This learning outcome was primarily focused on the discussion and analysis of the fundamental aspects of the graphic design know-how that went behind the creation of things like logos, advertising, movie posters and even something as mundane as street signs. Logos are a particularly interesting example, as they are what most people think of when they hear the phrase “graphic design”. A logo has to be simple but stand out and be aesthetically pleasing, often (but not always) using three colours or less. They can also often carry hidden meanings that give them more depth than it appears they initially convey. The FedEx logo is a good example of this. While it may look simple enough, there is actually an arrow hidden inbetween the E and X, making excellent use of negative space. Conversely, a logo that doesn’t use negative space but still contains a fascinating subcontext is the Amazon logo. Many think that the arrow underneath it is simply a fancy flourish, but if you look closer, you can see that it starts at A and points at the Z, implying that they sell everything from A to Z, a very clever aspect that pretty much perfectly sums up Amazon’s modus operandi. Of course, there’s a less savoury side to the world of logos, such as the Pepsi redesign, which is literally just the current colours but arranged slightly differently. There are many, many examples of bad logos out there, they far outstrip the amount of ingenious ones. A simple Google search for “bad logos” will give this hypothesis credence.
My favourite by far is the logo of the UK Space Agency. It’s a perfect example of the tenet of simplicity that underlines the very concept of graphic design. It shows what country the company operates for with the colours and their arrangement (a twist on the British flag, definitely up there in my top ten coincidentally) and tells us exactly what the company itself does. The text isn’t even necessary, and that’s what makes it stand out contextually. NASA, while it does have a logo that clearly represents outer space, doesn’t have as many levels of meaning behind it.
Signage is less focused on aesthetic appeal and is more about very obvious supercontext, as opposed to logos. They often use very bright and eyecatching colour combinations, most commonly red, white and black or yellow and black. There is a scientific basis behind these colours eliciting a sense of danger and alertness. Continuing this rational theme for their design, road signs often have to be ridiculously obvious and be understood almost immediately from a distance. Safety signs (such as those found on construction sites) also follow this theme, but have a slightly larger palette of colours in order to send more messages, and can be more complex since the viewer has more time than drivers have with road signs to look at them.
One of my favourite road signs that, I’m sure I’ve explained why, I don’t need to describe:
Another area where graphic design is supremely important is advertising. While each example of advertising isn’t as omnipresent as the company logo, it definitely plays its own unique role in the hierarchy of company imagery. Words are somewhat more important here than with most facets of graphic design (bar the likes of newspaper/magazine design), even though it varies greatly from ad to ad, but colours and shapes should definitely not be neglected, as nobody wants to just read a bunch of waffle about how amazing what you are selling is. A good ad can immortalise your company and really make your products/services hit home, especially in this day and age, where they tend to go “viral” on the internet if especially amusing. I could define “amusing” in this context as perhaps having a good sense of humour, maybe with a touch of irony, and/or having creative elements. It’s difficult to engineer a quality, self-replicating advertisement since the criteria involved for such a rating is so subjective. Psychology is especially prevalent here, as convincing a person who is constantly bombarded with this kind of stimuli every single day to buy your product from a mere few seconds (often less) of exposure to your one specific ad is extremely difficult, and a good campaign will often cost significantly more than the creation of a logo.
The advertisement below is an excellent example of the mechanics that I described above being implemented in real life. There is a humorous picture that is also creative and not too far from the real product, since ketchup, as most of us know, is made from tomatoes. Also, the use of colour here is exemplary, since red is often associated with hunger, and when you have a hungry customer, they will buy food, and with food comes condiments, and by far the most popular condiment out there happens, somehow, to be the product that’s being sold.
What I like about this advertisement a lot though is what’s being implied by the words used, “no one grows ketchup like Heinz”. What’s currently trending right now are “natural” and “organic” food products, and both the wording and the visuals play into the implication that this good only contains wholesome pureed tomatoes, which is far from the truth.
All in all, this module of the course has taught me that far, far more can be said with a simple picture and maybe a word or two than with paragraph after paragraph of rational, exhaustive explanation, and more efficiently too, paradoxically enough. Appealing to the reptilian brain will always trump any kind of intellectual verbosity.