Exercise: Abstract cities

Create a series of 10 abstract designs in which you balance blocks of subordinate, dominant and accent colours.

These designs are going to be used as covers for guidebooks to the following cities:

Madrid   Malmo   Managua   Manchester   Manhattan   Marrakech

Marseilles   Melbourne   Montreal   Mumbai

The books are going to be A5 landscape (210mm x148mm) size. You can use as many colours as you like and need to include the name of the city – where you place this and its colour are also important decisions to make. You may want to find out more about each city to help you develop your colour palette and also the size, shape and positioning of the colour blocks.

Explore your DTP packages further by creating the artwork in the different software packages you have to experiment with the possibilities and ease of use. You can also do this exercise on paper using coloured blocks that you can cut and move about.

Make notes in your learning log as you research and create your designs.

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I decided to start with the two cities with which I am familiar, Madrid and Marseille. I had the following image of Madrid which I used to create an abstract in Illustrator. For learning steps see my log diary.


I kept more or less the same colour scheme and created the following abstract which has the proportions 210 x 148 cm.



I decided to do Marseille next. I had already used another image to try out an abstract in my log book. However I preferred these colours and the simplicity of these meant that to size it was easy.





I have only visited Malmo once in my life and that was about thirty years ago. I was on a train with three children passing through on my way up north in Sweeden.

I can remember nothing except trying to herd three children on to a train with a hoard of people.

So for inspiration I started with the Swedish flag. I found the ‘official’ colours online and put these into the swatches in Illustrator. I tried several shapes and ideas in my log book. I also found colours which were close to and contrasting with the swedish flag colours. I saved this in the swatches. I used these to create a skyline across the bottom and a contrasting colour for the name.





I’ve never been to central America so I had very exotic images in my head. I did not know exactly where Managua was so I had to start researching it. It’s the capital of Nicaragua and is home to just over 1 million inhabitants. It is almost completely surrounded by water. It has suffered greatly from volcanoes and if Google is to be believed most people beat a hasty retreat as soon as they can.

For this reason I felt obliged to give Managua a touristic boost by trying to design a cover which was as vibrant as possible…

I started with looking at the general images but decided to go to ‘crafts’ Managua as my search term. This is a screen snap of page 1.


I then searched ‘colours’ Managua and this is what came up. Again a screen snap of the page.


I used the above images to match some of the colours in Illustrator and made a new group of them. Below are the colours I assembled.


I wanted a random set of shapes for my cover. I received a 2017 calendar from my post office a couple of days ago and I liked the design. With this design and the images and the colours I cut out a number of shapes and made a collage of them in my log book.







This is the type of design I wanted to create in Illustrator for Managua. I also wanted something south american for a typeface. I found South Pacific on DaFont. Am not convinced about it.


I think this looks a bit gaudy and amateurish. So I produced another.


I am not sure which would make me buy the guide book!

After a lot of trial and error I came up with this abstract design and I quite like it. I learned a lot about creating triangles!


I still do not know if I would choose any of these as an inviting guide book cover… I await critique.


I looked at some guidebooks online for Manchester and did not altogether like what I saw. I quite like the one at the bottom.


But I don’t much like mine either…


It reminds me of a child’s bedtime story book. Maybe I need to rethink this.

I wanted something more lively so I located one of my sky images. The added a few coloured stars with images of Manchester buildings behind.




I want to do a skyline in black with an orange sky and orange windows in the skyline houses. I have been thinking about this. For me Manhattan is nighttime entertainment. Google images produced this page. I don’t find the images especially inspiring..



manhattan-skyline  I picked one of these images, converted it to black and white and placed it in my Illustrator blank file. I stretched to fit and reduced the opacity. I then used the pen tool to trace the outline. When completed and I had a closed path I removed the background image. I then filled the outline with black and placed one of the very few gradient colours available. I need to learn how to create gradients. The orange suited well but needed to be rotated to fit sundown direction. Finally I wrote Manhattan in Helvetica as I wanted it to be clean and bold.



