Monthly Archives: September 2012

We have a project involving magazine design; the following are notes I made and have written up from our first lesson with Chris where he talked to us about the history of design for magazines.

While magazines seem like a relatively new invention, the starting point of magazine design was actually during the mid 1700s. They were typically produced with letterpress, consisted of several pages and were released periodically.

As people became more literate, during the early 20th century, magazines were aimed at a particular section of society, the upper class and the educated. Often, a magazine was read by the one person that could read to others living in that area. In the beginning, magazines looked more like books.

1844 saw the release of the first special interest magazine with the introduction of Mothers Magazine. During this time, magazines were seen as valuable and somewhere for the readers to find support on how to fill their daily role of a mother and wife. It seems unusual that magazines were produced especially for women at a time before they were emancipated and when they were typically uneducated. Penny Magazine was eventually made for the lower class people in society. They were much like a newspaper in their layout in that the issues featured a story on the front cover.

Coverlines were eventually developed in the late 1800s as a way for magazines to set themselves apart from newspapers and other publications. 1893 saw the arrival of Cosmopolitan and Readers Digest. Placing the table of contents on the front cover was a technique used by early Cosmopolitan and was a technique used by Readers Digest up until 1998.

In the early days of magazine design when they were still trying to establish themselves, they often tried to take reference from elsewhere. This can be seen in a front cover for Chaderone that features a design influenced by circus posters.

Covers were frequently decorated with illustrations that were irrelevant to their contents but instead used because they looked attractive or pretty. Illustrators were brought it to design covers that included artistic detail. This approach to magazine design was used up until the 1980s. An advantage of this seen by the magazines was that they were able to paint what they wanted the readers to see, and not the reality, providing a great opportunity for propaganda. This can be seen in Munsey magazine from 1898, it presents a painting of troops on horseback riding to battle in Cuba, in romantic realism, this obviously wasn’t what was actually happening.

Vogue is a magazine that has been quite adventurous in its designs throughout its history. This 1917 cover features a stunning fashion illustration.

It was at this point that covers started to feature a design that reflected the contents of the magazine. This can be seen in a Vanity Fair cover from 1933 (during the economic depression) that makes an editorial point by featuring an illustration of business men standing on a time bomb.

Fortune magazine launched in 1930 and designed a framework that conveyed its own personal style of communication. Its huge size, thick bulk, and dynamic optimism were broadcast through the beauty of its covers – a succession of modernist paintings celebrating industry and progress.

Poster covers appeared on many of the earlier magazines. They were illustrations designed simply to look pretty – they were engaging, but irrelevant. The front cover of Asia magazine in 1933 featured only an illustration and no text, the only hint of its contents is through the African themed illustration.

Life magazine has the same design today that it did when it first began. On the front cover, the pictures that are relevant to its content are the main attractions. The pictures were framed only by Life’s stock logo and publication data.

During the 80’s and 90’s computers revolutionised how magazines were put together. The designs became more crowded and they started to become more recognisable to the magazines of today. This new technology, however, meant that many designers started adopting similar techniques and lost some of their individual identity – if you walk into a newsagents now, all magazines have very apparent similarities.

Fred Woodward is the iconic graphic designer responsible for the design of Rolling Stones Magazine. His design allows for flexibility, it can feature a clean, simple design, like the Kurt Cobain tribute issue in 1994, or lots of different elements can be added to it like on the Jay Z issue below.

Esquire is another magazine that also has a flexible design. It can have quite a busy design like the one below that features James Franco or an extremely simple design. An example of this can be seen in the issue that features Bill Clinton after his affair (that he managed to get away with.) Other than basic information such as the magazines name, the only other visual element is a photograph of him. His expression is smug and the photo focuses on his groin area. The saying ‘a picture can paint a thousand words’ is relevant here and therefore no other text is needed to make the design work.


We have been seen a project to design a movie poster for an art house film. We havn’t been given a brief yet, so I will put that on here when we have one. To start the project, I began researching the common themes in the design of posters for big, blockbuster films. Because of the speed at which new films are produced and released nowadays, the number of movie posters available is huge. I wanted to find some sort of starting point for researching the common design techniques so I decided to find similarities within the different genres.


