, where he gets down on one knew and proposes. (She says yes!)

  • Orla, 22, Social Work Student: A girl is finally engaged to the love of her life whom she keeps a picture of in her locket. She also kept sentimental treasures in her old trunk, including a photo of a visit to Dubai. The photo from the hotel rooftop means a lot because that is where she got engaged.

  • Chris, 29, English Student: Took a trip to this hotel by taxi. The driver takes the battered trunk from his boot as I try to guess how many stories high this building is. Whilst standing at the front desk a beautiful woman enters wearing striking necklace.

  • Scott, 27, Community Education Student: Prostitute is going to see a client on top floor of the hotel. Has brought with her a trunk full of outfits for her client. (You can tell a lot about the way my flatmate thinks!)

  • Stephan, 21, Electronic Engineering Student: The chest that contains the special necklace is hidden in the top floor of the skyscraper.

As you can see everyone is coming up with different stories from the same three images. Considering what Barthes wrote this does support his theory that depending on cultural backgrounds and differing knowledge individuals will take different meanings from the same image.

Assignment 2B

For Activity 2B I had to collect three images that had no text on them. They had to be photographs rather than drawings, but they could be in colour or black and white. Using the website, provided in the handbook, I signed up and hit 'randomizer'. I decided to use the first three photos that were shown so that I had no influence over the images.

The three images that I was given were:

  • an old fashioned suitcase

  • a skyscraper

  • a woman wearing an engagement ring and a necklace.

Assignement 2A

For Assignment 2A we were asked to read The Rhetoric of the Image by Roland Barthes. We were warned that the chapter is not an easy read, and I have to admit that I did struggle to understand it. 'In the essay, Barthes subjects an advertisement to a semiotic analysis' with his main aim being to establish how does meaning get into an image?

I have tried to summarise the chapter below:

  • Advertisements contain signs which are 'frank' in order to convey the necessary information.
  • Barthes wishes to use this 'clarity' to investigate how an image can produce signification.
  • The advertisement being analysed is said to have been designed to incite the viewer to buy the goods.
  • Barthes breaks down the image into 3 parts; linguistic message, coded iconic message and noncoded message.
  • Linguistic message - make of pasta, which informs viewer of company and its 'Italianicity'.
  • Coded iconic message - what does the image show; freshness, plent, Italianicity.
  • Noncoded iconic message - what it is/ what we see when we look at the image; food supplies.
  • The function of the written message is to direct the reader towards the meaning of the advertisement. A meaning which has been chosen in advance, a meaning that the company wants their product to be associated with. Viewer puts the image and text together to form overall meaning.
  • Advertising images are intentional. They contain signs which are arranged in such a way which produces optimum reading.

Linguistic Message:

  • All the words in the advertisement.
  • In this case it is the French language, all that it needed in order to understand the message is a knowledge of French.
  • The company name is 'Panzani' which suggests 'Italiancity.'

Literal Message:

  • The photographed image represents a scene of returning home from the market with fresh messages. In order to understand this sign the viewer has to have the understanding what 'shopping for yourself' is.
  • The colours used in the advertisement have been chosen deliberately with the intention of representing an Italian product.
  • The selection of ingredients have been chosen to represent the idea of 'total culinary service.'
  • The layout of the goods has been done in a way which conveys a still life painting.
  • Together these signs form a 'coherent whole.'


  • Text helps to answer the question of what the image is. It helps the viewer to interpret the meaning of the image.


  • Linguistic message can give meanings that are not found in the image.The message is realised at a higher level than what it would have been minus the text.


  • Only photographs can transmit literal information
  • Photographs give a sense of 'having been there'.
  • They record information. There is evidence of how it was, it is not an illusion.
  • General cultural knowledge plays a role in what individuals take from an image. For example an image may have an underlined meaning relating to a historical event. Those knowing about this event may pick up on this extra meaning but those who don't wouldn't notice it at all.

  • The poster being discussed is full of different symbols but it depending on different types of knowledge people will read it differently.

  • Varying readings due to peoples knowledge.

  • People will create a certain logical relationship from looking at images.

The second part of this task was to get our group together and discuss the essay and what implications it has for our discipline. As Graphic Designers I think it has huge implications as we are always dealing with communication. Our job often involved the use of images, and the written language and we have to get across a clear message to the target audience.

I think that what this task has given me is that as a Graphic Designer I have to be very aware of who my target audience is and how they will interpret an image. Signs make be used to mean one thing but certain individuals may take them to mean something else. Careful consideration may have to be taken in the future when deciding what images to use on certain campaigns.