I tried to make a moroccan shaped door but that did not work so I decided to go with the pattern idea. Not sure if this really fulfils the brief of block colours but here goes.


I remembered my beautiful picture painted by a friend who spent the Winter in Marrakech a couple of years ago. I bought the painting for my husband’s birthday and we both love it. So I decided to take a picture of it and reduce it to blocks of colour.

Kordula Packard


This probably fits the brief better but I like it less and I learned no new skills while creating it…


I visited Melbourne in 1996   and I had a very simple camera with me but I took some images I like so I will se one of these.


I am not too happy with what I made of this as I think it is too complicated but here it is.


I have tried to make this simpler and cleaner



I used the image below from the internet to create my Montreal illustration:


This is what I came up with:



I have not been to Mumbai but have spent time in other parts of India. I will look at some of my own images to create the atmosphere of India in my head. I always think of India in terms of the colours oranges and reds. I think about India as a cacophony of noise. The traffic is manic. But the people are charming and very attractive. I love the beautiful red and black saris worn on festive occasions. So I used this for my inspiration. Of course India is temples. I remember feeling’templed out’ while there!



This has been an extremely difficult exercise for me. I decided to do all the cities in Illustrator as I felt this was the best software to use. My knowledge of Illustrator was very limited but I feel I have learned a lot about creating shapes and especially curves. However I am far from confident that I can reproduce some of the effects I was able to create. I do not find Illustrator intuitive and I get very frustrated. I think I have perfected something and when I come back to it it does not seem to work. I know this is because I am not doing something correctly but it is not always evident.

When I checked other students work I see they mostly produced real blocks of colour but I wanted to extend my knowledge of Illustrator so I strayed from the brief a little I think.

I have been reading Itten’s book on the art of Colour while I have been creating these illustrations. However I have not been able to use any of this knowledge for several reasons. I am not sure enough of how to use different colours. I have tended to go with my gut reaction. I will be extremely interested to learn what my tutor thinks of my choices and how these could be improved with an improved knowledge and familiarity of the colour circles, hues, saturation, harmonies etc.

I asked for some feedback on a couple of my works, from friends and altered according to their suggestions:

Sandi says:
Mumbai, like use of back and red, like the shape but it needs more. I would suggest, move up text Mumbai, make white. Make your Temple bigger and make it red but 15% darker. I would suggest for the black having some kind of tonal graphic but if your just getting your head around illustrator that could be difficult.
MElborne: font is very dated, I would something contemporary not script. Really like the graphic illustration here, good job! Oh and make MElborne text bigger.
MArrakech: the colours are too similar to MElborne to distinguish this as an entirely different piece. I would just make them bolder, pillar box red, gold, all those bold colours you associate with Morocco. I think these bolder colours could be your center piece but have more muted colours (the blues are good for this) at the side and bottom blue is good with that. Make the two side panels exactly the same on each side the different angles are distracting. They should essentially lead the eye into the vibrancy of the center piece!
marrakech_3 melbourne_3 mumbai_2
I have left my original ideas to see what the tutor thinks.
17 Jan2017: Have just finished Beware Wet Paint by Alan Fletcher and found his interpretation of Manhattan…. How simple – How beautiful

I think this task shows your own preference towards pictorial imagery which has a clear visual legibility. Where your images have become over-simplified and you lose an anchor or means of justification the images seem to lack a satisfaction for you. I think this task is not about right or wrong but more to do with discovering where the line could be drawn between graphic reduction and the thoroughly abstract… and most importantly, where you might enjoy working on this scale! There’s some great colour exploration here alongside broad exploration of shape. I think the Manchester image feels the least effective – what about artists like Lowry? – what palette and shapes are his images made up of? Could you form some of these simple shapes in illustrator and then scatter them and rearrange them and would the image still denote a feel Manchester. Your Montreal and Madrid images feel most sophisticated in their refinement. Including Fletcher’s work at the end summaries nicely a knowledge of the purpose of this task being related to understanding simple graphic form and language. I also rather like your Managua image! Whilst you might not like the refinement of this, there’s something about using the triangles in a pattern that has a lively dynamic that starts to remind me of central american primitive folk art or pattern. 