There a number of clichés seen in the design of movie posters time and time again. In designs made for posters advertising romantic comedies, the most recognisable trend is probably the use font. In this way, they are quite similar to adult comedies aimed at both sexes, but the typeface is usually slimmer, making for a more feminine or elegant look. Red, pink, white or black are the most common used for these fonts. Like pretty much all mainstream film posters nowadays, they almost always feature photographs or film stills of the main characters. This is used as a way of attracting a larger audience because if a successful or popular actor is featured in the film fans will automatically be interested – if someone is a fan of a particular actor, it is likely they will want to see the film just to see them in it, rather than because they are interested by the actual story. Like in the poster for Love Actually above, if a film features a large number of well known actors, they will be presented in some sort of collage. This can also be seen in films such as He’s Just Not That in to You and Valentines Day. The colour scheme for these posters is typically quite soft, and much like the films they’re as a rule easy to look at, there’s nothing challenging or upsetting about them – these films are meant to make the audience feel good and this starts with the happiness conveyed in the poster designs.


In almost all posters advertising animated childrens films the space mainly compromises of an image of the main characters (most protagonists and antagonists – a distinction between the two is frequently made) placed in the films setting. Bold fonts are often used and are usually made for the specific film, or series of films. The colours are always bright and fun and the images need to be child friendly, so obviously anything considered upsetting is avoided.


It is common for film posters in the action/thriller category to include the setting, usually because they play a big part in these films. The overall look is usually quite masculine; colour schemes usually feature shades of blue, red or brown. In the images above, you can see that all three posters include the main characters and are usually photographed holding a weapon. The images are typically photographs or stills that aren’t included in the film and see the actors in the midst of action, or waiting for something unknown to the audience to happen. This technique builds excitement and tension in the audience, enticing them in to seeing the film. In all three posters above, the main or most well known character is featured above the title.


Visible in the posters above, Trajan is the font commonly chosen for use in poster for horror films. The colours usually used are quite bleak and often dark, establishing the setting and feeling of the film right from the start. An image of an actor is usually featured on the poster in the form of a still from the film or a digitally manipulated image so that they appear to be in the midst of some sort of suspended danger, making the audience feel uneasy even before watching.


A recurring theme in the design of posters for adult comedies is the inclusion of a photographic image of the main actors, often featured in an awkward or humorous pose, with at least one of them staring straight into the camera. The photo has usually been taken away from the film and stills are seldom featured. Bold font is almost always used in these posters and the colours used are bright and cheerful.

Films based on Comic Books

The colours used for the posters are usually quite bright and saturated and are also more masculine. Often, the font or symbol associated with the comic book is used for the title. A recurring trend seems to be a photograph of the superhero or main characters, in their alter egos suit, in the middle of some form of destruction.

As well as the clichés that can be recognised in a certain genre, there are also recurring trends across all genres and featured more often in the design of film posters than one may think. French blogger Christophe Curtois ( has made a collection of fourteen different trends seen in the layout of hundreds of posters including; actors stood back to back, actors in bed, an image seen through the legs of a woman, an image of a characters eye, type layered over a photo of a characters face, a woman in a red dress, the colours black and orange (or blue and orange) floating heads above an image of a beach and a face formed from a digitally manipulated image. He has also pointed out that many lesser known films have a yellow background, documentaries or films about animals are often dominated by the colour blue and thrillers that include actors running from something feature muted blue and grey colours.

The reason these trends and techniques are used time and time again is most likely due to a mixture of; the film makers know these types of images sell and therefore don’t want to attempt to try something new or more ‘out there’ in case it fails, and because the audience sees these images, recognises them as something familiar and more than likely want to see them based entirely on the actors shown and though they may not realise it, the similarities the designs share with the posters for films they have already seen and enjoyed.

 In Tuesdays lesson we made three different boxes. Below is a picture of me cutting out the design (the small box in front of me is one I had already finished.)


