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Project 3 Stencil (Click to view larger.)

Unofficial Language, according to David Crow in Visible Signs, is language that runs counter to or is outside of official channels. Where graffiti is concerned, most often it is considered vandalism. However, graffiti runs the gamut from simple defacement of property with tagging to informing or commenting on society with iconic messages. For this assignment, I had to choose an idea or concept that could be clearly articulated through images and limited text, if needed. I then had to choose 3 colors and create stencils for the graphic so I could spray paint it on illustration board and photograph it. Using Photoshop, I placed the graffiti in contextually relevant places around Chattanooga.

Sprayed image (Click to view larger.)

My children recently had an infestation of head lice and in researching how to combat it, I learned a lot about the louse. Lice prefer clean hair; don’t jump, but can very quickly crawl; and most importantly, affect all economic levels in society. Having head lice is considered repugnant in our culture to the point that we tell our children not to mention the infestation for fear someone will think we are unclean. In reality, head lice affects 12 million children a year and I’ve heard stories of people getting lice from trying on hats at Disney World to picking it up at a church overnight.

My original concept was to show a woman wielding an enormous lice comb and fighting an equally enormous louse. I surmise that most of the people engaging in lice treatment are actually women, so depicting a woman combating the louse seemed natural. Having her use a larger-than-life comb against a larger-than-life louse would also convey how large a problem head lice really is. In exploring the idea I realized I didn’t need the louse. Not only was it superfluous, but most people upon seeing it wouldn’t know what it was even with the lice comb present. I was working with how to show that lice infestations can and do affect the wealthy, and so I considered using an image of a woman in a ball gown wearing a string of pearls or an image of a woman in smart business attire. It occurred to me that an image of Wonder Woman might work as a stand-in until I could photograph someone. That’s when I realized that Wonder Woman was the perfect woman for the job. Who better symbolizes the United States, reaches out to all economic levels, and is a woman?

For the contextually relevant locations, I wanted to run the gamut of economic levels. I photographed a homeless shelter, a children’s museum, a private boarding school, and an upscale hotel.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Chattanooga Community Kitchen (Click to view larger.)

Creative Discovery Museum (Click to view larger.)

Girls Preparatory School (CLick to view larger.)

Sheraton Read House (CLick to view larger.)


The covers as they exist in reality. (Click for larger view.)

Project 2 encompassed creating hard back and paper back book covers for a book of our own choosing. The goal of the project was not only to create book covers that followed good design principles, but that conveyed a sense of what the book was about, as any good book cover will do. We also had to pay attention to detail and ensure our covers contained all the common elements book covers have that clue people in to the fact that this is a “real” book. As the instructor put it, the true test of success would be to go to a bookstore and put our books on the shelves and see if anyone picked them up.

I chose Swim the Fly by Don Calame. This is a book in the Teen Fiction genre and is about three friends who set themselves a difficult goal to accomplish each summer. This year, the three boys are 15 years old and the goal they set for themselves is to see “a real, live naked girl.” In addition, the protagonist/narrator, Matt, is smitten with Kelly, the new girl on the swim team and, in an effort to impress her, he volunteers to swim the 100-meter butterfly in competition. Matt can’t swim the fly for one length of the pool, let alone 100 meters so he begins a training regimen that he hopes will get him in shape in time. While trying to accomplish his training goals, he inadvertently gets signed up for an ultimate survival course that he must finish or go to jail.

The hardback cover (Click for larger image.)

The book centers around competition. There’s the obvious competition of the swim meets, but there’s also the competition between the boys and the looming end of summer with them trying to meet the goal, and there’s the competition of trying to “get the girl” that Matt gets sucked into with Kelly’s ex-boyfriend. In addition, there’s a competition between Matt and himself. The ultimate survival course is taught by a German man named Ulf, who sees in Matt a lot of the chutzpa he sees in himself. Matt sticks with the course in the beginning because he doesn’t want to go to jail. However, Ulf eventually gives Matt the opportunity to quit the course without consequences, causing Matt to decide what he’s really there for.

The paperback cover (Click for larger image.)

In keeping with the theme of competition, I chose to use a picture of swimming pool lanes for the cover. The lanes immediately bring competition to mind. The pool itself has a nice outdoor summer lighting to it that’s very inviting. The picture covers the entire front and back of the books to give an immersive quality that, when I look at it, makes me want to dive in. I included a blurb about the book on the back and an excerpt from the book on the inside flap of the hard cover book along with an extended author bio. The paperback book has an abbreviated author bio and blurb about the book on the back of it. The inside flaps on the hard cover are white to emphasize the inviting quality of the pool. I had tried using cyan tints, but they just detracted from the overall image.

Let me know what you think, please. Do they pass muster? Would you think they were real if you saw them in a bookstore? Any and all constructive criticism is welcome.