With my tutors advice I took one of Lowry’s paintings and studied the shapes. I simplified it and came up with the following design. I left the colours deliberately muted to denote industrial Manchester but I hope it does not appear took dull and uninviting!!!


Project: Understanding colour

Draw two grids of squares, filling one with colours that you like and the other with colours you dislike. Then put the two grids side by side and ask the question ‘which one looks better?’

On the left are the colours I like. I wear these colours and my house is decorated in them. On the right are the colours I don’t like.


A couple of images of my ‘wardrobe’ would indicate the colours I like and wear. People made a lot of money out of a service”Colour me Beautiful” which I found intriguing. I have always known the colours in which I feel comfortable.

cloths_1 cloths_2

The usual result is the grid full of colours you dislike. This is because we tend to pick bright colours as the colours we like, which when placed side-by-side look garish and jarring. By contrast the colours we think we don’t like as much are often the more subtle and muddier mixed colours, tertiary colours and occasional bright hues. When placed side by side the effect is more balanced.

I think the colours I like look best! I don’t know if this makes me a freak!!

Next try experimenting with placing colours together as Itten did. Try and find different combinations of two colours to illustrate each of these ideas:

Angry  Brave  Creative  Dangerous  Energetic  Familiar  Gregarious Hopeful  Independent  Jumpy  Kinetic  Luxurious  Masculine  New  Open Precious  Quiet Reasonable  Sociable  Tasteful  Unhappy  Vital  Wonderful Extra special  Youthful  Zany

I was not quite sure how to approach this exercise so I looked up Itten and the colour wheel. In so doing I came across an interesting online blog by David Briggs in which both modern and traditional colour theory are explained.(1).

The following figure explains the modern theory of colour:


The traditional RGB or primary colour triangle has been updated to the Yellow Blue red and Green model. These are the four psychological primaries. Our brain registers these due to the light falling on the retina which has three colour cone receptors. These receptors see the whole spectrum of colour between them and these are then registered on the brain.

However there has been a move back to the traditional theory of colour. Briggs does not approve of this and indicates it is a dumbing down of art teaching in the same way that anatomy is no longer taught in many art schools.

The blog also contains the following neat image of the Primary colours for mixing paints and the three additive colours for mixing lights:


Researching the emotions associated with colours I found this site.(2) where certain emotions and effects were discussed in relation to certain colours. For danger, for example, both red and yellow could be associated with danger. I looked at this combination to see how I felt about it.

I decided to go and make Itten type colour squares in my log for each of the above emotions. I just based these on how I ‘felt’ about the colour and it’s association with the particular emotion.

Then I decided to work on each emotion using a more ‘informed’ approach by reading what I could find about the association of the emotion with a colour or colours.

I will slot my log colour squares in here and there to see how my own personal emotions informed my colour choices.


anger2_Angry:Red is traditionally associated with anger. . Orange is close to red and might be interpreted as slightly less angry but nonetheless anger or aggressiveness is associated with the colour

In my emotional depiction I chose red/blue



ANGER                             DANGER                    BRAVE                     VITAL



Yellow is associated with liveliness and energy both characertistics required for bravery. green is associated with durability and endurance.

Interestingly I chose green as one of my ’emotional’ brave colours.




Both orange and purple are associated with creativity. Purple is also associated with sophistication. I dislike both of these colours – does this mean I am neither creative nor sophisticated?

I chose orange and mauve instead of purple for creative for my emotional choice.


CREATIVE                                                        ENERGETIC       GREGARIOUS



Red is traditionally associated with danger so my mind reacts to this colour indicating danger. Yellow is quite often associated with danger also. For example in the road signs survey the exclamation mark is usually displayed on a yellow background indicating some unknown danger. The colour obtained by mixing these two colours is orange so the whole is skewed towards the red end of the spectrum.



