Archive for the ‘ Time Management ’ Category

Self Evaluation (ECP&E)

Abstract

This EMP investigates the ability of design to embody identity and culture, of Czech national identity and graphic style in particular. The vehicle for this brief is the Prague 2020 Olympics. The aim is to show how identity design can retain the soul of the place it represents (Prague in this case) while being able to translate to an international audience, without falling prey to monoculture. The intended audience is therefore two-fold – the national audience of Prague and the Czech Republic where the Games would take place, and the international audience which inevitably comes with an event like the Olympics. The Prague 2020 Olympics is approached as a real event, to simulate a live brief atmosphere. The final outcomes of this brief is a body of work appropriate to the subject: an identity design accompanied by pictograms, torch designs and medal designs.

Self Reflection

With every brief there are successes and pitfalls, and no matter how good a project is there is always more that could be done or changed. I realize that a few bumps and scrapes along the way are no exception, but it does seem that this project was limping on one leg from the start upon reflecting on my time planning calendar (from the events in January for example). It is completely normal to work on multiple projects at once, at BA, MA and industry level, but there are certain events that are beyond control. Despite January complications, I think I managed to stay on track in the early stages of the unit. During the learning agreement phase I believe I was even slightly ahead of others in my tutorial group with minimal changes required to my learning agreement. My subject and focus were fleshed out clearly and concisely. I think this is thanks to the early idea generation over Christmas break. I had already brainstormed various subjects for my EMP, and pinned down the one which ticked all the boxes.

The ominous phrases ‘sustained focus’ and ‘significant body of work’ from the unit brief loomed over my head. I had discarded all other ideas because I needed to find something I was passionate about. Something that would stir enough enthusiasm and motivation to sustain me (sustain referring to the breadth of subject appropriate to an EMP) and keep me focused (focus providing depth and direction) over the long weeks of the project. The Prague 2020 Olympics brief could most definitely lead to a ‘significant body of work’ because design for the Olympics is an immense undertaking which is usually tackled in teams over many months. In terms of final pieces I wanted to prioritize on creating the identity and matching pictograms first, and then pick a few of the possible supporting design options (such as mascot design, stadium concept, torch design, medal design, promotional materials, advertising and so on).

The project also fulfils my own personal aims and objectives and is designed with my ‘career planning’ in mind. At the beginning of the year I set out the aims of improving my software skills in Illustrator and my overall typography skills. The over arching aim for this year was to choose projects which would be portfolio-appropriate (esp. for MA study); projects I had never done before and which pushed me  out of my comfort zone. My EMP fulfils all these requirements and now sits as the highlight of my portfolio, the pinnacle of my accomplishments at university; which is what an EMP should be.  I also wanted my EMP to support my pursuit of MA study (which is reinforced by the nice link forged between my dissertation and the EMP and the transition it provides; my dissertation was ending as the EMP was beginning). The Czech orientation could potentially open doors in the future of perhaps working in the Czech design industry. Lastly, the EMP subject and focus is a particularly successful choice because it resonates with me on a personal level. I am a Czech who has lived abroad all her life, so in theory I could actually be the best person for the job because I have a foot in each camp – international and national (which is the intended audience).

