February Blues / The Start of Spring

I never understood the term ‘January blues’, I’ve always thought February to be the real lull of the year. By February, the buzz of Christmas and New Year has worn out, you’re already used to writing ‘2015’ and the novelty of wearing a peacoat is long gone. The fact that it’s the shortest month of the year is the only good thing it really has going for it, other than that it’s the last step before we can finally arrive in spring, and the promise of warmer weather is peeping around the corner.

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of spring either (I’m started to sound like a hell of a grump), it notoriously rains a lot, and the mid temperatures make it hard to practically know what to wear. But after finally surviving through the winter, the brighter mornings and longer days start to really work their magic.

It’s hard to think I’ve been a Uni student for over six months now, and that in just a handful of weeks my first year will all be over, and the summer will be waiting as it always is.

I’ve got a lot of Uni projects I’m working on at the moment that I’ll be able to share with you this season, and one personal project that I’m really hoping I can announce shortly, although I’ve been refraining from hyping anything too much or making too many promises, I’m sure it won’t be long before I can bring it into light.

Stay tuned, and get spring cleaning.

International Badgering (Relay Weeks 3 & 4)

Getting back on track now, Fran sent me some really neat responses to my last pieces of work. The piece is the response to my political cartoon of a man shooting a fox, to which Fran did a very fancy watercolour of a fox with some great colours and messy aesthetic.

fox

I enjoyed the look of an animal recreated with a  more abstract, less photo-realistic, look. Taking inspiration from the messy style, I thought I would do a digital drawing of a badger built with newspaper textures to colour and construct the badger. I’m happy with the way it turned out, although I was hoping it would look more hand-made than it does, but using real newspaper wouldn’t have allowed me to invert the colours to get a black background with white text.

badger2

Fran’s second response is based on my poster with the quote ‘You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than with a kind world alone’. Here she interpreted the quote for a war setting, and created a collage featuring newspaper articles and images of British soldiers and a touch of ink on the edges to give it a more blotchy feel.

war

It was the touches of ink that grabbed me the most, as there was almost a connotation of blood, so I tried to create an image of a soldier with a more liquid feel to it, or like paint thrown up against a wall. Using photoshop filters and brushes, and choosing a deep pinky red as the base colour, I created quite a striking picture, but I’m a little worried it paints the soldier in a positive light, which wasn’t my original intention, I wanted that to be left up to the viewer.

soldierHopefully I’ll be back for a new response on Monday.

Why You Should Never Use Calibri

The designer of Comic Sans Ms, a font that could be very easily labelled the most hated font public font in the history of typography, said in an interview with De Zeen Magazine “I think people who don’t like Comic Sans don’t know anything about design”. Critics might dismiss this as him defending his own creation, but in reality, this is the bitter truth. Compared to many fonts out there, Comic Sans is very well designed, being very thoughtfully spaced, shaped and formed into something that only performs the basic function of a font – being readable – it also fits it’s original brief. Design is a response, and Comic Sans did a perfect job of being a friendly replacement of Times New Roman in Microsoft’s MS Bob, software designed for novice PC users at the time.

In reality, Comic Sans own enemy is not itself, but the people who use it. Being included as a default font on all Windows computers, many people eager to create their own pieces of design with no knowledge in the subject would chose Comic Sans over Arial or Times New Roman as a more casual alternative, often better suiting a sign at a child’s nursery, or a car boot sale. That’s a perfectly reasonable choice, but it’s one that was made perhaps too many times, leading to the font being littered across shop signs, personal websites or other small businesses, to a point that was exhausting to anyone that actually cared to notice where Comic Sans was being used.

No doubt, if Comic Sans had been locked behind a pay-wall, as many more respectable fonts are, it may well be the choice of professional designers, but history has hurt Comic Sans too much. And as we all learnt in history lessons at school – history is prone to repeating itself.

