Project: Visual Literacy

Research the work of graphic designers that interest you. How do they use visual language? What is it about the work that you admire? Make notes on their work, your reflections on it and note down aspects of it that you could use as a starting point yourself.

I know nothing about graphic designers. With all the ‘design’ around us we are normally not aware of who actually designed it. So I have to search the web for designs and their designers.

I will discuss only the designers whose work pleased me.

First up is the american designer, David Carsen. He was voted the most innovative designer using Apple. He has designed for a wide spectrum of clients from Youth Groups to Georgio Armani. When designing for big names like Armani I assume his brief is tight as the results are, for me, less interesting than those he has created for surfers, conferences, magazine covers and other events. I picked out a couple of his designs which particularly pleased me.



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I love the above designs. Why? Because they are different from other designs. They use text really interestingly. The text is either half hidden, in graffiti style of created by himself. But what I like best about him is his sense of humour which he uses to great effect in this TED video. I also like the advice that you need to put some of yourself into your design. I have not yet really consciously done this but I will try.

Next designer up was Stefan Sagmeister an Austrian born in 1962. A brief look at his work did not do a lot for me but I looked at a couple of TED videos. This one made me smile:

I liked his idea of diary keeping. I have kept diaries sporadically during my life. In recent years (before I lost my life to OCA) I wrote a diary for my grandchildren. I have two families of grandchildren and each alternate year I give the diary to one family or the other. But I may start to keep a diary again for myself.

Paula Scher was the next up. She seems to have a thing with maps. But since she was the first woman designer I came across I decided to investigate further. I liked the following design



I think I like it because it is a little bizarre – I am intrigued as to how she got the number 5 ‘squidged’ (my granddaughter’s invented word) into the stair well!!




I thought the following design, for New York’s Public Theatre, might give me some ideas for my later mono colour design. Compared to the design above I found these a little ‘flat’.


Finally I came across a designer whose name I already knew. Michel Beirut, a partner at Pentagram. I love his quote “You never go wrong if you work with people that are smarter than you”

I loved his packaging for SAKS in NY.


and his poster for Yale School of architecture:


I love the visual craziness of these designs. Looking at Pentagram’s own site is an almost overwhelming experience.

I have put Beirut’s book “How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World.” on my Christmas wish list… This is a great article about Beirut in Wired (1)

Massimo Vignelli was the next big name I looked at. Vignelli died in 2114 at the age of 83. He left behind an amazing body of work. One poster which immediately caught my eye was the following:


His work covers nearly every field of design including advertising, identity, packaging, product, industrial, interior and architectural design. An avid fan of modernism, his work is always very clear and concise with no clutter or unnecessary material.(2)


and one could add ‘if you are Vignelli’!!! He is a big fan of Helvetica and his designs are usually clear and uncluttered.

This is an interesting interview with Milton Glaser. (3) about his Bob Dylan record cover, which I really like. Maybe because I love Bob Dylan!:


Another interesting poster by Glaser is the following:



I like this because it reminds me of my brothers Mecano men when we were children. I also like it because it reminds me of Africa – not quite sure why but I think it is the colours red and green which can be found on many African flags and is used very often as a design in material.





We had the good fortune to attend the Rolling Stones concert, here in Paris, a couple of years ago. My husband bought the T-Shirt. I had no idea who Milton Glaser was nor that he had done the famous design: But I loved it from the day of purchase.


Alan Fletcher was the next designer I looked at. I liked his sense of humour in design. I liked the fact that he used his own handwriting in his designs. I looked up Bondini Typeface which apparently he favoured.

I loved this graphic:


It shows the superiority of cats. The legs are not uniform but that does not matter, it is the way the left leg is lifted delicately to enforce her (I don’t know why I think she is female) position in the world.

I have come back to this research to add a lady, Margaret Calvert. who, with her colleague, Jock Kinneir, more than fifty years ago designed the road signs for Britian.

A quote from a Guardian article about the design pair states:

Although they may not have the glamour of other iconic British designs, it’s easy to see what designers find so impressive in the pleasing simplicity of their arrows, and the surprising loveliness of their running deer. (4)


One has to agree.


As part of assignment 4 I am trying to create an ad, a poster and an invitation. I need to look at the work of designers with a special interest in typography. Although many of those I have looked at above fit this category my tutor advised me, in her feedback on this assignment, to expand this list

First up I found the work of Chris Labrooy. He is a freelance designer based in the UK. His designs use 3D and are incredibly effective. I especially like the following design.


One would nearly not mind paying the increased fares…. I think this design is magic. I wish I knew how he created it.

Ged Palmer: is from Bristol in the UK. He seems to have started life as a graffiti artist. I love the description of designers, who work on typography, as lettering artists. I find his work quite conventional for someone who comes from this background. I assume it is because he is working to commissions.


Alex Trochut: lives in Barcelona and works as a freelancer. His style is playful and colourful. I like the following two. I find it interesting that the left hand one is quite fussy but the right hand one is clean lines. I love the creating of the word Berlin with the shoe lace.









screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-11-58-22Martin Schmetzer: is Swedish. He does most of his typography by hand. I am full of admiration for his talent but I am not so keen on the results of his labours….. I believe he does also work digitally.


Charles Williams: was next up and all I can say is WOW. I love his design. he is a Londoner.

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-13-24-56In an interview by DesignBoom his work is described as surreal three-dimensional aesthetic – a completely accurate description in my opinion.

In this interview he also says:

the focus on type came about as a natural result of working with typography as a graphic designer, and feeling a developing urge to break it apart, toy with it, extrude it, and basically do more than my role as designer would allow. this led to a desire to explore a more artistic approach to type using the guise of ‘illustrator’










Tutor recommendations:

Peter Saville:

I like this man’s approach to life. Although he is a very well known Uk graphic designer he has a healthy disrespect for commercialism. he started life in broadcasting before moving to designing record labels for Factory records, in LA. I loved his covers for Joy Division.

But his attitude and inability to work in agencies and be told what to do lead him to bankruptcy. He returned to the UK and restarted his life as a designer.

When asked to design something for Lacoste’s 80th anniversary he was given free reign apart from the restriction that he could not touch the crocodile. So what did Saville do but shatter the crocodile into 80 pieces…. I like this mans courage.(5)

I am still not sure why my tutor thought I should research him but she was right about my liking him.

  1. WIRED: WIRED. 2016. Famed Designer Michael Bierut Doesn’t Believe in Creativity | WIRED. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 06 November 2016].
  2. Dominic Flask. 2016. Massimo Vignelli : Design Is History. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 07 November 2016].
  3. Right Ear Left Blog. 2016. MILTON GLASER: DESIGNING DYLAN | Right Ear Left Blog. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 07 November 2016].
  4. The Guardian. 2016. Way to go: the woman who invented Britain’s road signs | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2016].
  5. The Guardian. 2017. Peter Saville: the UK’s most famous graphic designer | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2017].