Thursday, 8 November 2012


Today, we had a lecture with Fred that introduced us to design principles. I found this lecture really interesting as I want learn more about the nitty gritty of graphic design.

We were given aims that we would be covering in the following sessions:

  • Introduce and explore fundamental principles of visual literacy, colour theory, typography, layout and format.
  • Explore principles of communication through type and/or image in relation to graphic design practices.
  • Encourage individual approaches to the exploration and application of fundamental design principles to specified problems.

After being introduced to the aims of OUGD401, we looked at the meaning of Visual Literacy otherwise known as the language of graphic design.

  • The Ability to construct meaning from visual image and type.
  • Interpreting images of the present, past and a range of cultures.
  • Producing images that effectively communicate a message to an audience.

Next we looked at the meaning of visual communication;

  • The process of sending and receiving messages using type and images.
  •  Visual communication is based on a shared level of understanding of different symbols, gestures and objects.
  • Visual communication is affected by audience, context, media and methods of distribution.

After learning about what defines visual communication I noted down a quote that appeared regarding language.

‘All that is necessary for any language to exist is an agreement amongst a group of people that one thing will stand for another.’

Following this Fred introduced us to a range of different symbols, we were asked to comment on what we thought these symbols meant. We soon discovered that some symbols can be misleading due to having multiple meanings. However, when displayed next to another symbol they gained relevance. An example can be seen below.

A cross on its own can have multiple meanings, but when showed next to a multiplication sign its gains context as a symbol used in mathematics.

Next we were shown a range of road signs, I found it interesting looking at the design decisions. Road signs use a mixture of simple shapes and graphics communicate complex road signs.

We also learned why warning signs such as the ‘STOP’ and ‘GIVE WAY’ are a different shape to all other road signs. The information that they display could be life saving, but if the design was obscured by snow or dirt the audience would not be able to see the vital information. Therefore, they made important signs a recognisable shape, so even if obscured the basic shape can still be perceived.

All of the theory about signs, symbols and signifiers comes under the topic of semiotics.

Key elements in visual language in graphic design.

  • Frame
  • Format
  • Figure/Form
  • Ground
  • Composition
  • Visual dynamics
  • Type
  • Image
  • Colour
  • Layout
  • Legibility
  • Readability

Before the session ended we were given two tasks to complete.

The first requested us to collect four A5 sized images, two of design we love and two of design we hate. This needed to be accompanied by a reason as to why they have been chosen.


First, I found these bottle designs, created by Jamie Conkleton each bottle contains Sake a type of alcohol. I like the designs as they are part of a set, and I like the link the designer has made between how refined the sake is and the opacity of the bottle.  Moreover, there is limited information displayed giving the design a minimalist feel. Finally, I really like the innovative way that the type has been placed.

The second piece of design that I love is by Queen City Studios; it’s a simple logo variation done for Converse. I like the design because of how relevant to converse it is. The script styled typeface has cleverly been adapted to look like shoelaces. I believe this is a fitting representation for a shoe company.


The first example of design I hate are these three signs. The signs have been designed to warn people that said sports are prohibited, I believe they are massively misleading. A sign communicating something that is prohibited should have a diagonal line across the illustration. Instead, the signs show fun looking illustrations in a circle, leaving them open for misinterpretation. Due to this the signs are not functional, which is why they are badly designed. 

Secondly, I looked at a logo design done for ‘Cazz’s Sports Bar ‘n’ Grille’. The logo is awful. The typefaces chosen to display information such as the name do not mix well at all. Moreover, the text reading ‘Sports Bar ‘n’ Grille’ has been placed horribly, it looks like whoever designed the logo had no idea about layout. Furthermore, the illustrations that have been included in the design are weak and astatically upsetting. 

At the end of the session we were set a task to select five fonts from the macs with different characteristics.

Blackoak STD.

The first font I have chosen to look at is called ‘Blackoak STD’, it is a bold serif font that reminds me of retro letterpress type. I think that the font is legible due to the width of the letters, making the font a perfect display typeface.      

Birch std.

The next font is ‘Birch STD’ this typeface also reminds me of wooden type that would be used in a letterpress. The font is extremely legible even at a small size, making it perfect for magazine text. The font is recognisable due to its angled serifs. 


Next, I looked at Calibri, a sans serif font with slight roundings on the corners of the letters. The typeface is legible at a small size due to a standard letter proportions and recognisable letterform. I like the font due to its legibility, and believe it would work well as a screen and print font.

Edwardian Script.

After looking at some relatively simple fonts I chose to look at something different, ‘Edwardian Script’ is a script font that reminds me of old hand written calligraphy. I believe the font is legible, although when presented in bulk at a small size it can be overwhelming due to complexity of the letters. Furthermore, the letters join perfectly making the font a close replica of elegant handwriting. 


Finally, contrasting the elegance of ‘Edwardian script’ I chose to look at a font called 'Hattenschweiler', a bold sans-serif typeface that could be compared to ‘Impact’. The font loses legibility at a small size due to the spacing between letters, however, when used at a large size the font is clear and strong. 

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