The research methodologies for this project consist of a mix of primary and secondary research. The ‘type’ of project my EMP is can be defined as: critiquing existing designs and producing alternatives. The most important existing design I looked at, was the main case study of the Prague 2016 Olympics Applicant City identity. This is the case study that started it all because the problem I identified was the general lack of success of the logo (this view is reinforced by a TYPO magazine article I analyze in my EMP publication). The case study came across as flat, generic, uncreative and failed to capture the spirit of Prague or even a sense of place. This became even more evident when the identity was viewed amongst the supporting case studies, all the other 2016 Olympic Candidate and Applicant City logos. Already a pattern is emerging in methodology; picture the process in concentric circles, with the EMP Prague 2020 identity as the centremost circle. Gradually you travel outwards following the natural transition from the focal point (which gives it depth) to the broader subjects the EMP deals with (which give it breadth). The next concentric movement outwards leads to investigating the Olympic Games in general (their history, the modern games, the Olympic Rings Logo, Olympic symbols, and Olympic Logos of various cities through the years). This stage was important not only as background information for the project, but it was directly relevant to the final designs. I intentionally wanted to keep everything as politically correct as possible and work to the set constraints of the Olympic design rules to simulate the nature of a live brief. The Olympics in and of themselves raised social, cultural and political issues. As exemplified by the Olympic Rings logo case study, any bias, prejudice or favouritism between countries had to be avoided at all costs because it is such an international event with altruistic aims of peace, and bringing out the best in man, at its heart. Historically the Olympics are renowned for their white flag policy of neutrality even during wartime. The Olympics as an event set up one half of the intended audience my final designs had to be aimed towards: the international community. This brings me to the second half of the intended audience: which is Prague and the Czech nation. The designs need to communicate clearly to both audiences, not lost in translation, in order to be considered successful. The Czech element brings the EMP back to its overarching theme – exploring Czech national identity as depicted through art, history, design, culture etc. The concept of identity and the importance of culture triggered yet another concentric movement outward to the theoretical framework which the entire project sits inside of – semiotics (esp. symbols), identity design, and design vs. monoculture.

I think that though I created a solid base of research methodologies, as outlined above, to build the EMP upon, all the ‘concentric circle’ areas could have been explored a lot further. I’d say the most thorough research section is on the Olympics (because it was supported to an extent by the background research I had done for my dissertation). This is where the brunt of the various pitfalls begins to show due to the complications in January (which I already mentioned and which are visualized on my time plan). A lot of time was either lost (travel issues/illness) or simply had to be directed to my more immediate priorities (RCA application closely followed by the dissertation). To be quite critical of myself, I would say the experiment generation phase is probably the Achilles heel of the entire project. I think there were quite a few ‘loose ends’ (which I discuss later) which could have been pushed a lot further and would have boosted the overall quality of the EMP. Otherwise the visualization, development, synthesis and finalization came off better than I expected (due to the complications I was working with; explained later). I think I quite thoroughly evidence the changes and progress of all the designs.

I had some primary research from photos I had taken on recent trips to Prague. What would have been ideal given more time, is if I could have gone for a week to Prague to solely focus on research for this project. I could make a plan in advance of places to go and people to meet (such as individuals on the Prague Olympic Committee and designers/agencies behind famous main Czech identity designs). First hand research could be applied towards the end of the project as well, if I created a reliable survey to judge the effectiveness of the identity on a national (Czech) and international level. I did manage get outside feedback throughout the project which could be considered national and international, but on a very small scale. This feedback had an inherent bias because it was mostly from tutors, friends, acquaintances and family members; just a handful of people, which meant it was a tiny sample group in statistical terms. Speaking of statistics, surveys and primary research, I chose Jenny South’s FMP on the North-South Divide in the UK for ‘peer evaluation’. Her project  was the only one with significant relevance to my EMP (I even consulted the tutors to see if perhaps they knew of a second person I could peer evaluate and no one else came to mind). She posted online surveys and even travelled to various cities in the North and South to determine the basis for the current North-South Divide. She got people to draw a line on a map of the UK where they thought the divide was. She took down other details such as where they were from and where their parents were from to see if there was any correlation between the data. This part of her presentation really made an impression on me and I thought it added a lot to her project. Unfortunately for my project, trying to do something similar would be rather difficult due to the sheer scale involved for trying to survey an entire country (the Czech Republic) as well as the world (since the Olympics are international). I could try it on a smaller scale, along the lines of Jenny’s 100-200 sample size to see if the results bear any fruit.

