The theme of the week is Trends and Environments, allowing us to look deeper into the meaning behind a message through semiotics and symbolism, in addition to how a story or brand is tailored and delivered differently to audiences around the globe. Going into this week, I am really excited to explore how messages are tailored for a global audience. Earlier in the module, we learned from our tutor, Harriet, how whereas sanitary products in Europe are an essential product, to the Asian market they are branded as more luxurious items, having only fairly recently broken away from taboo. Advertisements for what is essentially the same product vary immensely across continents, and I am curious to look into other examples of a similar altering of message.
This week’s lectures were in three parts, tackling the theme of Trends and Environments from different angles. In the first part, lecturer Martin Hosken covers semiotics and symbolism, whilst in part 2 Regular Practice’s Tom Finn leads an interesting case study on the Olympic branding. Part 3 allows us to virtually explore Patrick Thomas’ installation at the V&A Museum, Breaking News 2.0, as we are given a video tour with Susanna Edwards.
Part 1: Martin Hosken’s lecture on Symbolism & Semiotics
Martin Hosken’s lecture provided some great examples of how a message can change depending on who is sending it, the context in which it is sent, the medium in which it is delivered and the acknowledgment of the recipient. He notes on the rise of emojis, which I personally use multiple times daily, whilst messaging friends and family members. Hosken highlights how the ‘thinking’ emoji could mean that the sender is deep in thought or feeling reflective, but on the other hand might indicate that they do not entirely agree with the recipient’s viewpoint.
Reflecting upon this, I recall a miscommunication between my mother and I, over my use of a half-smiling emoji, rather than my typical rosy-cheeked and enthused smiley favourite. I had sent the message in a rush, without too much consideration to the style of smile I selected on the emoji. Whereas my mother interpreted this to mean I was feeling less happy than usual, which was not the intention of my message. This goes to show how altering our messaging style even slightly can have a greater effect on how the message is received, and imply a change of meaning.
An important point I have highlighted from Martin Hosken’s lecture is the problem that the meaning an image carries is open to change depending on their context. He covered how the swastika being adopted by the German national socialist party forced a St Austell Brewery in the UK to destroy 30,000 bottle tops embossed with the symbol. Meaning can also differ around the globe, with the colour red considered to signify good luck in some parts of the world, and danger in others.
Part 2: Case Study with Tom Finn of Regular Practice
The case study highlighted how in design where variables are the same, for example the nature of the Olympics doesn’t change, the different global contexts are what facilitate creativity. The Munich 1972 games’ logo, designed by Otto Aicher, was among the first to not adhere to the convention of displaying the five rings (Dezeen, 2016), while the much-criticised London 2012 logo defied expectation with Wolff Olins’ far from obvious response, omitting the anticipated and cliche national references such as Big Ben (Design Week, 2012).
Reflecting on the controversial London 2012 logo, designer Joe Stone, commented on the use of a CMYK-inspired colour scheme, rather than using the host nation’s colours, avoiding what he describes as a ‘lame use of the Union Jack’ (Creative Bloq, 2017). Indeed, by not featuring the Union Jack’s colour scheme, Wolff Olins’ logo, of which much of the criticism came from media restrictions preventing discussion of design rationale (Design Week, 2012), the graphic does not rely on the host country’s colours to prop up the brand identity.
Looking back now, many of the articles I have collected during my research attribute elements of the logo to London’s strong, vibrant, unique, and ‘never boring’ qualities. If this is the case, surely the controversial logo delivered the exact message intended about the host country. From first appearance in 2007, to the games in 2012, the innovative and boundary-pushing design captured it’s environment, whilst not playing into design trends which would have seen it become outdated by the time of the games.
Part 3: Breaking News 2.0 at the London Design Festival (Patrick Thomas)
In the final part of this week’s lecture, graphic artist, Patrick Thomas, walks us through his installation at the London Design Festival. A pop-up 24hr newsroom, combining headlines collected from the internet via RSS feeds with the titles submitted by visitors to the Museum.
