Exercise: Abstract Cities

The brief for this task focuses on the creation of 10 unique abstract A5 landscape orientated book covers.

Notes on abstract cities

After writing down thoughts and how I would approach this task I set to research stills that featured notable landmarks of each city. Some well known, others more so in Popular Culture.

I also reviewed the work of famous artists of the early 20th Century and drew inspiration from a range of artists including Kandinsky, Mondrian and Maholy-Nagy. The other thing this exercise did was to allow me to consider is the use of the blocks of colour and how their form can change.

Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid

Western Harbour, Malmo

Steel Trees, Managua

Salford Lads Club, Manchester

Flatiron Building, Manhatten

Medina Souks, Marrakech

The Old Port. Marseilles

Melbourne Cricket Ground and the National Sports Museum

Orange Julip Ball, Montreal

Marine Drive, Mumbai

Overall a great exercise that allowed me to play form and colour and enjoyable mixing dynamic fonts with the images.

Resources Used

Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. Available at: https://www.viator.com/en-CA/Madrid-attractions/Reina-Sofia-Museum-Museo-Nacional-Centro-de-Arte-Reina-Sofia/d566-a2946 (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Western Harbour, Malmo. Available at: http://malmo.com/placesofinterest/westharbour (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Steel Trees Managua. Available at: http://malmo.com/placesofinterest/westharbour (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Salford Lads Club, Manchester . Available at:  http://www.mikehigginbottominterestingtimes.co.uk/?p=5911 (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Flatiron Building, Manhatten. Available at:  https://www.archdaily.com/109134/ad-classics-flatiron-building-daniel-burnham/5037fdfc28ba0d599b0007d6-ad-classics-flatiron-building-daniel-burnham-photo (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Medina Souks, Marrakech. Available at: https://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/marrakesh-marrakech-mar-mar-mar.htm (Accessed 26.08.2019)

The Old Port. Marseilles. Available at: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/the-top-10-things-to-do-and-see-in-marseille/ (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Melbourne Cricket Ground and the National Sports Museum. Available at: https://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/melbourne-aus-vic-m.htm (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Orange Julip Ball, Montreal. Available at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/gibeau-orange-julep (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Marine Drive, Mumbai. Available at: https://www.itchotels.in/destinations/mumbai/city-attractions.html (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Dali Font. Available at: https://www.dafont.com/dali.font (Accessed 26.08.2019)

Exercise: Too Much or Not Enough Information

Free lunch

Wragby Chef Free Lunch Poster, 2019, N Higston

Apologies for the omission of this exercise form Part Two of my Graphic Design Module, but somehow I skipped past it. So to make amends I shall crack on with this change of an event that is currently advertised.

The exercise asks for two approaches, one containing too much information, such as Ephemera E376,  and one where the information is minimal, such as Occam’s Razor.

Ephemera E376: A playbill for the York Street Theatre, Glasgow,  winter 1829-30. A complex mix of fonts, type sizes, layout, and styles. Atypical of early Victorian advertising; extreme, but explains everything.

Occam’s Razor, Artist Unknown, 2014: The law of simplicity.

So onto the exercise. As the original poster has a fair amount of information on it, how to exceed this amount? I started by identifying keywords and looking up their definitions.

These were then placed in a form of a grid, ensuring there was no Orphaning of words and simple definitions were sourced from Google. The grid was then placed over images of a sandwich from my photo files and a PNG map of Wragby, with the addition of two clock faces to show the opening times.

The result is thus:


Too Much

Too much…

Fonts used: Arvo, designed by Anton Koovit, 2010, DomLovesMary Pro, designed by Debi Sementelli, date unknown

The next step is to design something minimalist. So after a few sketches, I came up with an idea that utilises double exposure and simple written cues. This is harder than it appears as there is a lot of information to try to convey, both inferred and direct.

Wragby Lunch Club

Too little or too much? Too Busy or too complex?

I retained the clock motif’s as they served an informative purpose as they read 12:30 and 13:30  but also provide visual cues. I also decided to use a stock image of child eating so that it ties in with the theme of eating, re-enforced, possibly unnecessarily with the spoon overlay. I feel that this does add an element of visual message reinforcement, and, hopefully, I’ve not overdone it.

Overall a great exercise and an opportunity to play. It also helped me realise that being minimalist in your message is a lot hard than it looks, but never pass over a challenge.