There was a clear contrast between her methodologies and mine, though I don’t think there is an exact science to doing these things. Her project started very broad (with fabric, which lead to the metaphor of social fabric) and gradually narrowed down through experimentation. I started with both a clear focus as well as a broad subject; initially I concentrated on the focus Prague 2020 Olympics and slowly made my way outwards – refer to the concentric circles metaphor again for this. At one point I even considered dropping the Prague 2020 Olympics direction altogether but it unwaveringly remained the best vessel for my EMP.

Jenny also considered creating a typeface which would contrast the social fabric of the country, which is surprisingly similar to my initial ambition to create a ‘Prague typeface’; around the metaphor of ‘the face of Prague’ based on findings in my primary research. My typography idea was something which could have, once again, been taken much further given more time. I did create the type for the logo and now that the style and nuances are established, I think it could definitely be developed into a full typeface.

There were a few more loose ends. Primarily the mascot design and Olympic stadium design which were trumped by the medal and torch design and promotional materials on the priority list. The mascot went through three reincarnations and was still not working well with the visual style of the identity and pictograms. I think the concept design of the Olympic Stadium turned out well given the time I allotted for it. But to realize the design at a professional level I would need to collaborate with an architect because this reaches far outside my area of expertise. I also came across a few ideas of how I could branch the project out into other avenues in the future: designing Olympic team uniforms (could collaborate with a fashion/costume person on this) and making the Olympics more ‘green’ and eco friendly.  The ultimate decisions regarding the fate of all of these points of potential came down to my priority list and time availability. Often I had to make hard decisions quite quickly to keep the project moving forward.

For my EMP I wanted to avoid the soulless design of the Prague 2016 Applicant City and really capture the essence of Prague. The logo should be a symbol devoid of text, which can stand on its own, and should have a story behind it which opens the book to the even bigger story of the city of Prague. The concept and theme behind my entire project came out on the other end of a long line of chain reactions based on research, sketches and experiments. This chain happened in this order: the Sokol/Falcon Movement, Libuse Legend, Stone Faces of Prague (primary research), the Astronomical Clock, The National Theatre, the Princess with the Golden Star, and Orion Chocolate Company. Please refer to the EMP publication for further details and thorough explanation.  I chose the concept of ‘reaching for the stars’ based on all the cross references of the star as a symbol in the chain reaction.

The final logo, I believe, is the concept in its purest form using the bare minimum of marks to communicate what it needs to. It is a ‘smart’ design like that which I admired in the Sochi case study because it can be read in different ways. On the most obvious level it is a star, the symbol I chose to carry the concept to the viewer. If you look closer you realize the star is made up of five figures (each depicted by raised arms and a head) who can be interpreted as ‘reaching up’ (for the stars of course), hugging together, or even raising their arms in victory as if they just finished a race. And lastly the shapes of the figures serve as visual arrows, directing the eye towards the centre of the star from whichever direction the viewer approaches the design; thereby communicating togetherness, coming together, oneness which are all big elements of the Olympics. Due to my dissertation I learned a great deal about the Olympic Rings logo and why it is the way it is. It was because of this that I made the informed decision to use the traditional Olympic colours (used on the Olympic Rings) in my logo. This would transfer the properties of those colours, as used in the Olympic Rings, to my logo (allowing all countries to associate with the logo based on the colours relevant to their flags). I felt that this was an important decision in catering for the international audience, rather than making the colours only relevant to Prague or the Czech Republic and thereby alienating the international community to an extent. All of these things positively reinforce the message I set out to communicate and add to the meaning of the logo rather than detract from it. That is why I believe my solution is a successful one, especially when seen within the context of all the other Olympic Logos as well Czech contemporaries (refer to EMP publication for more).

Throughout the project I took into consideration advice given to me during tutorials as well as by fellow designers. I felt that last year I was too unsure of myself and relied too heavily on the opinions of others because I felt too inexperienced. In hindsight I think that I have made vast improvements in this area throughout the final year though by no means have I forgotten the value in getting a second opinion, or of constructive criticism.

