The cutting edge in visual communication.

I can remember when the most exciting thing to happen on the internet was sending an email, and waiting a week to get a response because the other person wasn’t attached to it. Now we have the entire world’s knowledge tucked away in a super computer in my pocket. My children now speak in acronyms, they send photos with filters and talk to each other through a service called Discord. I used to laugh at my mother unable to program the VHS machine, and here I am barely keeping up with the technological advances since the mid noughties. I Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to my heart’s content, often having holidays from Facebook before my iPad flies through a double glazed window. Asking a forty year old what is cutting edge will certainly give a different answer to an eighteen year old.

I can remember my son showing me Snapchat a few years ago and being amazed at the filters. I understand how complex the coding must be, a distinct mix of artificial intelligence to identify the faces in the camera, and augmented reality to overlay a filter of ears or horror masks. I thought this was cutting edge, but as I research the latest developments in augmented reality I am increasingly excited about how augmented, and increasingly virtual reality will increase the sphere of possibilities in visual communication.

Microsoft talks about their contract with the US military, and how augmented reality will be able to give them real time information about the environment they are in (Forbes, 2019). As Walmart talks about using VR technologies to train the customer-focused staff of the future, I wonder when mainstream education will be better customised to the student. When the digital knowledge of the world is linked with personalised training programmes, and augmented or virtual reality systems, surely that will provide us with students educated for an ever changing jobs market? I’m already stunned at the levels of VR ready machines already available for home use, from the playstation through to personal computers and even mobile phones. I can already purchase STEM based kits for my son, which come with Google Cardboard so he can see science experiments in a VR classroom.

When you start to investigate the equipment and discover that Facebook bought Oculus in 2016 you realise that there are clearly more communication ideas in the pipeline. To be able to have coffee with a friend who lives on the other side of the world would truly make Marshall McLuhan’s idea of the ‘global village’ a reality (Explorations, CBC, 18 May 1960). We are seeing the emergence of the global village, how communications, both visual and auditory, are connecting people at a phenomenal rate around the world. We are seeing protests becoming global, not local, we can see how a pussy protest in the US travelled over the pond to the UK and happened here too, at the same time. How the yellow jackets of France were able to join in the People’s assembly protest in London, and correct people online as they tried to co-opt the message.

I am reminded of the yahoo chat rooms in the emerging days of the internet and wonder if the conversations over my son’s discord server aren’t just the same conversations wrapped in a better technology. Hopefully, once the cutting edge of the technology dulls a bit, we can use this technology to connect the world in ways that improves living conditions for the whole globe, and not just the ones in their ivory towers.

International Flag of Planet Earth


My mind map on knitting.

My initial research shows the ‘Make do and Mend’ campaign in the second world war, however it soon becomes apparent this was all fabric, and not the knitting circles I was thinking about. My further research reveals that it was in world war one that there was a knitting drive. A huge campaign world wide to supply our front line soldiers with ‘comforts’ to keep them warm. A recent social media project, Centenary Stitches (Lawrence, 2016) to recreate the actual patterns for a film gained a lot of support, both from knitters and finance through Kickstarter.

A screenshot taken from a film shown through the Imperial War Museum's archives. The image shows an outdoor classroom of girls knitting.
Girls knitting ‘comforts’ in a London school.

My own misadventures into knitting have always ended rather quickly. My mother is an avid knitter, and she has attempted to teach me many times. Although my grandmother also knitted, she never did gain a love for it like my mother. My mother has a briefcase full of patterns dating back to the 60s and 70s. It seems baby jackets and leggings have never gone out of fashion. I, on the other hand, find the smaller needles too complicated to use. I did eventually learn to knit, but it was a stallholder at a craft fair at the NEC who taught me to knit a rug. Much larger wool, much larger needles. I love the advent of needle-less knitting, using your arms. Giant balls of merino wool and the physical making of a scarf or blanket. No specialist equipment needed.

Arm knitting, the art of knitting without needles.

I think knitting was stereotypically associated with the elderly, however I think that was more because of the propaganda during the war instilling a ‘make your own’ mentality. With the advent of mass produced clothing, partly due to the manufacturing techniques needed during the second world war to keep up with uniform requirements (Clouting, 2018), I think we’ve lost that ability to make our own. The new push for better quality and longer lasting clothing, along with the reuse, reduce and recycle campaign, is returning us to this make do and mend mindset. It’s not that knitting ever died, but there is a distinct revival, even the mainstream media pumping us full of the mental health advantages of knitting (Ritschel, 2018).

The ever-changing landscape of newness.

As I go to explore the world of advertisements, something I haven’t explored since my business management degree in 2009, I expect to see VR content, or adverts aimed at ‘on demand’ or serial fast forwarders. Instead I’m met with projection mapping. This is the art of placing an advert or digital art installation on a still object by designing it for the specific surface area. You couldn’t get more time and place specific, it is generated for a specific event, from hotel openings, festivals or the Super Bowl.

