Final Portfolio: the end of an era

Well, I seem to have made it through the semester alive. I have one more major hurdle in the successful completion of my calculus final, but that’s for another day. What follows is a gathering of a few of the things I’ve done in Vis Comm 2 this semester.

beginning with the four pre-midterm designs:

This was the type poster/website project- we were supposed to pick a typeface and convince people that they needed it with a poster and a web page. It’s one of my favorite projects because I love typography, and it was the perfect excuse to just play with typesetting and not have to worry about any pesky images. I just think it’s great to be able to play with letters like this, moving things around until everything’s just perfect. I ended up with three versions of this poster at the end, and I had such a hard time picking which was best. I also am particularly fond of the little box of type that the ampersand supports.

The Grand Tetons! This is an illustrated picture that I did for what would hypothetically have been a poster that would have been hung somewhere on campus. What’s funny is that a while ago, I ended up getting assigned a project in FAP that was a poster about a speaker who lived in the Grand Tetons. I ended up with a different design instead, because the client had a photo for me to use, but I presented this as an option at our meeting. They were so happy to have a choice, it was pretty funny. Kind of like watching someone watch a large format printer print something for the first time. Not quite as funny, though, as when someone doesn’t know that the printer has just been turned on, and it makes its noises, and freaks whoever it is out. That’s a fun game to play.

You might have to click on the bottom one before you realize that the picture moves. This is something I did earlier in the semester, but I still think it turned out really well. I am still pretty proud of my Shakespearean tagline- “By the pricking of our thumbs, something scaly this way comes” becomes amusingly related to reptiles. I also think that this poster demonstrates a successful use of the color red- it’s not an obvious ‘let’s use red to get people’s attention’- yet it still commands attention. The snake probably doesn’t hurt either.

I am pretty sure this project was my favorite part of the first half of the semester. I may be the only person that thinks that. I did a lot of research into forest fires, statistics and facts and things, because I really had no idea what I was going to do. As soon as I found the statistic about how drastically fires had decreased since the introduction of smokey, I knew exactly what needed to happen. It was also more than a little bit fun to Photoshop the bear into that line of firefighters. I got myself a new tagline and a new picture for the animated gif, to help lighten the preventing-forest-fires mood- it’s a hypothetical web banner for the Truman page, so it’s aimed at college students, and has to be lighthearted. not that a bear walking in a line of firefighters isn’t lighthearted…

And that concludes the first half of the semester. Overall, I think that half was aimed at having a large number of smaller projects, to help get us to work faster-whereas the second half of the semester included less projects, but each more complicated, and with more individual components. I don’t have a preference. It’s evil no matter what way you look at it. But evil in a good way. I’m addicted to vis comm the way some people are addicted to daytime soaps. It’s bad for you, it has negative effects on your sanity, in some cases it makes you paranoid, and it will probably kill you- but it’s just so addicting that you can’t seem to be rid of it. It’s especially bad when you start shouting out typefaces that you see on signs in the city. People apparently think that’s strange. I think people are strange.

The second half of the semester:

How safe is your food? Concept is king. If you didn’t catch that already- things are made so much easier when you have an idea to work with. You spend a lot less time staring at the walls- watching them close in on you so slowly that a passer-by wouldn’t notice- and a lot more time actually being productive. It took me a really long time to get the apple and the fingernails to look realistic and still creepy, but it was time spent doing, and not time spent staring. The idea was supposed to be based on the old witch and the poison apple from the Snow White story, which all of the girls in my class got- but the boys thought it was Gollum. That’s me in the picture- the camera is on a time delay on top of a pile of books and fabric. They thought I looked like Gollum. I won’t let it get to me too much, though, because it is supposed to be creepy, and I did modify my hands a little bit. The budgeted time for this project was 9 hours. It didn’t go through a lot of major changes, but the initial design- typesetting, photography, and editing, took about 8. Mostly the editing. It’s a slow process, but like I said. It’s a lot better use of time when it’s productive, instead of staring blankly at walls for hours.

Let’s talk about a shift. This was the next project assigned, and where the first project had next to no useable copy, this one had all of it. Like it stole copy from the last project. I do like a good typesetting challenge, though, so this was fun. The most difficult part was using pictures to make it more interesting. I definitely felt the need for molecules in this spread, because it talks about our body chemistry and its relation to food. A lot of other people used food pictures, but that, to me just didn’t fit. I would have liked to illustrate my own molecules, but the assignment was photography, so I had a great deal of fun taking pictures of a molecule set I borrowed from a friend whose father is a professor. They had a class set. Does it surprise anyone else that they still use molecule-building sets in college? I actually think I spent more time working out image placement than I did typesetting on this one, and I definitely went over budget. Time was supposed to be 9 hours. I spent about five on the initial layout, which included chocolates instead of molecules. Replacing them with molecules- photography and all that- took about two, and then I spent about four hours over a few weeks revising, editing, changing color schemes, etc. to make it visually appealing. I think I finally made it work, though.

