The Good, the Bad and the Accidental


To see my DesignBlitz album, visit my Flickr.

Color is my favorite concept to consider in design. I’ve always been fascinated by the physics of light and light energy as well as the biological and chemical significance of color. In nature, color is never random. Trinidadian Guppies demonstrate evolving colors and patterns on their scales with every generation. Unwittingly, these little fish are the product of the most successfully designed fish of the previous generation. There are two major consequences of color: attraction of a mate and attraction of a predator. Too bright and the fish will be a quick snack for the Killifish far before it is able to reproduce. Too dull, and the fish will live a long but lonely life. Thus, many generations of guppies show greatest fitness among the fish who are an intermediate display of attractive spots and duller, camouflaging colors.
This delicate balance of color and pattern is the unconscious task of organisms all over our diverse planet, but it is also the goal in advertisement. The right color scheme can give a lot of power to advertisers, but strike the wrong notes and you will turn people off of your product. It’s a battle between subtlety and attention-grabbing. Your design must flaunt itself without being too garish and obnoxious, it is a delicate balance between attraction and detraction. I wonder where on earth we could have possible been inspired….
Though I could have captured the concept of color in a much more appealing or artistic capacity, I decided that I wanted to discuss this concept with a photo I captured at a grocery store. Living on the other side of the country for the summer has made being a consumer a little more exciting for a few reasons. The first one being that my pulse is a little faster simply due to the stress of how much more expensive everything is, and also because of all the regional products that are brand new to me (and yes that pun was absolutely intended). Some products, though new to me, are iconic such as In-N’-Out Burger. But others are foreign to me, their packaging catches my eye easily among the other far more familiar options.

I noticed the packaging of the pictured Yerba Mate from several aisles over and was instantly drawn to the cans. The design is very compelling, not because it is beautiful but because it is so brightly colored and to be quite frank, a little ugly. Vignelli mentions that color is representative, it holds meaning and symbolism but it is also very much entwined with appropriateness. Which made me wonder: was the color scheme of this can designed for this exact purpose of drawing me in from a far, even though I was no further enticed by what I discovered? If so, then these colors are very appropriate for the goal of the design, and the creators are relying on other elements such as the name of the drink, descriptions, typography and so on, to attract consumers.
However, as a consumer, I was utterly distracted by this design. I was examining the can and looking at the small details of the green elements. They clash with the bright yellow background of the can, but not too harshly. There are tints of green in the yellow which relieve some of the harshness. The green, while metallic and bright is a cool green and the yellow seems to be a somewhat intermediate temperature being neither too warm nor too cool. The color of the text is a cool red that comes as an afterthought because of how striking the other colors are. I even sat there wondering if this was a can of soda or beer because I was so preoccupied with examining the other colors of the can that I didn’t even look for the fine print to identify the beverage (which turned out to be a type of tea). Karen Kavett’s video about color theory was most useful in dissecting what it is about this color scheme that is so unsettling for me. Based on her short video, I think the green and yellow of these cans are analogous colors, they appear next to each other on the color wheel. They have similar hues which make them a little intense to look at, although there is some relief because the yellow is not quite as saturated as the red text is.
Nevertheless, the eyes are not drawn towards the red text at all because of the glaring yellow which then contrasts strongly enough with the green that my eyes are always drawn towards the places where green and yellow meet. This seems like a bit of a failure in the use of color in advertisement, I think the intense design is successful in catching the attention of a consumer, but fails to complete the more important task of enticing the customer to pull it off the shelf.

I chose the photo above to consider the element of typography. I think of typography as analogous to diction in literature. It is a subtle but powerful tool that can completely alter the message we are sending to our audience. In the case of this packet of Oreos, the lettering is curved and off-center, written to appear only on the cream-filled center of the cookie on the packaging. There is only enough space on the Oreo to write “Double Stuf” with one “f” rather than two. When I saw this in the store, my friend Nils pointed to the packaging and said, “Look, these Oreos are so full of cream they only had room for one “f.” Nils was kind of joking but I began to wonder if maybe he was right. The orientation of the lettering makes the cookie seem overfilled, the spacing between letters is tight and resembles that slightly flufflier appearance characteristic of Double Stuf oreos. This really is a clever use of lettering if it is the case. As the words appear on the cookie, they letters themself appear more delectable as if they could be eaten right off the package. In my minds eye, I can imagine walking around the rotund cookie and finding that extra “f” that I known ought to be there
However, with a little research, I found that this was not the motivation behind dubbing these cookies “Double Stuf.” In an article found on, it is revealed that the typographic choice on the packaging was in order to avoid certain liabilities. These oreos, apparently, are not technically double-stuffed. There is nowhere near twice as much creme in these cookies as compared to the originals. At first, I found this rather disappointing. I figured that I had read too far into the packaging and that I had let my recent readings on typography make me overzealous, imagining design where no credit is really due. But then I thought back to Vignelli, who spoke of the importance of pragmatic design. Whether intentional or not, this typographic choice by Nabisco creates an elevated visual experience. I can bite into these sweet letters and feel thick folds of cream slicing into strands between my teeth. I can imagine the too-fat cookie overflowing in my hand, just like the elephantine letters sit plumply on the packaging.


