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Graphic design

I’m sorry if this post is a little overloaded. I might have overdone it a tad with GIFs, here. Just going with the flow – as indeed I was when I started drawing some letters thinking about the strong industrial take of my last post.

In this first attempt, it was a case of taking the piping down its simplest form – helped, as always, by staying well away from colour – and then having the glyph flow through. There are sequences for every letter, but they’re all the same deal and so I thought better of uploading twenty-six GIFs to one post.

Nothing much else to it, really, but the sweeping nature is quite effective and I’m pretty chuffed with it for an evening’s work.

It’s nice to be getting addicted to lettering again – it was always the discipline I enjoyed the most. All the more exciting is that my drawings and other areas are now informing and feeding into it. Possibilities abound – yay!

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It’s quite a departure from the usual Norfolk landscape, with two hundred foot chimneys and silos on the bank of the River Yare. This is Cantley Sugar Factory, which opened in 1912 and has slowly but surely grown into the monster you see today – one of only four sugar beet factories left in the UK.

It has a reputation as something of an eyesore, and that’s understandable. It seems to threaten the puny windpumps across the river, who try their best to defy by facing the other way. It’ll loom over many a photograph. But, having grown up fascinated by the immediate juxtaposition of old and new industry – like gasometers and inexplicably tall chimneys of the old power station – I don’t really mind it. For me, it’s just another piece of the landscape.

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That being said, after taking the perceptions into consideration and having looked at some shots of the machinery, I did get a thirst for the excessively industrial; something harsh and overbearing. With that, I found my way to 3D and started randomly throwing steel and piping together:

Less regimented and just a bit of a mess at the moment – perhaps that works in its favour? – but it’s thrown up some exciting ideas. Maybe there’s something in a typeface using these elements? It would be fun to try and construct some monstrous three-dimensional letters, but it seems as though it could look rather sharp in 2D.

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I feel like the title of this post promised so much but delivered so little – sorry about that. Perhaps one day I’ll draw a sugar daddy to make amends. It’d be rude not to.

After a simple decision in presentation of some cormorants led to a happy diptych, I began thinking more about composition and relationships. From that came a thirst for something not complacently square or 8×10. It’s something I haven’t really considered for a while.

With being out to sea at the moment – circles portholes, naturally!

Going for something crisper and even less literal, I took to Illustrator and warped some stripes, trying, for now, to stay away from colour.

They turned out rather more marble than crashing waves, didn’t they? It’s been refreshing experimentation nonetheless; certainly it seems potential is there, once the tide turns and I can pinpoint a clearer approach. Hard to starboard, as we of the sea probably don’t say all that much. At least I didn’t mention the Jolly Roger.

 

afloat-letters5-02Likely because I’m a terrible swimmer, my previous foray into the waves put rubber rings into my head.

Rather than try and draw or model one – though one complete with cute duck is just asking to be done someday – I thought about combining that flow of the water and the ring. This immediately took me back to lettering, and aiming for a rounded, fluid face.

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I expect some characters would keep you afloat better than others.

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I originally looked at full colour and rounded segments within the glyphs – perhaps that would have been better, in retrospect. It does have a bit of a whirl to it.

I wanted to do some animation with the below, but the simulation options didn’t seem cooperative – which makes this concept all the more fitting, I suppose. I didn’t try to replicate the colour of the seawater here, as I don’t think even my computer has that shade of brown.

Whatever the result, it’s always fun to play with lettering!

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Following on from my attempt at a 3d model of the Atari 2600, in which I had spent some time looking at the console’s gameplay and graphics, I happened across a felicitous piece of software.

Atari FontMaker does as you’d likely expect; it gives you the default character map and allows you to make changes to individual glyphs, creating a custom typeface or a pallette for artwork – perhaps both! It looks as if you can even export your maps in a file that the Atari can use, though with bad memories of BASIC on the Spectrum coming back, I haven’t been compelled to try that just yet. Fortunately, you can export as images, and the program gives you a view to lay down your marks. Above and below is a very quick modification of the default set, with the view above and map below:

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Then came some attempts at making larger display faces from configurations of characters:

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Then, moving on and trying to create some scenery. Sharp lines led me in an urban, industrial direction.

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The format and amount of letter spaces meant that a nighttime city skyline was quite fun to put together, even before implementing colour.

Atarimaker-trianglesI’m sure someone with a more creative and patient mind could whip up some lovely patterns in this software, because that’s one thing even the primitive visuals can’t scupper completely. This has a seafront amusement arcade look about it. It makes you wonder what Sonic’s Casino Night Zone might have looked like on the Atari…

I then tried to be a tad more ambitious, putting together a mountainous landscape replete with birds. This required pretty much the whole set to be tweaked, as can be seen below; the first is how the piece would look under the default set:

Atarimaker-mountainsPerhaps a few too many clouds, but nevertheless it’s probably one of the stronger experiments here.