It has also made me realise how important text is. Without it the viewer can take so many different meanings from one image. Text is needed to confirm the idea, to make the audience aware of the images intent and purpose.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Lisa Cresswell spoke about the research she had undertaken as part of her work on the Design Against Terrorism Project. It was important to find out what the general public felt about the London Underground in regards to saftey. Some individuals commented that CCTV cameras, even though they are important, can actually highten levels of fear. It was suggested that they be hidden or made less noticeable. Increased staff presence was another suggestion that was made. Just having someone there can reassure many members of the public. Not only this, but if a problem did arise people would be able to contact a staff member straight away. These two examples may seem fairly simple but with out asking the public for their thoughts these suggestions may not have been considered.

As part of the follow up to Friday's lecture we were asked to look at the public spaces around us and consider whether they make us feel safe or unsafe? I think I do feel a lot safer in places I am familiar with than in places I don't know. For instance, on a dark night at home I wouldn't mind walking up the High Street alone but I think I would feel differently about this elsewhere.

Going back to the comment made about making CCTV cameras less noticeable, I think it can have an impact. If I was walking in an area I didn't know and there were cameras on show I may start to worry about it being a bad area. Perhaps if they were hidden I wouldn't even consider being unsafe.

I think it can be hard to get the balance right. Obvisously in airports there has to be hightened security to ensure our safety. And even though I don't disagree with this, it can often make you more scared for your safety. Do you feel the same? Would a police presence in your neighbourhood make you feel safer? Or would it make you think that there is a need for extra security?


So Friday brought with it another Design Studies lecture, but this week we got talks from 2 people instead of 1. Firstly Lisa Cresswell spoke to us about what she studied as a student and how she got to where she is today. She is now involved in the project Design against terrorism, which could be considered surprising since she actually graduated with a masters degree in illustration. This project involves government bodies, transport organisations as well as many other stakeholders which when you first think about it have hardly any connection to illustration. However what was clear was how her creative thinking, and different thoughts on what design is has made a large contribution to this project.

Even though the information about the project iteself was interesting what I really picked up on is that as graphic design student I may never work in the area of graphic design! As designers we have to be flexible, we have to be able to adapt to different types of work. But most importantly we have to be able to work with other people. These people may know nothing about design, and we may know nothing about their field, but we have to learn to communicate. Lisa mentioned that when she first started working on this project everyone spoke a 'different language'. And in order to work effectively they had to learn how to understand one and other.

Fraser Bruce then went onto give us two interesting talks, one highlighting his work on a project called Rip+Mix. He spoke about students being allocated a few hours to come up with unusual designs. They were given the freedom to work on concepts which would be unfeasable to produce in reality. However having no restrictions allowed for some creative products including a radio which would tell you when the bus is arriving, so that we don't have to get up until the last minute! A newspaper based on the old etch a sketch, where by the user can shake it up and the next page would appear.

Again what struck me though, was the number of people from different fields that came together to work on one project. Individually, they would have their own tasks and jobs to carry out but they were part of a bigger picture. They had to adapt to working alongside each other, build up communication and relationships in order for the project to work. Fraser highlighted a project he had worked on where he produced a diagram showing the lines of communication within a company. It was clear that the communication did not flow effectively and in actual fact if certain key members of the company were to leave then communication would stop altogether.

It is clear from both the speakers that in order to succeed we must be able to work with others and form good communication with them!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Thank you Sophie!

So it was my 22nd birthday at the weekend, or as I like to say 21 and a year! With it came a night to the theatre, a girlie night out on the town and a lovely meal with the family. Its fair to say I was a little spoilt this year, receiving nice presents from my family and friends. But today I got a surprise present, Sophie brought me in some homemade cakes (which are absolutely delicious!).

Now don't get me wrong I do like the odd expensive present but what I really liked about Sophie's gift (apart from the fact they are gooey and chocolatey) is that she took time out of her day to make them for me. I think it can be really easy to nip to the shop for a bottle of wine (which I wouldn't be disappointed with) but its nice to know that a time, effort and thought went into this homemade treat. Thanks again!

I will have to get improving my baking skills in time for Sophie's next birthday!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Sound of Music

Last Friday I went to see the Sound of Music at Edinburgh Playhouse with my friend Gillian (I should really thank her mum for getting the good seats!). Even though I have seen the film version I didn't know what to expect from the play. However I really enjoyed it and even joined in with some of the songs (doe a deer, a female deer ...).

