The Pictures of the Year exhibit at the Newseum showcased plenty of breath-taking photos. At first, I thought it might be difficult to choose just one photo to focus on, but then one really did catch my eye.
I think this photo from protests in Bangkok, Thailand grabbed my attention due to its unique composition. The photograph emphasizes the burning truck and the man actively throwing a tire through a reflection on the ground. The muddy water on the road provided a surprisingly crisp and clear reflection that provides nearly perfect symmetry to the image. The reflection is darker than the actual scene, making it seem like an alternative reality that emphasizes the dark and foreboding scene of a city turned upside down by discontent.
What also strikes me is the extraordinary color in the photo. By and large, the photograph has an almost monochromatic feel to it. Most of the picture is veiled in billowing brown smoke. The visible parts of the sky are not blue, but also a brown color that brings images of armageddon to mind. The parts of the image that are not dark brown are right in the foreground: the bright yellow and orange flames of the burning truck and the bright lime green t-shirt of the protester. The contrast of the colors at the focal point of the image add to the photo’s ability to draw the eye in.
The emphasis in this gallery was on photojournalism, photographs that can document a scene and tell a story in one frame. I think this photograph presents something of a dichotomy: the photograph seems somewhat surreal, but still transmits the feeling of that scene on the streets of Bangkok. It’s not a photograph of a protest on a blue sunny day. Every part of the photo lends itself to the dire situation that existed in Thailand during the protests and anti-government demonstrations.
This ad was run in newspapers by the Newspaper Marketing Agency whose research has shown that a majority of men read the Sports section first and, therefore, the whole newspaper from back to front. It uses several of the design principles we have learned about in class.
First, it swaps the positive and negative space. It was intended to be run in newspapers, which are predominantly black text on a white background. A large black box with white text in it is sure to grab the readers attention as they flip through the newspaper. The picture below shows the ad in context, where it is very clearly the most predominant object on this page out of The Guardian newspaper.
Second, the text is aligned into two distinct sections. There is the larger text in the very center of the ad to grab the readers attention and interest them in the ad (The reversed text is sure to stand out as wrong to the reader). Once interested, the reader will naturally look to the lower right corner where there is more text explaining the ad.
Finally, the sharp contrast achieved by only using black and white ensures the reader will look directly at the two areas of text.
This ad employs more than just good design to catch the reader’s attention. The reversed text is a mind trick to grab attention, but that arrangement of text also connotes something about the research and conclusions of the Newspaper Marketing Agency.
Warhol's Nixon (Vote McGovern)
A desaturated version that emphasizes the texture
Texture is an aspect of art that has evolved through time. One of the great transformations in texture came in the 1960s with the revolution of pop art led by Andy Warhol. Pop art ushered in a new era of more commercial fine art. The style is also distinctive in its use of unnatural and bright colors. However, while texture is usu
Along with the pop art movement, Warhol was first to popularize the screen printing process for fine art. The screen printing process dates back centuries and had been used widely for creating color advertisings since the late 1800s. Despite its wide use for commercial printing purposes, it had not been accepted by art collectors until big name artists like Warhol began creating fine artwork through the medium.
Warhol chose the screen printing process for fine art, known by then as serigraphy, because it allowed greater freedom for textures. Textures that could not be created through other methods could now be created through screen printing. Along with the pattern of the silk screen that was transferred onto the print, heavier types of ink could be used to create more opaque and solid textures.
A piece of art like Warhol’s “Nixon (Vote McGovern)” demonstrates the wide array of textures that could be incorporated into one work through the screen printing process. To counter the vibrant colors used, the textures help make the work look more realistic in some areas, and more manufactured in other areas.
A closeup of Warhol's Nixon
Chapter 7 of the Non-Designer’s Design Book outlines the rules for using color in design. The laws governing the use of color are fairly simple and easy to understand, but simply messing up the tint, contrast, or tone of the colors in a project can easily lead to disaster.
While reading the chapter, I was reminded of all the poorly-designed signs I’ve seen for lemonade stands. Children often decide on a hot summer day to set up a lemonade stand outside their house to test their budding entrepreneurial skills. When creating a sign to advertise their product, they often choose a large white poster and use yellow (the color of lemons) for the text. To a passing car, bright yellow text on a bright white background is anything but readable. The tone of the two colors is far too similar and there just isn’t enough contrast.
To illustrate the posters I was thinking of, I’ve included some pictures below of bad lemonade stand posters and one photo of a well-designed poster that will really grab attention.