It is interesting that both danger and energy come up with the same colour pairing. Red is associated with energy normally but looking at the shell logo I assume they want to indicate that their product provides energy…




familiar_2I think from my reading that blue could be classified as familiar because it is the most communally used colour. It is the colour of the sky and Summer. Green is the colour of nature and is therefore extremely familiar.




talkative_2In the meaning of colors, orange is outgoing and uninhibited, often encouraging exhibitionism or at least it is a color that wants to show off. The color orange relates to social communication and it encourages two-way conversation. (3)

I added red to back up the above ‘observation’



hope_2Colours associated with hope vary from one culture to another but green seems to be almost universal. I decided on a light green as for me this gives the impression a lightness and hopeful ness. Yellow is also associated with hope in some cults so I put these two colour together to represent hope.



independence_2While researching colours which could symbolise independence I cam across this article (4). Many meanings were attributed to each colour discussed together with cultural differences for colours. I remember this in Nepal where white is associated with death and red with marriage.




Jumpy and Kinetic:

jumpy_2The colour yellow is a lively colour according to much of what I read. It is playful and enthusiastic and could therefore be associated with movement. When placed with orange the two colours together produce, for me, a jumpy effect.

I used deep lilac with yellow for jumpy and with red for kinetic.


luxury_2Silver and gold are often associated with luxury but the most consistent colour that I found to be associated with luxury was purple. So I combined purple with silver.

For my emotional reaction I used light grey on black for luxurious and mauve on black for tasteful.



JUMPY                             KINTIC                     LUXURIOUS   TASTEFUL


masculine_2Blue is the traditional colour associated with the male child in our culture but does this mean masculine.

Words associated with masculinity include strong, silent, handsome and rugged. Colors that are defined with these characters are also perceived as masculine. Athletic team colors, such as navy and crimson personify strength and unity, and are considered masculine. Many shades of gray and taupe have understated masculine appeal, and are often paired with blue and burgundy in male-influenced spaces. Warm tones of brown, tan, gold, green and beige are considered masculine colors and can work together to create a masculine outdoor color scheme. (5)

So many colour combinations seem to define masculinity but they are mostly muted.


new_2Generally I think white would be associated with pure, clean and therefore ‘new’. I combined this with yellow which is associated with sunshine and happiness and I stretched this to ‘newness”.

For my emotional reaction to masculine colour I used browns but the only material i had was a wool!!! My friend thought it looked like an old cat!!!! For New I used blue with white instead of yellow.


MASCULINE                                              NEW


open_2On the touchy-feely level, blue symbolizes openness, intelligence, and faith, and has been found to have calming effects.(6). I also found reference to the fact that white can symbolise open.





precious_2I think since silver and gold are precious metals they are automatically associated with  preciousness. It is hard to represent these colours without some highlighting which would be found in advertising.




quiet_2Calmness and quietness are associated with pale blues and greens in most of the literature.









Green represents quietness and relaxation the demeanour of a reasonable person. Orange represents flexibility and generosity. Again associated with reasonableness.





QUIET                                             REASONABLE


Interesting when I looked up ‘sociable’ the colours of the social media sites came up here. Blue seems to be widely used for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress and Vimeo which must mean it is a ‘sociable’ colour. The other prominent colour was orange for Pintarest, GooglePlus, YouTube etc.



tastefulThe is really interesting as looking up ‘tasteful colour combinations’ one finds mostly fashion sites. Fashion is a matter of personal taste so I would decide what I like to wear as a combination. I like navy and white or red.  I don’t know about the psychology of this colour combination but I like it…



unhappyThis  research into mood association for colours is interesting (7). Although the conclusions are not rigid unhappiness was associated with shades of grey and dark blue.





vitalUsing vital in the sense of vitality or alive then the colour most associated with this attribute are red and yellow again






wonderfulWonderful is associated with youth and happiness which is often represented by orange. Red is the colour of passion and energy so red and orange are my choice.