Conceptually, I think it’s a bad idea to limit the color palette of an advertisement concerning skin color.  I mean, the whole point is supposed to be that all the colors are equal. By telling us we’re only allowed two colors, you are telling us to prefer those colors over all the other colors. It might cause some of the colors to feel left out, or as if they are being discriminated against.

Anyways. Black history month, two color poster. I chose to illustrate Morgan Freeman, because he’s who I think of when I think of black history. He has pretty specific thoughts that he’s willing to share with you if you ask him how he feels about black history month- they are that it shouldn’t exist, because the idea that everyone is equal, and there’s no white history month…And that’s why I chose him. He may not believe that black history month is the way to do it, but he strives for equality every time he tells people how he feels about it. That’s why I think he’s a good person to have on my poster. Also, old people are very hard to illustrate.  We had to use illustration for this poster, which was good, because it was budgeted in. I went over the budgeted 5 hours for illustration to 7, but the rest of the layout didn’t take too long. We also had two hours for layout, and one additional for ‘final art’- which I spent on the gif. I used the same illustration because I spent so long on it- I wanted to use it again.

Book Cover! I really enjoy doing books. Being a vis comm major isn’t really about teaching you how to design things. I think they try to teach us three things: How to use the software, how to control our creativity, and how to look for, find, and use things we’re already good at. I found out in digital graphics last semester how much I like book covers. one of my projects for this summer is going to be to start a children’s book, so I suppose I’ll get to do a cover for that as well. I like making CD packaging as well, which was another component of this project- but I am not yet very good at it. This one did turn out a whole lot better than the last one, though. These things get better with practice. I like that I was able to use glossy paper for this project, because I felt it was necessary. there was not any horrible cracking along the fold seams, because I pretty harshly scored them before I started folding.  The dog is illustrated, but the background is a photo I took in Ohio last summer. The budgeted time was 16 hours, with four hours for the cover, ten for the cd case, and two for the itunes cover art stuff. I spent closer to twelve on the cd case- especially had a hard time with the construction, so I did a lot of mock ups. I spent most of my time on the book cover itself with the illustration, but I was able to use it again in the audiobook. The itunes cover art was as easy as drag and drop, with the addition of a slight drop shadow, so although I didn’t spend time the way the budget thought I would,  I didn’t go too extremely over the estimated amount. And I still love book covers. Next time, though, I want to do one that’s all illustration. Children’s book seems like a good starting point for something like that. Plus, the illustrations on the inside, with some storytelling typesetting…

How Design pamphlet: a mailer to send to people to tell them about the wonderful HOW design conference in chicago! (It’s actually in Boston this year. While I was working on this project, an ad popped up for it on my pandora station, and it took me to the HOW website, where I got distracted for a very long time. I really enjoyed doing this project. I did it all text based (which is why I enjoyed it)- I felt like that was the best way to keep things consistent. There’s a definite color scheme, and two typefaces (astute and helvetica neue, for those of you interested. Astute is not a particularly finessed typeface. some letters are more legible than others, and the default kerning is questionable, especially with the capital letters, but I fixed it. I really like typesetting. It set my wrists into a tailspin to do this project, but as far as I’m concerned, it was worth it. I like the boxes. It’s like a puzzle- making everything fit, and getting it in the right order. Budgeted time was 30 hours, and it definitely took me that long. I didn’t keep very good track of this project, because I just basically took it everywhere with me, and worked on it whenever I could. Kind of like knitting a sock. I just got it out and worked for a few minutes here and there, and then went home and worked really hard for a really long time at night. I have written 35 hours. I did spend a lot of time in the beginning choosing my typefaces and color scheme. After that, you just kind of get into a groove. I like the typesetting groove.

These are the San Pellegrino sparkling water labeling before I got my hands into them.

and after:

yep. I like option two better. I think that the first set looks like checks. or some kind of super-fancy foreign currency. with a bar code. Weird. I don’t know what those people were thinking. The stuff’s supposed to be fancy. sparkling water, by the way, tastes icky. I don’t like it at all. That said, it makes for good design, because it screams ‘fancy’ like pinkies up at tea time. The higher your pinky is, the fancier you are. The dome and associated imagery I used was from a whole pile of different pictures I found in different places, and sort of laced together. And speaking of the typefaces that we were discussing earlier- ‘Grail New’ has horrible kerning between the capital and lowercase letters. It’s like someone decided to put an extra space between each letter. Don’t worry, though. I fixed it. It’s the perfect choice for this project despite its questionable kerning because it is fancy, without screaming ‘I’m a display font!’.. It just kind of says that quietly. It still required a more readable text for the smaller bits, like the nutrition facts label.