I don't often go to the theatre but I do like the experience. On entering the playhouse you are greeted with grand decoration and well mannered staff. The old red velvet chairs in the theatre as well as the dim lighting creates a very different feel to what you would get at your local cinema. I even like the fact you can purchase a tiny little pot of ice cream for a ridiculous price at the interval.

I think the theatre is often associated with an older audience, perhaps even considered a little posh. So it was good to see a wide range of age groups in the audience. Not just children being dragged along by their parents, but groups of young adults making it a social outing. I would definately go again, but next time I would maybe have to book the cheaper seats!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Service Design in Practice

Friday's lecture was given by David Townson, who used to be the programme leader for Innovative Product Design at Dundee and now runs his own consultancy. He gave us an insight into his career, where he started and how he ended up with his own consultancy.

I got the impression that his job requires a lot of thinking, investigation and research. All this knowledge is combined to create services which meet the public's needs, and more importantly that they are effective in doing so. It was interesting to hear about some projects David had worked on including work for Orange, where an online community was set up so colleagues could discuss ideas with one and other. Another example was a community project whereby the public were encouraged to car share. Even though these projects differ they both required thorough investigation in order to develop the best solution.

For the follow up work to this lecture we were asked to think about the different types of 'services that we use.' The list is endless, most people will use everything from public transport, refuse collection to the cantina in DoJ. I suppose it is quite easy to forget that these services have to be designed. Before you even get on a bus you need to know where to go to get it as well as knowing what time it arrives. A ticket has to be purchased on entering the bus, u then take a seat, maybe even ring the bell before you get off. This was all designed with the public in mind.

In order for these services 'to keep you' they have to be effective. Would you continue going to the cantina if it provided a bad service? If the bus timetable wasn't easy to understand people would take other forms of public transport? Even though we need these services, the services need to be well designed or people wouldn't use them.

I think some of the considerations service designers will have to make can be applied to all areas of design. As designers we have to consider who the target audience is and what they need. A brief for a teenage boy would vary from one aimed at middle aged women. It is easy to forget what you want, and how you think a product should be designed. Sometimes we have to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

D.I.Y for girls!

For one of this semesters projects we have been asked to think up a new app for the iPhone! This task proved just a little difficult as according to Apples website, there are over 100,000 apps already available. So needless to say every time I thought of a 'unique' idea I was disappointed to learn that it already exists. So after consulting my friends, and receiving some very weird ideas, some of which I don't think would be allowed to be produced, I got my thinking cap back on.

I finally came up with the idea to create a D.I.Y app .... for girls! Now for all of you that think I am making out that girls don't know how to do simple D.I.Y tasks then you are kind of right. I am not being sexist at all but when it comes down to unblocking the drain or hanging a picture it is usually the men in our lives that take on these tasks. So I thought why not design an application that is aimed at girls.

I have decided to base the design of my app on heat magazine, a common purchase for many girls. The reason I chose this magazine is because it has a very recognizable design; everything from its layout, use of typography and choice of colour. The idea is to incorporate the design of heat magazine into a manual outlining how to complete common D.I.Y tasks.

Even though this app isn't being created for real, I would like to know whether you think it would work effectively? Would a familiar/ fun layout make the task less scary and therefore easier to carry out? Do you think by using a similar layout, to heat magazine, it would engage the audience more than a standard manual?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Assignment 1D

I met up with Samantha today to discuss our findings, and was really surprised by how much she knew about me!

From one photograph of my room in halls she managed to tell a lot about me. She writes:

'Little clutter: suggests little material possessions/ goes home regularly, little need for a lot of things at uni? Maybe lives close to Dundee? Influenced by the tidy, little clutter look at home? Tidy: practical, organized - work books neatly laid out, neat, conscientious' ... 'themepark photo: likes theme parks, adventurous, fun,daring. Water bottles: healthy, goes to the gym? Refills them - environmentally conscious, recycles? CD Player/Radio: Likes listening to music, perhaps whilst working.'

Just to confirm how accurate Samantha is I go home every weekend because I only live 30 minutes away. My mum is a complete neat freak and it has rubbed off on me a little! I try to be as organized as possible and often write myself lists of things to do. I love going to theme parks and enjoy thrill seeking activities. The water bottles do get refilled, and I do go to the gym on a regular basis. And as I write this I am listening to the radio! So its fair to say I was a little freaked out by how much one photograph can say about me!

