Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Where the wild things are

Where the Wild Things are is a cultural touchstone, anyone who has read it has been touched by it, any one who was read it as a child has treasured it their whole lives. The book is brought to life by the perfect art of Maurice Sendak, and it's calm yet detailed vistas conjured a world that took root in the minds of children everwhere.
With the imminent film, it seems appropriate that this book is seeing a resurgence, and stacks of copies are being sold at HMV now, which is great for anyone who doesn't own a copy.
Of note is the brilliant wrap around cover, featuring some incredible typography, somehow expressing the entire mood of the book in a few thick strokes.
It is a great example of storytelling minimalism, with simple layouts and sparing use of text. The text itself is more of a framework for the art, a direction for the progression of the pictures, the real heart of the book. The pictures may initially not reveal much, but small implications are in every tableau, my favourite being the one time Max lets slip a slight expression of fear, the first time he meets a Wild Thing, a great sea serpent.
The book has spawned an exhibition of art by designer fans, viewable here:
I really recommend checking it out.


This is a Japanese limited edition PS3 slim, intended to be bundled with the game itself on release. I really love this design, the white console stylish enough with it's minimal shape and subtle curves, but what really makes it beautiful is the embossed design of the game's heroine, Lightning, picked out in a gorgeously subtle pink. The artwork is stark and appealing, and cleverly echoes the style of the lead concept artist's work, often seen in the background of the logos for each installment in the series. It really feels Final Fantasy, and every western fan of Square's flagship title should be shouting at the top of their voices for this machine to cross the seas, in order for us all to spend ridiculous amounts of money on it.


This is the cover art for the Japanese and European releases of PlayStation 2 game, 'Ico'. It evokes the major themes of the game (escape, protection of and reliance on your companion, aloneness and sparseness, verticality) and presents them in an artful, inspiring manner.
Below is the American cover:
Yuck. Just... Ugh.
This crime seems to have committed in order to appeal more to the American audience, and if I was American I'd be extremely offended by this idea. This design eschews all the subtlety and beauty of the original cover in order to present a generic, hero-centric movie poster design communicating nothing about the game and so familiar to contemporary America as to be void of all meaning at this point.
Similar issues have occurred with Final Fantasy releases, and one wonders if perhaps Japan views the U.S as incapable of appreciating classy, more minimal images, or decoding abstract allusions to actual thematic content.

Clarence Dock

Clarence Dock is in my opinion, Leeds' most beautiful area, modern architecture, wide open spaces and large expanses of calm water. Greenery would make it perfect, but I'll take what I can get in this city.
It's beauty is redoubled come the night, when bright lights reflect in the mirrored waters, and soft luminescence suffuses the buildings.
The focal point of the dock, when viewed from the riverside, is the Clarence Dock building, a curling matte white structure with the shape and texture of a beautiful seashell. The building is a tangible evocation of the airiness and freshness the area exudes, from the wide open pool to the wide open sky.
The architecture is incredibly varied, but in harmony, no building overpowering another, yet each pretty in it's own right, and emphasising the strong horizontal planes leading toward the main building.

Hellboy (comics)

Mike Mignola has created many things, but none so accomplished or respected as his Hellboy series. Both writing and drawing the entire main series himself (up until 'darkness calls'), Mignola crafted a unique world through his mastery of the visual narrative medium.
What I love so much about his pages is the atmosphere stirred up through his timing. Dialogue is spaced through the panels in a sparse, reflective manner, simplifying the reading of the page while enriching the world it illustrates. With no huge speech balloons obscuring the art and directing the hierarchy unnaturally, the eye is free to soak in the rich artwork and vivid colours. Other comic artists will have silent panels to describe a pause for thought, or to let the environment or action take centre stage, but Mignola is unique in his employment of small square panels dotted throughout his stories at key points, containing small designs or portions of architecture, rarely of any importance to the plot, but instrumental in making the story that much more real and tangible.
Hellboy is an essential comic, but on it's own terms, bending rules and unashamed of it's origins in pulp ideas. It is a pure example of the art, unpretentious and yet fanciful and experimental.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


This is my blog for my Graphic Design course at the University of Leeds. I aim to detail here different designs that I find interesting, and share them. I will make sure to try my best to convey what specifically about them appeals to me, and try and tackle things from the 'design point of view' whatever the genre I am reviewing. I also aim to review things objectively, to judge things unbiased by my non-design feelings on my subjects. My critical thoughts on my topics will be constructive, and I will attempt to write down what I would rectify in order to fix any problems, should there be something wrong with my subject. I intend for most of my reviews to be positive, so I can share the things I really really like with anyone reading my blogs.
My hope in showing these things I love to everyone is that they will go on to inspire other people, and they will share my love for things like Scott Pilgrim, Penny Arcade and Hellboy.
The brief I am having to meet is thus:
Critically review 5 books, 5 films, 5 artists, 5 buildings / places, 5 museums, 5 websites and 5 designs. My blog must be professional, and no sarcastic comments must appear. This means I'm going to have to reign in my tendency to be sarcastic or scathing in my critical writing for comedic effect, which shouldn't be too hard, but I'll have to make an effort to not let my writing become dry as a result.
The intended result of all this blogging is to expand my horizons and force me to research and consider my influences in preparation for both my dissertation and my independent project this year. The idea is that I gain a better understanding of the design I admire, and a greater insight into the background of the designers I want to emulate and follow in the footsteps of. It is also important that I engage with and get to grips with our culture in general, so I can draw influence, ideas and inspiration from the world around me.
Other people's work and acheivements have always inspired me, and I've always collected my heroes' works around myself, to learn from and to enjoy. I have always enjoyed sharing them with other people, often even when they don't want me to, and I am extremely opinionated about a great many creative things, for example, films, books and videogames, and any mutations of those things there may be. I have a lot to say on a great many of these subjects, and hopefully this will serve me well in my blogging.
The other outcomes include the possibility that I will come out of this as a more professional critic and designer, with much more informed opinions. The ability to adopt a professional approach would be a useful tool, especially when it comes to talking to clients in the future, and not getting too attached to what I want to do personally.
Hopefully, I will be inspired by the blogs of my peers, and will learn new things from their writing. I am very aware that although I am very familiar with a fair few areas of design, I have a lot to learn, in certain areas more than others for certain, but there are many works in all areas of design that I have not yet come across, and hopefully my coursemate's blogs will reveal to me whole new worlds of inspiring work.
In summary, this project should be beneficial to me in a whole variety of ways, and I look forward to being inspired by new things, and sharing my own influences with my peers.