Wednesday, 21 May 2014

OUGD505: End of Module Self Evaluation

1. What skills have you developed through this module and how effectively do you think you have applied them?

Throughout this module, I have experienced a range of new skills. I have gained a better understanding of working systematically with grids and layouts. Although I have felt slightly behind others at times, I am aware that this is due to my topic choice. I decided to research into braille for Studio Brief 1 and Studio Brief 2. I wanted to explore a new field of language which many people took for granted. I quickly realised how much I needed to learn in order to produce a product which was correct and beneficial. During this module, I have been patient and persistent in attempting to learn and reproduce my own braille. I have also enjoyed learning new skills during the smaller tasks such as Jackson Rising and Graham's typography sessions. I intent to keep applying these to my future projects.

2. What approaches to/methods of design production have you developed and how have they informed your design development process?

In this module, I have tried to move away from the digital aspect of graphic design. Studio Brief 1 and 2 gave me the freedom to choose any topic of my choice. By choosing to work with braille, I was able to take a more hands-on approach. Although I have become more appreciative of digital designing and all of the possibilities, it was refreshing to create something hand. Again, with Studio Brief 3, I thought of ways I could produce the poster which avoided relying purely on digital resources. I enjoyed looking for found objects (a feather) to photograph, scan and manipulate as this is an approach I had not tried in ages. I have definitely become more patient but also experimental with my work. I want to continue exploring new fields of design and steer away from pre-dominantly digital-based outcomes. There is something really satisfying about designing and making something entirely on your own without the dependency of technology.

3. What strengths can you identify in your work and how have/will you capitalise on these?

I have definitely become more careful with my work. The outcomes I have produced this year have been produced in their most appropriate formats. I also feel asthough my work is starting to look more professional through the application of my acquired skills throughout the past two years. My confidence has grown with the improvement of my own work. I have pushed myself to work in new design areas and the results have been really positive. In future, I want to keep finding new work methods so I am never staying in my comfort zone.

4. What weaknesses can you identify in your work and how will you address these in the future?

As I often tend to doubt my ideas, I sometimes find myself alternating between a selection as opposed to committing to one. This comes from the doubt of my ideas not being good enough and feeling as though I could do something better – more creative or more relevant for example. In the future, I need to stop holding back on one idea just incase something better will come. Instead I need to stick with one idea and produce it to the best possible outcome. This will have a positive impact on my time management. It will also push me to think of why I feel the idea wasn't good enough in the first place. I also need to ensure I am sharing my ideas with as many people as I can in order to get a diverse and large range of feedback.

5. Identify five things that you will do differently next time and what do you expect to gain from doing these?

1. Source more primary research. This is definitely something I need to work on as it is the best way to inform a project and justify certain design choices. This is something I wish I had done more of throughout the module.

2. Commit to one idea and produce it to the best possible outcome that I can as opposed to working on multiple ideas and choosing one at the last minute due to panic. This would save me a lot of time and give me a clearer set of aims and intentions.

3. Stop comparing my work to others. I can't help but always put my ideas against other people's and question if I have made the wrong decisions. During this module in particular, I found that I produced a much smaller quantity of final outcomes. However, working with braille was extremely time-consuming as it was almost like learning another language – and then making it look good too. This meant that the idea was more important, not the quantity of work. I often find it hard to reassure myself of things like that.

4. Visit more places externally to LCA. I want to make the most of Leeds in my final year because I know it has a lot to offer. I have been safe with my projects this year due to the large quantity of work at a time. However, once I am writing my own briefs, I want to ensure I am engaging and networking with new people as much as possible. Not just in Leeds, but all over the world.

5. Be more competitive.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

OUGD505: Studio Brief 2 Final Boards

OUGD505: Studio Brief 1 Final Boards

OUGD505: Final Bralle Greetings Cards

I created eight braille cards in total. Each card was hand-crafted with a large-scale braille message. The final cards come in a variety of colours. The colours have mainly been used to give the cards a more diverse element, but they also loosely relate to their individual messages. I wanted to keep the braille as consistent and clear as possible across the range of cards. In order to do this the braille was created using the same hole-punch method throughout. 

The purpose of these greetings cards was to create something which set an example for others. For this project my key focus was to design something which other people could learn from and design themselves. By creating braille messages, alongside the braille research publication, I have even started beginning to learn a few of the braille alphabet by memory.

This project has been a great experience for me. Although I wish I had allowed myself more time to produce a larger body of work, I was pleased with these braille greetings cards. If I were to carry out this project again, I would create an identity for a company specialising in braille gifts and merchandise. It would have been great to try experimenting with braille logos, but I sadly didn't have enough time. 

This project has been successful in creating something hand-made and unique. I would have ideally proposed the set of greetings cards as a box set to be given out at different stages of a person's life. The cards would either be ordered online, or hand-crafted by people who felt they wanted to attempt their own personal message. 

