2.1 Visual dynamics

The purpose of this research point was to explore the interplay for text and image on a page.

Key words from the brief:

  • Adapt or develop the prompts in ways that work for you
  • You may want to contextualise the exercise by picking something more specific to work with, including your own illustrations

Overview

The brief asked for a visual response to three prompts:

  • Using an image, text, a flat block of colour and a limited colour palette, create as many text and image combinations as possible
  • Use an image and a piece of text to create maximum information or detail. Next, strip back the design to maintain the same meaning or effect but with minimum visual content. Find a point between these two positions where there’s just enough information or detail.
  • Create contradictory or new meanings by juxtaposing existing images and text through collage.

Approach

The brief was very open ended so I decided to create some boundaries to help me frame the work.

  • I would treat the exercises as a series of experiments
  • Each experiment would have a set of rules based on one or more of the visual components/qualities defined in Graphic Design: The New Basics (Phillips, 2014)
  • My subject and theme would come from Zoom live figure drawing sessions held by the Virtual NYC Drawing the Dance Workshop with the theme ‘vulnerability’, and figure drawing from the 2Bornot2B Collective from Zoom sessions conducted between 13/02/21 and 19/02/21.

Exercise 1 – text and image combinations

definition

Using an image, text, a flat block of colour and a limited colour palette, create as many text and image combinations as possible.

The following elements and principles were taken from Graphic Design: The New Basics (Phillips, 2014). I used these as the basis for developing my ideas.

Elements:

  • Point
  • Line
  • Plane
  • Texture
    • Text as texture
  • Colour
  • Transparency
    • Linear transparency
    • Seeing through
  • Layering

Principles:

  • Scale
    • Depth
    • Motion
  • Contrast
  • Movement
  • Rhythm
    • Pacing
    • Ordered improvisation
  • Balance
    • Symmetry
    • Asymmetry
    • Disrupted symmetry
  • Framing
    • Margins and bleeds
    • From caption to headline
    • Text over image
  • Hierarchy

The rules of the experiment:

  • Output: As many images as possible within a day
  • Format: 5:4 aspect ratio
  • Image: Drawing/painting produced during the 1-hour Virtual NYC Drawing the Dance Workshop on 13/02/21
  • Text: Words from a text conversation with the dancer Tanya Trombly (Ref: https://www.instagram.com/bulletproof_ballerina/?hl=en), used with her kind permission.
  • Typography: Helvetica.
  • Grid: The layout for all images will be based on a single grid
  • Flat block of colour: Can be any flat single shape but must be positioned/aligned to the design grid. Edges can be soft or hard.
  • Colour palette: Three colour palette. Black, white and one other. Note that the illustration may have more colour/tones

Outputs of dance workshop

The following drawings were created during the 90-minute session.

Sketch 01-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, charcoal, pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 02-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, charcoal, pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 03-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 04-moving poses, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 05-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 06-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 07-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 08-short pose, liquid watercolour, Inktense pencil, A3 sized
Sketch 09-10-minute pose, ink pen, pencil, crayon, A2 sized
Sketch 10-10-minute pose, ink pen, drawing ink, charcoal, pencil, crayon, A2 sized
Sketch 11-10-minute portrait, ink pen, drawing ink, charcoal, pencil, liquid watercolour, A2 sized

Words

The theme for the dance workshop was ‘vulnerability’, and at the end of the session the dancer, Tanya Trombly explained what this meant for her and why it was important. She said something really interesting: “I built walls and now I’m trying to break these down”. In other words, during her dance performance she was trying to make herself more vulnerable.

I contacted her and asked to to clarify what she meant. I used the text from her response as part of the design.

Grid

The layout is based on a 16 x 8 grid.

VARIATIONS

I gave myself 30-minutes to create 20 thumbnail layouts using information from Graphic Design: The New Basics (Phillips, 2014).

Thumbnail sketches of different layouts

I then worked up the images using Photoshop. I found that new ideas came as each image/layout was created, so I didn’t stick rigidly to reproducing the thumbnails, but used them more as starting points.

