October, 2011

Week 9 – Advertisement

October 28th, 2011 October 28th, 2011
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We presented on our advertisement this week, and explained to the class how each of us came to the decisions we did vis a vis the advertisement. For me, that involved discussing my thought process and how I analyzed the advertisements we looked at in order to decide on fonts and stylistic elements to include in the ad.

In choosing ads to focus on, I looked exclusively at a couple that seemed illustrative of ads from the 1930s and 40s, both of which come from The F Word blog.

Because the fonts employed in the image on the right were unique–i.e., did not appear in other ads from the time–I chose to mimic the fonts used in the advertisement on the left. Stylistically, the image on the right was otherwise more representative of the majority of the advertisements. A rounded, darker bubble highlighting the headline text was quite common, as was repetition of the word “Skinny.” The fonts I chose for the body of the text was the closest I could find to the serifed, old-style font used in both of these (and in many of the other) advertisements. The style of headings in a bolder font and the non-emphasized words in the headline being in a bolder font were also mimicked from these and other advertisements.

Week 8: Advertisement redux!

October 21st, 2011 October 21st, 2011
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This week we finished up and polished our advertisement. With our advertisement written and font-formatted, we spent the week delving into images to find ones that fit with the imagery used in our reference ads. Caitlin had several old family photos that fit the bill perfectly, so we took a look at those and figured out which ones we wanted to use. This last portion fell mostly under Caitlin’s section of the work division, which was handy because this last part involved working intensively with Photoshop, at which Caitlin is a master and the rest of us are mediocre-to-okay. We started off the image selection with a picture of a relative of Caitlin’s giving a really cheesy smile, and Caitlin isolated his head and made him a grinning “floating head” à la 1940s-50s ads. With that hallmark of period advertisements down, we moved on to establishing the individuals being advertised to/about. Because our ad targeted men, we decided to use a picture of Caitlin’s great-uncle–a skinny young man at the time the photo was taken–as the chief image. To reinforce that ideal, and in a reverse of the imagery of men watching a young woman in a female weight gain ad we looked at, we also added a picture of the stereotypical American girl–also a relative of Caitlin’s, a great-aunt perhaps?–sitting in a field with a dog. Overall, in my opinion the images we chose–and even more so, how they were altered to represent 1940s and 50s ads–wound up fitting our assignment perfectly!

Week 7 – Skinny guys don’t get the girl!

October 14th, 2011 October 14th, 2011
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This week, we’ve been spending a great deal of time working on the group projects due after Fall Break. This project assignment is to create a print advertisement for an historic product. My group–Joe, Caitlin, Ashley, and I–decided to create a weight-gain advertisement from the 1940s. Our focus in creating this advertisement will be less on the product itself and more on newspaper advertisements of this type from that period. This is because we wanted to emphasize the technology of communication, the advertisement, over the product advertised, since it wasn’t really a technology of the type that we’re focusing on. To that end, we have been looking at weight-gain ads from the period and analyzing specific aspects in order to recreate them in as historically accurate a manner as possible.

In order to make sure we can cover our bases, we split the project up roughly. Joe agreed to do the research on the product itself; Ashley to write the copy for the ad; me to format the advertisement in terms of background, spacing, and fonts; and Caitlin–as the person with by far the most Photoshop experience–to synthesize our work. We’re going to be working in separate layers, with each person having at least one layer to work in, so that we can make changes without causing changes to others’ work.

Because the majority of the advertisements we were looking at were geared towards women, and only two were geared towards men, we decided to create one that was geared towards men.

Week Six – discussion leading!

October 7th, 2011 October 7th, 2011
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This week my group (Abbey, Claire, and I) led discussion on advertising and propaganda. To prepare for discussion leading, we looked for materials regarding propaganda (which we covered on Tuesday) and advertising (which we covered on Wednesday). For my readings for Tuesday, I discussed an overview of what propaganda was–covering the introduction of our readings–and the institutionalization of propaganda, focusing mostly on how ubiquitous advertising is in the modern world. For instance, of the 2,000 advertisements the average American is exposed to every day, only about eighty register on a conscious level. The reading also addressed subliminal advertising; for the discussion of that part of the class, I brought up the “subliminal messages” that, as kids, we heard via rumors had been included in Disney movies like Aladdin, and how effective–or not–subliminal advertising is. For Thursday, we discussed advertising; as part of that, I discussed an article online that essentially traced the history of advertising. For that article, what I mostly had the class discuss were two aspects; the first being the switch from detailed broadsheets to slogans — why that changed occurred and why it was advantageous, and the advent of advertising agencies under the auspices of N. W. Ayers and Walter Thompson. The most intriguing thing I found out about this week was how closely propaganda and advertising are linked; I had always thought that propaganda was essentially just “spin,” when in fact it is so similar to advertising as to be parts of the same thing.