Time management has always been an issue for me. The second most problematic part of the project (besides the rough start in January) was created by the big gap of time I missed on the unit at the end of March (see time planner calendar and blog for more details). I was not happy with how things worked out at this rather important time in the unit but I believed I could make up a lot of ground over Easter. Once again I started with the best intentions but a snowball effect ensued. That is why during the second week of Easter I spoke to the course leader and was able to get a week extension, because I knew already at this point I was too behind to recover lost ground. Good intentions can only get you so far before reality sets in. Given the extra time and tutorials which I had lost, I could have gotten a lot more from the unit but I recovered as well as I could from all the setbacks, informed my tutors appropriately throughout, and even managed to surprise myself in the end with the amount and quality of work I was able to produce (esp. in the final designs and the publication).

EMP Publication: Part 2

28th April

Today I called up DPI again, based on our initial conversation that I should give them a call the week before I need the prints done. I booked a time to meet them and give them the files between 10 and 11 next Tuesday the 4th of May. That Monday is actually a Bank Holiday so they are not open, but it won’t have an impact on the printing times, I will still get the prints on Thursday evening. I asked how the files should be set up and I was told simply the standard 3mm bleed and that it should be a PDf. I also found out that the A3 prints only take a day to do.

Here are the covers of the two books I have been putting together. This first book is THE PUBLICATION as required for the EMP. It documents the project from beginning to end and is meant to be something well designed, which sits nicely in a portfolio. This is the spread of the front and back cover.

And here we have the second, mini book I plan to produce. It will showcase only the final pieces and act as a sort of ‘proposal’ of my designs to the Olympic Committee for Prague 2020. The gold design on the cover is taken from my initial experiments into abstracting the shapes of the astronomical clock.

4th May

Over the weekend everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I lost some of my work, thank you computers. But, many people have had the same problem so I took the warning and have been periodically backing up my work. Since it’s so close to the deadline though, I did loose a sizeable chunk. On top of this I also came across the problem of facing pages vs. single pages since the bleeds are slightly different for each (3 sided vs. 4 sided). I found no solution to the problem on online forums about how printers prefer the files to be set up. Arguments were made for both options and everyone said that you simply need to talk to your printer. So yes this may seem like a rather basic mistake but it did not come up when I asked about specifications and file set up last Wednesday (28th). I haven’t actually gotten a book professionally bound and printed until now so I truly am new to the whole process. I’ve had all manner of other prints done, but just never a book. This wasn’t really covered on VisComm the way it is on BA Graphics. I emailed the printer about this issue with the sinking feeling that he wouldn’t get back to me until Tuesday morning, which proved to be the case. And first thing on Monday morning I had to make a tough decision, and simply call up the printer to let him know I couldn’t make the meeting because of all the issues. Now began the process of salvaging and finalizing as best I could.

7th May

In the end I simply had to abandon the idea of creating a mini book and made a series of A3 final design sheets instead. I sent these to the printer on Wednesday afternoon, pleading whether they could be ready for Thursday evening instead of Friday morning (as discussed on Tuesday when I had to call in to cancel). On Thursday morning I called in, first thing to check whether the A3 print files were fine, and I finally received a welcome break with the announcement that the prints were already done and ready for me to pick up! I think that since I had been in touch with the printer well in advance in preparation for this project, he went out of his way a bit to help me out of a tough patch. All in all to my over-stressed and sleep deprived self, this came across as an absolute miracle. Something finally went right!

Regarding the A3 prints:

“We will print on a 350gsm silk @£1 each and £8 setup.

You can have a matt laminate for an extra £1 each sheet.”

The final publication though, needed more salvaging and therefore more time. I went to speak to the course leader on Tuesday right after needing to cancel the appointment with the printer to basically update him on my situation and how to proceed. I managed to create a mock-up book (printed on nice quality paper on my home printer) and spiral bound in the library. At this stage I simply didn’t have time to get it printed and perfect bound as originally planned because of all the complications. Upon handing everything in I sent the PDF of the book to the printer anyway, thinking that it would be worth it for my portfolio and for ECP&E. My course leader made my day on Friday when he let me know that once the book was printed I can add it in anyway. The following week, when I went to pick up my A3 portfolio sheets (for ECP&E) I picked up the book as well.