The design above was chosen to represent minimalism. This tapestry is very plain from its characters, to its color scheme, to its overall threading design. The most extravagant component of the rug is the fringes on either end and even those appear sparse and under-done. This is not a particularly appealing decor, but it is some kind of Swedish symbol. Though I was unable to determine exactly what that symbol is, I believe that the rug is in accordance with the “Less is More” principle mentioned in this Smashing Magazine Article. The design does not jump out at you or demand your attention, rather it waits for you to notice it on your own.
With so few components, the design does not tell you much, every conclusion about its meaning would have to be speculative. However, there’s not a lot of room to speculate so the simple rug can always tell a simple story.

This final photo is emblematic of balance and symmetry. The objects on the mantel seem to cause the shelf to tilt slightly to the left. The larger horse and the tin on the left side pull weight in their direction. However, the two vases on either end are identical and re-establish a sense of symmetry along the mantel. On the right side, the smaller horse, while identical in size the the two horses in the middle, appears dwarfed in its contrast with the biggest horse. The absence of a tin container on the right side of the mantel makes the entire display appear incomplete and lopsided. However, the right side does appear to be weighed down by the small iron pot that hangs from the underside of the shelf. The presence of the large circular emblem on the stones gives a sense of density that is shared by both the right and left mantel.
Although the sides of the mantel are not equal, they do display some sense of abstract symmetry in the ways that they contrast. There is a sense of equality despite their differences. Neither one has more or less of anything, they are simply different. I don’t find this design particularly appealing, not that it is a bad design, just that it is a little unsettling. It shifts the implied balance of the entire room so that the left side of the building seems to tilt with the same subtlety of a see-saw. Perhaps I’ll rearrange things when my hosts aren’t looking….

We Were Already There

Are We There Yet?-Changing the concept of a photo by altering the background of the image.

The Story Behind the Story-

The kinds of adventures you have with your high school buddies are often not really adventures at all. Limited by funds; legality and transportation, the range of possible activities are dwarfed compared to your weekend aspirations. But if you’re cast among a group of people with the exact right chemistry, these non-adventures become something else entirely. In my junior year of high school I alienated myself. School was hard, AP chemistry was making me feel stupid and I wanted to hide from the world. I began spending most of my time alone, making up excuses as to why I would unavailable for yet another weekend plan. But as senior year came around, I was plucked somewhat reluctantly from my solitude and landed somewhere strange.
I had always had friends in school, I was on plenty of sports teams and was inherently social. But something about my junior year had taken all of that out of me, and suddenly I was being coaxed into socializing every weekend. This group of friends were not innovative in their hangouts. There was nothing truly unique about our plans, but everything felt unusual. We placed ourselves in the same basement doing the same activities each night. We played Super Smash Bros and classic card games, we listened to new music and talked about politics. New people filtered in and out of our weekend get-togethers, but the core of the group rarely changed.
I usually felt like more of an observer than a participant at these gatherings, but I felt wanted there. Even if I didn’t have much to say, there was always a place for me. I felt like an ethnographer, diligently taking in the antics of a group I was only just becoming familiar with. I watched freestyle rap battles and listened to the guys of the group as they formed a circle to talk about their emotions, all with Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Our time together was never really based on creating fun or experience. There was no desperation to enjoy a moment or give the impression to onlookers that we were having the time of our lives. It was always about conversation, debate and not being alone. We didn’t feel like we had to manipulate our surroundings or circumstances to have a good time together. The original photo in this gallery was taken during one of the truly adventurous events of our time together. We began a tradition of renting an Airbnb during summer and winter breaks to keep in touch throughout college, this photo was captured on Skyline Drive in Luray, Virginia. No matter what backdrop I place behind to original cutout, the photo is such a clear representation of what we have always been as a group: Simply taking it all in, wherever we go, whenever we get there.