VITAL                                                   WONDERFUL

Extra special:

I cannot find anything about colours for special except colours used for special causes. Pink, is associated with breast cancer cause and yellow is a sunny colour for someone special.




youthAgain youth is associated with pink and orange. It is a zany combination also!






zanyA hair colour site suggested their zaniest colours…

For Zany all I could see in my minds eye was a kaleidoscope of colours so I made the triangles below into a square…




YOUTHFUL                                                             ZANY


If I work with raw emotion I do not come up with the same colour representation. I do not understand yet if this is because I am not yet fully informed about the psychological effects of colour or if I have a skewed sense of colour…. Time may tell


Finally I found this interesting wheel of colour emotions,


I found an amusing graphic for emotions related to colour here 


  1. The Dimensions of Colour. 2016. The Dimensions of Colour. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.huevaluechroma.com/index.php. [Accessed 24 November 2016].
  2. Creative Bloq. 2016. 12 colours and the emotions they evoke | Creative Bloq. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.creativebloq.com/web-design/12-colours-and-emotions-they-evoke-61515112. [Accessed 24 November 2016].
  3. Color-Meanings.com. 2016. Orange Color Meaning – The Color Orange. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.color-meanings.com/orange-color-meaning-the-color-orange/. [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  4. Art Therapy. 2016. Color Meanings | Color Symbolism | Meaning of Colors. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.arttherapyblog.com/online/color-meanings-symbolism/#.WDxJBRSQthM. [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  5. Masculine and Feminine Colors | Home Guides | SF Gate. 2016. Masculine and Feminine Colors | Home Guides | SF Gate. [ONLINE] Available at: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/masculine-feminine-colors-77994.html. [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  6. Site Point . 2016. The Psychology of Color. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sitepoint.com/the-psychology-of-color/. [Accessed 28 November 2016].
  7. Live Science. 2016. Different Colors Describe Happiness vs. Depression. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.livescience.com/6084-colors-describe-happiness-depression.html. [Accessed 29 November 2016].

Exercise: Seeing the Light

Using only an image of a light bulb, the word ‘light bulb’ and a block of colour of your choice create different designs that explore visual dynamics – as the kitten designs shown in the previous project.

Think about your compositions, trying each element at a different sizes and cropping your photo. Your block of colour can be any size, so use it fully to create a sense of space in your composition. Think about layering your visual elements to create depth within your designs and think about contrasts.

I started this exercise by doing a series of thumbnails in my log book. I decided to use black as my fill colour because I realised on looking at my diary that I like black and white designs. Here is the result of these sketches.


I will now examine these to try to find the 20 that ‘stand out’ from the rest. I had to use a charcoal pencil for some of them because of the text. I would do this text in white on the computer.

I was not sure how flexible the block of colour could be or whether ‘shades’ of the colour were acceptable. I was also unsure whether using white as my block colour, for example in design number 20 was acceptable or whether a gradient of the colour could be used.  I included one or two of these ideas as I found the exercise a little boring doing 20 designs like the kitten design in the notes.

I used photoshop, rather than InDesign or Illustrator as I was not sure I could control all these elements.

This is the result:


On reflection I am not sure this fits the criteria. If it were a client I could check. I looked up some other students work on the web and they seem to have stuck to the ‘kitten model’.


I love your thumbnails for this; your drawings are dynamic, fun and creative. You have gone a little off-track for the exercise in terms of perhaps distorting the images rather than just working with scale, composition and visual dynamics however you’ve got some lovely ideas in there and have picked up all the elements of the task along the way. You could afford to go more extreme with all your elements – remember what you said about the tension in the FNAC logo in your visual diary? – taking your images beyond the frame can have a dramatically graphic effect so something to try in future work. 

Project: Visual Dynamics

Research point

Becoming aware of how you look at things is useful in understanding how best to construct the visual dynamic of your own design work. Go back to your visual diary, how do your eyes travel around the items you have collected? What do you look at first? Where is the contrast in what you are looking at?

I found this blog entry from Vanseo Designs(1) extremely helpful in explaining what is meant by Visual Dynamics. It explains about the tension created by where an object is placed in the space and indeed the tension created between objects if there is more than one object in the space. Overlapping objects or increasing their size can also increase tension. Juxtaposition between conflicting objects increases tension. Light and dark, small and large, straight lines and curves when used in the same space can all increase tension.

