Assignment Five – Book Design: Feedback and Reflection

So here is my final Assignment Feedback. First off I have to say OCA’s new Feedback form is far easier to navigate for both parties I imagine. Regarding the course from my perspective as student and one with an TBI that affects cognitive functioning then there are a few observations and points I’d like to make. Please note I’m not using my disabilities as an excuse, more as a point of awareness and how they affect a students learning journey.

If you’re a TBI disabled student do take your time with this course. It’s not the easiest to interpret at times, and I struggled, especially mid point. If anything I would, if you can, do Illustration before doing Graphic Design, as I imagine that would help immensely. Some elements of the course will require you to be on point with your illustration, so fore warned etc. Secondly if you are struggling do ask for help; OCA and Student Services have been great with their support. Thirdly if you feel your tutor isn’t doing their best by you change them. I had to unfortunately, early on and that knocked my confidence in the course and my abilities. If you have a disability you’ll understand why.

If you are disabled and struggling, especially with symptom flair ups, please consider taking time out. I seriously wished I had, but instead struggled through it. Whilst finishing should have been a point of celebration, it was little more than a point of relief. In fact I very near canned the course, writing it off as a bad idea. I’m glad I didn’t as I genuinely feel if I were to start again from scratch I would enjoy it far more, especially with the tutor I was lucky enough to be paired with.

On technology, certain assistive tech will be useful, but in the case of brain fog, as I had to explain to one member of Student Services, its nod all use. I did however find in moments like that pencil and paper actually helped no end. For illustration and imagine production I used the Affinity packages of Publisher and Designer. These seem to be far more forgiving, as I really have struggled with Indesign and Illsutrator. Whilst I used the later for familiarisation during the course, and they are the industry standard, the Affinity programs are equally as good, and seem easier to use. For me at least.

The final thing I’ll say that may help someone who is considering doing the course, which I really do recommend if you like to be stretched, as it is a good course, is this: Illustration is used for pleasure and Graphic Design is used to inform.

Right, onwards and upwards and onto my responses for Assignment Five, which I fell was the culmination assignment So I don’t lose my thread I’ve broken down the feedback into manageable sections. My responses are in Italics.

Overall feedback

Part five of this course has focused on layout through the design of leaflets, flyers and posters. It appears you have responded very well to part 4 feedback enabling you to further develop your creative process through exercises in part 5. The final assignment offered the choice of three briefs, you chose brief 1: A series of book designs for Penguin Books new range of colour, typography, photography and A is for… books. You demonstrate a sound understanding of the basic principles of graphic design, as shown in work produced for your book covers. Your design would have strong shelf visibility with yellow as the corporate colour and the banding device drawing attention to each subject. The double page spread is less resolved than the covers. You could have followed the horizontal thirds format inside and used a vertical 6 column grid. This would allow the top third space for headings and subheadings and bottom two thirds for main copy. The images are in 3 columns but require more formal structure. Refer to you magazine analysis.

Is it far to say I completely overlooked the 3-grid system for the interior sheets at his point as I was seeking to create a more aesthetically pleasing image to reflect early Tcshichold horizontal covers, versus a balanced representation. Which given my reading of Muller-Brockmann as well as the information, exercises and research points in the course, is inexcusable.

Regarding the other comments they are fair and kind. I really enjoyed this Assignment as Book Covers hold a great appeal for me. So am happy with the encouraging feedback and will look at the points raised.

Overall your response has been good, and in places such as publishing shows this is defiantly where your strengths are in graphic design. I hope you’ve enjoyed doing the Graphic Design 1 course.

For me the course finally came together with Part Five, and I’m glad I held out. I won’t deny I was flummoxed, infuriated with not seemingly being able to ‘get it’ and have a brain stuck in neutral, and in some cases on another planet at times. I have to admit I’m drawn more to publishing than Typography, No idea why, but it certainly seems to be comfortable ground for me to work in.

If you decide to submit your work for assessment you’ll need to select a cross-section of the work you’ve done on the course. You’ll also need to submit your learning log, sketchbooks and tutor reports. Please refer to OCA digital submission guidelines. In terms of organising your work for assessment please refer to all feedback provided to help you present a portfolio that showcases your strengths in graphic design.

At this point I’m a little worried as earlier work wasn’t too great, so some consideration and reworking is required.

  • develop your creative and visual abilities in your practice as a graphic designer

You produced a good range of ideas for ‘The French Hen’ branding, which you tested on a product range. Do you believe you selected most appropriate idea for a bar aimed at younger women and sophisticated men? Your illustration is of a brooding hen nesting her eggs, not a sassy hen with sophisticated confidence. You show an idea in 50s style illustration that could look great developed in a retro style and the other strong idea in the wine ring/hen logo design that could also look very contemporary.

