First Iterations of the Final Assignment

Hello evil-doers.

In the absence of new material this week, I thought we could post up our most recent versions of our final assignment to give each other feedback. I suppose we could also comment on the guest lecture, but to be honest I don’t have much intelligent to say about it because most of it was beyond me. Most of what I walked away with was that I need to do a lot more thinking before I consider grad school.

So, I’ll post my iteration and paraphrase Professor O’Gorman’s comments so far. He outlined a few areas of concern, all related to the front face of the cover. First, he said that there is a desire to want to see the centre of the spiral, and the pipe blocking it is disruptive of that. Though I see his point, I was thinking that the spiral makes the viewer focus on the pipe. Second, he said that the text at the bottom seems something of an afterthought. My dilema is that the large text “Words & Images” isn’t the full title of the pdf… “Magritte’s Words and Images” is. However, due to the current way my text works, adding “Magritte’s” on top would ruin the balance of the design.

I’m up for suggestions and will certainly give constructive criticism if you guys post your designs up!



White: Text







As a brief refresher, Tuesday’s workshop called for us to create a hypericon for Barthes’ “The Third Meaning” using an image, display text, and subtext. The only large images I could find were portraits of Barthes himself, which I didn’t think were the right approach because Barthes doesn’t discuss pictures of himself in his work (as far as I know). So, instead, I found a picture of Ivan the Terrible, which Barthes discusses because of the actor’s beard. It was not the greatest quality image, and I wanted it to be full-bleed for my hypericon, but it is what it is. For display text I found Barthes’ actual signature, which, for me makes the hypericon resemble a Ray-Ban ad (see below). Finally, I used a simple Serif font to write “The Third Meaning” and to avoid too much display text. I know writing in all capitals is frowned upon, but I figured I wasn’t abusing the technique.

rayban_Black Kids_clubmaster

Finally, I thought (assuming it’s within the rules) that we could post up screen shots of the early iterations of our final assignment on the blog. We could brainstorm ideas with each other and get feedback prior to submission? I’ll post what I have in my next post!

Happy St. Pat’s folks!

It’s Tufte to keep up with you, group.

I wanted to somewhat extend what Tufte talks about with PowerPoints to graphs (which are often included in presentations). There is a common assumption that graphs effectively organize data to create information. While I don’t deny the potential for graphs to be rhetorical and effective, I find that they are another element that are often redundant or, “phluff” in PowerPoint presentations.

Not only are they often too simplistic and merely a visual regurgitation of bullet points already touched on in a presentation, in terms of design, they often box information within legends or other graph components.

I am trying to find the graphic artist who notoriously made nonsensical digital graphs, but I cannot seem to find the artist’s name. However, extending Tufte’s contributions to graphs also brought to mind College Humor’s “Graphic Truth” articles. Here is one example page that displays satirical graphs. Note, in particular, the pie graph that has no purpose what so ever, which is an exaggerated example of the point I am trying to make.

Tufte and stuffte

In my other class, ENGL 408C: The Rhetoric of Digital Design, we often talk about design principles and the effects of having a ‘noisy’ site vs. something simple.  This was reiterated by Tufte in today’s class with the 1+1=3 (or more) statement.  From what I gather, Tufte is asserting that what we don’t say is almost as important as what we do say, that is to mean whether something in a design is implicit or explicit.  Consider some websites for example. 

– Google has taken a lot of time into making a clear, clean design.  There are an abundance of things Google can be used for (more than looking at pictures of cats), things that are there if you want to access them.  For example, if I want to search for ‘jaguars’ but do not want to see any pictures of the car, I would enter ‘jaguar -car’ in the search field.  Now, this may seem abstract, but this is a function that the creators of Google chose to hide from the average viewer.  Why?  Because it creates space.  This is also seen through the fact that you have essentially two options from the main screen – search, or switch search fields (images, scholar, maps, etc.).  By omitting these advanced fields from the main screen, it creates an illusion of simplicity all the while offering complexity.

In contrast, a site like Yahoo does the opposite.  The amount of noise generated from ads, videos, graphics, and images detracts from it value, effectively decreasing its popularity and functionality.  I think this is the kind of thing Tufte was getting at when he gave the example of the air traffic controller.  The images with a black border were less appealing to look at than that with no background.  This is due to the visual noise – the idea that we skip over things that look confusing or cluttered.  Ironically, I think this is demonstrated in Alex White’s book, as I find it very hard to follow due to the amount of noise.  The mish-mashed images, awkward placement of text and interesting choice of textual hierarchy make it near impossible to read through a chapter without interruption. 