Resources Used

Wragby Free Lunch Poster. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10161773990010301&set=gm.2316709951684961&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Wragby Map. Availabe at: https://www.google.com/search?q=wragby+map&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-BGB768GB768&oq=wragby+map&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60l2.2125j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Ephemera E376. Available at: http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/ephemera/index.html

Occams Razor. Available at: https://greyskyappeal.bandcamp.com/album/occams-razor

Clock Face by Brigdo. Available at: https://www.kisspng.com/png-clock-face-digital-clock-clip-art-speedometer-1193590/download-png.html

Spoon Still. Available at: https://lupuscorner.com/spoons-manage-energy-lupus/

Child Eating. Available at: https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-best-tactics-for-teaching-your-child-to-eat-well


Exercise: Point of sale display

This exercise was great fun, like all the others so far. It allowed me to put into practice some of the tips and techniques learned on the course so far as well as ideas picked up from experimenting with software. It also allowed me to used learning sources that were not perhaps normally associated with this type of graphic design, but most definitely with colour. Finally, it let me sharpen my copywriting skills, which are invaluable with type of task.

Forward planning: The rough notes

The brief for the exercise is well written and it was easy enough to extract the elements I needed to focus upon and those I could ignore as they weren’t pertinent. It also allowed for a huge amount of designer initiative, especially in terms of visual cues.

Once I’d sat down and sketched, scratched out and more or less developed the plan I set to collecting the right images for the posters. Nipping to an outdoor market I hunted around for images that portraited, vitality, freshness, colour, and variety. Finding a fruit and veg stall I set to with the trusty Nikon.

Mansfield Latvian Market 04052019
Fruit Stall Mansfield Market 
Mansfield Latvian Market 04052019
Vegetable Display Mansfield Market 

Feeling rather chuffed with myself I cropped and processed the images accordingly, knowing I had was a good couple of stills that would work. These would also work with the theme and were more in keeping with a local greengrocer than a national supermarket chain.

As I intended to place text over the still I needed colours that would both contrast and compliment each poster. Using the amazing 2000 colour combinations for graphic, textile and craft designers by Gareth Lewis I set to. Realising I didn’t have a definitive answer to a workable contrast I pixelated both images. I then chose a swatch of colours that I felt complimented and contrasted with main still images using Affintiy Designer.

Pixelated Vegetables (L) and Fruits (R) ready for swatch sampling.

Swatch samples for Vegetables (L) and Fruits (R) ready for experimentation with the stills.

After identifying the CMYK codes for each colour in Photoshop I set about making more notes on how to arrange the wording over the images and how it would be organised.

F&V Scan #6

The final pages of notes, with adjustments and suitable colour codes.

After much faffing about I settled on Viktor Script primarily because it has that handwritten feel I wanted, which echoed the sale prices on the still images. It also lent itself to being visually easy on the eye. Opening an A1 document in Affinity Publisher I set the stills up, each headed with either Fresh Vegetables or Fresh Fruit. I then let the inner copywriter out and chose the short tag line From our farm to your family. Not only was this relevant, but it has connotations of closeness, of items being specifically chosen for the buyer as well as being fresh.

I also made a choice to keep the slogan to six words, that way it would not only be easier to remember but also act as a visual sign that the food sold by the Greengrocer was clearly good enough to buy and eat. By keeping the signs generic they could be used later on other projects that the customer may be considering. This could be as diverse as a name change through to extra premises.

So without further ado I give my point of sale posters, all ready for client sign off.

Fruit #1 Poster

Veg #1 Poster

Having shown the better half, she was impressed, and in no way biased.  I think I’ve included enough information, but I would have liked to include an element of identity to the posters, such as a logo or name of the grocer. Without this, they seem a little empty.

Resources Used

Wisbrun, L. (2017). The complete guide to designing and printing fabric. London. Bloomsbury

Lewis, G. (2009). 2000 colour combinations for graphic, textile and craft designers. London. Batsford

Research Point: Embracing the Technofear

Well never let it be said that we Skipper’s allow the march of technology to steal a pace on us. That said never let it be said that we dare read the manuals and take our time, develop our practice and persevere. We do none of that ordinarily. However when working with Adobe products if you don’t follow steps found in a myriad of good second-hand resources then you truly are a fool to yourself.