In general, I have learnt a lot from this project. I do not feel it was one of my best efforts and this was reflected in the quantity of work. However, it has been one of the most successful in exploring new skills. I never thought I would begin to learn braille so quickly. Creating these cards and the research gone into the concept has given me a great deal more awareness of how many things we take for granted. There are many products and experiences which could be reconsidered for partially impaired people to appreciate, yet nobody seems to have addressed these. 

Designing for a new audience has been a great experience and it is something I would like to develop further in the future.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Studio Brief 2: Braille Greeting Cards

For the development of my Braille greetings cards, I wanted to go with a minimal approach. I began thinking about the best way to combine the message for people who could see, and those who couldn't. I considered placing the text at a large scale, overlapping with the braille as shown below. Although I liked some of the combination on-screen, I had a feeling it would not have worked so effectively once the braille had been embossed. For this reason, I also experimented with using the braille on its own to see how effective the outcome was.

Experimenting with opacities with and without text translations. The green braille dot experiments were taken directly from my Studio Brief one braille publication. At this point in time the colour was not used for any particular reason. 

I wanted the braille dots to be as defined as possible. I thought about a range of ways I could achieve this. I considered using nuts or lentils as they were the right width and would be easy to glue to the paper. However I knew this would not be practical over time as the food would eventually rot or disintegrate.

It was recommended to me that I tried sourcing some raised rounded stickers to achieve the braille effect. I searched in all of the craft shops I could think of including a visit to the large Hobbycraft but was sadly unsuccessful. Something I did come across was a packet of stick on eyes. These happened to be the perfect height of what I was looking for. Their raised dome effect would have worked as great defined braille effect.

I bought a packet of the stick on eyes as experimentation. This also meant I could see how the eyes worked as braille. I thought using the eyes as braille could be appropriate to the purpose of these cards - partially impaired people see through the feel of the braille.. in this case they touch the eyes to see the message. I was reluctant to follow through with this idea however, as I was aware it could have been seen as distasteful and offensive. I wanted these cards to appeal to a broad audience and set a good example, therefore I thought the stick on eyes were slightly risky. After running the idea past a few people, it was agreed that although the concept was clever and interesting, it may be taken the wrong way in a real-life situation.

As another alternative experiment, I tried painting the stick on eyes to see how effective this was. This was unsuccessful due to the paint not drying over the plastic eyes. I also tried painting over the lentils, but they looked jagged and uneven so I was steered away from that idea too.

Eventually, I decided to follow on from my previous methods used in my braille publication. I cut the braille dots out of watercolour paper using a hole punch. Each braille dot was then placed individually onto the front each card. I did this by referring to my own research publication. It was a really easy way to ensure the letters, spacing and punctuation were all correct. The braille dots were glued onto the front of the cards using a strong super glue.

I used the hole punch as a paperweight to keep the cards securely in place.

When each card was finished it was folded and left to dry.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Studio Brief 1: Braille Book Development

Following on from the final crit, I wanted to think about the various ways I could emboss the braille in my publication. As I did not have time to build individual embossing plates for each of the pages using the laser cutter, I needed to think of a way to do this manually. 

I thought I may be able to create the braille effect if it were printed onto thick stock such as card and then pushed through using a lightbox and small circular stencil. Again, due to time issues, I had to create my own make-shif light box at home. In order for this to work I needed a torch, plastic container, stencil and thin object to apply the pressure with - in this case, the end of a paintbrush. 

When I had designed the braille pages, I had defined the raised dots through a full opacity, and lowered the unused dots to 25% opacity. This made things a lot easier when identifying which braille dots needed to be raised. This was not the most ideal method to get the braille effect, but I was surprised by the result. As I had printed the design onto a thick card, it was easy to apply pressure without tearing the card easily. However it was difficult to maintain a consistent amount of pressure across the whole four pages of braille. This meant that some dots were more defined than others. As the dots were then inconsistent, I knew I wanted to find another way to achieve the raised dots.

Below are a couple of images of the dots after they had been raised. These experiments were carried out on black and white versions of the publication for cost reasons. 

After returning to these pages the next day, I discovered that the printed ink from the raised dots had rubbed off onto the pages facing them. The result looked smudged and untidy, although the pages were poorly produced. Although these smudges were reasonably easy to remove with an eraser, I was aware the same issue would have happened every time the publication was closed for a period of time. 

During a discussion with Simon, I explained the issues I was having with the braille dots to see what he could recommend. He mentioned that one of the First Year's had produced something similar recently where they had applied a matte laminate finish to the pages. He suggested that this could be a good way to prevent the pages from smudging and it would also protect the braille from fading over time.

Simon also liked the way the inverted braille looked on the reverse of the card. He suggested maybe not including the printed dots at all and experimenting with just raising the dots to see what the outcome would look like. This was useful as I hadn't been sure about the inverted braille. My first thoughts were that it looks slightly untidy and home made (although it was).