The Tutorial-

This project was relatively straight forward, although I definitely ran into a few issues. To begin, I selected the photo that I wanted to use and opened GIMP. I then used the free select tool to cut out the people in the photo:

Once I had completed the selection process, outlining the portion of the photo I wanted to remove, I clicked Edit>Cut.

From there, I opened another photo in a new GIMP page. I got all of my photos from StockExchange.

With the new background open, I clicked Edit>Paste and the picture I had recently cut appeared over this background photo. I moved the picture around to position it, however I could not figure out how to shrink this pasted image.

Additionally, I was having trouble finding the “move” tool at first and had to re-do the image several times because I kept accidentally cutting out portions of the new photo. I eventually found the “move” tool under Tools>Transform Tools>Move. After many frustrating attempts to resolve the issue, I settled on simply showing a portion of the cut out image in the final product.

Ferrous Wheel

Creating a T-shirt- design your very own t-shirt

The Story Behind the Story-

I love puns, inside jokes and chemistry. This is a T-shirt that I would wear with pride, extremely nerdy pride. This past semester in biochemistry, we discussed a large number of co-factors, more commonly known as vitamins. These are the functional portions of enzymes, the proteins that carry out all of our metabolic reactions. One of the enzymes we discussed, Aconitase, a key component of cellular respiration during the Tricarboxylic acid Cycle (Krebs Cycle).

Aconitase is responsible for the hydration and subsequent dehydration of citric acid to produce iso-citrate, an intermediate of the cycle. Aconitase has a unique iron-sulfur cluster at the center of its active site that is able to coordinate the substrate of its chemical reaction, positioning it precisely so that the resultant product has a specific form of stereochemistry (the way the atoms of the molecule are positioned around each other.)
Prior to the discover of the iron-sulfur cluster, it was believed that aconitase functioned through a ring of iron atoms coordinated with some electronegative non-metal like oxygen or sulfur, this theorized structure was dubbed the “Ferrous Wheel” given that Iron with two valance electrons is named a ferrous atom. This proposed structure was eventually disproved, however I have always thought it would make for an excellent t-shirt. It would only make sense to a chemist or biochemist, so I chose not to include any text so as to make the joke somewhat exclusive. I have been planning to create this shirt for several months, so this project was a perfect choice for me.

The Tutorial-

To make this t-shirt, I used the CustomInk design lab program. CustomInk is a relatively new company that makes custom t-shirts. The tool was incredibly easy to use. I simply uploaded the photo I wanted to use, and then began using the tools of the site to reposition the image on the shirt. I also took advantage of the many style and color options available on the site.

Beware of the Failed Franchise

WARNING-create a warning poster for a fictional hazard.

The Story Behind the Story-

You would think, that after six films, that if the characters did not adapt to be able to more intelligently navigate a world overrun with horrifying aliens, then at least the creators of these abominations would find the means to create a new plot. I have seen almost all of the movies in the Aliens Franchise, and they are startlingly similar. I do have to admit that the first and second installments of these movies were very much enjoyable, but they have repeated their story lines each and every time.
I have witnessed impassioned debates over the meaning and symbolism of the elements of each new installment of these films, but I fail to see how either one differs from the other, except for the very clear disparity in quality. The original movies staring Sigourney Weaver were far more entertaining and well-crafted. I can’t help but think that she makes the iconic face pictured in the warning above with each additional sequel. In the initial stages of producing this design, I intended to create a warning for Xenomorph sightings, but as I worked on this orginial design my mind was swayed for two reasons. The first being that my original content was quite ugly, lacking many of the aspects of color, typography and use of space that I had researched in Vignelli’s cannon earlier this week. The second being that I felt I was betraying my own feelings of annoyance to this undying franchise. This is a necessary warning to all those who can still be spared: watch the first and second installments of the Aliens franchise, and then never (ever) look back.

The Tutorial-

To begin this process, I downloaded the image I wanted to use and opened it in GIMP.

Then I selected Color>Colorize and decided to use the default blue hue that the program selected. I thought this tint would soften the original image a little more, making it less obvious that it had been cut from a different background.

Next, I selected Tools>Selection Tools>Free Select and cut out Sigourney Weaver’s face.

I then copied and pasted the image to a blue background in a PowerPoint and began adding the text I wanted and repositioning the images to make hide the sharp edges of the face that had been cut out.

Over and Under and Under and Over

Turn a GIF into a FIG- Create a GIF and then throw it into reverse.