It reminds me of sci-fi movies from the last few decades, where holographic advertisements hover around people going about their daily business. Where space and air have become monetised in the capitalist society’s demand for new products, new expenditure, new gadgets, new, new, new. The shiny and bling of a new purchase sold as retail therapy, how a new credit card is available, just sign here.

Sold to companies as an alternative to the millennials ‘refusal’ to spend money on objects, projection mapping is marketed as an immersive experience instead of something to gather dust on a shelf (Furlong, 2018).

Considering the technology has been used for half a century you would think that it would have lost the excitement which was evident with the first projections. However as technology has developed, so has the projectors and software used in the illuminations. The modern rendition of interactive animations and art installations are far removed from Disney’s talking heads in 1969 (Integrate Expo, 2018).

I’m reminded of my earlier research into VR advertisements and realise this could be a stepping stone. Fully immersive experiences, but still trapped within a building, dome or on a wall. Is this a gentle nudge to the general population towards virtual reality? As headsets reduce in price, and the technology of household computers increases, it’s very possible that VR will take over from projection mapping. It is, after all, the same skillset needed to build the 3d environments for virtual reality, spatial awareness, user journey and three dimensional design.

Connotations of adverts.

Denotations of an old navy advert.

I first see the man in a navy sailor uniform, wearing an old fashioned white sailor hat. He’s sat on an orange missile or mini submarine, and then I notice the date (1917) in the university’s write up and decide it’s probably a missile. Words encourage FIGHTING MEN to sign up to the navy. Bold lettering in red and navy stand out at the bottom of the poster. The missile is moving, demonstrated with splashes from the water bouncing as high as the man’s head. The man on the missile is holding a fuse in his hand.

Connotations are put forward by the question, suggesting the missile is phallic, but I don’t see it. I see a cowboy riding a bull or a wild horse at a county fair. With a whip in his hand, holding on tightly to the bucking missile as it jumps across the water’s surface. A real man, a man’s man, an all American cowboy is suggested by this poster. The sense of danger and excitement emphasised by the raised hand as if the missile isn’t dangerously jumping all over the place, it needs inciting to be more treacherous by the whip/fuse.

I read into the poster that the navy are looking for the daring adventurous men to board their ships. The kind who’d jump on the bullock at the fair to try his chances at whatever prize is on offer.

Denotation: The poster above shows a hand drawn green hand, with pink fingernails. There are blue droplets falling towards the hand. “Why you need to wash your hands!” along with other messages, are written by hand followed by “Wash your Hands!” MRSA Action UK is printed in the top left corner, with Mid Yorkshire Hospitals and the NHS logo top right.

Connotation: The picture is clearly drawn by a child, with uneven handwriting around it. Although the written messages are clear, washing hands removes germs, the implied messages are interesting. The green hands imply dirt or illness, or in the world of animations, evil hands. I believe that the use of a child’s drawing is to shame adults into washing their hands. Even a child knows to wash their hands, that it stops germs. If a nine year old knows this then an adult has no excuses.

The poster was part of a group of posters designed in collaboration between the NHS trust in Yorkshire and the MRSA charity to reduce MRSA figures.

Chris Cruise, Head of Infection Prevention and Control at the Trust said: “It’s very important to get children involved, they see the world from a simplistic perspective and they have no preconceived ideas, they say it how they see it. Or draw it as they see it, as we found in the poster competition, the designs the children produced were very good!” 

After reading Chis’ description, as to why they use a child’s drawing, I’m still believing it has more to do with budgets, lack of funding and shaming adults.

Crop Circles and semiotics

To reflect on the signifier and signified of a crop circle photograph.

The question baffled me for a while, am I writing down about the content or the photograph? I expect that’s what the question means by ‘reflect on the signifier’.

The photograph, the signifier, is composed to include the Silbury Hill, a place of special scientific interest. The mound has been recorded as a monument of historic significance due to the age of the site, believed to have been started in Neolithic times (English Heritage, 2019).

Crop circles have also been a source of much speculation. Many sitings of UFOs are claimed to be along ley-lines. These theories however have been ridiculed by the scientific community.

Wiltshire is a place of huge spiritual significance to the pagan and druid religions in the U.K. due to the siting of several monuments, including Stonehenge. Ley-lines converge within the county, and these are believed, by pagans and druids, to bring substantial energies from the earth and the universe. British ley-lines were originally discovered by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s, he believed they were prehistoric travelling lines created using beacons on hilltops (The Guardian, 2000).

