One of the Brexit faces

Graphic Design, Inspiration

I am in love with Noma Bar’s work and I have showcased some of his illustrations before on the blog here. He is using very cleverly the negative space and symbols to bring forward the intended message. Once again he did it with a current topic of discussion, the Brexit, through a cover for the British daily newspaper “The Guardian”.

Cover by Noma Bar for The guardian publication

Cover by Noma Bar for “The Guardian” publication

This seems to express the disappointment for Great Britain leaving the European Union. First you see that the eye is shaped as a tear falling on what it seems to be the cheek of the British people, created out of the negative space of the EU flag. Then there are the curves of the face drawn in such way as to give the impression of an open mouth in a shout, which can be a symbol of the voices that voted to remain in the EU or the desolation felt after the results. With minimum elements, he manages to create a very powerful effect, don’t you think?

Song of the Sea, the most magical animated film

Graphic Design, Inspiration

Song of the Sea is a unique animation, directed by Tomm Moore and nominated for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year to the Academy Awards 2014. It wins you over through stunning visuals in a way that at the end of the movie, even if you liked the plot or not, you can’t feel anything else than mesmerised by the amazing artwork with deep roots in the Irish mythology and folklore.

Animation style

A nice surprise is that Song of the Sea is a traditional animation made up of hand-drawn illustrations. It strikes by its simplicity of execution with attention to symmetry that flows from natural lines and geometric patterns. As Tomm Moore states in an interview for Vox:

2-D for me just has a timelessness. It doesn’t age the same way that CG does.

Character design

The mythological creatures are as beautifully drawn as the backgrounds. An array of emotions is captured by geometric designs in clean lines. The characters are all built to showcase the legend of the selkies, that are living in the sea as seals but also on land as humans, similar to the mermaids. How not to be fascinated by eccentric and quirky characters that reveal stories of their own and bring emotions in flasks?

Colours

The palette of colours is wide, from pastels to vivid hues of blue and green to paint the sea. It is present the warm feeling of watercolours that draws you more into the story, making it feel “a bit mysterious” like Tomm Moore puts it, ending by saying that “it has a dreamlike feeling”. Dreamlike it is also the genius use of light that creates an even more magical, mesmerising atmosphere. All nicely embellished by the patterns on rocks and tree barks and the textures used on surfaces.

If you’re still not fully convinced, here’s what Tomm Moore himself says about his lovely animated film:

open yourself up to a gentler, modern fairy tale, to see something that’s more organic and handmade and full of heart and not so much of a commercial endeavour

Full of magic and emotion, this tale is visually incredible! Must watch if you haven’t already and please let me know your impressions!

Visual Design in Action by Ladislav Sutnar

Graphic Design, Resources

Ladislav Sutnar, born in 1897 in Czechoslovakia, is called by some the father of information design, which is a discipline of graphic design.

Following his country occupation by the Nazi in 1939, he emigrated in New York where his contribution to American graphic design brought him an AIGA medal in 1995, almost 20 years after his death.

He was the one adding the parentheses around the American telephone area code numbers when they were first introduced by Bell Telephone Co. and as such, most of his work focused on communicating information by making it clear and accessible to the users.

Without efficient typography, the jet plane pilot cannot read his instrument panel fast enough to survive.

With the same objective…

A designer’s aim is always to intensify comprehension.

While he was the art director of F.W. Dodge’s Sweet’s Catalog Service, he wrote two books together with Knud Lönberg-Holmin on the information flow in industrial catalogs: “Catalog design” (1944) and “Catalog design progress” (1950).

He is though best known for the book “Visual design in action” published in 1961 and considered an iconic book of the mid-century, really informative and still relevant today. It reveals Sutnar’s directions on how to use colours, typography, scale and repetition based on his approach to graphic design:

resolution of the polarities of function versus form, utility versus beauty, and rational versus irrational

And now it can be yours 😉 as Designers & Books started a campaign on Kickstarter for reprinting this wonderful book, which has been successfully funded a week after the launch. Therefore, if you make your pledge of $62 by June 4th, a facsimile edition will arrive at your door this October, yay!

How do you feel about this project? Excited about the opportunity of having your very own “Visual design in action” by Ladislav Sutnar on your bookshelf?

Chineasy: The new way to read Chinese

Graphic Design, Inspiration

Developed by ShaoLan Hsueh and illustrated by Noma Bar, Chineasy is a visual-based learning system that teaches Chinease in a non-painful way and even more, quite creatively!