And there you have it. my vis comm two portfolio.

heck yes. I’ll talk more about this day in a minute…

Here are the times for the other projects I did, that didn’t make it into my portfolio:

Wick Fowler’s Two Alarm Chili Branding: budgeted 8 hours for the ad posters, 3 hours for the newspaper ads, and 8 hours for the can label. I spent most time here on the illustration, although nutrition labels take a rather large chunk of time as well. I went slightly over 8 to ten with the can, because I was having a hard time getting everything to fit on the can. I ended up just scaling down my illustration.

Society of Illustrators mailer: budgeted 16 hours, most of it for illustration. I got about 12 hours into this illustration, plus about three hours of concepting and initial drafting, before I realized that no matter how long I spent on it, it wasn’t going to be good enough to where I wanted it to be. I’d love to keep working on it, and polish up my idea some more, continuing to work on the illustration, but It just wasn’t going to be ready in time for me to include it in my portfolio. I don’t think it was time wasted, though. The absurd cowboy-riding-ostrich-pulling-a stagecoach-in Alaska thing is pretty entertaining. just very involved.

Yeah. It was a good semester. It’s important to have time to do everything, and even more important to have time to do everything well. I handled my four studio classes last semester, but I definitely feel as though I learned more this semester with my 2 and a half. I was able to spend more time on each class, which made the experience overall better. I am going to miss having a vis comm class next semester, but I have the feeling it will be a much needed break. I learned a lot of things, as I did last semester, from working in Fine Arts Publications with the upperclassmen, and being around them in general, as well as I did from my classes. I learned how much printmaking is similar to visual communications, and I learned how much I have left to learn. I did get a lot better at typesetting this semester- and I still like it. A well informed bird told me I wouldn’t like typesetting after I took vis comm 2, but he was wrong. It’s still one of my favorite parts of all this. I also like illustration though. I wish there was an advanced illustration class. And an advanced typography class, while we’re wishing.

I usually work in Fine Arts Publications on fridays from 11 to 1, but I was there until 5 on Friday. I had a Great Battle with the HP printer, in order to get my things, and a few other people’s things printed off for the final. I had to change the rolls of paper, and the printer was pretty convinced that it was out of paper when I put the fresh roll in. Fixed that, printed, and then the printer refused to cut the finished print from the roll. Ashley said one of the print monitors had changed the settings on the printer so that it wouldn’t cut a few days ago. I wish that printer came with a manual or something. That would have been nice. After I fixed that, everything seemed fine. After the Great Battle, I left work and headed for home- but as I walked towards the door with my freshly printed and pristine vis comm 2 final in my hands, I saw A Bad Thing. It was rain. Small, very harmful drops of water falling from the sky. I turned myself and my roll of prints right around, and was on my way to find a janitor’s closet with a trash bag to use, when I ran into Distraught Adam. Adam (who is in my printmaking class) had submitted a print job with his printmaking final a few days ago, and it had never been printed. I was done printing and therefore had accomplished my stuff for the day, so I told him I’d try to help. I’d never used the epson printer before, which is the one you have to use for transparency printing…but I told him I’d try. Turns out, the transparency plastic roll was already loaded into the printer, but I guess the print monitor couldn’t figure it out from there.

Guess what.

Neither could I.

I texted the All Knowing One, and he called me back to walk me through the process. It turns out all you have to do is press the hold button twice and then it magically works. Talk about jankey software. Anyways, it worked. It printed with a thick drip of magenta ink down the very edge of the paper, but the All Knowing One says that that’s because the print heads need to be cleaned. An hour and a half later, Adam had his printout, and it had stopped raining, so I didn’t even need that trash bag. Besides, now Adam’s going around telling everyone I saved his life. It’s probably true.

you may wonder what that little story has to do with my vis comm final, but I think it applies perfectly, because it shows growth from what I would have done at the beginning of the semester (that would have been panic, in case you were unsure), and besides, it was the last day of my sophomore year of college. I don’t count finals. Especially when the only thing you do at a final is turn things in. This means I’m officially at the halfway point. Two years down, and two years to go. Isn’t that a scary thought…



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