Working with Magazine Gridlines

As part of an in-class assignment last week, we were asked to trace a grid from a magazine noting the margins and columns. Unfortunately, I had to miss class, so I wasn’t able to complete the activity in class, but instead completed it on my own. For the assignment, I selected a page out of the Summer 2016 issue of UMBC Magazine.

Four times a year, a new issue of UMBC Magazine comes out, and I’ve found that one of the things that makes me want to read it (other than the fact that they continue to send them to me) is its layouts. Each page has a unique layout while still maintaining consistency.

What I appreciate most in the design of the page is ability to break up the space using both images and color that draw the reader in to specific areas. The page is information dense compared to many of the other pages of the magazine but because the content is broken up, it doesn’t appear overwhelming to the eye.

Working with Gridlines


For our third photo essay, we focused on finding grid types in the real world. This proved to be much easier than our previous photo essays as many things we use are designed around a grid. In fact, I was able to find grids in text books, magazines, and even the employee guide used by the students at my office. What was incredibly interesting was the use of variety in some print types (e.g. UMBC Magazine) and the lack of variety in other media (textbooks).

Having found examples of grid types, I moved onto the second part of the exercise, tracing gridlines. This was a transformative exercise in that it quickly became apparent just how easy it is to miss the gridlines even if the design is right in front of you. The brain processes the designs without even noticing the underlying structures.

Reflections on Our First Site Visit

Recently, we visited the University of Baltimore’s Angelos Law Center. At first glance, the building is a modern marvel of design and efficiency, but it’s what’s happening inside that’s the true marvel. The reason for our visit was to meet with a member of UMBC’s Choice Program, a program that provides job training and employment through the Flying Fruit Cafe to youth in Baltimore.

It’s easy to walk into a coffee shop like the Flying Fruit Cafe and quickly point out things that could be done more efficiently, but efficiency isn’t the goal in this cafe. Instead, the goal is to provide meaningful job experience and a positive environment for the youth in the program. This translates to less worry about how to make things quicker, but how to design systems and processes that work for the youth and the cafe. Examples include taking into consideration that some of the employees may have little to no literacy or that deisgns need to be able to implemented quickly and hold up over time.

The projects that were initially presented ranged from designing a new system to order breakfast sandwiches, wrappers for the cafe’s coffee pots and creamer containers, and promotional inserts for the cafe’s napkin holders. With that being said, there were two projects not mentioned that immediately stood out to me when I walked into the space.

First and foremost, the menu is displayed in chunks on a rotating slideshow displayed on the TV and on pieces of paper placed around the cafe. For busy law students, having to search for the right menu and/or wait for the next slide to change on a screen is time wasted. There seemed no better place to place a menu than on the expansive stainless steel panels behind the counter that are seeminly empty and dull compared to the rest of the cafe.

Another area that I noticed was in the labeling of food. Currently, items in the grab and go section are labeled by hand, with employees writing the name of the contents in a white space. However, it appeared that the employees writing these labels often had handwriting that was difficult to read making it difficult for customers to determine what they were actually buying.

Above all, what stuck with me during my visit was the success stories. The Choice Program is making a real difference in the lives of the youth participating in the program, yet it was notably absent or unapparent to customers. In fact, prior to my visit, I had found two reviews for the cafe online. The first centered around poor service from the employees, while the second was positive, and it was due to the mission behind the cafe. It seems like a real missed opportunity that the successes of the program and the lives it changes are not being highlighted. If one of the goals is to make Flying Fruit stand out from the other familiar brands, showing how it makes a difference in community is it, especially in a city with such a strong sense of identity as Baltimore.

Letterform Project (v.2)

It’s easy to doubt your ability in a field while you’re a grad student. You feel like your critiques may not be adequate or up to par with a “real” graphic designer. Thankfully, a missed class was actually responsible for realigning just how much we’ve learned.

Since I missed class last Monday, I turned to friends and family for feedback on my version 1 Letterforms. It turns out, getting feedback from someone isn’t as easy as it is in a class full of designers. My first response was only that the photos seemed to be representative of the concepts in the same order they were listed. The second while much more valuable, including “why” they believed each example to represent a specific concept, also included a disclaimer that if their answers were “wrong”, they’d change them.

My designs for random and static were unanimous. Even without descriptions, the ideas came through, as was the case of the x’s representing a placeholder came through for the static concept.

The two that raised questions however, were Unity and Grouping. In fact, the responses I got tended to switch the two. What I had intended to symbolize unity actually portrayed grouping to most people while what I had intended to symbolize grouping seemed like unity. As a result, I felt it was best to use my original design for grouping as unity and redesign the unity concept as grouping.

You can see my version 2 designs below:


Letterform Project

In school, you’re constantly trying to meet a word count for every paper you write. When you’re concerned about getting the last 1000 words finished, it’s easy to lose site of just how powerful individual letters can be.

For our Letterform project, we were asked to depict 4 concepts using only three letters. I was worried I’d have trouble coming up with designs. I didn’t think it’d be possible to depict an entire concept like unity with only three letters.

The key for my designs was to focus less on the letters themselves, but the shapes and feelings they represented. A sans serif X is very boring, serious, and monotonous and reminded me of static. The letter O could be transformed into a ring to indicate unity, and the letter C could be used as a curve.

The exercise itself was a lesson in thinking outside of the box. When it comes to design, you can’t think too literally or you will miss out on creative opportunities.

Keyform Assignment (v.1)

The initial design process began during our first class. During class, we broke into groups and were tasked to come up with designs using dots that represented six design concepts:

  • Contrast
  • Harmony
  • Asymmetry
  • Tension
  • Movement
  • Rhythm

With the designs created, we shared our designs with classmates to get feedback to revise our initial designs. Some concepts were easily recognized (such as harmony). Others like movement and rhythm were more difficult to identify, and some were identified correctly, but for reasons other than what was intended (e.g. tension). Below you’ll find both our initial designs and revisions based on feedback. (Notes on the feedback we received can be found here.)

The Keyform assignment is a logical progression from the design process started in the in class activity. Using key forms, the goal was to recreate the concepts above along with three new concepts (two of which were of our own choice):

  • Scale
  • Depth
  • Balance

My rationale for the above designs are included from left to right, top to bottom below:

  • Asymmetry – When sliced vertically, the two halves (two keys versus three) will be unequal or asymmetric.
  • Harmony – Eight separate keys are shown interacting as one to form a circle. Additionally, the design of the key was selected due to it’s vine-like nature to represent the harmony that one finds in nature.
  • Rhythm – Rhythm is defined as a strong repeated pattern, and is depicted here by the alternating of keys in a repeated pattern.
  • Balance – A single key is depicted balancing on the point of the key below it.
  • Scale – Five identical keys are shown in decreasing size from top to bottom.
  • Contrast – Two identical keys are flipped vertically and horizontally to depict contrasting forms.
  • Movement – The keys are slanted and moving downward on the page to represent keys sliding or moving down the page.
  • Depth – Identical keys are presented in decreasing size from left to right to give the appearance of three dimension or depth.
  • Tension – Taking inspiration from the in class assignment, the idea of two opposing sides (two against one) is intended to depict tension.