By the way, I highly recommend the book. It’s a fun read and certainly reinforced for me how glad I am I don’t have to be a teenager again.

If you’d like to see the original book cover, you can find it here: Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Click to view larger image

Click to view larger image

I’ve had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right about my final image for Project 1.3. Last night I was looking at it again and noticed the feeling centered around the child on the right hand side. I decided to remove that image and found that the child had been blocking the overall flow.

I’ve also been looking at the message from a more right-brained perspective. In other words, what was my subconscious working on while I was consciously thinking about “Electronic Workers?” (For more about “Electronic Workers”, see previous post.) Removing the child on the right opens the picture up to a completely different and , I think, much stronger interpretation. Now it conveys a positive view of alternative energy – one in which the viewer is smart to choose green energy and has the opportunity to join a mass movement embracing that choice. Removing the child also completely reveals the blades of the wind turbine, which looks similar to a cross, evoking the feeling that alternative energy is the salvation of the future. The “Electronic Workers” would then be those people working to make this future a reality.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of a universal language. I agree with my instructor, Matt, that one doesn’t really exist, although if you believe ancient Hebrew and Sumerian stories one did exist thousands of years ago. Then, I came across this video clip and realized that concept applied if one was considering only written and spoken languages, including signs and symbols. If the form of communication is music, then all bets are off.

This video clip shows Bobby McFerrin demonstrating the Pentatonic Scale to panel and audience members at the World Science Festival 2009. The topic of discussion was expectations and the audience participation was spot on.

Click to view larger image

Click to view larger image

The text image from Project 1.2 is the basis for Project 1.3. Working with the main words from the text image, we had to create a photo montage that further developed the theme of the text image. The images had to come from a variety of sources and the photo montage had to incorporate only 3-5 images.

My main theme from the text image, Electronic Workers, could be interpreted as robotic entities or a human/robot composite (not unlike a Borg). I decided to explore the human composite idea in my montage. While no “electronics incorporated into a human” appears in the image, the idea is implied through the the visible nerves in the boy on the left and the plugged in brain of the child on the right. Nerves are the electrical system of the body, thereby encompassing the idea of electronic workers. The wind turbines provide a forward thinking view, i.e. clean, alternative energy.

What would happen if electronic workers were developed? Would they be formed into an army by people wanting to control society? Would they also still be considered human? If considered human, would they still have any humanity left? I raise the army issue with the addition of the picture of the troops (never mind that they are female). The children passing a flower between the them addresses the question of the retention of humanity.

Finally, the look of the words “THE POWER!” reminded me of the political propaganda posters from the 1930s and 1940s. I kept them in the montage (they were part of the wind turbine image) to convey the feeling of a propaganda poster and imply the creation of an army of electronic workers for the greater good.

photo credit: Zack Czengoldi

photo credit: Zack Czengoldi

My brother went to China recently and found this sign. You’ve probably seen something similar – Asian translations into English typically go awry. Something I hadn’t thought about before taking this Visual Literacy class is how the English translation completely changes the intent of the sign. The symbol on the sign clearly shows a warning which I would interpret as “Slipping Hazard.” However, the English translation changes the context of the sign from warning someone so they can avoid the hazard to announcing a foregone conclusion, but couching it as an invitation. All that’s lacking is “Please” to make the invitation complete.

That got me thinking about the lack of universality in signs. I can’t think of a sign that every single human on the planet would be able to interpret similarly. One could argue that some iconic signs are universal, but they still require context in order to be interpreted. For example, the sign showing a symbol of a dog on a lead would only mean “you can walk your dog here” to people who know what dogs are and that people keep them as pets and walk them. Anyone not familiar with dogs wouldn’t understand.

Project 1.2 built on the final solution for Project 1. For Project 1.2, I had to find a classified ad that added to or enhanced the visual imagery from Project 1. The ad had to be placed on the original image in a way that would not detract from and hopefully would enhance the original image. Then, I had to use the content of the ad to create a complementary image that would extend the idea/content of the original image. The complementary image could use only the content from the classified ad, but content could be repeated, if need be.

I found an employment ad for a company looking for “electronic assembly workers.” I realize the intent of the ad was to find workers to assemble electronics, but it was clearly stated that the need was for electronic workers. How could I pass that up? I then changed the text in the ad to create computer code that would give the impression that the “perfect” workers were being assembled – workers that were focused and not lazy, short, or required payment.

Below is my final solution for Project 1.2. (Click on the images to view larger size):

ART 260 Project 1.2a ART 260 Project 1.2b

I found this interview with Rob Janoff, who designed the Apple logo. In it he talks about how many different stories people have come up with surrounding the creation of the logo and how many different meanings people have attributed to that one symbol.