Sassy Hens? What fresh hell is this? Okay joking aside this is where sub-cultural bias come in and shows how easily it can influence our design processes. The more I think about it the more I’m seeing aging Yuppies, as opposed to bright young things flocking (pardon the pun), to my French Hen Café and Bar. But then again are the bright young things like to go to a Café and Bar? That said the strong hint around the wine ring/hen should be revisited and developed a little further. If only to now appease my own interest.

Again a sound range of ideas for ‘Chance Housing Association’. In many respects you over-complicated the solution by adding door illustration therefore your logo design has two illustrative features; the word ‘association’ doesn’t merit emphasis. The craft of a good designer is recognising when to pull back. There is potential in this idea that just requires solution refinement. The ‘judging a book by its cover’ exercise is the most accomplished work of all the exercises.

On this one I agree 100%. Why did I add the door? I certainly veered away from my own KISS principles there somewhat, and it didn’t add anything really, if anything it served as a clichéd trope really. So a return to form and simplify that particular logo will hopefully fix that.

‘Judging a book by its cover’, I believe that was where it all came together and my tutors feedback is reassuring. One for submission for final assessment I believe.

  • use creative problem solving and research to generate visual ideas

Country Life for the ‘magazine pages’ exercise was a good choice to analyse as it is a well designed established publication. You analysed and measured grid accurately but next time you also need to analyse and trace typographic detailing. Evaluate your layout in context to Country Life, which uses paragraph indents not line breaks, there are slightly more words per line causing fewer rivers, doesn’t use hyphens, ensure you use baseline text alignment.

Your investigation into different fonts and sizes shows you are developing a good awareness of typography for publishing, but check the fine details. Exploring font styles in context to narrative and image selection evidences your awareness of how important the visual of a design aids communication of message. It was good to see you research Newton and Ridley applying their company colour plan to your branding ‘The French Hen’. This demonstrates you have a clear understanding that research of organisations commissioning design work must inform your ideas generation.

You also conducted solid research of housing association branding, however you need to really analyse which communicated affectively and which less so, note your findings with more clarity. Excellent range of information design examples, OS maps being such a brilliant design. Why did you then use words on your design rather than symbols as on an OS key? You need to translate what you see to what you do.

Great feedback and some very useful tips there, I also enjoy research so I’m chuffed to see I wasn’t over thinking it. Excellent point about analysis and the important of considering what works and what doesn’t. Again a section to review.

‘Why did you then use words on your design rather than symbols as on an OS key? You need to translate what you see to what you do.’ – Exactly? Why? I’ll revisit this exercise and adapt the map, using symbology and generating a key.

  • demonstrate your use of design and technical skills for graphic design

Always design pages for publishing as double page spreads. Your design and technical skills are clearly evident in your branding for ‘The French Hen’ but don’t get too carried away with an idea because it looks professional, ensure idea first answers brief so solution is fit for purpose. For ‘Chance Housing Association’ branding be cautious of digital techniques that don’t add value to the visual communication, for example it appears you may have altered original typeface selected rather than choosing to use complimentary fonts as in the magazine spread. Good to see you mastered how to make digital mock-ups. The ‘Birthday List’ exercise appears to have really helped you develop further digital skills using different program.

For ‘Chance Housing Association’ I embossed an element, which I shouldn’t have; let the design of the font speak for itself.

Digital mock-ups were the last hurdle for me, so I’m pretty chuffed I mastered it. I would say that perhaps links and a small exercise should be included in the module, just to help introduce the concept. I used which is free.

  • articulate an understanding of the contexts of graphic design practices and reflect on your own learning

Really good to see you revisited the ‘vernacular type’ research task, extending your search to gain a broader understanding of type and its origins. Research points ‘branding’ and ‘posters’ show an excellent range of examples with some good analyse and notation.

Again very kind feedback.

Action points based on Learning Outcomes

develop your creative and visual abilities in your practice as a graphic designer

Be consistent with your creative process: research (primary and secondary), ideas generation (spider diagrams and thumbnail sketches and mood-boards), selecting most appropriate idea for development, planning (re-visit research), testing digital iterations, rationalise concept, refinement of outcome.

