A few weeks ago, I sat down and put words to my passion for graphic design.

You can download my statement in PDF form here.



Having lived in the US as an adult for three years now, I have noticed the huge difference between the way I feel and the way many other people seem to feel about interacting with foreign call centers. I think it’s exciting to talk with someone who has an accent and learned my language to be able to help me with a problem. I tend to feel less threatened than I might otherwise. And yet I hear so much from others about how frustrating and unamerican it is to outsource these services.  I decided to research American perspectives on international business service outsourcing and see if I could cut through the divisiveness and learn anything. I did!

Read the Paper

I also made a little visual aid. Now that I’m in an Illustration class, I would completely redo this by hand. But cheap and dirty got the point across at the time. I perceive that some Americans seem to view the rest of the world as an economic black hole — anything we send out is lost forever. I propose that we recognize a sowing and reaping principle at work. The more that nations freely give, the more there will be to harvest.



The typeface Helvetica was developed in 1957 in Switzerland. 50 years later, Gary Hustwit made a documentary that interviews typographers. Their feelings for Helvetica range from amorous to dismissive. We watched the documentary in class, and then redesigned its DVD packaging – twice. The pieces on the left are modeled after pure Swiss design: clean lines, negative space, alignment to grid. The right-hand pieces represent “Swiss with a Twist.”

I had seen this documentary once before, but its rewatching became for me a startlingly spiritual experience. As I saw letterforms in the limelight and listened to the overflow of the most typographic souls alive today, my thirst to actually design type was intensified.

It is something of a mystery to me how and why Jesus would create such a seemingly inconsequential arena as well as people to engage and redeem it — but there’s no question in my mind that He did. My suspicion, then, is that typography is not inconsequential, that in fact there are depths to be explored in this discipline that will lead to revelation of the character of God. If that’s true, sign me up!!

You’ll want to check out the PDFs for close-ups and to read my ‘critical review’ of the documentary.

Pure Swiss PDF Swiss with a Twist PDF


For Research & Technical Writing class, I wrote a paper about vocational graphic design schools and how they do not adequately serve the upcoming generation of graphic designers.

For the record, I attend just such a school. I don’t wish I were elsewhere, but I would love to see some things change.

Read the paper



The following is a journal entry from Research & Technical Writing class, written after reading this interesting article about the social networking revolution. It also explains my recent Facebook absence.

Who Am I, Again?

This prompt comes at an interesting time: I have been completely off of Facebook for sixteen days, and my plan is to continue this hiatus for at least sixteen more. Just prior to my withdrawal, a Facebook app determined that I was only 51% addicted to the service. I agree with that; half of the site’s community seemed to be significantly more active than I. And yet, the talons of social networking do penetrate deeper than I knew.

The decision to go cold turkey occurred after an evening of half-baked scholastic effort, constantly interrupted by Facebook browsing. At this particularly busy season of my life, I need to stay very much on task in order to fulfill all of my responsibilities – even if that task is resting. Facebook had become a drone of low-calibre entertainment in my life, a sedative that I would draw on multiple times a day. Facebook was for the times that I didn’t feel one hundred percent motivated to do something else. I was tired of facing that beckoning portal of self-indulgence.

I turned off all email alerts and set my language to Hebrew. This setting, of course, both encrypts and flips the orientation of the oh-so-familiar page. Also, my new, unused password exposes the insecurities that lead me to hang out on Facebook in the first place — measures to ensure that I will not surreptitiously log back on in a moment of weakness. Nevertheless, my first thought the next morning was to whether or not I should hint at my interesting dream in my status update.

I wonder, why am I compelled to offer my thoughts as a commodity? Shouldn’t they be worth more? Perhaps people should have to pursue me in more substantial ways to gain access to them. I used to make an art of profile pictures and carefully conceive each status update. Why? I suppose I wanted to be pursued more, and faster. But now I see that I have not been pursued better in ninety percent of Facebook interactions. A couple weeks removed from my News Feed, I am sensing the freedom from grooming my online identity. If I must already fight the fear of how my immediate social circle perceives me, I cannot afford to cater to the ambient awareness of 300 profile-perusers.

The search for a healthy and balanced life usually demands reconditioning, and I have found it good to periodically abstain from the things I assume to be essential. Ironically enough, with my online shrine to self shut and locked, the competing sacred cow of identity-through-productivity arises. When can I fast from school and work? But that is another journal entry for another time.



