Thoughts and Ideas

Final Unit Choice

For the final unit, I’ll be working individually.  I like working in groups, especially in a creative setting like this class.  But I’m way to busy with papers and projects from my other comp sci classes to be able to coordinate schedules with other people for another project.  It will make my life a lot easier if I just do it myself.  Besides, I enjoy working on my own project a lot as well.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ Environments in film noir

Historically, noir usually takes place in a specific setting.  It is often set in the mid-1900s, even when it is made in other times.  And it almost always takes place within a city, mostly famously in L.A.  All three of the movies, Double Indemnity, The Big Lebowski, and Blade Runner, take place within cities, though in very different times.  Double Indemnity is certainly the most traditional film noir, both in plot and design.  Its use of spacing is very inclusive; many shots were positioned to show every character in a room, as well as any set pieces and atmospheric objects to maximize the feel that the scene conveyed.  In different scenes, the camera and environment shift depending on the mood.  If the scene had many people in a room, the camera would be pulled back enough to show everyone.  The objects in the room would be placed tightly together to accommodate each characters’ actions in-frame.  In scenes that only had one or two people, the camera would respond their motions.  When they were across the room from each other, the camera would use long shots to show them both.  As they would come closer to each other, the camera would respond, cutting to a closer shot to them and leaving much of the environment out of frame.  Despite this, the atmosphere was never completely ignored; often an intimate shot would still contain some object to remind you of the dark mood of the film, such as blinds on a window in a dark room.

Blade Runner takes different approach to its use of space from traditional noir like Double Indemnity.  Attention is drawn to spacing as a factor in the film’s world that the characters are starkly aware of.  The film also takes place in Los Angeles, but in the future, where aspects of the city are exaggerated.  The city is all sky scrapers in the future, with the streets completely packed with people and low grade shops.  All traffic flies above the towers, where oversized advertisements can be seen for miles.  However, inside the wealthy areas of the high rises are great, spacious rooms and offices for corporate bigwigs.  Space is a commodity in Blade Runner‘s world.  Despite the science fiction implications for this thematic difference, this aspect of the film still serves the purpose of creating that unfriendly, dark, gritty feel that lies in noir.  Even though the time and environment is wildly different between Double Indemnity and Blade Runner, both these settings provide the same feel for the characters.  Even as Deckard is questioning people in his search for replicants, the sets we see him in can easily be seen as ones in a traditional film noir, such as restaurants and locker rooms.  The key elements, such as the city, investigation, and set design, are timeless, and this can be seen most evidently in Blade Runner.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ Vignelli Canon – the science of the art

Though almost all forms of art are subjective and and can be taken in ant direction, I believe it is generally agreed upon that there are decidedly correct ways to approach a work of art.  Graphic design is no exception to this rule; there are specific elements that make up a graphic, and practicing good technique in those aspects as you create your art will help make for a better result.  In his book, Vignelli seems to be most concerned with the elements that make up a graphic’s structure and how to properly approach working with them.  He focuses on these distilled, universal elements of graphic design rather than worrying about the creative, artistic side of the process.  I feel that this makes for a particularly useful guide since it covers the fundamentals of any graphic.  Though these teachings can be applied to any graphic design project, they do not interfere with the creative process.

Vignelli starts his book by covering the more ephemeral aspects of graphic design.  He discusses discipline, concision, and other conceptual factors like when it is appropriate to include certain “riskier” elements like intentional ambiguity.  Then he moves on the concrete, tangible aspects of graphic design, like space, coloring, and lettering.  The fact that Vignelli’s time was before the age of computer graphic design becomes evident here.  He mentions the use of certain objects like rulers and overlaying grids to assist in creating designs.  Many constraints that would cause you to require such aids are handled by computers now.  In this way, I suppose computers and graphic design programs have greatly streamlined the process of graphic design.  I enjoyed how he incorporates the elements he mentions into the text itself to provide examples and context.  It helps to make his points on what makes for good design, regardless of the content.

What Vignelli seemed most interested in throughout his book was the use of space.  He spends a great deal of time explaining all the different ways spacing and sizing parts of a graphic are hugely influential on the result.  He often reminds his readers that a graphic is largely the sum of its parts, and your spacing will affect every other part of your design.  For this reason it is crucial to understand good technique regarding spacing; if any one part of your design fits a certain way in its size and spacing, the rest of the design must follow suite.  He explains this through the use of grids.  When something is put on a sheet, a correspondingly sized grid is placed over the sheet.  For the design to look its best at this point, the rest of the objects placed on the sheet must make sense according to the grid.  I feel the most important thing to take from Vignelli’s book is the importance of good spacing.  It is a fundamental aspect of graphic design, one that is used in every project.  Mastering the use of spacing is a crucial way to improve any design you make.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ Thoughts on the radio show

I figure there’s quite a few directions the show can take.  One of the first questions is what will be the main attraction of the show?  Will it be mostly music based with sketches in between, purely sketches that we make up as a team, or somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?  We can certainly make use of our noir characters in our sketches, writing stories that we play out like a radio segment.  Maybe we can even have sketches where our characters interact with each other.  We can combine our stories to make a large collaborative narrative for the show.

If there is going to music, I feel it should be thematically appropriate for noir.  Jazzy songs, ones that you’d find in film noir or would seem right in the background of some noir story would be best.  That, and music from the 50s would go together nicely to fit the theme.

Another fun sketch we could do would be to discuss our favorite examples of noir.  We can bring up movies, books, music, and anything else that we feel fits the theme and talk about what makes it noir, and what makes it good.  This would be a fun way to further our conversations about noir and what makes up the genre.


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