Archives for the month of: October, 2012

On Wednesday 17th, Me and my group met up and ventured into Digbeth. This was the first time we met as a group and ventured off the uni campus. We planned to go twice, both Wednesday prior, but people were busy each week. We started by meeting in the center of Birmingham, and working our way into Digbeth, going through the markets and into the Custard Factory. As it was one of my times going into Digbeth (in the day light), it really helped to find out what was ‘really’ there. I originally thought that Digbeth didn’t include as much art as it really did, and I found this very interesting. As street art is one of my many passions, I enjoyed walking around seeing many different forms of art – ranging from illegal graffiti to commissioned pieces. On that day, we couldn’t find the store ‘Graffiti4hire’, which we had discussed in our group about featuring in our magazine, so I know we will be going back in the very near future. A lot of the shops in Digbeth as a whole were Vintage based, and I think a lot of this will be featured in many of our fellow pupils magazines, so I don’t think we will venture into these in as much detail as we originally thought. There was an interesting Skate-based store in Custard factory, which featured many items from the stake culture; shoes, decks, grips etc, and also many items based around the culture, such as hats, band merch, stickers, posters, magazine and much more. I think we will re-visit this shop on our next visit, and speak to the owners if we arrange some photographs and interviews.


Research in general is very important when we first receive a design brief. There are three stages to the design process, starting with the brief, then researching, development & experimentation and finally production – leading to the final outcome. Researching the practice and the content lead to our own research, and therefore these are the two principles I am going to discuss today. Researching our area of practice – whether it be Graphic Communication, Illustration or Photography is very important because we gather an insight into the processes and the areas of the subject.

The first principle, Researching the practice also requires a lot of in-depth knowledge. Researching how the Visual Communicators think is one the main areas of focus. How do they decide what colours, typefaces, media, shape and style of design to use? We can do this by looking, listening, reading, watching, experimenting and exploring. Each of these processes will help us find new areas to experiment with in our own designs. Nothing we do is ‘wasting’ time, everything can be used, but we just need to find the correct way to use it.

Researching the content is essential, as it will be one of the major factors which ‘sell’ our work. The audience is very crucial to research because if you design for the wrong democrat, it won’t engage (as much as it could) with the viewer. The topic and subject need to be well researched as it will lead us to find ‘what’ to include in our work. It will also help us find out what has been researched already, and therefore tell us what we need to find ourselves.

Taking elements from Kolb’s learning cycle, we create a diagram of steps to take when researching. Depending on your style of research, you could start on any of the points; Doing, Reflecting, Planning, Thinking, but eventually you will always make your full way around, often spirally back to the one you started at and doing the process again.

When Stephen Cheetham started designing his set of Illustrations to celebrate the best sneakers from each decade (pictures below), he needed to research an awful lot into the trainer-based culture. First of all, he needed to find the favourite sneakers from each individual decade, and then come to the decision about which to Illustrate. I presume he would have consulted many people that have collections from over many decades, seeking their opinion, as many of the sneakers he categorized were more than something you just put on your feet – for the people who collect and adore trainers, like me, they are an aesthetic item, an item with meaning and a rarity. He would have also needed to find the correct images of the shoes – that highlighted the shape, colours, material and branding, and then applied all of this into his designs. As well as this, I’m sure Cheetham needed to select the style he was going to create these illustrations in – because if his selected style has been used before, the target audience may have already seen similar Illustrations, and not paid as much attention.