One of my classes this quarter is Research and Technical Writing. I will by no means bore you by posting every assignment, but this one includes visuals and may even be useful!

Music Album Design: A Conceptual Guide

In the desert of corporate design, there is an oasis called the music industry. Graphic designers who enter there no longer languish for want of a creative outlet as they bridge the intriguing gap between audio and visual. Album design offers an especially unique and rewarding conceptual challenge to any graphic designer.

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Even in this age of digital downloads, the visual interpretation of an album can be a strong selling point. Album design can catch the eye, and therefore the ear of new listeners. Your goal as the designer is to create a visual program that parallels the feel of the music and appeals to the intended audience. How you physically design the album is up to you, but before reaching for a mouse or paintbrush, I recommend going through a process of concept development.

The first step sounds obvious: listen to the music of the album you are designing. This means more than absorbing background music, however. You want the album art to suggest the ultimate experience a listener can have, so eliminate distractions. The more attentive you are, the more you will appreciate the complexity of musical layers, repetitions, variations, build-ups, and break-downs. Allow yourself to visualize freely; then jot down notes or very simple sketches of what comes to your mind. As you take in the intricacy and meaning of the music like this, you represent the ideal listener.

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My first experience with album design was with the band Nautilus and their debut, Nominally, Audibly or Anything. As a member of the band myself, I had the advantage of already intimately knowing the music. My difficulty was in approaching the music as an objective listener, unfamiliar with our work. In the end, I chose to gear the entire design toward our established fan base.

The next step is to draw up a list of descriptive words for the album. Is the music energetic, rebellious, nostalgic, ethereal? Is the overall impression light or heavy? Clean-cut or rough around the edges? Choose a few of the most applicable words, and begin to think of corresponding visual elements for them. Sketch if you can. Defining a few unique characteristics like this will keep you motivated and guide your design choices later.

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I found Nautilus’ sound to be experimental, recycled, random, and earthy. Their content is primarily about community, faith, and identity. Based on this, I opted to use hand-drawn elements from members of the band, found imagery from past decades, and a color scheme inspired from aged paper.

Nautilus had no previous discography, but if your artist has produced albums in the past, those may help define the feel you want. Examine them. You must, of course, determine which is more important: continuing in a recognizable vein, or surprising fans with something fresh. Consider also the wider world of music and music history to determine if your artist takes stylistic cues from a genre or period. If so, stylistic visual cues may also apply. Musical groupings tend to have looks as well as sounds. You can design within those categories to inform the consumer and eliminate confusion about the music they are about to hear. Research and sketch variations on these pre-defined themes.

I purposefully confused elements from various eras into Nautilus’ album design, because their creativity draws hungrily from several centuries of musical exploration. For example, clippings from a 19th century music encyclopedia serve as tongue-in-cheek musician bios. The type treatment for the album cover smacks of a western ethnic techno fusion, and across each page, I sprinkled found imagery with an early 90s flavor. All this contributed to a sense of historical idiosyncrasy that is greatly valued by each band member.

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Finally, do not hesitate to let the album’s title and lyrics inspire you. What kind of story is the artist trying to tell? Take note of overarching themes that may appear from track to track. If the title is lifted from a particular song, that content should be regarded as the anchor for the whole narrative.

Naturally, I kept all of the Nautilus members involved in the design process from start to finish. This insured the authenticity of the design, but also slowed down the process considerably. A typical client-designer relationship involves less interaction, so you need to make that interaction all the more meaningful.

Before putting too much work into one graphic solution, summarize your findings and present them to the artist. Have mock-ups, not just sketches, from which the artist can infer a final design. Provide a few options. You want mock-ups that approach the same concept from different angles in different ways; options that vary too widely or too little indicate that you have not done your work thoroughly enough. The artist will choose the one that best captures his message.

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Once you have approved a strong concept, begin applying that idea to the each part of the design. Typography, colors, imagery, and layouts should all support, rather than distract from your concept. Pursue unity in your design by repeating elements where possible. In the end product, the many surfaces of the album should look like they belong together.

Give careful thought to the front cover, the point of first impression. Which has more marketable pull, the artist or his creation? If the artist is well established, his name or image should be prominent on the cover. A lesser-known artist cannot rely on reputation to promote sales, so the concept and design of the album cover become even more important.

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Nautilus was well known to our audience, but we opted not to use our picture on the cover. Even the band name is barely there. This reserve is due to our somewhat unique situation; the band’s existence culminated with this album, then disbanded shortly afterwards. With no further need to promote ourselves, we recorded purely for our fans. Nominally, Audibly, or Nominally preserves the memories of the community culture that had grown up around our music-making. Band identity took a backseat to content.