EMP Publication: Part 1

This week I’ve really been feeling the pressure building for the EMP publication we are supposed to produce. Most people seem to either be using Blurb or binding the books on their own. Both of these options are a bit problematic for me because of the snowball effect of everything that has transpired lately. So I went back to my printing services list and actually began calling places up to make sure they do book binding (since that seems to be the main issue with local companies, that they don’t do binding). The printer at the Enterprise Pavilion will be conveniently closed around the time of our deadline so that doesn’t help. I picked up the phone and called up “dpi” and they absolutely made my day because they do everything I need, especially binding.

http://www.d-p-i.co.uk/

They do soft and perfect binding. My main concern was what deadline I have to set for myself for sending everything off for printing. I stressed that I needed everything done for Friday 7th of May and was told that as long as I give all the files to them at the beginning of that week, it’s fine, they will have plenty of time to get it done for Thursday evening. Which is great news! At the moment I don’t know yet the specifications of the publication, but I’m looking at A4 or under and I’m guessing 100-150 pages (possibly a second square book, also fits into A4, to showcase just the final designs. And of course A3 prints of the final designs (which I was told was £1 each). DPI also told me to just give them a call the week prior to when I need the printing done to go over any details and questions. So that’s the printing sorted!

MA Application & Portfolio

Upon returning from my trip to the Czech Republic for the documentary, an urgency to focus on my MA applications and portfolio took over. I wanted to send them off before the end of April and time was running out. I had lost a lot of time thanks to my week of being ill and then the necessary trip for the documentary. This previous week has been a testament to the warnings of my tutors of how long creating a good portfolio takes – it takes frustratingly forever.

I had to redesign my portfolio completely because LCC and Central Saint Martins essentially require a very different type of portfolio then the one I had sent to the RCA. The RCA portfolio dispensed with any commercial work and included more fine art type pieces. So for this new portfolio I had to revisit previous projects from this year and a few from the previous year on Fda Vis Comm and touch them up, before including them. One of the requirements of the ECP&E unit is to put together a printed out, A3 portfolio to be displayed in an A3 box for the final years shows.

On Monday the 5th of April I completed putting together the A3 portfolio, it was as good as it could get and at this point I really needed some guidance as to the order of the projects, composition, and typography. I needed a critical eye to look over it, since mine had been staring at it for days and had reached the point where it was hard to distinguish good from bad. I emailed it to one of my tutors in the hope that perhaps he could give me some feedback over email, or that we could arrange a meeting upon the end of Easter break. My tutor did even better, and kindly offered to meet up today (Wednesday 7th April) to go over it with me in person.

Overall there weren’t any huge changes to make which surprised me – I seem to second guess my own opinions and decisions, something I have been trying to work on this year so that I am more self sufficient and confident.  The biggest change was improving my typography and otherwise slightly tweaking the order of the projects. Also, for LCC I have to narrow the portfolio down to 6 projects and I had about 10. My tutor studied at LCC so he was a great reference for what types of projects they would be interested in. Now all I need to do is finalize my portfolio, polish it off as good as it can get, and return to my personal statement and study proposal.

For the time being though I have to leave my MA applications, even though it pains me to do so because I want to get them done as fast as I can, and finally return to my EMP which I haven’t been able to work on for a worryingly long time (thanks to being ill, the documentary and the MA portfolio/application). After meeting with my tutor I went to see the course leader because I knew at this point that due to everything that has transpired I was running behind and could really use the extra week extension. Thankfully he okayed it, a week is better then nothing, though I feel it won’t completely help me make up for the time I have lost.

ISTD Entry?