When Calibri was chosen by Microsoft as the default font for it’s Office software package in 2007, I was excited (even at the age I was). What I knew this would mean, is that those who never bothered to change the font wouldn’t be stuck with using Times New Roman, and those torn between Arial and Comic Sans finally had a suitable middle ground – Calibri strikes a fine balance between the professionally simple choice of Arial, with the rounded edges of Comic Sans. It was a font the world needed, in my opinion, a font that doesn’t scream ‘boring’ like Arial and Times New Roman did, but didn’t look like you’re trying too hard to seem fun and approachable like Comic Sans. But the sad thing is, all default fonts are failed to doom, and to no fault of their own either, since it doesn’t always scream ‘boring’ or even ‘fun’, but something much, much worse – ‘lazy’.

Being a jack-of-all trades, many people will see the default font and see no reason to change it, so font selection goes untouched, and Calibri remains. When you use Calibri, it will always denote ‘I was too lazy or rushed to change the font’. Even people who don’t know what Calibri is, will have seen the font used so many times that they will, at a subconscious level, know that the font means that the design work using Calibri is nothing out-of-the-ordinary, and the ordinary by nature demands a lack of attention.

calibri

Just as Comic Sans has spawned hate campaigns internationally, even leaking outside of the design community, I fear that the use of Calibri, at this point, justifies to same response. As I’ve said before, it’s an absurd shame, but while becoming the default font on a piece of software as widely used as Microsoft Office is a godsend for being noticed, it’s secretly a bullet in the head at some point down the road. In a few years, I’m sure Microsoft will be eager to refresh their Office brand with a new default font, but it will surely be the death of  another undeserving font.

You may have the best intentions when using Calibri, you may even have looked over all other fonts you have stored in your system and decided it’s the most appropriate, but I urge you – never use Calibri. If you’re writing an essay, turns out Georgia might actually get you better marks.

And as for everything else? Well, if in doubt, Gill Sans will always work.

On The Topic of Quantity vs Quality

We had an interesting exercise to complete over last week wherein we were required to prove we had read the entire of our local daily newspaper for last Tuesday. The reasoning as to why was fairly vague, initially I thought it was to get us more aware about the local area, but in the end they revealed it was an exercise to get us thinking about the meaning behind the word ‘proof’ and how we can really prove something.

I took the approach I think many people considered but none quite committed to, which was to simply type out the entirety of the newspaper, a task which took up the best part of a three day weekend, but wasn’t too taxing on the mind – I was, for the most part, able to sit back and listen to some music while I battled through each word (just over 21,000 in the end). Ultimately with that work I then created two A3 posters (since it wouldn’t fit on just the one) with a fairly arbitrary quote from Mark Twain over the top, it’s fairly visually appealing, but not the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen, especially considered the sheer time that was put into it.

It’s fairly hard to see every word as a thumbnail here, but it was surprisingly clear when printed.

walloftext
What got me thinking was when we were able to walk around and look at everyone elses solutions. Some weren’t so great, with just ‘I swear on my mother’s life I have read the newspaper’ written quickly on the back of something, but there were some pieces of really interesting and inspired work that I probably could never have thought of. When the group was asked which piece of work stood out, mine was immediately mentioned, and possibley the most discussed of any other piece of work, likely purely because of the idea that I spent so long typing every word. But so what, right? Time spent on something is a novelty, it’s a gimmick, and ultimately was the price I was prepared to pay for simply having thought of no better solution. The design or appearance of my work wasn’t discussed, only how long it took me, how fast I could type, and so on.

All of a sudden my own work began to irk me. A pet peeve of mine is when someone displays their work and opens with how long it took them to create – it should be no measure on the value of the piece itself. A brief yet unique creation is infinitely more valuable than something that’s crux is simply derived from the length of time it took to create. Sure, sometimes amazing things need time (Rome wasn’t built in a day), but it’s vital to separate that aspect of it’s process of creation. Even in the mainstream, this excuse is tossed around, I remember when James Cameron’s Avatar was being teased the number of ‘twelve years to make’ was frequently mentioned, when the reality was that while the that length of time shone through in the visuals and special effects, ultimately the result was an enjoyable movie that lacked any real inspiration.

It was nice that my time was recognised, and I really did appreciate the kind words that were said, but I felt like they could have been redirected to some of the more interesting work that was on show today which might not have been mentioned at all. Perhaps now I’m forever doomed as being remembered as ‘that guy what typed the whole newspaper’.

I’ll try not to make that mistake again.