ShaoLan created a system of building blocks, compounds and phrases where the building blocks are basic characters and the compounds their derivates while phrases are formed by putting them together, side by side. Each building block is represented by a simple illustration that makes it easy to remember and the same illustration is adjusted in a way that makes sense to bring to life a compound. Below you can find some examples of the concept and also of the brilliant graphics that enhance the learning of one of the most difficult languages in the world.

I have learned about Chineasy last year at Design Museum in London where it was part of a 6-month exhibition following the nomination received for the Best Design of the Year.

It all started one year earlier in February when ShaoLan Hsueh gave a 6-minute TED talk to prove that even though the Chinese language seems to be to an outsider “as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China”, you can still “learn to read Chinese with ease”!

She then launched on July 23rd a project on Kickstarter that got funded in 10 days for £75.000, reaching 200% of the target in day 16 and raising in the end £197,630 from the contributions of 5,475 people that believed in this great idea. That seems like a successful campaign! 🙂

The Chineasy products consist of the Chineasy Book (physical and ebook), 60 Flashcards and 100 Postcards that can be bought from various online locations including Amazon. A second book will be released in Chinese New Year 2016 and I am sure that ShaoLan will come with many other surprises in the future given the fans that Chineasy gained during the time.

Have a look on the Chineasy Facebook page as it is daily updated with quizzes and new phrases, building a strong community of learners. You’ll be welcomed if you’d like to give it a try and you might catch up in no time!

As learning and visual communication are my main interests at the moment, I could not be anything but deeply fond of this project that makes so obvious the role of visual communication in the learning process.

What is your opinion: do you find this a strong example of innovative design?

Clever works by Noma Bar

Graphic Design, Inspiration

Born in Israel, Noma Bar is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer that studied graphic design and typography at the Jerusalem Academy of Art & Design. He moved to London in 2001 and he has exhibited worldwide, winning various design awards.

His graphics are very flat and constructed from geometric shapes with bold colours, conveying powerful messages through exquisite simplicity or as he states:

“maximum communication with minimum elements”

Cleverly using the negative space, his work is always thought provoking. You need to look at his graphics more than once because each of them is telling a story usually by hiding an image into another image. He talked about this in December last year at The Culture Show – France 24.

“I’m trying to create a story, I’m taking the viewer from one point and he evolves with my work and people see things, they change their mind, they go back, they discover more, there is a mini-journey, a mini-script.”

Therefore, his work is all about exploration and discovery, enticing to looking closer and searching for clues and meaning.

“I’m trying to find the spark, when something is there and it’s not there”

Very impressive is his project entitled Cut the conflict for which he engaged the social community to contribute with materials from countries living in conflict. These have been gathered by the artist and brought together in works that embody both war and peace, finding with this concept a way to make them live together peacefully.

One other project I am absolutely in love with is Chineasy by ShaoLan where he contributed as illustrator. This is a project meant to teach Chinese characters in a fun and easy way through simple illustrations that Noma Bar created with his brilliant clarity.

He is also the author of two books: Guess Who? The Many Faces of Noma Bar and Negative Space, the first one presenting witty caricatures of celebrities, political figures and cultural personalities and the other the dualism between negative and positive space, a dominant in the artist’s work.

See more of Noma Bar’s work on his Facebook page where he regularly uploads new graphics to feed your mind and soul. And let me know what you think about it, aren’t you wondering how does he do it?! 🙂

roundicons_animals

Icon collections available online

Graphic Design, Resources

There are great collections of icons over the internet, free or premium, for web or printing purposes. I am sharing here my favourites, as a place to go to for inspiration in your designs or for download to use in your personal or commercial projects. Either way, I believe you are going to find them useful and there are pretty good chances to get in love with some of them as well 😉

The Noun Project

A very cool website looking to build a visual language of icons anybody can understand. They come in two styles, line & solid, and they can be created by anyone with the condition to follow certain guidelines in order to be approved for publication.

One of the founders, Edward Boatman, has also taught a free class on Skillshare which I find perfect if you are a very beginner in iconography and/or Adobe Illustrator. The project assignment is to create a set of symbols that tells the story of your day. Once completed, you are encouraged to upload them on the website which is exactly what I did 😀 and I am looking forward to expanding my collection!

