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Designing: Packages v. Pen and Paper

I used to teach in engineering, and I observed that computer packages were reducing the amount of actual creative design, as many system were designed using a package. This was unfortunate as design should start with abstraction of ideas, and the best place for abstraction is on paper. As I've moved more into computing subjects, and especially into programming and multimedia I've found that this has been highlighed even more, as there seems to be a great reliance on using the best package for drawing, or designing, or ... and so on. So I'd like to show how it is possible to create an original design, and then produce a component which would be difficult to produce with a computer package.

For example let's try and make a logo graphic. First a few ideas are sketched:

The bottom graphic looks okay, so let's cut it out to give:

As we did in the previous design tip, this graphic can simply be reduced in size, and then given a hint of red, green or blue:

More green

More blue

More red

Next we can start to fill the image in, paying particular attention to the bits that the fill tool does not fill:

followed by the background colours:

and more:

and then to:

next we fill-in some of the back areas, the text and a border are added:

Finally, we need to reduce the size of the graphic, so that it can be properly integrated into a page. To assess the right size, we reduce the graphic to 200 pixel width, 150 pixel width, 100 pixel width, and then finally to 50 pixels:

200 pixels

150 pixels

100 pixels

50 pixels


You can see that 100 pixels seems to work best, as the 50 pixel version is too small. Each of the graphic elements can be used, though, in different situations, as the user will become accustomed to the graphic element, and will know that what it is intended to present (in this case it is the copyright graphic).

Please excuse the roughness of the graphic (as I produced it in a matter of minutes), but it has shown the general principles of converting a drawing into a proper graphic.

So does it work? Let's try it with some text:

No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provision of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 0LP.

Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this WWW site may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

Well, I think it works quite well, but I like this type of art. Nice and abstract! The rough edges, and lack of preciseness, really appeals to me, as it makes a nice difference from the clean edges of clip-art, and metafile graphics. I know it isn't perfect, and several of the black lines need to be enhanced, but it looks okay as a small graphic. It's also unique, which counts for something. So, throw away your computer package, and buy yourself a good pencil and some nice paper, and create yourself some unique content.

I personally could not achieve the same effect with a computer package, alone. This is because computer packages are tools, and are there to facilitate the ideas of the user, and not of actually designing the graphics for you. When this role is achieved by a computer package, I'll retire to Skye. Before then I'll keep on lecturing on the principles of good design, and abstraction. The great thing about design is that no-one really know what will work, and what doesn't. No-one know how designs will evolve, and no-one knows what will work for one person, and what will work will another. That's what makes art so interesting, and multimedia gives computing professionals the opportunity to span art and technology.