Atarimaker-sonicSpeaking of Sonic earlier, the above was inspired by his 8-bit outings in the Green Hill Zone – not inspired enough to actually feature him, apparently! It is very green, though, you have to give me that.

I returned to lettering, but geared toward a more stylised finish. A simple start; I quite like its brashness, not sure about the colour:

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The shard-like nature of the above experiment gave me the obvious idea:

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As I said, the obvious progression. To my knowledge, there wasn’t a Crystal Maze game on the Atari. I wonder how it might have looked, had there been…

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…probably better than that!

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Well, if you think Channel 4’s catch-up service is slow today…! This was a must, really, as a throwback to my BASIC exploits of university, wherein I attempted to make a Channel 4 ident that could run on the ZX Spectrum. The greater colour capabilities here meant that the logo came out looking much more impressive.

And, to finish, Mr. Babbage from Family Fortunes and various motorways. Perfect for this format.

Atarimaker-mrbabbageThis was a heap of fun for me, as you might be able to gather by the sheer amount of stuff! It’s always interesting to go back and see what you can squeeze out of technology thought long out of date, attempting to turn the restrictions to your advantage. I think you’re more often than not pleasantly surprised, if not amazed. There is surely much more that can be created with just this program.

Thanks to MatoSimi for putting it together – if you’re interested in trying this for yourself, you can find it here. Have fun.

WWF-RING0021In one of those ‘why didn’t I try this years ago?’ moments, I thought I’d have a go at modelling a WWF wrestling ring, replete with the classic blue bar steel cage of the eighties and nineties.

Back in those days, this was as risky as the product got; the scores of ring technicians scuttling around the ring slowly setting up the structure meant something big was coming up. The denouement. Its relative low frequency coupled with the old routine of longer, slow-burn storylines made the confines of the cage a perfectly powerful climax. Even as the show grew edgier, its legacy maintained a presence.

WWF-RING0018Naturally, the ring itself came first. The WWF’s ‘squared circle’ was and still is larger than your average ring, at 20ft x 20ft. Having the dimensions available online made this a lot less daunting.

Texturing here, specifically the placement of logos, took longer than it probably should have at this stage, but once I’d figured it out, it was fun putting multiple candidates onto the ring apron, and the overhanging flag. Some worked better than others…

Rage in the Cage was not a title of a legitimate WWF event – at least, not to my knowledge – but a wrestling game for the ill-fated MegaCD. Indeed, it might have been the only wrestling game on the platform. (It wasn’t very good!)

I did have a go at some lighting rigs, mostly for the Cloth flag, but also to try and replicate that classic effect of the long streaks from the dizzy heights which seem to add so much to the spectacle (along with the relentless camera flashes, which are much missed whenever I catch newer clips). I did think better of trying to build and render an entire stadium. Perhaps this particular match up just hasn’t drawn as hoped? Or maybe it’s an Empty Arena Cage match?

WWF-RING0019It looks a little toylike and plastic in places, no doubt because of my texturing. I suppose such an aesthetic is not necessarily a bad thing; nine-year old me would have loved a blue cage for my wrestling ring play-set!

WWF-RING0020Several options from the blue bars era that spring to mind, but I’m choosing this 1988 clash pitting André the Giant against Hulk Hogan; not only because it was the culmination of their legendary feud of eighteen months, but it also features one of my favourite commentators’ lines, from the ever-reliable Lord Alfred Hayes as The Giant starts his climb to victory:

“Gosh, look at André!! He’s like some huge prehistoric creature up there!”

Classic.

negative-letters-2-01More fun letter play. I was feeling geometric, and I’m afraid that’s about as far as this one goes regarding rationale. Well, besides fun! With that as it was, I just took a square and elipse, trying to make some interesting configurations. It soon morphed into a ‘negative’ bent, hence the results. I called it Positive because it was darn fun – as good a reason as any.

negative-letters-2-05It can work in a single white-out, though it’s not quite so successful when inverted as some characters begin to look indistinguishable.

negative-letters-2-08_0002Strokes are kinda fun! We probably shouldn’t go around subjecting it to Photoshop warps, though…

negative-letters-2-07Illustrator’s Simplify tool straightened the round edges, giving it a very different aesthetic. A little rough around the edges when done that way, but it looks like a trigonal variant could work just as well with a bit of care.

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The alphabet is by no means perfect, but it was a fruitful exploration. I always say on my return to lettering that I should make an effort to do more. I am saying that again, here. It’s a very Positive experience.

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