Interview with Rob Janoff, designer of the Apple logo

In class we’ve discussed the three categories of signs that Peirce came up with, viz. icon, index, and symbol. And, in thinking about the Apple logo I realize that it is both iconic, in that it resembles an apple, and symbolic. The only thing connecting the apple with a computer is the agreement we have accepted, that one represents the other.

Peirce also described three properties for signs, those being firstness, secondness, and thirdness. The firstness, or feeling I get when I look at the sign, for the Apple logo is a happy feeling. (Sometimes even giddy when I’ve heard Apple’s released new products.) Secondness, or what constitutes the fact part of the sign, is the company represented by the apple. The thirdness, or association we derive from the sign, is hipness, coolness, a sense of cutting edge technology that remains slightly ahead of main stream.

The sense of firstness being happy constitutes my point of view. Other people will have different feelings associated with the Apple logo. I think someone might argue that my description of the thirdness of the Apple logo would be more apt as firstness. I really think that the association the company has fostered between the logo and what it represents is one of unparalleled design and cutting edge technology so I stand by my choice of thirdness.

(To those of you who got to apple in the title and finished singing …pie and Chevrolet, congratulations. The thirdness of those three iconic symbols put together has withstood the test of time. We’re also showing our age. 😉 )

I’ve been showing my kids clips of classic Sesame Street, particularly the yip yip aliens. After class last Wednesday in which we talked about how meaning is formed in signs, I realized that the yip yips were a great example of some of the concepts discussed in class.

A paradigm is a set in which the individual units in the set have commonalities, but each is different from the other. Metaphor is used to shift the characteristics of one object onto another. In the clip below the yip yip aliens assume the object in front of them is an Earth person and then check their book for verification. Based on the paradigm of Earth person , which includes a tall stature, a face, and hands, the yip yips conclude that the object is an Earth person. The paradigm is shifted by substituting a different meaning for face and hands. Westerners all understand that an analog clock’s face and hands are different from human face and hands, but people who have never seen an analog clock might not use those metaphors to describe the arrows that turn around on a circle of numbers.

One of the interesting aspects of this clip is it was intended for an audience average age of 4 and the goal of the sketch is to teach kids about clocks as the beginning of telling time. No mention had to be made that this wasn’t actually a human face or human hands. Kids seem to have an innate understanding of body parts and by age 4 have begun to pick up on the concept of metaphor.

Watching this clip really illustrated to me that personal experience lends itself to meaning and tweaking the meaning leads to humor. I also like the yip yips because watching a creature hide behind its lower lip is just plain funny.

I’m taking a class at UTC called Visual Literacy for Graphic Design. The goal of the class is to learn how we communicate through creating and interpreting signs. For the first problem statement, I had to find at least 20 examples of line art and then find pairs of line art images  that were visually compelling and conveyed a concept/idea. The image pair could be controversial or not, but definitely had to be thought-provoking.

The two image pairs below represent my final solution for Problem Statement I:

DNA for Profit

Science has been mapping the genetic code of many species for decades. As our understanding of genetics and the role certain genes play in disease prevention and healing increases, private companies have gained patents on biological mechanisms, causing university and government researchers concern about the public’s ability to access the benefits of genetic research. From an ethical point of view, should private companies profit merely by gaining an understanding of biological mechanisms? If the knowledge was paid for with public monies and conducted by university and government researchers, wouldn’t that knowledge then belong to the public? There is a valid argument that applying the research to real-world problems has inherent costs that someone has to pay for, however, when a company receives a patent it generally sets the price for the product of that patent with an eye toward profit gain and not just covering the application costs.

I positioned the DNA strand to appear as a river. The fisherman, representing private companies, is happily trolling the river in search of the next bountiful catch.

Man and Machine

Human evolution has roots dating back over 4 million years starting with Ardipithecus ramidus and continuing to present day Homo sapiens. Technology has a similar evolution, from simple machines, i.e. lever, wheel, and wedge, discovered by early humans to computers, invented just 70 years ago. As technology has evolved it has continually decreased in size, from the ENIAC, which took up 1,000 ft², to the current iMacs, which sit on desktops and are thousands of times more powerful than the ENIAC. The rate of technological change, considered exponential, leads some researchers to predict that in the next 20 years humans and technology will merge. Nanotech will allow machines as small as blood cells to patrol the body – fighting disease and healing injuries.

With that technological merger comes a host of concerns: Will we still be considered human? Will it be possible for someone to be controlled through these machines? Will the tech be susceptible to computer viruses and would it then be possible to injure, hurt, or kill someone remotely? Will there be a multi-tiered society based on one’s ability to purchase the technology or even afford the upgrades?

I have positioned the evolving hominids so they appear to be walking into and out of the field of vision to convey that evolution is constant. The electrical diagram appears distorted on the left side and resolves as it moves to the right to show the development of technology. The electrical diagram is positioned so Homo habilis is beginning to walk into it and Homo sapiens has merged with it.

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