The one thing I have found as I worked through numerous exercises and projects is that the more ‘little successes’ I experienced the more I wanted to learn about the product I was using, in this case Photoshop. Lightroom I use for quick batch working when on task, and don’t feel it has the subtly I desire for my finer work. Nonetheless, it’s still an amazing piece of engineering.

Whilst many complain the CC package is expensive, it’s hugely flexible and has helped both my photographic processing and graphic design output look sharper.

Such is my interest in using this program I’m currently studying for my Adobe Certified Associate Exam Preparation. Using the Rob Schwartz text I’m slowly making headway through the package and hoping to glean more helpful hints and tips.

As I progressed through my studies I’ve found myself seeking something that allows me to develop the painterly side of my creativity. I found myself drawn towards producing animated style still images, especially the simplistic naïve style.

Knowing I’m not particularly flush with funds I did some investigating and found Designer a wonderful program made by Serif Studios. Costing a fraction of what Adobe offers (maybe they should consider doing a Graphic Designer package?) I invested in a download and the accompanying workbook and set to.

Overall, given my shear chimp-like ability to understand anything more technical than a light switch investing in the workbook was the best thing I could have done. Whilst a lot of the commands and menus are pretty straightforward the world of the Pixel Persona, Raster and other such utterances are simply confuddling. Yet my confidence has soared as I progress through the simple exercises, becoming familiar with the terminology, techniques, and commands.

By persevering, I’ve somehow managed to create some pretty decent images and characters as well as being able to put my recently acquired knowledge of the kerning and leading to practice. Another bonus to this purchase has been the opportunity to try the Beta version of their Publisher program, which I’ve already used for a couple of projects on this course.

For all these well-designed programs I’m still using old school paints, and pencils, scanning them in at 600dpi and cleaning them up with Photoshop and then manipulating accordingly.

So far so good. However, I fear that as I progress and my experience grows there may well be something else, shiny, new and indispensable to add to my e-arsenal of graphic design tools. Which given the spread of tools I use can be no bad thing surely?

Resources Used

Schwartz, R. (2019), Learn Adobe Photoshop CC for Visual Design. 2nd Edn. Adobe.

The Affinity Team (2017), Affinity Designer Workbook, 1st Edn 3rd Reprint. Affinity.

Affinity Packages: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

Adobe Packages: https://www.adobe.com/uk/


Research Point: Am I being critical?

The question of being self-critical must be quite intimidating for some. I freely admit the first time I’d approached this particular element of personal development as a trainee CBT practitioner it filled me with dread. Was I being too hard? Too evasive? Too kind? Too self-effacing? It was a hard skill to polish.

Hardest of all was stepping back, looking at my work and then critically isolating elements and testing whether or not theories worked in reality or were stood a cat-in-hells-chance of surviving the first contact with the proposed environment. During this period I was taught by some hard taskmasters and over two years fine-tuned my skills, thickened my skin and appreciated I don’t know everything.

As I’ve developed looking at my creativity I’ll freely admit I was a little too blasé with my self-critical approach. Having completed the first module of the degree Expressing Your Vision I quickly re-learned the skills I learned in mental health almost a decade ago.

It’s still hard when you feel that you’ve worked hard, designed your approach in such a way to fulfill a brief, and done the work only to find, post-assessment, that you’re so wide of the mark you may as well be in another continent, let alone country. However, once I got into the rhythm of re-reading, contemplating, stepping back for a period and reviewing once more things often don’t seem so harsh. My response soon changed from one of being the wounded artistic soul to an artist being coached by his more experienced peers. In this instance the tutor. Then being able to reassess my vision and tailor accordingly.

The issue I have with using friends and family is that they are often swayed by contemporary visual trends, often promoted by social media, and the emotional connection that has with me. This inability to distance themselves from me as a person when reviewing my work is neither helpful nor conducive to personal growth.

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate their comments, as they often notice something that I had missed, or added, that doesn’t balance, but they can be sometimes misleading and not help me stretch my creativity. Though as I know this is the case and I am always seeking something more there’s little danger of sitting on my laurels.

The hardest part of any self-critical approach is looking at a piece of work you’ve spent hours on, only to realise that it’s visually not quite right. That moment you know you have to redo the piece can also be a boon. Knowing the approach is right but the execution is wrong is far easier to resolve and swallow than the other way round.