Early on I was particularly poor at this; however this habit has developed over time. It still needs refinement and is something I should be focusing upon in future.

use creative problem solving and research to generate visual ideas

You had some good examples of poster design for the ‘Sing Out’ exercise but it doesn’t appear you really analysed the layouts and compositions. This is evident in your design that resembles a leaflet rather than a poster. You need to consider how different fonts, sizes and colours can help to visually organise hierarchy of information; your design shows very little differentiation in the text. You started exploring idea of ‘sing out’ in speech bubble but it got lost in translation to standard upper/lowercase sans serif font; a missed opportunity to explore script flowing hand-drawn expressive type for this design. Always use research to inform every aspect of your creative process.

Excellent points made. I’ll have a review as I’ve never felt comfortable with how this exercise progressed or finished.

demonstrate your use of design and technical skills for graphic design

Ensure you use appropriate programmes for the task, in general: Photoshop for image manipulation; Illustrator or logo design, drawing type and illustration; InDesign for layout design

Affinity packages are good, and I can understand the need to use the adobe packages, so carry on sharpening up my skills there I think.

articulate an understanding of the contexts of graphic design practices and reflect on your own learning

Always refer back to research in order to evaluate your ideas against examples of professional practice, ensuring your solutions are fit for purpose in context to differing organisations and audiences.

Something I need to do a little more of; reflection. Though getting there.

Research – Vernacular Typography


The Ultimate in Vernacular?

One of the great things about photography is that the opportunity to capture anything of note, or tweaks your interest is easy to capture.

With Typography it seems to have found me more so than I it. Moments where the design, colour, and arrangement of wording stand out from the often formulaic approach of DTP fonts and arrangements. It’s free-flowing form, either in handwritten market signage or beautifully intricate corporate Coats of Arms.

Type’d in Stone

The forms in which Typography can appear is beyond assumed conventions of ink on paper. There are wonderful Victorian expressions in stone and marble, heavy Serif fonts leaping out and declaring a buildings intention. Each carving as individual as the craftsman who made them. Their often very ornate nature draws in the viewer to consider these carvings as more than mere words.

The golden age of signwriting 

As the mechanical age drew in to view the dawn of the signwriter emerged, and I for one am glad they went for it. From steam engines to locomotives they had this knack of being able to turn sheets of plain glass and painted wood and metal into something beautiful.

The golden age of signwriting #2

It always seemed to have a regional lilt and soon developed into creating striking signage for local town corporations, locomotive nameplates (Check out the history of Gill Sans) and private individuals. Their art still exists thank goodness.

Contemporary Trends

Today we live in a highly visual world and the place of typography is still that of top dog. With the advent of Adobes Illustrator and Indesign along with Affinity Designer and Publisher, typography has become often too sophisticated, with the art being swallowed by the gimmick.

I often see what photographers refer to as ‘over-processing’ with the pattern more important than the type and message. From simple handwritten market stand labels to old school shop labelling, the messages are still out there and arrangements are not contrived or pretentious. In these instances, the art has been to produce a clean and simple type and succeed in doing so.


My personal favourite; the acme of the signwriters art. 

Research Point: Defining an influence

How do you define influence? Who’s work is it that shouts out to you? Graphic Design is, for me at least, filled with individuals and groups who’s work has spanned the ages and influenced me in a variety of ways.



Early Soviet Propaganda. Clockwise: For the Proletarian Park of Culture and Leisure, 1932, by Vera Gitsevich; Gather the Harvest, 1931, by Dmitrii Moor and Let Us Build a Dirigible Fleet in Lenin’s Name, 1931, by Georgii Kibardin

With so much influence at such an early stage of my design career I almost feel overwhelmed. I’m sure I’m not the only one in fairness. Yet these are styles I appreciate, I’ve grown up with and admired. Here is not only form and colour, message and art. It is art.

When looking at the type, the layer effects and the sheer creativity that goes into this work it all to easy to be in awe.

The visual language covers the optimism of the Soviet early National Socialist movements, with its use of montage and bold colours, celebrating movement and bring the people together. Here the message was reinforced with visual cues about the overall message, which for a country whose literacy rate stood at little over 50% this was exceptionally important. The messages of hopefulness, of prosperity and of working together had to be as literal and dynamic as possible in order to sell the new Communist ideas and ideals.

They also had to show a suspicious outside world that the new Soviet system meant business, and was keen to become the leader of social, scientific and cultural development for the people of the people.

There is something in this approach that appeals visually and the Soviets were, up until Stalin’s total grip on power, keen to utilise the arts to deliver this message. There after and until the start of the great calamity of the Great Patriotic War all propaganda shifted in focus towards cementing the cult of Stalin’s personality.