The Story Behind the Story-

When a moment unfolds in the exact right order, each progression is stitched together, thrown into a fluid singularity. Any falters or missteps are obvious and predictable. But when in reverse, these moments do not fall apart as smoothly as they came together. They crumble and flake apart, scenes push on each other, bunching up like a imperfectly coiled rope. There is some discomfort in viewing this process, we don’t want to see what we’ve done become undone yet again. But there is definitely beauty in the reverse.
Here I go with my GIFs and memories again. I’ve discussed how much I treasure my memories and that I think GIFs are the perfect outlet for the my desire for moments to reach infinity here. The reverse GIF is the ultimate representation of endlessness for me. Now if I’m being honest, this isn’t a true reverse GIF, this is a “Ping Pong” GIF, in which the video proceeds in the normal forward direction but is then reverts after the final frame, playing the whole clip over again in reverse. This concept was almost certainly designed with me in mind. I can live for the moment, in the moment and then relive it all over again. I can see my moments from new angles, see them build themselves up and then undo them over again.

The Tutorial

I initially created my GIF using GIPHY but when I attempted to use the special effects option on the site, I was unable to download my reversed GIF:

So I took my unedited GIF to EZGIF, a site that performs many of the same basic functions as GIPHY. I was able to apply the pingpong effect on the GIF and then download the video. Unfortunately, EZGIF does not seem to provide a link to embed the GIFs you create, so I had to insert the GIF as a media file from my computer to this page, so it appears still until you select it at which point the GIF will open in a separate window.

Some People are like Bad Sushi


Favorite Musician GIF- Make a GIF from a music video created by one of your favorite artists

The Story Behind the Story-

When we eat something that leaves a sour taste in our mouth or leaves us feeling ill, we develop an aversion. A strong dislike or disinclination. This can be true of many of the things we are exposed to in life. Tastes, smells, sounds and sights. Even people and their names that we associate with less than satisfactory experiences. I’ll never really like a Xander or an Alexis, they wont even know why. I’ll just keep feeling that reminiscent sense of having been slighted. Many of the names I have developed a disliking towards occurred through very insignificant events in my life, others more significant. I don’t know what the real life Trevor did to the members of Tame Impala, but it was enough to inspire this song and its music video:

This video, while uniquely artistic with intriguing visuals, is quite the cliche. It tries to tell the story of breaking the status quo, leaving the school’s top jock in a painful state of unrequited love while the school mascot (appropriately given the simple and somewhat nerdy name, Trevor) gets the girl. I think this is a bit of a tired plot. The first time anyone was brave enough to let the nerd get the girl, I’m sure it made for a great and heartwarming story. But this has been repeated so many times over that the breaking of the status quo is creating a new banality. Tame Impala at least has the integrity to make the video a match for their neo-psychedelic music, even though it tells a tired story it gives the viewers a burst of sensually colorful scenes complete with animations. I chose my favorite portion of this trippy video to make the GIF above.

The Tutorial-

To create this GIF, I copied the URL for the original music video from YouTube and pasted it into the GIF maker from GIPHY, a GIF-making site that also has a stockpile of GIFs, free to download.

I then altered the start and end time to customize the clip to the duration of my choosing, and then clicked Create GIF and then Share>Embed to get the link that I copied to this post to embed the animation.

L’Air de Panache

One Story/Four Icons-Tell the story of a movie using only four minimalist icons.

The Story Behind the Story-

The Air of Panache, the air of confidence and flamboyance. This is the essence of my favorite film of all time, as well as the overused perfume of the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Like most of Wes Anderson’s work, it is an R-rated picture book come to life. With all the wondrous imagination of a slightly mischievous child and the comedic caliber of a well-seasoned cynic, this film is a masterpiece. Even without commentary or plot this film would be like watching a beautiful painting come to life, the colors are brilliant, inundating every corner of the screen. The music is original, big band soundtrack is the perfect complement to the beautiful imagery. To attempt to give a minimalist summary of a Wes Anderson film is foolish. He has created entire films that are far more dependent on their color schemes and small visual details than they are on their plots.

The icons I chose are still quite detailed for minimalist designs, all of these images came from The Noun Project. The first icon is a lobby boy, created by Vladmir Belochkin. It represents the beginning of the film when the main character Zero becomes and fulfills his role as the Lobby Boy. The lovable character of great integrity and romanticism is usually found in his archetypal bright purple uniform decorated with small, bright gold buttons and a structured round cap with “Lobby Boy” stamped glaringly across the front.