Creativity is not difficult when one art form is interpreting another, but creativity needs concept in order to maintain direction. I have completed few projects as satisfying as music album design in general, and the Nautilus album in particular. With a good conceptual process, you can do the same.

Fin



These are some reflections I wrote for one of my teachers here, about moving experiences with art.

When we debated the rank of the three components of art in class, I found the question interesting and the answer deep and elusive. Advocating for theory, I found myself giving words for the first time to my passion for intelligent design, for instructive beauty, for the nature of God.

1

The visual experience that moved me most does not meet your criteria for this assignment, but I am including it. It was an instance of nature infused with the intentionality of God. My nature is to respond to the Holy Spirit, and there is little in my life that compares to the highs, the emotions, the movements of my heart when He is involved. On first morning leg of a prayer walk in Switzerland, I was walking at some distance from my team, worshipping quietly, keeping my eyes mostly on the unfamiliar dirt path in front of me. I looked arbitrarily up and to my left. Not thirty feet away, past some low brush, was the Rhône river. I cannot express to you how huge it seemed, gliding next to me in total silence. I was not prepared for its presence, its beauty, or its stealth. In that pink morning light, the Lord revealed to me those very aspects of His character with drama that I can’t forget.

2

Without spiritual influence, however, my regard tends to be cool and critical. The best example of this is the simple fact that I saw Michelangelo’s David in the Florence Accademia a couple years ago and disliked it. The first thing that occurred to me upon seeing that mammoth figure was the disproportionate size of the head and the hands. I immediately, almost subconsciously attributed the anomaly to a lack of skill and anatomical understanding on Michelangelo’s part. When I think back to this reaction now, it sounds ridiculous. You showed us the parallel lines and opened up the beauty of form in sculpture in a way that I had never understood before. I now have growing affection for the David, even trapped in a photograph. When I return to Florence, maybe I will have an emotional experience like you describe.

Continued musings: I recently learned about the Face-ism Ratio. The principle states that if the height of the head is large in proportion to the total visible height, the intellect and personality of the individual will be communicated above the physical and sensual aspects. We discussed in class how Michelangelo used a larger head to emphasize David’s youth and courage. It occurs to me that the trend of large heads on small bodies in popular media today also parallels a rise of the cult of self, the supremacy of the individual in our culture. Perhaps this explains some small facet of the appeal of the David to the current generation. In addition, C.S. Lewis remarked in The Four Loves that we are most ourselves when clothed, that the revealing of the body (being much more universal in design) turns the individual into a type. I agree with him. In terms of the David, I think the prominence of his facial characteristics keeps his personality intact; yet, being nude, his heroism somehow becomes more accessible to the everyman.

3

It is when my spirit, intellect, and emotions unite like this that I feel most alive. This happens most often when I am the one creating, but from time to time I come across a piece of art that engages me on all of these levels. One such piece is Rudolf Koch’s specimen of Neuland, in which he quoted a sermon by Johann Tauler. Typography being one of my favorite mediums, I’m sure I was attracted first to the varying pattern of the letterforms, and then to the artist’s obvious strength of conviction. If this were a speech rather than a printed work, he would be SHOUTING. I could hear the energy of German language. It is one of my favorite sounds, connecting me to fantastic memories and the intrigue of a future calling. My intellect was subsequently engaged to determine what he is shouting. I discovered the gist to be both something I myself wanted to declare, and something that is not declared frequently enough. As I read, of course, I came across the straightforward icons placed seamlessly throughout the text. These tokens of artistry further elevated the sense of humble nobility. Or noble humility: the life statement of a common man, speaking in the language of a great art and great nation.

neulandb copy

For any art or work, no matter how small it may be, is an element of worship
and is worked through the Holy Spirit to the profit and fruit of people.
If I were not a preacher having a meeting, I would consider it a great thing
that I could make a living for myself, and I would also want to earn my money
through my own means. Children: not the foot, nor the hand should want to be the eye.
Everyone should do his part that God has given him to do.

I am realizing that I connect with a work of art only when I can trust it, and to do so, I must learn the intent behind its creation. Creation without intent frightens me. My Father’s orchestration of nature, time, people, everything, thrills me. It’s the story. It’s the art. And it’s still only creation – a small piece of Himself. Jesus has given me creativity so I can infuse life with beauty, like He does. I am His partner, with direct access to His heart. I exist to reflect the beautifully creative nature of God.



