How To Document Your 2D Art & Design Projects

Several of you have inquired about the best way to photograph your design projects.  First and foremost, don’t use the camera on your phone–use a legit point and shoot or DSLR camera!  For other specifics, check out these two great resources, and we can discuss more in class if you have any questions.

This etsy blog posting Etsy Success: Photographing 2D Artwork by Pikaland is uuber helpful, too. I hope she doesn’t mind me re-posting below. It’s too good not to be shared!

Etsy Success: Photographing 2D Artwork

Story by pikaland
Published on Sept 16, 2010 in Seller Handbook
Photo by jamieshelman

Taking great photos of your work is key! How you present your artwork is just as important as the work itself, and more often than not it’s what makes the difference between someone understanding/buying your work. Flatness is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when photographing 2D work and presenting it online. Context is everything; it is important to remember the item isn’t just an image on a screen! For flat 2D objects, such as drawings and prints, show a scanned version of the work, but also a shot with space around the work. You want to give your viewer an idea of the size of the piece, as well as its presence!

photo

I am an object d’art! Not just a 2D image on your screen!

Before I begin, I must state that lighting is THE most important thing when photographing your artwork! Natural lighting is almost always the best way to show off your work and photographing near a window is one of the best ways to achieve this. When looking at the images below, note where the light source is coming from, you can tell by the shadows and contrasts in light and dark. In almost all of the photographs you can see the light coming from the right or left, and more likely than not it’s coming from a window! Keep this in mind when choosing where to photograph your art.Below you will find a number of great examples and ideas on how to photograph your work to its best advantage:

Frames
photo
Frames give your work visual weight and make it more of an object. It not only gives your viewer an opportunity to see how your work would look framed but also what frame works best with your work. The power to visualize where you see your artwork and in what context is huge. I would recommend investing in a great frame that works well with many of your pieces and rotate different images in it to photograph your works. Also keep in mind where you photograph your framed work, where would you ultimately visualize your work hanging? Would it lean against your desk or hang on the wall of your studio or do you have a great room in mind in which you would hang it? If so, show it! Where you imagine your work to be displayed will help your viewer imagine where it could be exhibited in their own space.

photo

Wood Surfaces
One of the best surfaces you can use to photograph your art is wood. Not only is it organic and natural but often adds warmth to your image and doesn’t compete with your artwork.

photo

Holding Your Artwork
Holding your work not only gives the viewer an idea of the size of the piece (in relation to your hand) but also makes the work more personable, more accessible or object-like. We like to pick things up, hold them in our hands, become familiar with them through touch before we buy them. In essence you’re picking the work up for the buyer. Your hand becomes the viewer’s hand and allows them to view the work as an actual object.

photo

The Art of Display
Giving your work context or creating a narrative surrounding your art can enhance your image enormously. There are a number of ways this can be done; some of the best include other objects that relate to your artwork and including other works of art displayed around the work or hanging in a group. Often this visual chatter adds to the energy and value of the work itself. Get creative, be inventive! Just make sure the objects or images you choose enhance your work of art and really add to its character. Make your photograph a work of art in itself! If you’re having fun staging and photographing your work, chances are the image will be fun for viewers to look at as well.

photo

Editing
Once you’ve taken fantastically lit and well staged photos of your work you’ll need to edit.

Using Photoshop or a similar program, be sure to adjust brightness/contrast when needed as well as saturation and hue (perhaps your image looks a little green or the light a little too yellow, you can use the hue bar to adjust and change this). Also be sure to crop your image, getting rid of any unnecessary space or objects. Remember, when photographing your workl you are also composing a picture. Just like when you compose your work of art, you want to make your photograph as visually engaging and interesting to look at as the work itself. Choosing the right way to best showcase your work is key.

photo

Things to keep in mind:

  • Use natural lighting!
  • Have fun photographing your work, it will show in your photographs!
  • Only use objects, surfaces, or backgrounds that will enhance your work (you’ll know when it’s working when you like the photograph you’ve created as much as the work itself!).
  • If someone’s attracted to the image of your work they’ll be attracted to the work itself.
  • Once you’ve found a way that best showcases your work, be sure to photograph all your work in the same way; consistency is key in the presentation of your art.

Edward Tufte: A Principled Man, A Man With Goals

In his book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, info design guru Edward Tufte lays out some excellent principles that we are going to follow as we design our own information visualizations in Design 4.  Keep these lists handy and refer to them frequently!

