About velocisarah

A few letters off from a chocolate dynasty. Fiction & Non-Fiction Writer. Future author. Digital artist. Halifiction co-founder. In Ontario. From Halifax.

Words and images that show humanity

Recently I found the absolutely amazing blog, http://www.humansofnewyork.com/

HONY is a blog by a photographer who travels through New York City, especially Central Park and Harlem, and takes portraits of the people he sees, often including quotes and anecdotes.

In terms of a modern successful blog, I really think HONY hits the mark.  Not only is the design clean and easy to use, but you can get lost in it – in a good way!  There may have been a research paper that was postponed to do some digging last night!

I think a goal of the modern blogger (as opposed to the postmodern and victorian ones??) is to have a sense of personality or style with your posts, and HONY has achieved that.  Open minded and honest, the portraits and quotes paint pictures from the mundane to the fantastic.

When we talk about design and about concept, I think this is a great example of a concept (go out and talk to strangers and see what happens) that has paid off for the blogger (who’s about to release his first art book!) and for the reader.  There’s a humanity in the blog that shines.  There’s no reason for extravagant headings and loud colours in the website layout because it’s all about the people themselves rather than the blogger.

I really urge everyone to check it out, because I think it’s a great example of a concept that can easily be done (start taking picture of interesting people) but has been executed to a much broader human scope.

The Smallest Differences

Blue is the colour of the sea, the sky, and probably a few flowers with overly complicated names, but have you ever noticed it’s the king colour for social media?

To illustrate, social media junkies may know what’s the difference between this




and this

Image.  Can you?

Depending on how you use social media, these three variations of blue can mean very different reactions, and the difference between your online identities.

The first is iconic with a small bird – yes, a tweeting bird!  The bright blue sets Twitter apart and adds to its brand identity.  Light and fun, it reflects the purpose of the famous 140 character shout box turned social media platform.

Can you guess the next? Although the colour has changed over the years, this site has remained the top social media, and possible one of the first of the new generation of social media – yup, Facebook!  Although minimally used, this blue acts as the mast head for all pages on Facebook, and despite some outcries to be customized, has remained a staple to the Facebook brand.

Although the third colour may be lesser known, it’s the backdrop for one of if not THE fastest growing social media site in the world – tumblr!  Microblogging at its finest, tumblr’s dark blue shade has become a well known staple for its users, being a subdued and easily matching backdrop to its browsers.

Three sites, similar blues, yet so different!


Signs and Symbols as a Form of Exclusive Cultural Fostering

Recently, as I was perusing he internet, I came across some Game of Thrones-esque house sigils/banners that were made as if they were by different internet sites.  Intrigued, I found some of them particularly funny – not because they were really funnier than the others, but simply because I related to them the most.

I won’t post all of them here, but you can go to this link and see the rest!

The main image I want to make note of is the first that appears, twitter.


In order to understand this joke, there are many layers the viewer needs to be aware of.  One, what twitter generally is, and what its function is in relation to the rest of the internet.  Second, they need to know that the symbol of twitter is the small bird, made more “game of thrones-y” by becoming an eagle.  Third, the viewer might also want to know the colours of Twitter, blue and white.  And fourth, “dark wings, dumb words” have a double meaning.  One the one hand, they reference the small character limit that often produces less than academic material on the site, but it also references the ravens in GoT, who deliver messages in the fictional kingdom.  This is important, because it loops back to twitter because that’s what twitter is – sending messages all over the place on the internet, and hoping something sticks.  Also, the R and T on the cups represent the word “retweet”, a specific word from twitter.  there may be more symbols, indexes and signs that I haven’t talked about that even I haven’t noticed!

This and the rest of the sigils are examples of visual design that is not intended for everyone, or even to promote to non-members.  These viral images are made for the community it was made from, in order to celebrate the two elements in a funny way.  By doing this, it’s like a group strength exercise by forging new connections and discussions within the group, while excluding those that don’t understand.

Logo Typography: Mean more than you mean

I guess I’m on a “meanings” spree, but this post has a similar theme to the last!  (Though with slightly more mainstream subject!)

Some logos are iconic; the red and white of Coca-cola, Apple’s apple, the list goes on and on.  Yet some brands go a step further, making their brand’s logo – and specifically typography – show more than just a name.  These brands add personality, identity, and layers to a brand’s logo to make it truly stand out – to those that notice, at least.


Amazon has just about everything, right?  So does their name.  The arrow literally goes from “A” to “Z”!


Baskin Robbins sells 31 types of ice cream – easy to remember, when it’s right in the logo!


Fedex’s font is unique, the word’s kerning exactly right to make an arrow between the E an x!  Pretty good symbol, since once you see it, it’s hard not to!


Formula 1 uses white space in their graphic to form the 1, an the red stripes show the speed of the races.


cluenatic, a puzzle game, creates a much more enigmatic logo, with the letters for “CLUE” each inside the rest, just like the game.

The logos make great Easter eggs, which although not always notice by everyone add a bit of cool factor for those that take the time to find it.  As a graphic designer, although clever, I wonder if the ones who designed each wishes more people noticed!

(To see more logos, and where these came from, go here!)

– Sarah

Making meaning out of nothing at all

Joviana Carrillo, an independent artist whoses work is posted on the print site redbubble.com, has created book covers for a book that’s not just fiction… but fictional.


The above covers are beautifully designed, but the book they’re supposed to be representing is fictional.  The book, “An Imperial Affliction” is actually a fictional one mentioned in the real (and very popular) YA book “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.  Green has a large fan base, with over one million subscribers to his Youtube channel, vlogbrothers.