From Bauhaus (below) to Soviet constructivism and later (above)…

Bauhaus Input; L: Bauhaus Typeface, Herbert Bayers Circa 1925, R: Staatliches Bauhaus, by Joost Schmidt, 1923

Moving on I’ve always been attracted to the work of the Bauhaus movement; the energy, the vision, and the continual development. The versatility and simplistic dynamics of the Bauhaus typeface, in particular, has always drawn me in. the San Serif font seems to be easily adaptable and lends itself to being merged with illustrative design. Another love of mine.

The Western European styles and optimism of colourful 1930/1950’s graphic design, whose use of bold colour and mixes of cartoon and realist imagery always seems to draw me in. Combined with often daring and types, these were examples of graphic design running wild.

Here the visual message is merged with the typeface from the 30’s in Western Europe. Here the message is simplified visually and wonderfully bright colour palettes are added, illustration taking over from bulky sections of text. The cartoonesque nature of the advertising, in particular, takes marketing away from the stern ‘Father knows best’ model, to ‘let’s make this product fun and appealing’.

L: After Work Guinness, Tom Eckersley, Circa 1950, R: Smarties, Artist Unknown, 1950’s

Then there is William Morris, who’s working styles, have engaged my imagination and creativity more so than any other designer.

Plate for Kelmscott Press, which Morris opened in 1891

Then there is William Morris, whose working styles, have engaged my imagination and creativity more so than any other designer. His flowing floral designs and pseudo-medieval patterns draw the viewer in, and whilst they could be considered ‘too busy’ they are light in touch and have a delicate beauty to the form of patterns, illustrations, and typeface.

The Story of the Glittering Plain by William Morris, Kelmscott Press, 1891. Courtesy The Victorian Web.

The Story of the Glittering Plain by William Morris, Kelmscott Press, 1891 

No where else is so exemplified so perfectly in the Plate for Kelmscott Press. Here all three elements come together in an exquisite sampler of simplicity, beauty and art by Morris. This, above all else shows the high level of craftsmanship achieved by Morris and one that he extolled throughout his life. It is worthwhile taking a moment to read his Treatise Useful Work vs Useless Toil.

Late 80’s Goth album covers to Grunge Design, led by its unofficial father David Carson, and including protagonists such as Carl McCoy of Sheerfaith.

L:The Magazine Factory, David Carson, London, 2013, R: Dead but Dreaming, Carl McCoy, 1990

Here was the start of edgy and aggressive photo manipulation and non-compromising Typefaces that merged, seamlessly, with the image. This new school of Graphic Design continued the rise of the aggressive sub-culture imagery started by among others Jamie Reid’s work for Malcolm McLaran.

Sex Pistols

Jamie Reid, Never Mind the Bollocks, 1976

From the early 80’s onwards the examples of Punk, Goth, Grunge, and independent music graphics filtered into the mainstream, from supporting youth culture products such as Doc Martens to the controversial Benetton United Colours campaign. The later almost taking a Richard Kern approach to confrontational still imagery and combining this initally with Gill sans Type before moving onto their own in-house type, Benetton Sans designed by Joe Finocchiaro, in 2011.

This period also saw the advent of more dynamic and creative photo manipulation, where designers worked with double exposures and layer to help compact a message. Designers also took to damaging prints and selecting Sensational Spelling for special effect.

L: Affinity Designer Screenshot, 2019, R: Epic 1950s Retro Graphics, Wing’s Art, 2013

Finally, there is the new generation of Retro and Vintagesque images that pop up that intrigues me, especially the array of fonts that crop up on my Pinterest, and Adobe feeds with alarming regularity. This proliferation, spurred by the rise of Vector graphics and slicker design packages, has seen the dawn of new vibrant, challenging and fun imagery, and Type Faces. We truly are at the cusp of something remarkable. A whole system that can integrate the hand drawn with the computer generated.

As designers, it’s fair to say we’ve never had it so good and that the world is truly our oyster. From all the above examples, of the many thousands of practitioners, it is these that are the most influential to me, for now. We live in an ever-developing world and who knows what work awaits my discovery?

Resources Accessed

Morris Examples available at:

Morris, W. (1888) Useful Work vs Useless Toil. 2008 edn, Penguin, London

Bauhuas Poster Examples available at:

Sovier Posters examples available at:

The Magazine Factory, David Carson, 2013, available at:

Dead But Dreaming, Carl McCoy, 1990, available at:

Smarties Poster available at:

Guiness Poster available at:

Affinity Publisher available at:

Epic 1950s retro graphics By Wing’s Art 2013 available at:,%20Illustrations,%20Objects%20&%20More%20%7E%20Creative%20Market

Jamie Reid, Never Mind the Bollocks… available at:

Benetton Fonts information available at: