VISUAL LANGUAGE 1: GRAPHIC DESIGN ANALYSIS

Assignment

Choose a design you like.  You can choose a book cover, poster, packaging or any form of graphic design. Post an image of the design to your blog and, in a series of graphic overlays, analyze its adherence to the principles of design. Identify the underlying system and the hierarchy of elements within that system. Notice the negative/positive space composition. Identify the number and variation of typefaces and the variety represented within a single type family. Look at the palette and identify the color system.

I chose the cover of the 2017 EP "The Garden" of the Berlin-based Australian singer, multi-instrumentalist and artist Carla Dal Forno.

The design is constructed in a strict, minimalistic and brutalist manner that reminds the viewer with its threatening emptiness of Pittura metafisica, the Italian metaphysical art movement of the early 20th century. It is reduced to three essentials, one image dominating the upper left two thirds of the cover while the lower right third contains the title of the EP / Name of the artist - most of the space is taken up by a solid colored, earthy orange background. This reduction to three main elements fulfills the principles of clarity and simplicity.

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The organizational principle hints at the rule of thirds. The central photo/image is within the upper two thirds of the grid with a non-proportional tendency towards the bottom of the piece. 

 The yellow lines indicate the ideal position of the rule of thirds in an overlay on the cover.

The yellow lines indicate the ideal position of the rule of thirds in an overlay on the cover.

The text in the lower right third shows irregular positional tendencies to the left of the piece. On the imaginary vertical rule of thirds line the space occupied by the first letters of the Artist's name overlap with the space claimed by the image. It is caused by the positioning the text elements centered underneath each other This evokes the feeling of a cramped, distorted and even violent space that text and image have to share - the text block in itself is balanced.

Looking closer at the text, the distance caused by the empty line between "The Garden" and "by" appears too big compared to the distance between second and third line. It is not immediately visible but subconsciously unsettling.

Something is wrong in this bland and uncomfortable world of Carla Dal Forno. 

These structural irregularities, the feeling that the proportions are in a very subtle way "off", irritate the eye of the viewer. She tries to rest her glance on the blue wall which is part of a photo that is highlighted by a negative space of a black, thick frame: plants that are half-cut out of the frame and positioned too low, the same tendency to the bottom adds extra weight and dread to the composition. the focus of the whole record cover is on a slightly off-color baby-blue wall that is blank. The wall is the sky of this strange garden, it is the heart of the composition - but it is empty. There is nothing to see. It is flat and offers no horizon or spacial dimensionality. A little fracture in the wall, visible in the upper right corner reminds us of the impermanence of this brutalist Eden: two plants, maybe referring to Adam and Eve are far away from each other and barely part of this paradise anymore. Carla Dal Forno is positioned clearly outside of this garden as its distant curator. This separation between creation and creator is emphasized as well by the distance of the text parts from each other in the lower right part of the composition. "The Garden" is positioned too far from "by Carla Dal Forno". Two main themes emerge from this composition of the design and reflect the overall concept of the album:

separation and void

The negative space is represented by the frame around the image and its surroundings. The piece asks its user where to place the negative space - as negative space is dominating the entire composition. Even within the image, negative space is dominant, as the garden is essentially a garden in absence that is visualized by the two cut out plants and the blank wall in between. Image frame and font colors in black only underline this element of absence and hint at 60s minimalist design principles: Functionality is both tool and aesthetics.  

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The colors are muted and dominated by an earthy orange called "flame". Here the golden ratio / divine rule is apparent, 63 % of the image is covered by it. This color stands in opposition to the fading blue of eden and the negative space. A hint to the flames of hell vs the cool breeze of the heavens. The home region of the artist, Australia, is represented in two colors: "Ayers Rock" and "Onahau". While the latter one stands for a bay in northern New Zealand, "Ayers Rock" refers to the iconic natural landmark that is symbolic for Australia and its people. The piece can be reduced to three main colors: orange, bright-blue and black. They are used in a consistent manner throughout the piece, only the green of the plants in the photo, here a "greenish grey", is an exception.

Clarity, consistency and simplicity are reflected as well by the choice of using only one font. According to the myfonts-analysis it seems to be a version of the Adelle Sans typeface in the weight version "light". This is in a way surprising as this version of Adelle is considered a webfont, whereas the album cover can be as well a physically printed object. No variations within the type-family are used. Main title and artist name are written in capital letters and as mentioned earlier, all text elements are centered within the block - clarity and consistency again.

As a summary, a common set of design principles is applied in this image. The slight deviations from the norm accent the unsettling nature of the piece intentionally: Its main topics, separation and void, are enhanced by the design in a very subtle and intelligent way.