I created the following layouts:

Exercise 2 – information or detail

Definition

Use an image and a piece of text to create maximum information or detail. Next, strip back the design to maintain the same meaning or effect but with minimum visual content. Find a point between these two positions where there’s just enough information or detail.

The rules of the experiment:

  • Output: 3 x images
  • Format: square aspect ratio
  • Image: Drawing/painting produced during the 1-hour Virtual NYC Drawing the Dance Workshop
  • Text: A message from the dancer explaining her relationship to ‘vulnerability’.
  • Typography: Helvetica
  • Grid: The layout for all images will be based on a single grid
  • Tools: Experiment using Adobe Illustrator to create the images with reduced detail using the original drawing as reference.

Grid

The layout is based on a 9 x 9 square format grid

Outputs

The most detailed illustration was a 10 minute drawing made using liquid watercolour, pencil, charcoal and Indian Ink. I used the full text from the dancer’s message.

Maximum information version

For the minimum content version I created a simple overlay using Illustrator. I was particularly interested to see if I could successfully reproduce different line weights using a combination of different Illustrator drawing tools.

For the text I settled on one word “vulnerable”, because this was the essential meaning.

Minimum visual content

The final image which contained ‘just enough information’ was a further build in Illustrator and two sentences of text.

Just enough information

Exercise 3 – juxtaposing

Definition

Exercise 3 was a visual response to the prompt: Create contradictory or new meanings by juxtaposing existing images and text through collage.

I saw this exercise as an extension to the captioned figure drawing images that I produced as part of Assignment 1 Personal statement. It provided an interesting rules-based approach to creating captions that I was interested in testing.

Another objective for me was to combine my drawings and collage within a structured/gridded layout, something I hadn’t done with collage before. Because of this I needed to create the images digitally to give me extra control.

Rules of the experiment:

  • Output: As many variations as possible within 4-hours
  • Format: 5 x 4 aspect ratio
  • Images: Figure drawings produced during the week leading up to 21/02/21.
  • Text: Any text combinations cut from the Sunday Times newspaper dated 21/02/21.
  • Typography: N/A
  • Grid: The same 9 x 9 grid used in Exercise 2
  • Tools: Photoshop to composite digital collages together

grid

The layout is based on a 9 x 9 grid

Word matching

I printed contact sheets of my drawings and used these to creatively match the texts cut from the Sunday Times newspaper.

Outputs

The text cutouts were scanned, cutout and dropped into Adobe Illustrator to turn them into clean black and white layers. These were combined with the figure drawings in Photoshop using the 9 x 9 grid for layout.

Exercise 3 image 01
Exercise 3 image 02
Exercise 3 image 03
Exercise 3 image 04
Exercise 3 image 05
Exercise 3 image 06
Exercise 3 image 07
Exercise 3 image 08
Exercise 3 image 09
Exercise 3 image 10

Reflections

I really enjoyed reading Graphic Design: The New Basics (Phillips, 2014) and learned a lot from the the way deconstructed graphic design, and from the excellent examples of work.

Working with grid layouts and example reference images really helped me understand how to push design boundaries and still remain true to an overall layout. This was a very freeing insight.

Being able to use the words the dancer gave me gave the exercise a documentary feel that I find interesting. This is an approach I would like to develop.

Using a Sunday Times newspaper to create captions was a creative constraint that I enjoyed. I really liked the way that the collaged texts came together within the grid system.

I don’t think Exercise 2 was successful. To a certain degree I think that was due to my fairly basic understanding of the different drawing tools in Illustrator which meant the digital drawings weren’t convincing.

References

Phillips, J. C. and Phillips, J. C. (2014) Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York, NY, UNITED STATES: Princeton Architectural Press.

Virtual NYC Drawing the Dance Workshop (2021) At: https://www.instagram.com/bulletproof_ballerina/ (Accessed: 13/02/21)