From this exercise, I learnt that it is extremely important to be precise when constructing your packaging. Even if the measurements are out by 1mm, it’s not going to fit together properly and by the end it’s probably going to be another 2/3mm out. This process seemed quite simple, we applied the double-sided sticky tape first, (it’s easier to do it before cutting out and cut it down to the size as the packaging at the same time, rather than trying to fiddle about with it later) we then cut around the nets out using scalpels and put them together. The measurements of the first net we were given were slightly wrong and so it was a bit of a squeeze to fit the flap into the lid of the box. The second net (below) was fine, but the lid of mine seemed to have too much excess card and bent upwards slightly – I need to make sure the bends are precise.


The third net (below) fit together okay but the two of the locking tabs weren’t designed correctly.  


After this we had the task of manipulating the third net using Illustrator. We had to make the width bigger, the length smaller and correct the locking tabs. I found this quite difficult because its hard to picture how a flat net will look when constructed. We started by sketching the net on paper to get a better idea of the measurements and what it should look like before going onto Illustrator. This taught me that when making my packaging, its important to keep printing my nets and putting them together to make sure they work as they should do. I wasn’t sure how to go about this first, but after some trial and error, and some guidance from Chris, it seemed to come together in the end quite well! Here’s how I carried out the task:

I started by making the basic body of the box using the measurements I had already decided on paper. I used guides to help me position the different parts correctly and the shape tool to make the rectangular faces. I found this part the easiest because I already had all the information written down and it was just a case of making it digital. It is important however that everything is placed precisely or else other parts of the packaging will end up incorrect too. Smart guides enable me to do this because it lets you know when the shapes are lined up to the guide.

Adding the tabs was quite easy because as they worked correctly when we constructed the third box it was just a case of copying the tabs from the original net onto my manipulated version. I used the subselect and scissor tool to make sure i was selecting only the parts I wanted. Once they were pasted onto the manipulated net, they needed to be resized to fit. Rather than just stretching them which would have ruined their structure (and probably would have meant the box was less likely to stay closed because the amount of friction would have been affected), I again used the subselect tool to choose only the anchors I wanted to move along and moved them until they lined up with the faces.

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I found the folding tabs most difficult. The curved part of the tab (blue arrow) needed to be halfway across the face that its attached to and the straight part below this (red arrow) needed to be half the width of the face beside this (I’ve highlighted these areas in the first picture above because I think it will be easier to understand than me trying to explain their position!) so that when constructed they will come together perfectly. Again, I copied the tabs from the original net onto my version and resized it to the correct size using the subselect tool to grab the parts I wanted to move along rather than stretching them. It took a while for me to work out the right parts to select but once I had figured that out it was just a case of fitting them to the measurements I already had.

Here it is completed. I added the dotted lines to show where the folds are by changing the brush style of the lines to Dashed Line 1.1.

One of the most common forms of packaging are cartons. Their designs are influenced by size, shape and strength requirements as well as marketing considerations such as how the brand would like their product to be displayed. The size of the packaging can be influenced by a number of different factors such as its purpose, for example if a product needs to be protected the packaging will need to be quite a precise fit so that it can’t move around the box too much, and will probably have some sort of inner packaging to hold it still. This inner packaging can also better position the product for display, particularly if there is a window to see the contents of the inner box. The shape of the box depends on what the product is but also serves as a good way to make the product more eye-catching. For example packaging of a more irregular shape is probably more likely to stand out on a shelf of regular square boxes.

Cartons can be made from a number of different materials. Solid bleach board is often used for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or frozen foods. Folding boxboard is commonly used for food packaging. White lined chipboard are used for products where is doesn’t matter that the grey middle layers of the board show. Unlined chipboard is usually used for shoe boxes that are covered or decorated and corrugated board is used for outer transportation or warehouse packaging because its structure makes it much stronger.

Packaging can be treated in a number of different ways to make it more suitable for its product. Packaging that needs to be moisture resistant or heat sealable can be treated by polyethylene or wax. Or alternatively, laminated with aluminium foil to create a moisture resistant barrier. Clay coating can be used for a high gloss finish that reduces ink consumption and improves the quality of printing.