The most special part of World Civilizations class was my final project/presentation/paper.

This presentation is about illuminated manuscripts that were characteristic of the Middles Ages and Renaissance. Manuscript simply means “written by hand,” and illuminated refers to the decoration of the text.

Books were made from vellum, which is traditionally animal skin, probably leftovers from butchered animals.
Spreads were cut from the skin, so the size of your book was limited by the size of the animal.
This is also why books are usually taller than they are wide: that was the only efficient orientation to be had from a skin.
Even after the skin is cleaned and stretched and treated, the two sides of the skin have a slightly different color and texture.
It was a point of aesthetic, then, for the spreads to arranged in such a way that pages from the same side of the skin were across from each other.
You can tell from the hair follicles in this picture that this page or folio shows the hair-side.

The people who worked on illuminated manuscripts were highly skilled.
Here you can see a scribe working with a quill pen and a knife. The knife was used for frequent sharpening of the pen, pricking the paper to make identical margins, and for scraping away mistakes on the vellum.
Many scribes roamed – we can see the same styles in widely spread locations.
Some scribes were gifted enough to do all the work on the book, but more often than not, other people were involved. The illuminator would come after the scribe to add the pictoral and decorative elements.
We can tell because sometimes there were “paint-by-numbers” left from one person to another.
It was easy to make mistakes and lose your place in the copying, skip a line, etc. This was especially true when copying Latin, because of all the similar prefixes and suffixes on Latin words!
There were different ways to correct errors:
The first was as they were made, with the knife. But if the scribe didn’t catch his mistake, it was all right, because manuscripts were generally proof-read by a second scribe. If he found extra words that didn’t belong,  the proofreader might underline them with a dotted line. This told the reader to ignore those words, without compromising the beauty of the page. If a word needed to be added, the scribe would write it in the margin, and the text could later be scraped away and rewritten to incorporate the missing word.

Here are some examples, with vocabulary indicated.

If you look at the historical accounts, it’s interested to note that the illumination of these books was pretty much taken for granted, and not considered the most important aspect of the work. According to Christopher de Hamel, it was similar to our newspapers today. Someone made all of the design decisions for a newspaper, but no one choosing their newspaper gives much consideration to that – they just want to know that the information is accurate.
The embellishments in manuscripts primarily helped people find their place in long texts that had no chapter or verse markings, and that is the first job of the graphic designer today: to employ visual techniques that convey and clarify information.
At the same time, of course, graphic designers make absorbing information a much more interesting and aesthetic experience.
I feel a huge connection to these artists of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and I hope that my work will show as much grace and attention to detail as theirs does. I’m also very inspired by manuscript treatment of the Bible that we have all but lost today. I believe the Bible contains the most important words that can ever be printed, and that they can inspire endless artistic treatment.

“When the king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”
Deuteronomy 17:18-20

I’ve created my own modern illuminated manuscript page, borrowing some traditional ideas and choosing to be more contemporary in others. The handwriting is after about a week of practice in very traditional script. I have far to go yet, but right now my hand automatically goes into to cursive no matter what I’m writing!

click for a closer look

Sources

http://hua.umf.maine.edu/Reading_Revolutions/MagnaCarta/5156MagnaCarta_wl.jpg

The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
http://prodigi.bl.uk/illcat/welcome.htm

Poster by Lorella Pierdicca
http://www.lldesign.it/

De Hamel, Christopher. A History of Illuminated Manuscripts. London: Phaidon, 1994

And finally, find out what my life would have been like as a medieval scribe. This essay is in response to a prompt about choosing any lifespan I want and describing (with historical accuracy) my experience as an artist and a person.



Well, it has definitely taken some motivation to get my Typography final up here.

This is the cover of a little booklet that tells, in the form of two letters, the story of my first six months or so here in the States. The theme of transition is carried out through the booklet in several ways. The first is through a color shift from red to green, through the neutrals. There is also a shape that shifts symbolically throughout the story. Finally, each page’s content is rotated so that by the end, the reader has turned the book completely around, and finds himself looking at a “cover.”

Being a booklet, it doesn’t lend itself very well to the screen. Here is a .pdf file that shows the spreads and reads  like a book. The limitation is obviously that you can’t rotate each page to read the text. To try and help with that, I have copied the text below. This doesn’t  quite capture the experience of holding the booklet and reading through, but it will have to do.