But by being self-governing as well as self-critical, I can see my work develop as I constantly change my approach. By reading more, practicing more, learning new skills, taking time to develop software understanding my approaches becomes more flexible and my problems solving resources become more prolific.

By being reliant on peer review and self-critical I have found my professional and personal practice has sharpened and skills I learned years ago have helped me swallow my pride and admit when I’m wide of the mark and when something needs changing. Alternatively, it can also prevent over embellishment and rein in a moment where my creativity would be more destructive to a piece than productive.

Self-critical approaches are not to everyone’s taste and I can appreciate why, but it is something that should be embraced by artists and not actively avoided, for it helps nurture both the art and the artist.

Exercise: Visualising Your Ideas Part Two

Given the first part of the task, in terms of interesting design, was a little flat I decided to have a play with folding paper. The usual bi/tri-fold approach wasn’t ‘wow’ enough for me.

Grabbing a sheet of A4, I started to experiment to produce something that not only served as a visual/information tool but has an element of aesthetic beauty to it as well.  So got folding.

After a few false starts I arrived at this:

Paper Fold #1

I have no idea what drove me to this, but I liked the way it folded together…

Paper Fold #2

…then it folds in on itself to provide a secure(ish) seal…

Paper Fold #3

…and on the upside the ‘concertina’ effect helps to keep the invite secure and sealed, adding an air of mystery to the receiving party.

All in all a great excuse to have a play, though the practical limitations may exceed the creative ones. That said since when has that ever stopped anyone?

Exercise: Visualising Your Ideas Part One

In, Out , Shake it all about – the first folding attempt.

So having read the brief I started to play with concepts, trifold, bifold, all a bit bland, so I stepped it up a gear. I thought how about a ‘pie’ fold. Each segment when turned would reveal a new piece of information.

While a little bland this approach would give me the chance to experiment with colour, form and try my hand at grid layouts.Russian Pie Artboard

The symmetry is a little ‘off’, but the grids and type Garamond used allowed me to experiment. Along with combining the subject matter of an apple, my intention to create an ‘apple-pie’ type invitation seems to work.

In place of the poem, and biography details I would insert the event details and invitation. The photograph on the back panel would be replaced by a map or a photo of the venue.

Yet, I believe I can do something a little more ‘special’…

Reources Used

Apple Poem by Hilda Doolittle, Available at: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/orchard (Accessed 10042019)


Hilda Doolittle Portrait Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/26807.H_D_

Exercise: HG Wells Book Cover Design Part Three: Final Concepts

So I’ve got to the part where I’m able to pull all my ideas together into a complete project. I’ve been flicking through the ‘web seeking something new and visually strong. Whilst there are plenty of dynamic, imaginative and powerful images I found myself drawn to the idea of a silhouette theme for all the covers.

The power of the silhouette, but I needed something unique.

Mr Lewisham #2

The image above is the one I selected for the basis of the Mr. Lewisham cover. 

Sitting down I considered the background theme to Mr. Lewisham. I’ve focused on his period of being a teacher as I felt it made for a strong image. I’ve changed the black tie to as a mark of his socialist ideals.  Sketching out my plan and tieing it in with the font I reckoned this would do the trick.

Victorian teacher 2 photo

The original Teacher web image

Victorian teacher

My first draft on Affinity Designer didn’t quite fit the theme I was aiming to produce. It’s too blocky, too colour strong and with the appearance of being not quite ‘finished’. I was looking for something a little different, yet echoed my sketched design and influences.


First Threshold is applied in Photoshop conversion next to the final polished PNG with transparent background. 

I appreciate I don’t have the skill set to draw or model the original image I felt that manipulating it into a form I felt appropriate would provide me with what I felt matched my original idea.

By balancing the threshold of the image in photoshop, tidying it up, giving it a transparent background and adding the red tie with some subtle shading to give it body, it brought the character alive.

I know had the silhouette I wanted. Striking, but not detracting from the book, adding insight into the story but not giving it away. Combined with the chosen type, which I have retained for all three book covers the finished result is as I wanted.

HG Well Cover Mr Lewisham

Love and Mr. Lewisham-The finished cover. Note the changed printer’s logo.

Next, I applied the process to Mr.Polly choosing a suitably whistful yet hopeful character image and converting it into an initial black overlay.

The conversion; the background was removed as I felt it detracted from the look I was seeking.