After the discussion with Simon, it was really just a case of my making a few important decisions:
- What aesthetic did I want to go for? - handmade or professional?
- Would the braille work better as embossing alone or did it need to be printed as well for extra clarity?
- How was I going to ensure that the braille was not damaged or flattened over time?
- Was embossing the best method, or was there a more appropriate approach which would support my intentions better.

As my target audience for this project was specifically people who could see, learning how to communicate with partially impaired people who could only see through reading braille, I wanted to keep the publication as visually engaging as possible. This cancelled out the idea of simply embossing with no printed version of the dots. I really wanted to shine a new light on braille, raising awareness for the minimal elegance of it visually as well as its highly intelligent power of communication.

My next idea was to experiment with sticking raised objects onto the card. For the first experiment, I used a selection of three different stock choices: coloured paper, watercolour paper, and black card. I placed these all onto the same page so I was able to compare them against one another once stuck down to the card. I was hoping that the coloured paper would be effective enough because I would then be able to use a variety of colours as I had done when I designed the publication. I created the dots using a hole punch as this was almost the exact size dots I was working with.

Once all the dots were in place, I took the page to the library where I was able to laminate it myself (saving money).  I asked for advice about the best settings and how to use the laser cutter to give myself the most chance of the emboss effect working. They recommended putting the heat up to the highest setting and experimenting with the laminator as usual. 

The results were more successful than I had expected. Although the braille was slightly raised, I wasn't completely satisfied. When the card was put through the laminator, the raised dots were squashed slightly, leaving an imprint/ very slight embossed effect on the reverse of the page. I wondered if this would work more effectively on a thicker stock.

In order to get a better idea of the most effective stock choice, I arranged four separate braille experiments into the laminating pouch: one with coloured paper on a single sheet of card, braille on two sheets of card and the same on two samples of watercolour paper - the thickest stock I could find that would successfully go through the laminating machine. 

The outcomes were all reasonably similar. The braille was successful raised in each variation, however the most effective was the double-layered watercolour paper with the coloured paper dots.

After getting the opinion of a few of my peers, I went ahead with the idea of printing my whole publication onto watercolour paper. I was already intending to manually stick my pages back to back with one another because of my original method of producing the braille. I also made a few changes to my publication such as removing the underlining of the page headings as this just seemed to clutter the pages. I also reduced the size of the page numbers and changed them to the same American Typewriter font to keep it consistent with the rest of the publication texts. This gave the publication a more simplistic outcome and allowed for more attention and focus on the braille itself.

In order to create the braille dots, I carried out the same process of cutting the coloured paper out using a hole punch. I chose to do a range of colours: red, orange and yellow. This was to make the publication more visual engaging, create a bit of variety, but also due to what the colours meant in psychological terms. 

The purpose of using this publication was for people who could see, to learn the basics of braille and then use it to communicate with their loved ones who used this as their only method of communication. For this reason, I chose to use warm colours. In psychological terms, red is used to communicate love and passion. Orange represents creativity and imagination. And finally yellow symbolises happiness and good intention. This process is relevant to the process of learning and producing the braille. It would take passion to want to learn it, creativity to go about making actually it, resulting in making someone else happy.  

I printed the braille alphabet, numbers and punctuation pages out without the dots. During my development I decided it was no necessary to include the dots of each cell which weren't to be used, and simply focus on the ones which should. This in theory would help learners to get a better visual idea of how the braille would look once completed. 

Using prit-stick glue and tweezers, I was able to position the braille in place exactly where I wanted. This was a very time-consuming process, but it gave me the chance to actually begin to learn a bit of braille myself. The trickiest part of this process was the alignment of the braille. As I could not draw on these final pages, I had to line each individual letter up with the previous ones using a ruler. This meant that some of the braille cells were not entirely accurate, but I got them as close as I could. I wanted to ensure each letter was as clear as possible. 

Once I got into the process, the pages really started to come together.

Below: With certain letters (particularly the first ones in each row) I had to place all 6 braille dots down to get a better idea of alignment. Doing this made it much easier to visualise where each dot I needed should go. As I had no form of template other than on-screen reference at this point, this was a useful alternative and worked effectively.

Once all of the braille was securely in place, I needed to stick the pages together and laminate them as soon as possible before the glue became less sticky and there was risk of the dots falling off. 

The big bonus of the lamination was the guaranteed secureness of the braille for a considerably long period of time. As the braille was to be felt time and time again, it needed to be robust and secure. I thought this was an ideal solution, although it would have been great to have a chance experimenting with a proper embossing process - this is something I would definitely try if I were to do the project again.

In order to keep the presentation as consistent as possible, I decided it would be best to laminate the whole publication. The only downside of this was its heavy feel and it was not instantly understandable why the book was laminated until discovering the braille pages. These are all elements I have taken into account for future production methods. Considering this was my first time ever trying something like this, I was really pleased with the result.