With everything that’s been pencilled into my calendar since January, it has truly been mayhem from the beginning, starting with arriving a week late thanks to weather, and refer to other posts for updates on the rest. I was really pleased with my ISTD project from last term but now the deadline for registration has come up (well, did come up this Friday 19th February). With everything that’s been going on, especially MA related, I really haven’t been idle. I feel that I am lagging a bit behind on my EMP and I have a bad feeling that if I give into my my ambitious side (like I did to a point with my RCA application which had some consequences for my dissertation) it might end up hurting me more then helping me in the long run. The EMP is worth the most points in terms of the total grade for this year so I really can’t afford to mess it up. With everything considered, I decided not to try entering my ISTD project because of all the extra work and stress it would entail when I already have plenty to deal with. But perhaps it’s something to consider for next year, and I can plan things better with entering ISTD in mind.

February Progress & Planning: Mayhem Continues

With the RCA portfolio out of the way (27th of January) I had to basically drop everything and finally focus on finishing my dissertation since I had less then a week to do so (1st of February). To be perfectly honest the days leading up to the dissertation mitigation deadline were difficult. I had been ill and nonetheless pushed myself to get the portfolio done even though it’s a task that requires a great deal of time, as my tutor had warned me. And some of his words of warning came true, I did ‘kill myself’ to some degree in an effort to get it done and handed in. To the point that when it came to switching gears to the dissertation, I felt like I had run out of steam. I was worn out and clutching at empty air for motivation. It’s also good to mention that while I had all these other priorities, the EMP was looming over it all that a little dark rain cloud.

Dissertation (Investigative Study): I did manage to finish it in the end though I wasn’t completely happy with it, but at this point actually handing it in seemed a miracle in and of itself. It was not that my essay lacked research, or ideas, quite on the contrary. I was trying to put too much into it so most of the time was spent of severe editing and restructuring to make my arguments as concise as possible. I can’t remember the last time I wrote something that didn’t go over the word limit, and the various drafts I had written of the essay kept getting bigger and bigger. At least it’s done now, and I think that overall it should be fine.

Exhibition Fundraiser (28th &  29th January): On top of everything we had a class meeting on Thursday 28th January. We had decided to make Valentines Day cards to help make money for our final year show. So as a bit of a diversion, to hopefully improve my mindset and help me refocus on my essay, I took breaks on Thursday and Friday to work on the card design. I decided to go for a more classic approach then what most people had chosen (based on the designs people were posting on the facebook group). A rather decorative, daresay ‘romantic’, type+illustration card design. This is the result….

EMP: Today (2nd of February) I just handed in the EMP learning agreement I had been working on parallel to the essay and RCA stuff. All the essay writing and furious editing I really helped me I think in writing a good learning agreement. It said only what it needed to and for once was NOT over the word limit – MIRACLE!!! I am rather proud of myself on this point.

January Time Planning and Project Management

Upon finally returning to Bournemouth, almost a week late, I had to make a list of priorities because a lot was happening at the same time.

1. Royal College of Art Application and Deadline

First and foremost I have to complete my portfolio and application for the Royal College of Art because that’s the first deadline coming up. The deadline for the online application is midnight on the 18th of January. The deadline for the portfolio is the 27th of January. I need to either deliver it in person or find a method of sending it, and therefore get it done enough in advance to allow time for delivery. At the moment I really don’t know what shape the portfolio will take yet or how long it will take me so I will have to wait and see.

2. Dissertation (Investigative Study)

The original deadline for the Investigative Study was the day after I had finally gotten back, Thursday 14th of January. But because of the travel/weather delays I was able to get a week extension. So, the new deadline is Thursday 21st of January. I spent the first two days back working on the IS, and then the weekend and Monday (16-18th) working on the RCA application. And then my focus has to switch back again to the Investigative Study.

3. Extended Major Project (EMP)

Once the RCA application and Investigative Study are out of the way, then I can allow myself to focus on my EMP as well as the RCA portfolio for the 27th. What was really helpful was that due to many people having travel issues, like I had, over Christmas the start of term was postponed from Monday the 11th to Monday the 18th (when we will probably receive the official ECP&E brief). We will get the official EMP brief on Tuesday the 19th.