“We must be on our guard for despite common parlance which simply says that the signifier expresses the signified, we are dealing, in any semiotic system, not with two, but with three different terms. “

Roland Barthas, Visual Culture, the reader, page 52, 2007

Meanwhile Roland Barthas states that when we talk in terms of signified and signifier, we are missing the object, the sign. I mention this as I return to my original question, was I commenting on the content or the object, and Barthas aids me in understanding it is all three, the signifier, the signified and the sign.

The significance of apples.

Project Three, Exercise 1.

As I sit, listening out for my iPhone to vibrate, I type this learning log on my MacBook with my digital sketchbook, aka iPad and iPencil, lying next to me. I glance at the apple logo on my tech and realise my reaction to ‘apple’ will firstly be the technology I use. The significance to me is the continuity of creativity and documentation across computer products with iCloud. Not only does it help with my creativity, but also my disabilities. I do not know where I’ll be from one hour to the next, and having the flexibility of platforms without losing quality means I don’t have to worry whether I’m sat at my desk, or bed-bound.
To the world in general Apple signifies innovation, hardworking and designed for the creative. The company has worked hard on their brand image, and the consistency across their products.

This advertisement is a great example of apple linking into their core demographic of young creatives.

Following on with another video, here we have an apple making an appearance at the end of a Fixodent advert. Fixodent uses the apple to signify the quality of their product and freedom for the denture user to eat whatever they desire.

Then we have the ‘apple a day keeps the doctor at bay” proverb. Although there is some controversy behind where the saying originates from, it has made the apple synonymous with health. From councils using it to advertise a new lifestyle and fitness service, though to NHS pages on obesity, they all use the apple to symbolise health and fitness.

In the sixteenth century, before public school education, poor families would pay the teacher with fruit and vegetables, and as each school year started in September this would have been mostly apples in Europe (Wockenfuss, 2019).

What would have originally been a form of payment, became a way of getting into a teacher’s good books. This was further embedded in the modern psyche by Disney in 1940’s, with Pinocchio being given an apple by Geppetto, ‘for your teacher’. Today’s apples ‘for the teachers’ come in the form of a range of thank you products from greetings cards through to apple shaped gifts and treats. Now given at the end of the school year, it still shows that apples symbolise teacher’s worth or value, whether as payment, or thanks.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), Adam and Eve, 1526, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

In art history there are several signifiers of an apple. In religious paintings it stands for temptation, sin and satan. Although there is no mention of an actual apple in the bible, ‘apple’ at the time meant any fruit that wasn’t a berry (Harper, 2019). However as language developed the apple remained as the Eve’s fruit. The apple proliferates through religious paintings as a reminder of the original sin (Hall, p9, 2007).
On the right is Adam and Eve (1526) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), The Courtauld Gallery, London .

In Still life paintings they allowed the signifier to experiment with different styles and new painting techniques. Considered the least valuable of paintings, still life paintings were used by painters, such as Cézanne, to explore new colours and techniques for their art (Harris & Zucker, accessed 2019).

“So outmoded was the iconography (symbolic forms and references) in still life that this rather hopeless subject was freed of virtually all convention”
Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

The range of meanings of an apple in visual communication has a long and varied history, some changes have happened due to changes in language and its meaning, whereas other signs are still embedded into our lives due to a continuity of use.

Film posters

In this learning log I shall be comparing the designed communication of a movie poster with the final film. For this exercise I have chosen Glass written and directed by  M. Night Shyamalan.

Teaser movie poster released in June 2018.

We can see from this poster that M. Night Shyamalan is bringing the three characters from his Unbreakable series together. I find the image is a clever use of reflections with the alter egos on display whilst the human side is decapitated. This reveals the premis from within the film, where the main characters find themselves trapped within a mental health institute.

The establishment of colours for each character provides an interesting visual, and this is carried into later posters and the film. Although the colours are highly saturated the overall nature of the poster is sinister. The use of backlighting in the photography creates a darkness advancing towards the viewer.

Theatrical release poster for Glass 2019.

The main theatrical release poster follows the usual movie template of adding the main actors faces front and centre. An interesting change is the use of Split’s multiple personalities to add alternative characters, albeit the same actor, into the broken pane.

The typography was consistent across the posters. The simplicity of the white letters on the coloured background adds a clean, almost backlit, visual. With the main visuals remaining dark in tone the whiteness is clearly visible and draws the viewers attention towards the shattered glass.

The use of the broken glass on the final poster hints towards the fragility covered within the film. The movie negotiates the dynamic between an inpatient and their therapist. As the film pushes our heroes and villains into doubting their abilities the fragility of confidence and self esteem is revealed. The night scene at the mental health institute, used in the bottom glass fragment, sets the scene for the entire film.

In conclusion I found the movie posters were a great representation of the final film. The darkness and chaos found within each main characters aptly reflected in the broken window pane.