There was nothing that Samantha got completely wrong, some things were slightly inaccurate but on a whole she figured me out. To be honest I didn't expect her to figure out these things about me, so when I read her findings I was amazed. I didn't feel uncomfortable in anyway, but didn't realise that my possessions reflected my personality as much as they do.

So how did I do?

There were some things that I guessed right and others that I didn't expect to get wrong. For instance I had written that I thought Samantha was athletic, sporty and perhaps a member of a University club. She confirmed to me today that she does enjoy fitness and is part of the University hockey team.

In one of the photographs there was a piano, and I mentioned that I thought she may have learned to play an instrument when she was younger. And indeed she did! I got a few other things correct, like the fact her mum loved gardening, that her house is now more modern and that she does enjoy to read novels.

However there was one thing I got wrong, which surprised me. In a lot of the photographs Samantha is posing alongside her sister and they appear to be close. However over the years they have become a little more distant and no longer share a close bond.

The handbook asks 'how did you feel thinking about other people's private lives?' When I first started to look through the photos I didn't feel like I was invading any personal information. However as I started to build up a more detailed picture I started asking a lot of questions about my partner: What was her upbringing like? Does she get on with her family? Is she popular? It wasn't until I started looking at the bigger picture that I became more aware that I was studying someone's life/ personality and that, that person would be doing the exact same with my photographs.

I have actually enjoyed being a research subject. When I handed my photos across I was convinced that Samantha would get me all wrong, but she never. Had she uncovered something that I hadn't realised about myself I think I may have felt very differently. After looking up the Johari Window I think that I may know a lot about myself, but perhaps didn't realise how much other people know about me.

Finally the assignment asks students to think about 'what are the ethical considerations to design research?' I think in the case of this design research you have to take into consideration that you are taking a look into someone's private life. The conclusions made may not be accurate, and even if they were correct they won't apply to everyone. Some individuals may not want other people to know about the findings, therefore consideration and privacy are the two main issues, I think, which should be considered if undertaking this type of research.

Assignment 1B and 1C

For our Christmas assignment we had to collect photographs of ourselves growing up, or take pictures of our homes. I decided to collect a bit of both and put them on a disc to swap with my partner. I managed to swap with someone I have never spoken to before, therefore I knew nothing about her. Samantha provided me with a range of photographs that showed her though out her childhood as well as recent snap shots. I tried my best to identify Samantha's tastes, influences, possessions and environment.

My initial thoughts after viewing the photographs were:

- active lifestyle

- fitness

-sociable/ but not loud

-team player


-close relationship with friends/ family

-likes to try new things


-spent a lot of time with family/ trips

-seen places

-nice house/ middle class

-wore similar clothes to sister

-animal lover

-knows lots of people

-member of different groups/ clubs


-developed own style/ accessories: scarf, belts, earrings, glasses

-holiday with girls

-enjoys nights out/having a drink/ dance


-not a show off

- self assured




I then started looking at the photographs to gain more detail, here are my findings:

I think Samantha really likes outdoor and sporty activities. From the photographs I think she may be part of different groups or clubs, and may be part of a University team. I am not totally sure what kind of music she likes, but I think that she probably listens to music that is in the charts. One of the photos shows Samantha with a group of friends in a club, which suggests that she enjoys going out and dancing to current music. The fact that there was a piano in the home growing up could suggest she is quite musical or perhaps learned how to play an instrument when she was younger. This could also result in a broader taste in music. As for favourite authors, I have no idea, but I do think she will enjoy reading a good novel. I think she will also have favourite designers (relating to her subject) which she may own books on and look at for inspiration.


I think friends and family are a big influence. As a youngster Samantha was dressed in the same or similar clothes as her sister, and was often seen sporting Disney tops which must have been a passion at the time. Looking at recent photos she has developed her own style. Rather than wearing bold tops, or short skirts she shows her style through accessorising. This can be with a scarf, earrings, necklaces or belts. Small statement pieces rather than one bold overall look. Samantha’s friends tend to have similar tastes in clothes, and there is a tendency to wear smart/casual outfits rather than bum hugging dresses! Perhaps most of the clothes are bought from high street shops, rather than alternative clothing stores.

I think family is very important. Photographs suggest that Samantha spent a lot of time with her sister, whilst also enjoying regular outdoor activities with her parents. I think that the family will still be close and that they have a good relationship with one and other.