What do you guys think?


Following today’s group presentations, I started thinking about how negative space is used in design. Edward Tufte’s opinion is that effective layering of information is difficult, and he’s right – every time I see an excellent example, it really jumps out at me and makes me think about the images presented and how they interact, and of course, it doesn’t happen all that often. Interestingly enough, the pleasure my brain takes from deciphering such images calls back to the typology of Phillips and McQuarrie from earlier in the term. It seems that their typology can apply to more than just advertisements, and this theory of design reminds me of their definition of “richness [as] a matter of ambiguity, not in the negative sense of opacity or confusion, but in the positive sense of multiplicity and polysemy.” (Phillips and McQuarrie, 120). Negative space, when used in a positive and effective way, creates another layer of meaning operation on top of the immediately obvious first impression.

Talking about negative space usually brings to mind familiar a example, that is, the vase created by the white space between two black profiles. I decided to look around for other examples of well-used negative space and found the following, among many others.

In the first image, two wine glasses added together create a third element, the piano key. I love how the notion of elegance is expressed through fine dining and music, all within one simple logo. The next one shapes the branches of trees into wine bottles, again using very simple imagery to tell a more complex story.



Of course, not only logos use this design technique – it’s also often present in artwork. In the image below, the paint bucket and the animals+their environment create the outline of the African continent.


3-D Art

In preparation for the final assignment, as well as class on Tuesday, I’ve been focusing some energy on Alex White’s “The Elements of Graphic Design”. This post in particular, will discuss Chapter 9: Three-dimensional space.
In this chapter I enjoyed looking at several of the examples that flood the pages. In particular, and if I understand the captions, I find Michael Bierut’s poster on page 138 interesting (bottom right image). The perceptual illusion of the shadow and the curved portion on a 2D poster is really amazing. It makes meat want to see the actual poster in person to truly believe it. Perhaps that is the urge Walter Benjamin was talking about when he stated that people want to have a closeness to a work of art. Anyway, this particular illusion of a third dimension sparked my interest.

A couple of examples outside of the textbook came to mind after thinking about Bierut’s poster.

First, 3D chalk art (as seen below, first image), tricks the human eye to great degree and effect. The example I have inserted into this post is just one example, and I invite you to enter a quick Google search to explore for yourself. I chose the example that I did because I have a fear of heights, and it amazes me that chalk on an otherwise normal street is enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Side note: Do people get paid for this? This must have taken an age to create.

Second, the baseline logo at the Air Canada Centre for Toronto Raptors games attempts to look 3D, despite merely being screened onto the court (second image below). The illusion of a 3D sign is exclusive in this example. Depending on the angle that you view the image at, it will either look 3D or like a horrible experiment with WordArt on Microsoft Word.  I’ve attached an article about it below the image.




L’art pour l’art

Here’s a snippet of thought on the Walter Benjamin reading from today’s presentation:

Benjamin clearly doesn’t like the idea of art created purely for aesthetic purposes; although he’s insistent on the “aura” of art, he abhors the idea of art having no use other than existence. To him, art without purpose is a fascistic notion, especially since it glamorizes the destruction of war. The problem with this interpretation is that art can still be created for its own sake now and it causes no wars, no suffering. Quite honestly, it seems like the Aesthetic movement, where this idea took hold, was far too languid and hedonistic to ever feel the need to be involved in a war.

Walter Benjamin also refers to a certain slogan of the fascist Futurists to support the idea that art for its own sake is inherently destructive. While in the context of its time, the phrase “let art exist, though the world perish” likely endorses destruction after all, it says something completely different to me. It seems to suggest that art will go on through destruction and will exist long after man has left the world. Rather than vying for destruction, it talks about the infinity of art. While this is surely not its intended meaning, it is the one I see reflected in these words.

However, I do agree that the notion of art for art’s sake as a whole is entirely unmanageable in reality. Without purpose, art is hard to enjoy. If I can’t invest myself emotionally into a work of art or find some relevance in it to myself, or even to the surrounding world, then I find it unnecessary. Art should solicit reaction, whether political, emotional, or simply an appreciation of skill. Saying that art should stand stoically on its own and not relate to the world takes the enjoyment out of it. Walter Pater, in The Renaissance, talks about achieving the greatest amount of pleasure and the highest quality experience out of art; however, he also believes in the aesthetic principle of l’art pour l’art. This seems to me like a contradiction of terms. To achieve the highest quality experience would mean to relate or to invest oneself in the work – but then, aren’t you also drawing use out of art? Thus, enjoyment invalidates the phrase.