Another blog (2) I found useful offered this quote

In the visual arts, we can think of dynamics in terms of contrasting elements. Think size and variation; empty space and filled spaces; areas of simplicity and areas of complexity. Focal point also plays a major role.

The final piece of work which I found extremely helpful is a Mini Course in Design which is in PdF format here.

On contrast it says

basically involves using contrasting qualities for visual interest- big to small, textured to smooth, hard to soft, red to green, black to white, straight to curve, fat to thin, long to short etc. Contrast is wither similar to or interacts with many of the other principals such as scale, interval, much to how much etc.

page_1A page of postcards from my visual diary. These are postcards that I have kept for many years. Some because I liked them and some because I liked the people from whom they came. I like the bird postcard best. I like the contrast between the white sky and the flock of blackbirds below. I like the way my eye is drawn into the image by the single bird separated from the rest. The contrast between black birds and white sky is powerful.





page_3Another page from my visual diary contains various pieces. One is a flyer for paints, another is for an upcoming exhibition in Aix. The bottom right is another of my favourites. This is a publicity postcards for a book binding course.The small images are centred and balanced. I like black as a background. I think it helps the contrasts between the colour in the small images.


cardI think it falls down with the choice of colour for the title and web information. White might have been a better choice. The colour reproduction here is not great.








These are a collection of flyers from the shop where I work in Ireland. They give information for island visits, accommodation and ferries. I think they are all too fussy but they are usually read and thrown away.


page_2Three more pages from the diary. The pizza box is great for the purpose it serves but I do not think it is startling design. In the first of these three contains the FNAC logo. I love this so much that I bought a bag with the logo on it. I think the tension is greatly increased by having only part of the logo visible on each side. I also like the striped bag. This was a beautiful kitchen shop in Aix which has not survived the financial turn down. But I kept the bag. The contrast between green and white is great. The atmosphere is of beach huts…

page_6I like both of these designs. Confirmation of my love of black background. The top one is a menu for a train restaurant in Australia. The menu design was better than the meal.

The Sam Friday bag is one of my favourites. The silver name on the black give an atmosphere of luxury. The tab used to close the bag provides all the information about the shop. My daughter gave me a lovely present in this quite some time ago.




This is the Wild Atlantic Way logo. An initiative of the Irish Tourism Board. It was such a simple logo but so effective. It is now on every signpost and every village uses it to attract visitors. It flows like waves. It can be easily reproduced on any support.

I could have designed it – pity I didn’t!!

nz_symbolThe New Zealand logo has always fascinated me. Apparently they had a referendum to ask citizens if they wanted to change their flag with the logo. There was a resounding NO. It is simple with big contrast. Again white on Black.

wellaI love the Wella logo. It, again, is simple, white on grey. As a hair product logo it is spot on. The double visage with the wavy hair flying – perfect. Placed at the bottom of the bag increases the tension. The red satin handles makes it look like a luxury product, even though it was only a shampoo….


So in conclusion I am drawn to simple symbols and logo. I especially like white/silver on black  background. I like the increase in tension created by only displaying a portion of a symbol. One of the most effective symbol I saw this week as the toilet door in IKEA, A simple female figure shown only in half on the right, a child (also half) on the left. A half moon for the handle. I look at whatever is situated on the most contrasting background, first. I like the use of topography placed in such a way to increase tension. My eye searches the remainder of the word.


  1. Vanseo Design. 2016. How To Create Visual Tension in Your Designs – Vanseo Design. [ONLINE] Available at: http://vanseodesign.com/web-design/visual-tension/. [Accessed 13 November 2016].
  2.  Advanced Design: Visual Dynamics | Paperclipping. 2016. Advanced Design: Visual Dynamics | Paperclipping. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.paperclipping.com/design-101-visual-dynamics/. [Accessed 14 November 2016].

Exercise: Signs and Symbols

In this exercise you will read existing signs, symbols and images, and then drawing on their visual language create your own symbols.

Choose one of the following concepts:

Danger    Movement    Love    Here

How does existing visual language represent these concepts, for example both ‘danger’ and ‘love’ use red, while ‘movement’ and ‘here’ use arrows. Research the different similes and metaphors that are in common use. Document them through drawings, collecting examples and mind maps.