I feel the muted tones of grey suit the cover far more than the stark black of the original conversion. However, there is something not quite balanced with the cover. Can’t put my finger on it, but will think on,

The final book I covered was Ann Veronica. The Suffragette theme lent itself to a range of interpretations, but the most important for me is the colour palette of the movement itself, Green, White and Purple.

To that end, I sought something a little different, but still held the message whilst remaining true to my visual plan.

I took a still from my own archive, converted it appropriately adding leaf shapes of white and green to symbolise the transient nature of the movement whilst using pansies leaves to spread the colour of royalty, purple, more boldly across the cover.

HG Well Cover Anne Veronica Embossed

Of all the covers for this exercise I feel this is the most striking in its colour and simplicity, and the one I’m proudest of. I wanted to feature flowers on the cover of Ann Veronica and by doing so like this I feel its created a powerful image and message.

Resources used:

Teacher image available at: https://24slides.com/presentbetter/timeline-templates/ (Accessed 31032019)

Book Cover Samples are available at: http://janehousham123.blogspot.com/2014/03/book-covers-vanishing-bodies-trapped.html , https://design.tutsplus.com/articles/inspiration-50-vector-based-book-covers–vector-3521  (Accessed 01042019)

Holding Flowers available at  https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-person-holding-purple-flowers-1578458/  (Accessed 02042019)

Man Looking up available at https://www.videoblocks.com/video/man-standing-at-ruins-in-rome-italy-looking-around-male-looks-at-map-trying-to-find-interesting-places-slow-motion-bfgpvjmhxj0n2q983  (Accessed 02042019)


Exercise: HG Wells Book Cover Design Part Two

So moving on to the details of the project I decided to look at a publisher monogram that would be suitable for a house that would have these books in their catalogue.  I decided on this as I initially wanted something visually stunning and adventurous and looked at using the word Alp. However, the moment I put it down on paper, it just didn’t sit right visually. The name I decided on was Creswell Editions, a salute to my late father’s name and my mother’s initials. I also liked the opportunity to lay the C over the E and on paper. It had a simple and effective presence.

Logo 25032019

Working with Affinity Designer I chose an Art Deco style font Dyer Arts and Crafts, as I felt it fitted the era in which the books were initially written by Wells, but also they felt right visually. I set the C over the erasing the E‘s centre stem, which was formed by the foot of the C. I then set to experimenting with a series of font colours and background shades.

Thinking it was about there I set to applying it to the book covers, again in Affinity Designer, minus illustrations, to see how it would fit with my chosen set of backgrounds.

It sticks out like a sore thumb and is not the subtle presence I wanted. So stepping away I decided to sleep on it.

I thought about the whole Creswell Editions and my mother’s initials, which are CEJ. So I decided to develop this theme and incorporate thesetting it at the back of the logo and debossing the whole set.

I did a quick experiment with the existing logo, removing the background to see how appeared before adding the J.

Creswell Editions Debossed

After adding the J…

Creswell Editions & Journals

A far more balanced Logo with more presence.

Next up the covers.

Exercise: HG Wells Book Cover Design Part One

Every day is a learning day and I learned a little more about the work of HG Wells. A course such as this really does open the mind to new ideas and the project to design a cover for three of his none sci-fi novels.

Initial ideas #1

First moment of research – Identifying the novels and initial ideas

The first thing I set to was identifying the suitable novels that would fit the brief of ‘…working as a set and establish the books as timeless fiction’. This meant a bit of trawling through the internet and finding a list of HG Well’s works. I then set about identifying three which have some form of central theme.

I selected Love and Mr Lewisham, Ann Veronica and The History of Mr Polly as the commonality of seeking love and happiness, often through trial and tribulation, resonated with me as being pretty timeless.

It’s fair to say the internet, especially that somewhat occasionally dubious source of information Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells) was immensely useful.

I then set to drawing up rough initial draft images of the covers to get an idea of form and how they might fit for final design.

Mr Polly #1

Mr Polly Layout

Mr Lewisham #1

Mr Lewisham Layout

Ann Veronica #1

Ann Veronica Layout

The next stage of the research will cover two areas to focus upon:

  • Contemporary Paperback design; fonts used, colours, styles
  • Mind Map – alternatives to explore.

Resources Used

HG Wells Wikipedia entry. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells (Accessed 19032019)