Thomas previously designed another installation in Liverpool, and notes the contrast between the visitors contributing the headlines in the V&A Museum as opposed to Liverpool city centre-goers. In Liverpool, working out of a disused shop front, members of the public were encouraged to enhance and distort the day’s news by contributing unverifiable content (Its Nice That, 2018). He notes how visitors to Breaking News 2.0 will arrive at the V&A Museum less caught off-guard by the invitation, whereas the Liverpool installation disrupted its surroundings and attracted a colourful range of contributions!
Breaking News 2.0 seeks to challenge our perceptions of the news, obscuring headlines with graphic objects in a nod to media censorship. Combining headlines from traditional headlines alongside nonsensical announcements from the public encourages visitors to question the reliability of news outlets, and consider where they get their news from. Whilst the public’s invented headlines may provide amusement at the installation, while distrust in the media is on the rise, more and more people are turning friends, family, members of the public and social media for updates on current affairs.
This is an extremely important takeaway today. Social media is awash with misinformation regarding the Coronavirus pandemic, ranging from allegations about genocide to accusations of microchipping via vaccines (BBC, 2020). It is not unrealistic that vulnerable individuals in our own circles may fall victim to misinformation and conspiracy theories online, believing shared content on social media platforms such as Facebook to be accurate. Patrick Thomas’ work on the Breaking News series of installations is still needed today, as is continued questioning of source reliability.
This week’s workshop challenge asked us to examine how a brand is delivered in different countries, looking at whether it works on a local level and at a global level. After spending much of this week fascinated with Patrick Thomas’ Breaking News 2.0 installation, I was keen to look at another example of experiential design.
After a bit of deliberation, I settled on analysing how the parks’ different locations influence the experience to be had within, and how they fit in with the surrounding local culture.
Admittedly not the most knowledgeable on Disney parks, I found the research portion of this week to be extremely interesting. Previously I had not known how each park takes inspiration from the location’s culture, aiming to compliment the location, rather than create a totally-separate fairytale Disney experience. On the other hand, the Florida resort’s experiential design and own website illustrate a truly immersive experience, where the park is often the main purpose for tourists’ visits to Orlando. Despite how the different Disney parks are designed to be enjoyed, their magic is in their tailored global experiences. Visiting one Disney park does not at all mean you have ‘done them all’, with each offering something new to explore.
When styling my work into an editorial layout, I was keen to do something different from the editorials I have produced earlier in the module. Although I came into the module with experience in editorial design, I do feel that my design style has become much more polished over the past 11 weeks. I was inspired by seeing other students’ editorial work throughout the module, and by the positive reception of my Week 7 piece on macrame. All of the two page spreads that inspired me featured a glossy, image-heavy left-hand page, with text on the right. At the beginning of the module, I often got carried away in my writing, leading to packed editorials where huge blocks of text left little space for creativity. Having developed my process and style, I am very happy with this week’s output, which resembles more of a glossy feature than a newspaper!
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Creative Bloq. (2017). Celebrating the majesty of the 2012 Olympics logo. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.creativebloq.com/opinion/celebrating-majesty-london-2012-olympics-logo-712357. [Accessed 4 December 2020].
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Dezeen. (2016). The best and worst Olympic logo designs since 1924. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/08/08/olympics-logo-designs/. [Accessed 4 December 2020].
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Its Nice That. (2012). Designing London 2012: The Wolff Olins logo and all THAT controversy. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/designing-london-2012-logo. [Accessed 5 December 2020].
Its Nice That. (2018). Patrick Thomas to produce real-time graphic response to real and fake news for Rapid Response Unit. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/patrick-thomas-rapid-response-unit-24-hour-news-art-040418. [Accessed 5 December 2020].
Marketing Week. (2013). Disney’s history of magic: Timeline. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.marketingweek.com/disneys-history-of-magic-timeline/. [Accessed 7 December 2020].
New York Post. (2020). Disney World’s Cinderella Castle is getting a major facelift. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://nypost.com/2020/02/18/disney-worlds-cinderella-castle-is-getting-a-major-face-lift/. [Accessed 7 December 2020].