Designers employ different finishes such as foil blocking, varnishes, laminates, debossing or embossing and die cutting or laser cutting in order to influence the consumers opinion of the product so that it conveys the right message such as being of a higher quality, or having a more rustic feel to it.

In our project, we’ll be using glass bottles. Glass is a material that is capable of being moulded into a huge range of shapes and sizes. Its use is usually influenced by the product, for example pharmaceutical bottles need to be sterilised using steam and glass will retain its shape, unlike plastic which would distort if subjected to this treatment. While glass is mainly used for liquids, the safety of this needs to be considered. For example, it wouldnt make sense to use glass for things such as shower gels that are used in a wet, probably slippery environment. In terms of using glass for packaging beverages, the material suggests a much higher quality than those packaged in plastic bottles or cans.

Finally when deciding on materials for packaging, it is important to consider the environmental factors – is it possible to used recycable or recycled materials? According to an article in Communication Arts (September/October 1999) packaging makes up to one third of waste in the US and one quater of this is filled with unrecycled plastic containers. Nowadays, companies are realising that landfills cant keep being filled with more and more waste and manufactures have been responding to the demand of materials that are good for the environment. Of course, the transportaton and manufacturing of packaging also needs to be factored into this, will the packaging use up a lot of energy in this process? Designers can try to play their part in helping the environment by being aware of the materials available and by trying to influence their clients choice of materials.

As part of my research I read the book, What Is Packaging Design? by Giles Calver. The following is information from the book I found important when considering my own designs for this project, accompanied by my own opinions and research:

In the early days of packaging the design, its sole purpose was to encourage consumers to buy the product in question by presenting it in an attractive way. Obviously, this is still at the forefront of the form and function of packaging today.

Customers are said to spend no more than a few seconds initially looking at a product, so the key to good product design is creating a product that achieves a distinction that encourages the consumer to take a closer look by cutting through the familiar visual references. Products need to be designed in a simple and effective manner so that important information is easily conveyed across to the customer, allowing them to quickly make an opinion on whether the product is right for them. Giles Calver states that, “focusing on a central message lies at the heart of good design.” (Page 38)

Typography is possibly one of the most important aspects of product design because it is vital in making sure the necessary information is given to the consumer. Information that is commonly seen on packaging such as instructions, warnings and ingredients need to be displayed in a legible manner so that the customer can both use the product correctly and safely and can decide on whether the product is for them when considering whether or not to buy it. The choice of font also needs to be relevant to the products function. For example, the elegant choice of font usually seen on a wine bottle would look extremely odd if used for the packaging of baby food where the font is usually much more simple and almost child like.

The typeface is also influenced by the size of the product, for example on the packaging for nail polish, the text needs to be legible at very small sizes, but on a larger product, small font would look lost and so a typeface needs to be chosen that looks attractive at much larger sizes.

It goes, or rather, it should go without saying that the back of the packaging needs to be as well designed as the front, the entire product needs to look seamless and in keeping with the feel of the product. A product needs to be treated as more than just the front selling face – good design needs to be continuous throughout. The back of the pack design needs to be clear and give the vital information the consumer is looking for. It is also an opportunity to tell more about the brand and highlight particular features.

This design concept by Cassie Evans below, shows effectively how a design can be continued onto the back of the product, the colour scheme, logo and simple design has been continued throughout.

I have been looking into a wider range of Chinese art and design for this project because I know quite little about it. Admittedly, when I think of Chinese art, I associate it with the styles that decorate Chinese restaurants because this is probably one of the few times we are exposed to Chinese art. However, I was sure this wasnt actually the case so I began a search for a wider range of styles, focusing more on modern art and design. To my understanding, contemporary art wasn’t introduced in China until the end of the last dynasty, when a New Culture Movement began that defied all aspects of traditionalism. It was artist Ong Schan Tchow who first successfully integrated Western art techniques and perspectives into Chinese painting. Unfortunately, this movement didn’t last long as The Communist Party of China took away artists freedom and only allowed work that supported their ideas. It wasnt until recently, in the late 20th century that there was more tolerance by the government of contemporary and controversial pieces.

