Thursday, 24 March 2011

Task Six: Theory into Practice

Look at the CTS blog that Garry Barker has been writing to complement the lecture programme this year. Write a short response to one of the posts on the blog. Use the ideas that Garry is discussing to mount a short critical evaluation of one piece of Graphic design that you have produced on Level 5.

For the purpose of this task I have chosen to analyse my design for print module in which I designed a piece of packaging aimed at children, intending to promote the traditions of the Mexican holiday known as 'Dia de los Muertos'. Below is an image of one of my presentation boards that displays the key aesthetics of the design.

I have chosen to analyse this piece of work in direct relation to Garry's post about about surveillance, Foucault and how all graphic design is centre around communication. In the text Garry suggests that Michael Barnards theories of graphic design helping in the formation of social and cultural identities is not only common, but most designers are guilty of using stereotypical designs at least once within their career. It turns out I am guilty of this before my career even gets started.

In this particular case I have altered typefaces and colour choices in order to appeal to my desired target audience. The package is ideally marketed at 5-10 year olds and their parents, so in order to satisfy both these age groups I combined bright, bold colours and minimal type, but quite a complex design that hopefully can be appreciated by both young and old. In keeping with the aesthetics of traditional Mexican design I used geometric shapes and a repeated pattern around the exterior of the package. I took inspiration from the paper art known as 'papel picado', in which incredibly complex banners and various other paper decorations are crafted through a single sheet of sugar paper and someone who is skilled with a craft knife. This, initially, would not be clear to a child as traditional Mexican visuals are not as engrained as other cultures, such as Chinese or Greek as Garry mentions in his post, however the intention of the package was to educate and inform.

The purpose of the package is to get kids into the kitchen, baking traditional sugar cookies in the shapes of skulls. Why skulls? Well the holiday known as the 'Day of the Dead' is a celebration of lost loved ones, when families from all over the country spend the night in graveyards trying to tempt back the souls of departed friends and family members. It takes place on November 2nd and therefore has strong connotations with halloween, an insult rather than a complement. Nevertheless I took the traditional visual known as a 'sugar skull' and turned my whole package into a celebration of its design, with bright colours and flower motifs.

Task Five: Sustainability & Capitalism

Read the text- Balser, E (2008) 'Capital Accumulation, Sustainability & Hamilton Ontario'. We have copies in the CTS office, 115.

Write a 500 word critical summary of the text which explicitly adresses the following questions
How is sustainability defined in the text?
What are the main characteristics or tendencies of Capitalism
Define a 'crisis of Capitalism'. Offer an example.
What solutions have been offered to the sustainability question? Are these successful or realistic? - If not why are they flawed?
Is the concept of sustainability compatible with Capitalism?

Sustainability is defined as inter and intra generational equity in the social, environmental, economic, moral and political spheres of society by Donella Meadows within Erin Balser's text. However another definition, given by Brundtland, is that sustainability is 'the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' When discussing the former definition, sustainability is ideologically a communal concept, but realistically within capitalist societies it often falls to the individual and through technology. When discussing the latter definition sustainability has become a 'buzzword', a movement that everyone wants to be a part of.

Capitalism thrives on creating, then subsuming the other and continuously expands and traps things within its diverse web. It requires money for sustainability and constantly looks for new things to commodify and profit from. It is not a simplistic linear system but instead a complex one that subsumes not-capital markets and intensifies internal markets.

Crisis of capitalism is a passage of phases, from initial material expansion to a second phase of financial expansion, with each individual passage seemingly reaching its limit. However capitalism overcomes the crisis every time in an environment of constant new technologies, policies and ideas, which allow for crisis deferral. In other words capitalism survives by reinventing itself and actually benefits from the crises as they help continue the cycle of capitalisation, an example of this being the environmental crisis and global warming issues.

One solution offered to the sustainability question is the bio-diesel fuel plant (BIOX) discussed at great length in the text. Although it represented the ecological integrity and economic prosperity that is deemed so important for sustainability, it was at a disadvantage to the community around it. Whilst the idea seemed to be well considered and had promise it actually did more damage than good and posed serious health risks to the residents of Hamilton, Ontario.

Not only is the concept of sustainability compatible with capitalism, but both Paul Hawken and Al Gore suggest that the current practices of a capitalist society are the solution to the sustainability crisis. Hawken notes in his book 'The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability and Natural Capital' that we have to work with who we are, which includes our strong instinct to shop the market, suggesting that capitalism is engrained within our lifestyles and changing it to fix the sustainability crisis would be near impossible. In the 2006 film 'An Inconvenient Truth' Al Gores further enforces this idea by seeking answers to sustainability through technology, democracy and of course capitalism.

Task Four: Communication Theory

Use Shannon & Weaver's model of the communication process to write a 300-400 word analysis of a work of Graphic Design. Comment on the ways in which the piece of Graphic Design attempts to communicate to a specific audience, using techniques of redundancy, entropy or noise.

Look at Fiske, J. (2002) 'An Introduction To Communication Studies' if you are struggling.

I have chosen to look at the above piece of design and analyse it using Shannon and Weavers communication model. In this particular example the information source can be considered as the client who asked for an advertisement to be created in order to promote the empty space for promotion. The next step is to determine who is 'transmitting the message' and in the case of the above example it would be the designer who has combined type and image to visually communicate their intended message. The 'channel' or 'media outlet' is the billboard itself and its positioning. The design itself is very clever and I feel is quite entropic. When a billboard is empty most of the time it would just be blank, perhaps there would be some simple text in the middle, but certainly nothing as complex as this. At first glance you would assume its an advert for a new TV programme, perhaps even a night club or perfume, due to Paris Hiltons synonymy with partying and the Hollywood lifestyle. However it is only on second glance that you notice the word 'vacant' and the phone number on the right hand side, combine it with the knowledge that Miss Hilton is not the brightest and you truly understand the meaning of the billboard. The text could be considered quite redundant as it clearly communicates the purpose of the advert and if it where to be displayed purely on its own then I doubt there would be any confusion. The image is the component that takes slightly longer to process, but once you do succeed in processing you are bound to feel a little smug at the fact that not only do you understand the insult, but appreciate its humour also. Finally the 'destination' or 'audience' is anyone who notices the advert and receives the intended message, with hopefully someone taking an interest in buying up the promotional space. 