Now create an alternative symbol to represent at least one of the concepts.

Pencil and paper is the fastest and most practical way of working out your initial designs. You may then want to develop your idea further using computer software.

I looked at many signs around the area where I live and have tried to divide these signs into the above headings. I have also looked at some images I had made to see if any fitted into the required genre. Some of the signs could have been placed in more than one category, I felt.


I bought a lovely little box yesterday which contained small cards representing the hand symbols for sign language, here in France.



sing_language_phrasesIt also contained signs for some phrases. As someone who is profoundly deaf I have never learned sign language because I have always been able to use technology to allow me to hear. However I am very interested in anything which might help my fellow deaf sufferers.

A really interesting article in The New York Times Magazine talks about this centuries craze for redesigning everything (1). It states:

a clever redesign, one that addresses the right problem in an intelligent fashion, improves the world, if just by a bit.

With this in mind, I looked at all the designs I had photographed and those I had sketched in order to see where I could go with creating my own symbol which could fit into one of these headings. I was not sure whether I would try to ‘improve’ on existing symbols which exist under the above headings or create something completely new which does not already exist. Either prospect seem arrogant! The latter would require extensive research to ascertain if such a symbol exists anywhere in the world.

I was also influenced, in my thinking, by my time in Africa. I was faced quite often with trying to represent my ideas or instructions without the use of language. Many to those with whom I worked were illiterate.


cars will be towed away because it is dangerous to park here
unexpected danger





Road narrows
Dangerous to walk here
You do not have priority











The colours here are mostly red, white and black. Different shapes are used including circles and triangles. I was interested in exploring danger sings that did not exist or that I had never seen. Here are some from my sketch book.


I didn’t think my sharks looked dangerous enough!!


Now having read about Margaret Calvert, the british road sign designer, I am not sure that I will be able to match her genius. I asked a couple of friends, one who has done quite a lot of logo design, which they thought was the most explanatory.  I had two votes for the ‘noise’ one and two for the ‘volcano’ one. I might do the noise one although I see it already exists.


school children may be running about here
cycle paths


Drive slowly children playing














Most of what I found for Love were red hearts. I created those below myself. I find those with red hearts really mushy. I wanted to create something more aesthetic.


I like the mother and child image best to express that love between a mother and her child. I may develop this idea on the computer for my final image. Meanwhile here is what I created in charcoal:




parking meter area
parking meter area here
Doggy poop scoop here
swimming facilities here


hard hats required on site










Beds available here
no dogs during school hours, except on leads and wearing a muzzle



no parking here









Having examined many symbols, many of them public symbols I thought I had something original in the noise symbol in my log book. However I discovered that this is a well known symbol. My volcano one was also well known. So I decided the only way to go was to ‘invent an amusing symbol. I decided to make a symbol forbidding wellington boots in the house! I thought this would amuse my grandchildren. They continually run in and out of the garden bringing some of the garden with them all the time.

My preparations work is here:


I then tried to create the boot symbol in the design software. Here are the steps I took.

step 1
step 2






step 3

I started in InDesign with a filled red circle. I placed a white circle on top of this. Then I imported this into Illustrator.

I found it extremely difficult to control the curves created with the pen tool. So I decided to redraw the boot and then add the red bar using a filled rectangle. I am dissatisfied with the result but my design software skills need a great deal of honing.



a second attempt to improve the boot!!



I am not sure if this is an improvement but I have learned how to change anchor points from curves back to straight lines!

boot_symbol_8_smFinally I went to the web and picked up a stencil of a boot. I brought it into Photoshop and cut out the boot, put it on a transparent background and saved it as a png file. I outlined the boot and filled it with black. I then copied it into the illustrator circles. I added the red cross rectangle and this is the result. I am happy with this.


  1. Log In – New York Times. 2016. Log In – New York Times. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/13/magazine/design-issue-redesign-craze.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ma_20161111&nl=magazine&nlid=70766087&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0. [Accessed 12 November 2016].