Week 5–INFOGRAPHIC MANIA!

October 1st, 2011 October 1st, 2011
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This week our first individual projects were due! As you know from previous posts, I did my infographic on cave paintings. As I began to do more intensive research into the project and began thinking about how to conceptualize the information and then how to present it in a visual format, I began looking more into statistics. After I’d gotten a chance to really think through what I wanted from the infographic, I came up with an “ideal” infographic: the one I wanted to make if I had all of the information (and digital media skills!) that I needed.

My ideal infographic was going to unfold as follows: at the top of the page would be a discussion of the locations of cave paintings. Preferably, the indicator in each general location would be a different size or gradient of color depending on how many cave paintings were in that area. For instance, under this system, France would have had either a large indicator (such as the stars I ended up using) or a darker indicator–perhaps a darker green or brown–than those in areas with fewer cave paintings. I wound up creating a simplified, and less data-heavy, version of that in the infographic that I submitted. I was unable to find any single source with statistics or lists of all of the cave painting sites, or even of all of the most famous cave painting sites, so instead my research for this portion involved figuring out what cave painting locations popped up most often in my research, and simply marking the locations of that representative sample of cave painting sites.

The second piece of my data was to be an analysis of how the images differed in different caves or locations. For that piece, I was going to have two graphs, or potentially two data sets interposed on one graph. The two sets of data were going to be what the average occurrence of each image was, with major categories of Animals, Objects, and People, and the different painting styles. As I got further into the research, it became clear that there were few statistical analyses of the relative occurrences of those objects/types, and those that were tended to be for only one cave or one region. I also decided it would be fruitless and overcomplicated to try to represent the different painting styles, so I decided to drop that aspect from the project altogether. It also became increasingly clear that animals were largely the focus of cave paintings, and I was able to find some solid statistical data that I felt confident in, so I decided to reimagine this portion as instead being a graph showing relative occurrence of common animals. Unfortunately, the data set only accounted for 35% of the images, meaning that 65% of the relative occurrences graph was simply labeled Other. I also, after reading a great deal about hunting scenes, decided to use the statistic of 15% hunting scenes to make another graph. I chose to use that statistic because in reading about cave art, a great deal of the material focused on hunting scenes, giving it a disproportional focus within the larger field.

The third part of my ideal infographic was going to be a case-study focus on one or two caves, with a more in-depth look at conditions and cultural perceptions. This section would have been more of a reflection of the modern state of a single cave. I had been planning to do Lascaux, which are the first cave paintings I’d ever heard of, and have graphs showing how visitorship has changed over time, how many people visit the Lascaux website, and other reflections of Lascaux’s place within modern French (it’s in France) and world culture and history. In the final draft of the infographic, I wound up replacing the case study portion with a timeline of the creation of significant cave paintings/sites. I hadn’t known until I really delved into the research that cave paintings had been created over such a long span of time–literally from 40,000 years ago to the 1800s. I chose not to address any cave paintings more recent than about 5,000 years ago, and wound up aligning the cave painting locations from the first part of the infographic with the cave painting time periods, using the location and time period both. I then reorganized the data so it fit in a more linear, sensical way, and boom! Although instead of boom it was more along the lines of repeated Google searches, from “how to change border of artboard in Illustrator” and “how to make graphs in Illustrator” to “I DOUBLE CLICKED AND MY ENTIRE IMAGE DISAPPEARED IN ILLUSTRATOR!!”

All in all, I enjoyed learning about cave paintings, but even more so I enjoyed having to struggle through the data to try to figure out how to represent it, and having to conceptualize information sharing so differently than I ever had before. Also, even though it’s obviously made by a beginner, I made that! It has pictures and colors! Awesome!


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