From top to bottom: Cat by Zhang Yugong, Chinese Landscape Tattoo by Huang YanThe Elegant Gathering by Yun-Fei Ji

The works above are modern versions of more traditional chinese art. I really like the calm colours and the use of inks. The Elegant Gathering would be interesting to use as inspiration for the outer packaging design, as it would it could be made to wrap around the entire box. Lots of chinese art focuses on landscapes, I would like to see how this could be incorporated into my designs, but in a modern way that allows for the use of contemporary typographical styles. I think ink could be quite a difficult medium to work with so I need to explore this further and maybe look for alternatives, perhaps finding a way to produce something like this digitally.

The images above are Chinese graphic design posters by Lu Xun from the 1920s and 30s, I like these for their simple shapes and colours. I like the top design in particular because the figures seem to form a background and if the colours were blue it would remind me of a modern version of The Willow Pattern on china – an idea that has been translated in a more modern approach in the form of these beautifully illustrated bottles below were designed by creative agency Love and illustrated by Chris Martin.

Graphic designer Nod Young, designed a set of these chinese typographic poems (shown above.) I really like the way he’s made chinese writing look modern, the colours are bright and non traditional, and the shapes used are smooth and clean. The white background also really makes the typography stand out so it becomes the main focus. Working with a different language is difficult because it obviously needs to be written correctly, which can be hard with such a complex language, but I would really like to look into ways to incorporate a more modern style of chinese text into my design.

I really like the design of the brand identity for Chinese restaurant  Wo Hing by San Francisco studio Manual. The colours are unexpected when compared to the overuse of red and gold more commonly seen and the overall feel is extremely modern. The experimentation with cooked and uncooked noodles is quite an elegant way of incorporating the ingredients into the design without being in-your-face and creates dynamic, fluid visuals. The design manages to retain some reference to Chinese culture with the use of Chinese writing and the logo takes inspiration from neon signs seen on Chinese street food stalls. Taking inspiration from this, I would like to experiment with the ingredients in Kombucha when creating images for my designs, maybe using visuals that suggest the idea of tea submerging in water or using the ingredients to make up an image relating to the product.

Edit: I have since found out that Kombucha actually looks like this (below) when it is being made and I think the above idea would therefore look quite unappetising!

The redesign of Hong Kong’s Tai Cheong Bakery is both modern and luxurious, the use of gold and the glossy finish of the packaging suggests the product is of a high quality. Chinese writing has been used here, but still feels modern despite being around for a very long time. The logo includes aspects of more tradition Chinese illustration but the single colour and clean lines brings it back up to date. The use of brown suggests the product is made from natural materials. Overall this products highlights the fact that when designing my own packaging, the use of colour and finish is very important in influencing the consumers perspective of the product and including a limited palette can look very effective when done well. In order to use Chinese writing in a modern way, it needs to be very clean and simple, yet can be used together with more tradition visuals to create a slightly more interesting or complex design.

However, there are aspects of the redesign I don’t like quite as much. In my opinion, the design of these bottles are quite dissapointing compared to the packaging above. They’re far less modern and look much less high end. The gold colour is still used but I would have liked to seen more of it and I feel that these and the packaging above are almost recognisable as the same brand; theres very little that ties the two together to maintain a seamless, modern look. This has taught me that in my design, there needs to be visuals on both the outer packaging and the bottle that ties the two together to create an identity that is recognisable to the brand. For example, by continuing the colour palette and typeface throughout.

The brief for the Kombucha design states that while taking a more modern approach, the company would like to retain some visual links to its Chinese origins. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to familiarise myself a little more with the product, starting with the history of Chinese tea.

Originating in China, tea is one of the country’s most popular beverages. China has one of the earliest records of tea drinking, dating back to the 10th century BC, but according to legend, tea was discovered in 2737 BCE when a leaf fell into the water that Chinese Emperor Shennong was boiling. The classical Chinese philosopher Laozi named tea an indispensable ingredient to the elixir of life. Nowadays mugs with lids and handles are used to drink tea, but up until quite recently small bowls like the one below, known in china as a Chanwan, were used. I quite like the idea of visually referencing the bowls in one of my designs by using the shape to create a clean, modern motif.