The second icon is a bottle of poison representing the murder of Madame D. which M. Gustave is then accused of. I chose the most detailed and vintage bottle of poison,  created by Chris Homan, that could be found on The Noun Project. With this murder, the arrest of M. Gustave initiates the great adventure of the film. The next two icons are both creations of Lea Lafleur.   The first is representative of the small cake from Mendl’s; in which a small tool was embedded to aid M. Gustave and his band of thugs escape from prison to begin his quest for vindication. The next icon is the Grand Budapest Hotel itself, showing the return to the Hotel where Zero and M. Gustave find the evidence they need to clear their names and which also eventually results in Zero becoming the proprietor of the wonderful hotel.
I was compelled to choose this project mostly because I love film and minimalism, and I knew that attempting to describe a Wes Anderson film through minimalist design would be quite a challenge. Ultimately I think the design is successful, it remained simple without losing the intricacy that is so typical of Anderson. I might even keep this design for myself.

The Tutorial-

This was a very simple project to create, although it was quite challenging to decide upon the four icons that I would use to describe the entirety of the film. I used The Noun Project, downloaded my selected images and then pasted them into a PowerPoint, arranging them in sequence on a light blue background. When I had the icons arranged the way I liked, I simply took a screenshot of the image and cropped it to get my final product.

Sometimes a Fart Joke Makes You Cry

Truthful Movie Poster-Create a more honest version of a movie poster

The Story Behind the Story

The human existence is sorrowful and futile, we are alone or we are insincerely together. We are traversing along a path that seems too passable. What is thrown at us we do not conquer, we simply absorb. But we have the power to see it all a little differently. Delusion is something of a gift in this world. There is a soundtrack to your adventure that you can play in your head, beautifully haunting harmonies, an acapella humming that buzzes so loudly in your ears you lose track of where you are. Your ribs are rattled by the deep baritones and your eyes squint as tears form at their corners with the pierce of the sopranos. It does not matter if what you see is beautiful with this music in your ears.

The Original Poster

In nearly every way, Swiss Army Man is the complete antithesis of my preference. I hate all things crude and crass, rarely will I laugh at a stooping slapstick joke. But sometimes a fart joke will make you cry. This film is an exquisitely strange experience, it leaves you feeling awkward and uncomfortable, ashamed and disheartened. It recreates what it means and feel like to be human. I cannot watch this movie in the presence of another person, I think it was a film created specifically to be watch in solitude. The plot follows a man who appears to be stranded on a desert island, on the verge of killing himself when he discovers the body of a man who supposedly died at sea. Soon he discovers that the partially reanimated corpse is his best chance at finding his way home, and he embarks on a great odyssey, teaching his discovered friend how to be human along the way.

The innocence and confusion of the discovered man as he learns how to become human draws the main character out of his stupor, inspiring him to change his life as soon as he returns to it. They conquer the simplest insecurities that make us all so plainly human, every moment of this unlikely tail is extremely relatable and matched with the incredible soundtrack developed by Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra. I chose this project not because I want to make fun of this movie (which I think is really the intention of the assignment) but because I love it so dearly and yet it is so unlike me or my usual film tastes. I wanted to outline the simplicity of the plot: there are a lot of fart jokes, you’re going to feel extremely strange. But that is what it is to be human.
This poster is a great test of design skills as it very abstractly demonstrates symmetry. Symmetry does not require mirror images reflecting off of each other. Symmetry can also come in the form of contrast. Paul Dano (on the left in the poster) represents humanity and the living, whereas Daniel Radcliffe represents the inhuman and the dead. Despite the imbalance of my poster which weighs heavily on the right side, there is an abstract symmetry displayed within the context of this design. This video is what awakened me to all the ways in which symmetry can be demonstrated:

The Tutorial-

To make this movie poster, I first downloaded the original movie poster and opened it in GIMP. Once in GIMP, I then used the free select tool to cut out the Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Once I had completed the selection process, outlining the portion of the photo I wanted to remove, I clicked Edit>Cut.

From there, I opened another photo in a new GIMP page. With the new background open, I clicked Edit>Paste and the picture I had recently cut appeared over this background photo, but GIMP was still an elusive tool to use and I could not get the image to appear the way I wanted so I just pasted my baackground photo to a PowerPoint page and worked from there. I positioned the image the way I wanted, and added the text I wanted to. It was challenging to find a font that resembled the original movies poster but I selected “Mistral” which seems relatively similar. I recreated the Sundance Film Festival logo using an image from The Noun Project  created by Lesley Hunt.