Despite the fact that on the Shannon and Weaver model 'noise source' is shown pointing at the central linear component; 'channel', there is the potential for possible noise at any stage. For example the 'transmitter' or designer in our case could have gotten the composition completely wrong or made the text too small, or the image too big for that matter. A different colour could have been chosen for the word 'vacant' that made it blend into the image more and not stand out, therefore losing the message of the billboard altogether. There is also the threat of other billboards imposing on this one, and with so much information on display the meaning of all gets lost. Additionally as the image above actually displays the positioning of the billboard is obviously on a main road somewhere. Depending on the speed limit of this road or how busy it gets with the possibility of traffic jams, the amount of information taken in by the audience may not be sufficient enough. However out of all these generic problems, there is one more complex and specific to this billboard that stands out the most. What if you don't know who Paris Hilton is? After all the reason why I understand the joke it because I am of a generation that is used to seeing this woman's face plastered on every gossip magazine, but a slightly older generation might not be. It's almost as if it's a private joke between the designer and the intended audience, with the ability to exclude anyone who might not understand it. Another noise source is the fact that Miss Hilton actually made a formal complaint over the use of her image and demanded it be removed immediately. Surely if this were the case then the billboard would still function as the text is redundant enough, but it certainly wouldn't be as entertaining.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Essay Proposal

For my essay question I want to deal with the ideologies I learnt about in the psychoanalytical gaze lecture. I hope to deal more specifically with film posters created purposely for feminist or all female cast movies. I hope to compare examples of these with compositions that were created to promote male orientated films and perhaps even those aimed at a misogynistic mind set. My intentions are to highlight the differences and the reason why the differences are so vital for subconsciously drawing in the right audience. Key areas I will discuss are: scopophilia, suture, intra and extra digetic gazes and more obviously feminist psychoanalysis.

I hope to concentrate largely on the films of Pedro Almodovar, a Spanish director who is well known for creating feature films with strong female leads and ensemble casts. The poster to the left is a prime example of what I want to discuss and compare to posters such as this and this. The stark difference in design is instantly obvious and therefore each film has an intended audience before the film has even begun. Thats why promotional posters are so important, they have to draw in the right people and if they don't communicate the right message then a large number of the audience would walk out in the middle of the film.

Initial bibliography:

'If there is any structural principle governing the organisation of feminist documentary film, it is that provided by autobiographical discourse: 'film after film shows a woman, telling her story to the camera'. '
Womens Pictures; Feminism and Cinema, 1982, A. Kuhn, pg. 148

'It has somehow escaped theoretical attention that sexual difference is the effect of dominant cinema's sound regime as well as its visual regime, and that the female voice is as relentlessly held to normative representations and functions as is the female body.'
The Acoustic Mirror; The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema, 1988, K. Silverman, preface

'Advertising in this society builds precisely on the creation of an anxiety to the effect that, unless we measure up, we will not be loved. Every minute region of the body is now exposed to this kind of scrutiny of the ideal.'

The Look, Rosalind Crawford in Reading Images, J. Thomas, 2000, pg. 38

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Task Two

Despite Adorno writing his essay on popular music in 1941 before most of the 'pop music' we listen to these days was even imagined, his points remain incredibly relevant and poignant to this day. Straight away he assigns music into one of the two categories; popular or serious. Adorno much prefers these categories and feels the alternative 'lowbrow or highbrow' is not precise enough. He immediately praises the efforts of Beethoven and claims his Appassionata 'achieves the utmost dramatic momentum by omitting the exposition and starting with repetition'. However these principles could never be applied to popular music as the listener has already automised the 'framework' for themselves.

Adorno goes as far to suggest that by subjecting ourselves to purely 'standardised' music we enter into a 'system of response mechanisms wholly antagonistic to the ideal of individuality in a free, liberal society'. Here he also reinforces the idea that even though many would argue individulity can be achieved through the masses of different genres available, he suggests that popular music is simply a 'multiple choice questionnaire'. Adorno entitles this 'pseudo-individualisation' and states that although we think we have free reign over what we choose to listen to it is pre-determined in production and later in marketing and advertising techniques. This is pinpointed in his essay by saying all popular music has a 'fundamental identity of the material' and 'great similarity of presentation apart from their emphasized distinguishing trademarks'.

My personal choice for a modern day example of what Adorno would call a 'freezing of standards' is a song taken from The Kooks 2006 album Inside In/Inside Out. I chose this because by 2006 the genre known as 'indie' had already been around for nigh on 10 years and it was beginning to sound a little stale. For example bands like Razorlight, The Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and The Libertines all appeared and became popular artists within the same few years, with all their material sounding very similar in my own personal opinion. What was worse was the image of the bands; it seemed as though any one with bed-head, skinny jeans and an ill fitting t-shirt/leather jacket combo had guaranteed record sales. I'm sure when indie artists were first starting to get recognised in the early 2000's, such as Modest Mouse, the music was fresh and at least trying to 'circumvent standardisation', however it was inevitable that eventually the composition would begin to 'hear for the listener' instead of vice versa.