As a fan of the book, Carrillo made these as posters, prints and postcards as an inside joke for other fans of the book – you have to be a fan to know the book, since it’s literally the only place you could find the reference, making the understanding of the lack of meaning, the true meaning of the piece, which is slightly mind bending.  What’s really intriguing about the piece is the very obvious use of symbolism and meaning in art that has come from something without much meaning – the fake book has barely any passages mentioned and only a brief summary of its plot in Green’s book, yet Carrillo’s design would convince me in a heartbeat that it was the real deal.

The covers show great principles of design.  The first uses contrast between both the flower and background, as well as between the amount of contrast between the flower/background, and the lack of colour variation between the name and the background.  The bright flower is brought forward because of the warm, vibrant colours, while the title is more of an afterthought, an interesting choice.

The second uses alignment, focusing the reader on the middle of the piece with the flower, and again letting this lead to the afterthought of the title.

The third uses repetition with the flowers, and opted for a warmer look over all.

The forth uses a more subtle proximity, using the space around the strikingly contrasted text, to the man in the boat and the background, as well as relative sizes of the font used, and the large amounts of “white space”.

– Sarah

Cinemagraphs: The next step in photographic movement

(Hopefully the gifs all show as moving, IF NOT just click on them to get to the hyperlinked version, you really want to in order to get the full effect)

I know this is a bit of a divergence from most of the ads and photography we talk about, but I thought this was really cool!

Cinemagraphs are similar to moving gifs, such as this:


But only one element of the gif moves.  This can be used to great comedic or aesthetic effect, using the principles of photography and good design and transferring them into the moving picture medium.

In many of these cinemagraphs, the changes are very subtle and sometimes easily unnoticed, such as in this example;


On first glance, the moving lights may be overlooked.  The small movements add even more variance and feeling of reality to photos that, from my research, are mostly subdued and calm.

As opposed to some other types of photography or filmography, cinemagraphs merge the escapism of film and the stillness of photography.  Because only one or few elements are moving, the focus can be made easily once caught to that one point.  In the above gif, the people may have been the focus if it were a photograph, but because ONLY the lights move, they are made the subject instead.

Many cinemagraphs are made from movie stills to become more photograph-like, while others are made with the purpose of becoming a cinemagraph.

Most are atmosphereic, meant for the purpose of creating ambiance or mood from simple movement.  Most are either very natural with forests or mountains, or very urban with cars and streets.

These cinemagraphs could be used very effectively on blog sidebars, or websites to have the extra movement to elicit interest without the extra flashiness of a full gif.

although I wanted to source these images there was no way of finding some of the sources they came from, since they have since become viral and the trace back to the original maker have been lost.  Some cites such as http://cinemagraphs.com/ have varieties of cinemagraphs, but most of the popular ones/viral ones are almost all unaccredit-able

A few more examples:




– Sarah

Use the force: Tonal value in tint and shades

In order to further understand tone, tint and shade, I’ve been looking at photography with very distinct ranges of dark and light.  In practice, I find it much easier to use terms in order to learn, as opposed to simply learning in order to use.

In “-Eteral sunshine of the inside world-” by *Janek-Sedlar on deviantart, there is a great depth of tonal variety.  

(I had to link instead of post a copy because of the artist’s copyright on the piece, that it cannot be “reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted or uploaded in any way”.  Of course as PR practictioners, copyright is a very important issue, and I want to reflect that in this post.)

What struck me about this piece, apart from the usual CRAP principles, is its use of light and dark without actual black and white – although the foreground is dark, there is very little actual true black, mostly dark reds and muddy browns.  Similarly, the “white” seen in the background fog is in fact only light pink, repeated in the leaves.

the piece, in fact, is a duo-chrome  piece more than anything.  the pinks transition from white-pink, to petal pink, to the deep brown-y reds.  the background blue is for contrast, to have something to balance the pink out.  Although the pink itself is balanced in a tonal context, because of the ligt and dark, in a hue context, it needs another colour to complement the tone.  

Saturation is also in contrast in this piece, with high intensity pink leaves and low intensity faded blues and pinks of the background.

I think this piece works extremely effectively as an aesthetically pleasing photograph, but also as an example of very contrasting and extreme tonal differences used in such a way that they may not seem that way – they work together to create a photo that conveys serenity, depth and interest to the viewer.

Pretty versus practical: Rhetorical choice in graphic design

in my past experience with graphic design, I’ve always seen it as stylizing something until it’s pretty, punchy, or polarizing.  With political intent or creative drive, I’ve always seen graphic design as the icing on the cake of a project, but having read Dabner, and reflected on my own blogging experience, I’ve reevaluated what graphic design might be about.

Practicality is a large part of online graphic design (specifically this because I have experience, rather than print media).  If something looks nice, but has no easy interface or practical application, it’s not a good applied graphic design, even if it’s attractive to the eye.

As examples, I am using different blog templates for blog themes from tumblr.com


(“Royal Ribbon” by user wakecodesleep)

This blog template has many attractive features and follows many of the layout and colour principles of CRAP, but at the same time is difficult to navigate.  There is no “home” or navigation portal, only the most current posts, and the latter ones that the reader must scroll down to.


(“Vacant” by user samstephan)

On the other hand, too much practicality can lead to a bland layout that won’t stay with your audience.  Of course, it is always up to the context of what the layout is for.  For some, this minimalism is much more effective, therefore your mileage may vary.


(“GreyMatters” by user ligertest)

The third example is something that I thought was a possible centre option – the design incorporates aesthetic elements that have both function and form, are both pleasing and practical.

I believe that in the end, there is a situation for every theme or layout, and vice versa.  The degree of graphics vs. functionality is a fine line that depends entirely on the scenario, and in fact that very reason is why these principles of CRAP, colour, etc. are so vital to understand.