Photographs of the family home suggest a middle class upbringing. The living room looks large and has several items of furniture which would have been expensive; piano and wall cabinet. The interior reflects the style popular at the time, and I suspect that the house has been updated to reflect the current styles and fashions. The choice of wallpaper/ sofa/ cushions were bright and bold. This would have been the parents’ choice but the unique style suggests her mum may have been quite arty. And her choices and styles may have been an influence.

There is evidence of toys in both the house and the garden, suggesting that as a youngster there was lots of fun and games. The large garden also has lots of plants and a picnic table as well as the toys. I think that a lot of time is spent outside, with the family. The outdoor photograph also suggests that the house is fairly rural, and that the love of the outdoors was developed from a young age. One photograph shows Samantha with a wheelbarrow. There is no guidance, therefore I think she knew what she was doing, and enjoyed helping out in the garden.


There was no pictures of Samantha’s bedroom so I am able to comment on how she has customised her room.

Other thoughts

Since Samantha looks like she is a member of clubs, or a large group of friends, I think she is friendly. I presume that she can make friends easily and is willing to form bonds/ find out about new people. Her interests vary from outdoor activities to going out clubbing therefore she may have lots of friends. I think that she will be approachable, and easy to talk to, making her a great friend to confide in.

Having a younger sister will probably mean that Samantha has had to share her possessions when she was younger. Therefore she may be considerate and cooperative. I also think she will be a team player, and may not show it but is secretly competitive.

Looking at the photographs I think that Samantha may not dye her hair and wears stylish glasses. Therefore I think she is very comfortable in her own skin, and doesn’t feel she has to conform to a particular look. Some people prefer not to wear glasses, and opt for contact lenses instead, showing that Samantha is confident in her appearance.

Considering that Samantha is at university I think she is passionate about her particular subject. She must have drive, ambition and future goals. It was also Samantha that came up to the Graphic department to look for someone to swap photographs with, which shows that she is assertive.

Assignment 1A

For Assignment 1A we were asked to read chapter 4 of The Culture of Design. This chapter covers the topic of the consumption of design, where the author makes references to several other key authors. If any of these authors raise interesting points it was suggested that we investigate them in more depth.

I have to be honest and say that I found parts of this chapter hard to read, but there were also theories which really interested me. One statement which grabbed my attention was 'no matter how much the designer tries, he or she cannot fully control the processes by which the public read, interpret or even straightforwardly use the objects, images and spaces they shape.'

I think this is true for all designers in all discipline and as a student of graphic design I can relate to this statement. For instance I may produce a poster which I think is hard hitting and gets a clear message across to the public, but it may only grab the attention of a certain age group. Some people may misinterpret it or others may not understand it at all. Packaging for an expensive gift could be designed as a keep sake in its own right, but does that mean that everyone will hold on to it? Some individuals (like myself!) love packaging and keep a hold of it long after its required whilst others throw it out straight away. By keeping it longer than is necessary am I using it the way the designer intended? Or have I misinterpreted its use?

Slater has investigated this subject further and has established the general character of consumer culture. He raised some interesting points: 'consumer culture includes the balance between a quest for achieving meaningful ways of life and the resources available to be able to do this' ...'access to goods is only limited by the ability to pay for them. It is open to anyone with money.'

So really its about balance. If we don't have the money to buy expensive goods then we have to shop for goods that we have the money to buy. In relation to graphic design, large companies will probably have larger budgets that graphic designers can work with. This therefore means that the end result can be more luxurious, in comparison with a small company who has a tight budget. However it can also be seen in everyday circumstances; if you can afford to get personalised wedding invitations then you can get a designer to make them, if you don't you may have to settle for a 'mass produced' variety. Julier highlights that 'many, if not most, acts of everyday consumption are highly rational. They are based on the stringent calculation of need and value for money.'

Another theory which got me thinking was presented by Haug. 'He argues that artefacts in the market have to promise a use-value once they are sold: they have to appear to be useful before they actually are.' I think this is very relevant in the case of graphic design. As designers we are producing goods for individuals but we don't know who they are, they are unknown consumers. In some projects it will be the job of the graphic designer to may a product look usable, if it doesn't look usable it won't sell. 'This is particularly the case in image-based goods such as CD-ROMS, video games or newspapers and magazines where the look of the thing is intimately bound up in the way they function.' Even though we do not know the consumer we have to know what they expect and produce a design which will grab their attention and meet their needs.

What did you take from this chapter? Was there other theories which you related to more?