TUFTE’S PRINCIPLES OF GRAPHICAL EXCELLENCE¹

•Graphical excellence is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, of statistics, and of design.
•Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency.
•Graphical excellence is what gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
•Graphical excellence is nearly always multivariate (involving two or more variables).
•Graphical excellence requires telling the truth about data.

TUFTE’S GOALS OF INFORMATION VISUALIZATION²

•Above all else – Show the data.
•Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, design, technology of graphic production, or something else.
•Avoid distorting the data story. Be truthful in the representation.
•Present many numbers in a small space.
•Make large data sets coherent.
•Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data.
•Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure.

¹From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 51

²From The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte, p. 13

Anatomy of an Infographic

While designing infographics over the course of the semester, we must remember that our infographics should always include the following:

  • Headline (Name your infographic)
  • Paragraph of text that explains what the infographic is about
  • References/footnotes giving credit to all sources
  • Pictograms
  • Strong visual hierarchy
  • The Grid System
  • All charts should have titles so it’s clear what data is represented
  • Labeled X and Y axis on all charts and graphs
  • Labeled pies on pie charts
  • Cohesive color palette used throughout
  • Clear typefaces, limited to 2-3 max per infographic composition

Project 1: Redesigning the NYC Recycling Poster

For Project 1, the students were given the task of redesigning the NYC recycling checklist flyer.  The current design used by the NYC Department of Sanitation is a follows:

While the smiling garbage cans sure are fun, the students were tasked with making the poster easier to understand and more user friendly.  (There’s just way too much going on!)  They were given the option of using any of the information design tools that we’ve discussed so far this semester: pictograms, flowcharts, diagrams, tables, etc.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Kenney, who won the Students’ Choice Award.  The students voted that her design was their overall favorite.

Additionally, the students voted via anonymous ballot and judged the posters in three different categories:  Creativity, Functionality, and Craftsmanship.  While Elizabeth Kenney also won top honors in the Functionality category, Ray Chen was recognized for Craftsmanship and Emily Singer won for Creativity.  Kudos to all!

You can view the winning posters below.  All other D4 student designs can be found on each individual student’s blog, filed under “Project 1.”

TOP HONORS

STUDENTS’ CHOICE AWARD; FUNCTIONALITY

Elizabeth Kenney:

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Ray Chen:

CREATIVITY

Emily Singer:

Assignment 2: I BOUGHT WHAT?!

For their second assignment of the semester, D4 students had to create an infographic detailing the money they spent over the course of one week.  All student designs can be found on each individual student’s blog, filed under “Assignment 2.”  Some highlights are below.

Tracey Lin:

Dominique Romero:

Ray Chen:

Hannah Phang:

Making Maps in Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop

Check out Spoon Graphic‘s fantastic tutorial on making road maps with Adobe Illustrator.  They make it look so easy!  Their trick is creating individual brushes for each type of road.  This is a real time saver.

Designer Freelance‘s tutorial takes a more manual approach.  Their map design includes a hint of terrain, so it’s a bit less abstract/stylized and a tad more labor intensive.  They rely heavily on the use of layers in Adobe Illustrator.

While the maps we are making in class are grounded in reality, we can still learn from the world of fantasy map making.  Over at Virtual Verduria, they are using Adobe Photoshop to create maps.  Their demo for making topographical mountains is particularly helpful, and the image that shows the five Photoshop layers as separate components clearly demonstrates how Photoshop layers work together.  It’s a great example.

The Elements of Design

The Elements of Design are the components or parts of a work of art or design.  More simply put, they are the ingredients of art.  Take one part color, a pinch of texture, and a whole lot of shape, and voila:  you have art!  Recipes may vary, but all works of art and design contain a combination of the following:  line, shape (and form), value, color, space, and texture.

Another super helpful reference sheet made by paper-leaf.com.  You can download the full size poster here.

Color Theory Made Easy

This fantastic color theory reference sheet was made by paper-leaf.com and can be downloaded here.  Download the full size poster and save it for future reference to use when you need a refresher on color relationships, terms, and meanings.

Using The Grid System

“A grid breaks space or time into regular units. A grid can be simple or complex, specific or generic, tightly defined or loosely interpreted. Typographic grids are all about control. They establish a system for arranging content within the space of page, screen or built environment.”

– Ellen Lupton, Thinking With Type

This PBS infographic utilizes the grid system to organize a ton of data into one tidy composition.  The cohesive color palette helps as well.  (Also note the use of icons, pie graphs, and a map!)

This one spells it out for you.  It’s helpful to see the grid structure that’s been incorporated into the design.

Here are additional examples of the grid system at work:

Read more of this post