A Compelling Start

Photo of my own contemporary illuminated letterform.

As an introduction to the undergraduate course I am currently studying- Graphic Communications BA (Hons) at the Cardiff School of Art & Design, I was asked to design my own contemporary illuminated letterform using the initial of my first name.

The brief we were given on designing and producing our own illuminated letterform needed to answer three questions:

  • Who inspires you?
  • An interesting fact about yourself?
  • Why did you choose to study at Cardiff School of Art & Design?

My first thought after reading the questions was to look for ideas online through Pinterest and Behance. Most of the work I found online was digitally produced through Adobe Illustrator, however I decided I wanted to hand render my letterform by drawing and painting.

My first step in producing the outcome was to find a font to use for the initial of my first name. After browsing through fonts on Word and Photoshop I searched online through Dafont. I wanted to use a Serif font to make it stand out from the background.

An interesting fact

The first question I decided to answer was an interesting fact about myself. My first idea was to show my eclectic taste in music through representations of different genres, however this would have been difficult and I was uncertain as to what images to use and what compositional idea I could come up with. Another fact I had in mind was the fact that I play piano, and another was my skill and enjoyment in gift wrapping. As there are eighty-nine keys on an ordinary piano I thought about how I could represent the piano through imagery and composition on the page. I thought that I could morph the piano into a ribbon wrapping around the letter in the middle of the page. This would not only look contemporary but also act as a decorative feature making the letter seem of pivotal importance in aiding the ribbon to twirl around the stem of the letter ‘J’. I used black ink pens to fill in and outline the individual keys. At that point I decided to leave the letter ‘J’ white, compared to the background which I planned to fill with bright colours.

Why Cardiff School of Art & Design

My next answer was a mixture of the location and the opportunities I could encounter along the way through my time at university. To represent the nature of Art & Design at the school, I decided to express the culture of Cardiff as well. By using red, pink, yellow, green, blue, and turquoise watercolour paint, I used a straw to blow the colour of the water out towards the edge of the page from the right hand side of the letter. These spurts of water represented the opportunities and growth of the city, the school, and my knowledge growing through the years.

My inspiration

The toughest question to answer was my inspiration. I was endlessly deciding who to choose. Who was my biggest inspiration? Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Emily Pankhurst, Mario Testino, Paula Scher. So many different designers and innovators came to my mind. My first thought was to put silhouettes of human figures in my outcome in the background to express the many people that have inspired me. However I needed to show my interest for at least one of my inspirations. I decided to choose David Bowie, initially because of his creativity with music, the many styles of music he had made and the characters he had created. As I was searching for possible photos to copy from, I looked predominantly at black and white photography because of my interest in history and the different contrasts between the greys in the photos.

Several photos I found of David Bowie were taken by American photographer Steve Schapiro. I streamed through his photography finding ever more photos that inspired me. His photos contained important historical events and people that changed America, as well as behind-the-scenes photos from films such as ‘The Godfather’. This encouraged me to experiment with my own photography using filters and tools in Photoshop.

Steve Schapiro official website – http://steveschapiro.com/

As I was interested in macro photography I decided to take my own photos of things I could find in my room such as a bra strap, an ammonite, an amethyst etc. I increased the contrast and brightness in certain photos and changed the levels and exposure in some, which made the photos ever more intriguing and abstract. Although this would not make up part of my outcome, I would develop further interest and understanding into black and white photography.

Schapiro’s work was stunning. An array of different style images with fantastic stories behind them. I searched further into photos of David Bowie taken by him and found the perfect photo to draw from. Although it was in colour I decided to draw the photo in black and white to represent Schapiro’s use of black and white photography. I used blue watercolour to paint into the background the silhouettes I had in mind. I constructed a brief idea of the composition I had in mind for the outcome in Photoshop before making final decisions on paper.

After painting in the background with blue, I immediately regretted painting it in. It was rushed and too eye-catching compared to the foreground. However, I was extremely pleased with how the rest of the outcome turned out.

Why I chose this course was because of the freedom I had with using different materials and tools. Although it is graphic communication it is not all about using computers to communicate a message. Making hand rendered products is just as important and can be as skilful and professional as using a computer. This was something I didn’t quite realise until I started the course, which compelled me to wonder and understand how the world could be changed by graphic design and communication.



Author: jennifertaylorgraphics

First year student studying Graphic Communication at the Cardiff School of Art and Design

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