Had a workshop yesterday to learn the basics of photoshop. Admittedly, I already knew what we were being taught, but when I learnt that we were doing pixel art, I saw a really exciting change to make some great outcomes. I had the advantage of having spent the last three years creating a lot of pixel art, so it was met very positively – and I’m really happy with the result. I’ve never really created artwork using lower resolutions purely for the sake of creating art, but it was a lot of fun. Pixel art is great fun, and I urge everyone to give it a chance if they have the oppertunity, as I’ve often found by reducing an image to just a few squares, it helps you understand the form of the shape much better when you’re forced to represent that image with very limited information – you have to prioritise what the key features of an item that make it identifiable are.
Anyway, I decided to draw an owl as something that represented me, since my friends often said I looked like an owl – seemed fitting. Here are three version of the same picture (although they were all drawn from scratch), at 16px, 32px and 128px. I’m happiest most with the 32px, I think, considering the limitations. It’s great to see how much mood you can still capture in such a low resolution.
There’s a really charming quality to them that you couldn’t get from more traditional art. Good fun. Try it some time.
Let’s take a moment away from design for a moment and talk about food. Having been at Uni for a month and successfully maintained three meals a day, I’ve started to learn about the excited world of ‘paying for food’. Being on a budget makes it a little tricky to enjoy all the fantastic street foods that populate the many streets of Bristol, but I’ve been able to occasionally indulge in a few of the foods that peaked my curiosity. Where I’m from, the only foods you can get on the street is a cup of coffee during the day and a kebab at night – so whether or not these strange things I hadn’t heard of before are fads only in Bristol, or whether I’ve been sheltered from the outside world, I cannot say.
Two things seemed to be on nearly every street sign. The first is something that I’d honestly never even heard of before until coming to Bristol, yet every Cafe seems to do it as a standard (usually with their own deals). As I learnt from my friend who lived in Hong Kong where whole life, ‘Bubble Tea’ is huge in Asia, but apparently also Bristol. At £3.50 a pop, it’s certainly not a daily staple, but it’s one of the most brilliantly strange things I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. It tastes like normal sweetened tea (at least, the flavour I had did), but with tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink – which are like strange squishy sweets. The drink itself was really nice, but what I loved most was the straw, which was wide enough so as you drink the tea the pearls are sucked up too. It was the weirdest sensation, I couldn’t help but laugh!
Some of the pearls stuck together in huge clumps and couldn’t go up the straw, so I just left them – the man at the bar seemed offended, asking ‘You don’t like the tapioca?!’. Sure I do, I just don’t fancy eating 20 of them at once.
The other street food that seems to be on every corner is falafel. I’d heard of falafel before, but here there is a falafel stand on seemingly ever corner. I wish I had the money to enjoy a falafel pitta every day, because for about £4 they really load up the hummus and vegetables to the point it’s almost impossible to eat, but the flavours are incredible, and every bite of the pitta seems to have something different in it. Queuing for my falafel they asked me what I wanted in it – under the pressure: I just asked for it all. Honestly I felt sorry for the pitta bread that had to maintan that amount of sauce, but it was worth every penny. The place I bought the pitta was called ‘Eat-A-Pitta’, which I’m sure is a really irkful half-rhyme. Maybe I’ve just been saying pitta wrong this whole time.
But perhaps my favourite thing about living in the city is the number of ‘Oriental Supermarkets’ there are to indulge. Why Super Noodles when you can get the real thing for almost half the price? And rows and rows of the strangest sweets and crisps I didn’t even know where to begin. One thing did manage to catch my eye, however, from across the supermarket.
The 99p is almost worth the smiling fish himself, who looks so damn happy for being a fish I feel inclined to smile too. It doesn’t stop there though, because for a pound there’s no mucking about – you get four decent sized pieces of cooked haddock sitting in some serious chilli sauce. Cook up some noodles and pour this bad boy over the top (with some salad on the side, of course) and you have yourself a meal. There isn’t even anything dodgy in the ingredients list either, so you can feel confident you’re getting nothing but fishy goodness. I’m sure whichever fish it going to be caught and killed to be in my next can of smiling fish, he’s smiling right now, knowing he’ll be a delicous meal.
Faced with a plethora of different words to use as my base ‘inspiration’, I ultimately decided on ‘Continuous’ – a word that I felt lent itself to typeface design as well as being a challenge. Perhaps most importantly, how can you make every letter of a font connect in a continuous line when there are so many different possible letter combinations?
But perhaps that’s a more conservative idea of the word continuous. I figured other interpretations would be something like a river or a road, something where the travel that occurs around it is continuous and flowing. Another idea was a circle or a spiral that is built continuously, could be the basis of a letter or set of letters. So I drew up these initial sketches to get my brain working.
Taking a few ideas from these sketches, I headed over to FontStruct to begin creating the start of a font. While FontStruct is great for creating basic fonts with it’s grid system, the limited number of squares made it a little bit tricky to get the curves and shapes I was hoping for. Instead, however, I decided to work with the limitations and build a font to closely resemble the London Underground Map, each letter connecting with the other in some way.
I created just enough letters to type my name, and while the spacing is a little bit off, I’m happy with the way it turned out. It was great to hear other interpretations – many people thought it was obvious my inspiration was a circuit board, which had never even crossed my mind. But that’s cool – a circuit is continuous, so really it’s the perfect analogy of my font. Using the idea of a circuit board, as well as a map, I’ll be filling out all the letters of the alphabet, tackling that tricky task of making all the letters somehow appear as though they are connected. As you can see above, I wouldn’t have the luxury of knowing that an O would always be next to a U to make that smooth connection – both letters will need to be re-considered. It’s been a lot of fun so far, and hopefully I’ll end up with something readable and cohesive, as well as unique.