Round Icons

I am completely hooked up by their flat round icons. They are sooo colourful and the animal collection, I just love it! The bee, the zebra, the elephant, the cow, the pig, the sheep, the owl (and I could go on and on 😯 ), just ADORABLE! (ain’t so?!)

roundicons

They also have an amazing collection of yoga poses. And a very nice one of space icons! Or if you need an icon with Burj Al Arab or the London Eye, you can get that as well!

Bottom line, there is no way to leave the website without finding some pixel goodness, as on their count, you are able to dig into no less than 74.520 of them!

Icon Finder

This is probably the largest collection online with more than 450.000 icons. Search for anything and there are pretty good chances that you may find it 😀 except for “anything”, tried this one 😆 Also a wide range of styles including pixel, 3D and photorealistic.

iconfinder

Flat Icon

Only flat icons, mostly useful in web design. What sets them apart is that they have a generator incorporated that helps you convert icons into font icons so it’s worth checking it for your next project!

flaticon

Icons Mind

Targeting mobile applications, you can find here vector icons with two different styles: line icons for the new iOS and solid icons for Android.

iconsmind

Hope this is some valuable information to you, please share if you are using any other awesome icon packs!

picture_this_points_and_curves_shapes

Picture This by Molly Bang

Graphic Design, Resources

Molly Bang shows us in a wonderful visual book how emotions can be very well represented only by abstract shapes with a series of principles in mind.

The key of how emotions are brought on the canvas stays in the associations of colours, shapes and placement of the elements forming a picture with our own experiences from the day to day life. Therefore, this kind of associations determines our emotional response to a picture.

I have gathered all the principles and represented them by shapes as showed in the book not to get away from the point made by Molly Bang. All these principles work together, they impact one another and are also linked to the context and content.

Gravity
  1. Horizontal shapes give us a sense of stability, even more if they are wide & flat (grounded)
  2. Vertical shapes are more exciting and inspire energy (skyscrapers)
  3. Diagonal shapes are very dynamic and signal motion by expressing objects moving from one state to another and tension due to balance challenge
  4. An object placed on the upper half of the picture looks like it’s floating which makes you think of happiness, spirituality, freedom.
  5. An object placed on the bottom half of the picture looks heavier and more constrained

picture this gravity

Frame

  1. If you put an object in the center of the page, then it will be the greatest point of attraction. To be avoided when the picture is meant to be explored.
  2. When there is no object on the centre of the page and even more, when there are objects crossing over the page, then the picture takes a more dynamic form.

picture this frame

Light and Dark

White/ light backgrounds feel safer than black/ dark backgrounds. White signifies brightness & hope and is used to represent the day while black signifies the unknown & fears and is ideal for showcasing night moments or twilight or bad weather like a storm.

picture this light and dark

Points and curves

Pointy shapes look threatening to us while curved shapes look like they embrace and protect us giving a sense of security.

picture this points and curves

Size

The larger an object in the picture, the strongest it feels.

picture this size

Colour associations

We associate the same or similar colours seen within a picture frame much strongly than we associate shapes.

picture this colour

Repetition & confusion

We prefer repetition over confusion as the first gives us a sense of stability while the latter is frightening for most of us. In the same time, too much repetition is monotonous so either extreme is not preferable.

picture this repetition and confusion

Contrasts

We notice a contrast. This can be between shapes, sizes, colours, placement or any combination of these elements.

picture this contrast

Space

  1. If an object is separated by an empty space from a group of objects, it will look alone, free or vulnerable.
  2. The shapes may imply movement but also may the space between them.
  3. Overlapping two or more objects will blend them together.
  4. A sense of depth can be created by keeping a regular geometric progression rather than an arithmetic one in the space between the objects i.e. if space is 1/2 smaller than the preceding one rather than a fixed amount.
  5. Space implies time, therefore in a situation of danger it will be more tension between two objects farther away than closer as you have the time to become aware of what is about to happen. It’s true that very little space can create the feeling of tension as well.

picture this space

The book also has, in the end, some exercises that invite you to play around with shapes and colours and apply these principles in order to tell a story and communicate a feeling or mood. For example, situations that represent danger like a group of birds attacking a victim or a person trapped in a cage or illustrations of emotions expressed in a poem, painting or song.

I love it that there are so many ways of exploration and the recommended limitation to 3 colours plus white and the usage of sole circles, rectangles and triangles, only make it more interesting.

I gave it a try and exposed myself in the playground area, so you can check mine here. And I am super curious to see yours so please do not hold back from sharing your experiments! 🙂