There are many key areas to a reliable and creative process. You may find yourself suited to a particular couple as your creative life progress, but there is no doubt that all are crucial. Researching, practicing using Visual Vocabulary, finding inspiration and designing around your audience should be the main areas you focus on whilst designing. Gathering any type of data, if it is information, photographs or a piece of audio, will all help the advancement of your knowledge and understanding. The first principle I wish to discuss is Visual Practice. Through the ‘visual practice’ of observation, collecting, studying and exploring a subject, topic or theme, you will gain a deeper understanding of the subject. Each piece of information you gather is like another arrow for your bow. Paul Davis once famously said “Boredom is the enemy of the artist”. The more directions of design you have to pursue, there is a higher chance of creating a better outcome. The series of directions you can find don’t have to be drastically different from one another. The key is experimentation and development; to progress you need to fail, and then learn from your mistakes. Changing the method within your media could be classed as a different direction. If you’re using a high quality SLR camera to take photographs, will not venture into using film cameras, VHS or Polaroid. Each will give you a totally different outcome, and until you try them, you cannot truly see what they have to offer. The second principle I found interesting was Practices & Processes, which links in very nicely to the first principle; By understanding the various ‘practices & processes’ of illustrators, designers, photographers, we are able to progress and advance in our own practice. Many Illustrators and Designers find inspiration by collecting, collating, observing and/or drawing. Quoting Mark Wigan, from ‘Thinking Visually 2006’; “I couldn’t draw very well, so I had to stick stuff down” & “I get inspiration from anything and everything”. As you (and I) develop as a Designer, I will soon start to develop a personal visual language. This should come from Design to start taking over my life – by being open-minded, by working hard, doing sustained practice taking risks, and learning from my mistakes – and my triumphs. I will learn what works for me as a designer – and I hope to learn not to dismiss what doesn’t. Just because I’m not fantastic at (for example) Photography, doesn’t mean I should not take any photo’s, but to use them in the best way I can – and this will spur my own personal development and lead to better outcomes.

What is originality? What ‘creates’ originality? What can we define as ‘original’? How can we be original?

Originality is something which is impossible to find in Art & Design. We can look back over the years and find artists which have be dubbed as original, using styles, trends, techniques and structures others have done years before them. This works for most subject areas – you can never be truly honest in saying you’re totally original as someone may have done the same designs centuries, decades, year, weeks or days before you.

Then if we do find out someone hasn’t been original and ‘copied’ someone, what do we call them? Is the art a form of concept? Is it a fake; a ‘try-hard’? Or is it just a different way that the original art has been portrayed? Whenever we see a piece of design, we always create assumptions – what we think of the design, what it means, what we do different – especially as creatively-driven people.

One artist who is very current who has evidence of this in his (or even her, but I will refer to as he) work is Banksy. Nicknames the Art Terrorist, he has taken photographs, images and painting and applied his own style to them. The world famous graffiti artist has done many versions of the Famous ‘Mona Lisa’ – using her smiling face holding various weapons and ‘revealing’ parts of her body. All of these pieces hold a message to the outside world, but could also be looked upon to be more to do with Mona than we think at first – showing her imperfections. Banksy has not ‘recreated’ the Mona Lisa, so he is still being original, unlike other artists I could have mention, and I sure many of my fellow students will, but I wanted to show another side, whether it be right or wrong, of an artist using artists ‘idea’ as his own.

I’m by no means saying Banksy isn’t original – he may have been the first to bring this style to the underground scene, or he may not, but no-one can deny he was, and still is, one of the most influential artist on the graffiti-art scene, and has shown a lot of the world another side to street art.


Many students ‘learn’ to become creative. When faced with new tasks, many methods are taught to us to try and stimulate ideas. The problem lies when trying to remain creative, looking back on old ideas in your RVJ/Sketchbook and creating new solutions. The five principles we were taught about each give us a new method to create fresh ideas, solutions and pathways to go down when designing.

The first principle I have been looking at is ‘Overcoming mindsets’. Within design there are many rules. These could be set by a brief or the client, or even just the basic rules and disciplines of Art & Design. Asking yourself “How can I stretch the parameters of the rules” can often lead to a new thought process, which can lead to further experimentation and development, which all may have an effect on the outcome.

Christoph Niemann is a perfect example of this theory. He finds ways to challenge the rules by getting outside the ‘comfort zone’. His playful manor in design allows him to free himself from the conventions and preconceptions. His designs (images below) are all very playful and innovative; he plays with the context of the subject, and then portrays this through design.

