I have had an idea that could help the environment. You are welcome to have this idea for free should you want it.
Recently you announced that you were going to stop selling single-use 5p plastic bags to encourage people to buy reusable ‘bags for life’. Reported in The Guardian, you claim “ending sales of single-use bags will significantly reduce the number of bags sold and would therefore help to reduce litter and the number of bags sent to landfill”.
I took a dérive to work the other day and came across road work annotations on the pavement. I’ve seen these many times before, and often photographed them, but yesterday’s discovery prompted me to pull the more interesting images together in one place. When cropping some of these square, the reference to Mark Boyle and the Boyle Family‘s work is obvious to see.
It is not artistic associations that fascinate me about them though, but the fact they are little architectural notes. They clearly have meaning to someone, even if their meaning isn’t always clear to me. When I come across them it is like I have discovered tribal marks during an exploration of unchartered lands. It also strikes me that if they were drawn unofficially on walls, they would be jet-washed off as graffiti.
In the aftermath of the recent horrendous Manchester and London terrorist attacks, I was puzzled by the imagery used to accompany a new police warning advising people to RUN, HIDE and TELL if they should find themselves in the midst of such a situation.
Seeing this for the first time on the Channel 4 news, it puzzled me as to exactly what the middle image was. In focusing on trying to decode the visual I didn’t really read the word sitting beside it. As a result, I had to stare at the paused picture for some time before I saw what it was supposed to be—someone peeping out from behind an object. Before this realisation, my mind pictured it as a distorted question mark. In this, I also became aware that because of my confusion I was unwittingly put in the position of someone who didn’t read English, making the visual communication more important.
Of course, deliberate ambiguity has a place in graphic design. In using negative space, the work of illustrator Noma Bar, or the classic of the genre, the Fed Ex arrow, are perfect examples of how duality in an image can captivate an audience and engage them intellectually. Once decoded, the viewer’s ego is massaged that they have ‘got it’. More importantly though—once seen, the previously hidden image can not be unseen, and this reinforces the message.
Now too, with the Run Hide Tell images, I cannot not see what the HIDE image is meant to be. But with that initial questioning of what I was looking at, my visual perception was confused. The fact that it took me a while to decode the image brings to question its effectiveness in a situation no one wants to find themselves in. In just such an instance, visual ambiguity is the last thing anyone needs.
It’s good to have a side project on the go. Of the many I have, they usually just languish somewhere on a hard-drive, or occasionally get posted to Instagram without anyone being any the wiser that they are part of a themed project. However, I’ve just launched a Tumblr of Glasses off, a completely pointless exercise where-by I photograph my glasses laid over an image of someone’s face. *
Being shortsighted I have to take my spectacles off to read, and last year when flicking through the August issue of the British Journal of Photography, I noticed that as my glasses lay next to the magazine they almost perfectly fitted the image by Debashish Chakrabarty on the cover. The fact that I shave my hair short made it doubly fitting, and this image formed my social media profile picture for sometime after that.
After my last walk in Chelmsford, I’ve been noticing more and more temporary banners tied to railings. So today I took a short walk around my local area to capture those I had seen whilst in the car.
Unlike many that I saw in Essex, the ones I saw today were mostly ‘official’, in that what was being advertised/promoted related to the property owner of the railings they were attached to. For example, Ipswich NHS Trust banners outside the hospital and the local St Elizabeth’s Hospice railings were covered in banners for fundraising events.
In the last few weeks I have seen several examples of a typographic strikethrough or other obscuring devices being used as metaphors within different projects. The first I noticed was in a Design Week article about Hope Not Hate’s rebrand, designed by Blue State Digital.
Notes on current research As my graphic commons project grows and I’m formulating links between different urban studies and theories, I’m finding out how little research there appears to be into graphic design in shared environments, (within both current or historic thinking around the topic). This may obviously be because I just haven’t found it yet, and others may be able to fill the holes in my studies, (please post in comments or DM me via the contacts page if you do have any research pointers). A 2017 report by the Design Commission titled People & Places: Design of the Built Environment and Behaviour, makes reference to how urban environments can influence mental health, but fails to mention anything in regard to how everyday visual culture may impact on this. Such references tend to be more explicitly discussed in anti-advertising doctrines such as the excellent Advertising Shits In Your Head. However, in doing so, such texts tend to be polemic and agitational in nature and do not make a wider connection to urbanism as a theoretical study.
Others discuss the visualisation of environments in passing, but do so more abstractly by talking either about visual pollution or the commercialisation of space without reference to specific pictorial material, (see Fezer’s Design In & Against the Neoliberal City, obviously Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life—in particular volume 2: Foundations Of Study For A Sociology of the Everyday—and visual pollution is discussed in the introduction to the recent republication of Nelson’s How To See). In relation to how my research on the ground is going, it fits more with some of the projects I am reading about in Campkin and Duijzings’ 2016 publication: Engaged Urbanism: Cities & Methodologies, although none of the featured work is studying graphic design in shared environments per se.
Yesterday I took my grandson to see the Lego Batman Movie at a cinema complex in town. It was great fun, even if much of the film was a little over the head of the 7 year old boy.
Such cinema complexes aren’t my usual choice of venue for movie going. Several people had warned me about the price of popcorn prior to the visit, and I expected to be marketed at from all angles, so I didn’t think I was going with any illusions. But as much as I enjoyed the film, the experience was sullied by coming away feeling that the boy and I had just been fodder for a slick and well organised advertising industry.
Obviously I knew there would be advertisments before the film, and clearly a Lego movie is just one big advert for its own product. But I didn’t expect the blatant iPhone product placement throughout the film itself. Product placement is nothing new, but what shocked me was that it wasn’t even trying to be discrete. I pity children and teenagers going through playground battles about who has the coolest mobile, just as sneaker wars have affected other generations. With a predictably young audience for such a film, this wasn’t just insidious behaviour on the part of Lego and Apple, but irresponsible when considering the price of such devices. During the film, in an act of self-acknowledgement postmodernism, Lego Batman visits an orphanage to shower the children inside with Batmerch. As funny and honest as this was, the joke rang hollow by the end of the movie.
After fog stopped two previous attempts at more walks for my Graphic Commons project, I finally managed to get out again today. Thankfully, despite weather reports of fog in this region, Ipswich seemed to be unaffected.
The project has moved on somewhat since I did the Easternmost onshore drift walk, as I have now categorised many of my photographs from my previous dérives. As Graphic Commons develops, it has turned into themed observations of different categories I have identified within graphic design, with each forming the focus for separate chapters in a bigger book I am planning; the overarching context being how graphic design inserts itself into our everyday shared environments.
Today’s walk was primarily in search of convenience stores on the peripheries of Ipswich town centre as I’ve become interested in vinyl graphics and the product shots that adorn these ‘little and often’ shops’ windows, and how these crude and often very similar graphics affect the ambience of a location. As with my previous posts about these drifts, I’m logging some of these photographs here as a record of the walk rather than as any finished outcome.
Walk duration: 4.6 miles
Steps taken: 10,639
Start time: 08:15
Ground covered: Town centre peripheries
The walk itself took place on the opposite side of Ipswich’s town centre to my previous peripheral visions walk, and as a result, threw up some interesting finds, particularly as it included a more culturally diverse area of the town.