Transitioning Heart

July 19th, 2008
Dearest,

Please imagine this is a nice letter that was written on beautiful paper that made it expeditiously and inexpensively to Europe… because it was so sweet to see yours waiting for me when I arrived in Indianapolis last Sunday!! Thank you!!

As H L has put it, ‘from one transitioning heart to another…’ – I like what you said about thinking about blessings over the years, working simultaneously on remembering well and defining yourself for future use… You’re right, art is such a good outlet for all of this. I’ve also felt more than usually inspired!

I’m appreciating your poem immensely, especially the ocean’s depth of faces, and seeing yesterday in each other. I really like the challenge of your allusions… You’ve captured complicated emotions in a beautiful way. Does it have a title? Or are you naming it à la Emily Dickinson?

You know, I used the envelope of your letter yesterday afternoon as proof of address at the library when I signed up for a library card. I think libraries are a part of American culture I’m really ready to embrace! One of the first things I checked out was the album that was my personal Rome trip soundtrack – I wanted to reminisce so badly!

America had been mostly all right for me until I got to here, to Indy – and then this last week has been a really hard time of transition. At least according to our senior transition seminar notes; they describe the symptoms and suddenly make a lot more sense.

My mom and I are spending our last few days together, and that’s been killing both of us. I’m trying to make every minute with her quality now!

I think the biggest problem is that Indianapolis is supposed to be ‘home’ for me now, but of course it doesn’t feel like it in any way at all. That has been making me feel irritable and panicky… and I felt really far from God, because there is no familiar structure to help me or remind me to go to Him, as if I’d almost forgotten who He was.

Yesterday I felt the numb sadness lift a bit, though. Some good things: crying it out, listening to familiar music, thinking about God as my Father, glad to hold my helpless, hopeless self, going to visit a really artistic family with a daughter my age (she dresses JUST like E! I didn’t know such a breed could exist here), dancing around in my new room…

More will have to come to soothe the grief. But perhaps I will survive after all!

You’ve been accumulating beautiful moments in different countries, but I don’t know much more than that… Tell me more about your transitioning heart. I’d love to listen.

Missing you,
Rachel

February 1st, 2009
Dear Friend,

Sigh. I’m really very happy right now.

You know, (in regards to what you said 62 days ago) there’s America, and then there’s America once you’re actually inside it, in the little place that God set up with you in mind, doing the things you love, discovering the people you were meant to be with. I hope that’s the America you find when you come over.

I’m happy because I found a family here – people who love me even though I haven’t done anything in particular to deserve it. Church, youth group, my relatives… even my school is small enough that it’s starting to feel kind of like a family – but one where it’s a little more risky to reach out to other members. I need to work on that.

The framework of life (driving, banking, eating, etc.) is where most of the differences and newness lie. Some of those areas I’ve mastered (driving), others have yet to be tackled (banking!). But I take on stuff as I can. I remember the flood of newness in the beginning that was SO tiring. BFA life is pretty simple in comparison, I feel.

I know I’ve definitely gotten past the worst of the differences. My first semester wasn’t awful by any means, but it was a bit lonely. I wrote old friends all the time to take the edge off. Then, just before I left for break, I started noticing and appreciating the friend potential in a lot of people. That has only increased since I’ve been back, so I’m looking forward to friends making more of a difference, making my world here more ‘complete.’ It’s a funny thing to have half a world here and another half there. It’s transition – of the heart, mostly.

By the way, this is ALL God. Song of Songs: “His left arm is under my head (working behind the scenes, protecting, supporting), and His right arm embraces me (I feel His presence, He demonstrates His love to me directly, personally).” Without Him, I would have none of this.

Since you asked… art classes are the most fun thing ever!! EVER!! I was made for them. Right now, I am in Photoshop, Illustrator, & Typography. Blog? Art? Mine? Seen it lately? It’s the best explanation of what art classes entail.

Much love,
Rachel



Final Paper for Sociology:
Adventures in Domestic Relations and Diplomacy: Multiple Cultures Within the Family Unit

This paper looks at the dynamics in intercultural marriage and families with third-culture kids. I discovered how easy it is to write about what you know – the paper is eight pages long when only three were required!

I also had to give a short presentation on the same topic. To make it more interesting, I played two sound clips. They represent the coming together of cultures, and how it can be done poorly… and well.

Multiculture I
Multiculture II*

* Actually an extract of “World Jam” by iFingers. www.macidol.com