The second and final principle I looked at was principle 5; Managing a creative environmental. Many creatives have a certain area they like to work. For me, this is anywhere where I am comfortable. Thinking about it, I work in so many different surrounding, I don’t have anything I can call my ‘studio’ or workspace. A few months ago, whilst I was at college, I would of said I do half of my work in my bedroom – basing that the work is digital based. My bedroom is simply laid out – I don’t have anywhere specific to work – i just sit on my bed, or lie against my wall. I think this is works for me as the environmental is familiar and calm. Sometimes I would listen to music or just watching the television – a film or a program, depending what was on. Now, when I reflect nearer the end of the project, I can see I hardly ever work in my bedroom anymore – I don’t know the reason, but I now prefer to work downstairs, in our lounge on the same table we eat food from. I find it a lot easier – purely because my laptop can be flat on a surface, a can have a mouse (and keyboard, if needed) installed, my portable hard-drive can lie flat and I also have room for my Phone or iPad to be lying around in view if I need them or want a few minutes break. To me, this is now the easiest and the best place I can possibly be when I need/want to work.


The RVJ; Reflective Visual Journal, is an indispensable tool for all visual creatives. In the lecture, the five tools of the trade were discussed. I have chosen to talk about the first and third principles – ‘Draw. Work by hand’ and ‘Develop visual language’.

Working by hand in my RVJ will be crucial as each project develops as it allows you engage a physical connection between your hand, eye and brain. Whilst doing projects I enjoy sketching by hand, as it gives you ultimate control on what you are working on – unlike a computer where some processes might be impossible – or just 10x easier to do on a piece of paper.

Leonardo Da Vinci developed his ideas by ‘thinking’ on the page. As you can see in this design (top image), there are many different sketches on the page. Even though we cannot fully understand his thought process whilst he was illustrating, it allows us to see how he engages with his creative mind and also the development of the designs on page. For both Da Vinci and us, the RVJ is a safe place to take risks and to ignore our self-conscious negative thoughts. The only way to move forward is to take risks and learn from them – whether they fail or succeed.

My second principle, Developing visual language, describes how thinking and working visually is a totally different process to thinking and working with words and text. Visual language enables us to make complex ideas and associations more understandable. Using visual rather than textual language is far more effective as it opens up a range of possibilities for a more creative response.

The Author Tony Buzan uses mind-mapping to note his ideas. His thought process is very visual using many drawings and illustrations in his work. As we can see in the (bottom) image, he uses quirky illustrations, colour, text and visual vocabulary when mapping his ideas, and this shows how a more creative response can be achieved. he also proves that Visual thinking is not limited to working with images as his text and descriptions are very in-depth, direct – but at the same time very simplistic. His word categories all have a strong relationship, but you have to think which words would have been thought up and created without the creative flair.


This is the logo for our group at Uni called ‘Underground’. Our brief is to create a magazine based on aspects of Birmingham, and we have chosen to research and design about the unseen aspects of our city – focusing on Art, Fashion, Music & Scenery.

When we received the task of creating a logo, we all went away and produced some basic ideas of what we all individually thought about Birmingham. When we arrived back as a group, me and a fellow member – Faraaz, both had drawings of buildings and the iconic Bull. As I had already created a few vector logos on Illustrator, we developed this design in which I drew the bull’s head as a vector and combined the two.

I am really happy with our logo so far, and I will be good to see how this logo will be developed/refined to be the logo of our magazine.


Hello to anyone that ever reads this – I presume not a lot of you will, so the privilege lies with you. This is the start of my second design blog – based more on what I learn and how my projects are developing. My other design blog is and will feature many images that have inspired me – or that I purely find interesting. ‘Rago’ is a word (username) I have been using on the Internet for many years. ‘Rags’ is a slang word for ‘whatever’. It originated from the Patois word of Ragamuffin; Adverb describing someone doesn’t care about other peoples opinions (Urban Dictionary). That definition doesn’t reflect why I chose this word, I just really like the word. I do care for other peoples opinions  so if you have about any piece(s) of my work, please let me know.