Category Archives: Part 2 Problem solving

Assignment 2 feedback notes

These are the tutor feedback notes on assignment 2 – with my highlights on the bits to think about.

Definitive HG Wells book cover collection

Discovered this little gem –  The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection

” The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, has been continuously in print for over 100 years. Collected here are the covers of many of those editions, submitted by generous fans from around the world. My purpose is primarily educational: the span of covers represents a huge swath of graphic design, from 1898 to the present, across languages and through the effects of radio, movie, musical, and television re-interpretations. Enjoy “

Cards – final set

After a bit of discussion with a couple of people, this is the final set





GCs inside

Toolbox notes: images were processed in Gimp and Picasa, and the cards put together with Scribus.

Cards – review point

1)  Rationale

This is generic to all 3 options. For specifics on the 3 options, see these separate documents…
Greetings cards 1st set (pdf) – double-fronted black and white batik design
Greetings cards 2nd set (pdf) – set of cards using the same 3 colour palette and 3 different patterns
Greetings cards 3rd set (pdf) – set of 4 cards using different abstract(ish) patterns

The brief – create a range of cards for sentiments or events that are worthy of a greetings card, but are currently not catered for by card manufacturers. The cards could be linked to calendar events, obscure saints days, sporting calendars or any other happening that is worth celebrating or commiserating.

The sentiment – the sentiment I’ve chosen, is that of showing appreciation for someone who’s done something that impresses you, and you want to be able to send them a card and say ‘Well done, I’m impressed’.

What am I trying to achieve? It’s important to get the tone of the sentiment right – it should be neutral, light and simple. A card could be for someone who’s had a long struggle with something, taken a risky and/or life-changing decision, done some successful fundraising, or walking the whole Appalachian Trail. It’s more than ‘Congratulations’ because it’s about appreciating the cost as well as the achievement. It also needs to be gender neutral. So, the cards need to use neutral images or abstract shapes, and neutral colours, but with a bit of life in them. I’m also aiming for a set of cards that look interesting on the display racks together.

How am I going about it?

Images: I have experimented with combinations of stripey palettes and abstract patterns, and possibly ‘neutral’ nature themes such as sea, mountains and birds. I also explored abstract patterns from a set of printed fabrics, and have selected from these as the pattern theme for the cards.

Shape and fold: I was looking for a shape that would reflect the sentiment of the card, work with the patterns-palettes-images ideas, be basically square and stand up nicely. It should also be a bit more interesting than a simple folded greetings card.  I’ve chosen a 3-sided shape with 2 front flaps overlapping, and the size would be between 10×10cm to 12×12cm. When folded flat, the shaped front flap is the uppermost one.  The 3 shapes used are: curved top front flap, diagonal top front flap, and both front flaps curved.

shape and fold 1 shape and fold 2

Text: I decided to use minimal text so that people who would normally not buy cards with text in them, might buy these. I also liked the idea of leaving a bit of space for people to write their own message too. So I’ve just used the phrase ‘Well done, I’m impressed’ in a relaxed and more formal style.

Printing and packaging: They would look best printed on quality matt white paper, possibly with a bit of texture. They are designed to be shrink-wrapped individually, with an envelope.

Of the 3 sets, my preferred set to develop is the 3rd set.

2)  Evaluation

1st set – Double-fronted black and white batik design. The constraint on this design is that it’s difficult to display.  Both the back and the front of the card need to be visible to make it look interesting, as do the complementary colours of the inside and the matching envelopes.  For a 3-sided folded card, finding a method of shrinkwrapping these cards that will do all this, is a bit of a challenge.  Also, there isn’t enough variety to make it a coherant set.

2nd set – Set of cards using the same 3 colour palette and 3 different patterns. This set has enough variety to work as a set, but the colour palette is too ‘girly’ and therefore too narrow.  There may be too many combinations, and the stripey triangular front flap version doesn’t really work.

3rd set – Set of 4 cards using different abstract(ish) patterns. This final set was an attempt to address the issues with the previous 2 sets, and is a bit of a compromise. Apart from the common fabric theme, there is more variety, so they will look brighter on the display racks, as well as giving a bit more choice to the customer.


Through the process of trying to get the visuals to work together I forgot about the purpose – apart from the keyword ‘neutrality’ hovering about. So it feels a bit like a set of cards that could be used for any purpose, and doesn’t especially reflect this particular sentiment at all.  But what would? Maybe I should have stuck with more obvious imagery?

I think the idea works as a set of interesting greetings cards, though I have my doubts about the bird, and whether it’s recognisable.  I would actually use them, but as general blank greetings cards.

Looking back through the process, it’s quite interesting to see where I ended up.  A lot of the decision making was based on what looked good together; on wanting to do something that didn’t involve playing with photos; on wanting to play with the patterns and palettes idea – but not wanting to use other people’s stuff.  Too much material and not enough focus basically – which means I haven’t quite got a handle on the methodology yet.

Cards – finding the designs

I’ve now created a few sample sets, and it’s just a matter of looking at what I’ve got and which ones to go with…

First trial set > black and white batik with coloured backs
All the same shape, using the rounded front as this works best, three different neutral colour options for the back and one stripey one.  The big problem though – the colours are on the back of the cards so they’ld disappear in a display rack – they’ld all look the same.  Ideally they’ld be shrinkwrapped with envelopes in the same colours, but they’ll still look like the same card with different envelopes – and envelopes weren’t part of the brief.  One possibility could be to make them all stripey on the back, and different colours in the insides – but the design would then need more cutaway on the flaps so you could actually see the colours – the way to do this would be to use the double curved front design. But then, given they all have basically the same message, are they different enough to still be interesting as a set?  Think not.


Second trial set > Abstract pattern, bamboo and birds, pink, gold, green. Lots of options here to mix and match on the patterns and the shapes – should be easy to get a set of cards from these with enough variation.  Main concern though is with the colours – which are very girly, and if you don’t like the colours you won’t like any of the cards. So ok on pattern and shape, but too narrow on colour.


Looking for a set that works


Looking at a selection of my samples with the rounded shape, I realise that it’s quite hard to pull a set from them – none of them really go together, so I decided to go back to my textiles and see if I could create a set from them, and came up with 4, that are pretty similar in style.


The bird needs editing to bring in line with the others (looks a bit
washed out).  I’ve changed the stripes a bit so they are not all the same size, there’s a choice of bright, rich and subdued for the individual cards, and they all just about work together.

Cards – shapes

I was looking for a set of shapes that would reflect the sentiment of the card, work with the patterns-palettes-images ideas, be basically square and stand up nicely.  This loosely translates as being fairly neutral but a bit more interesting than a simple folded greetings card, complementary and in scale to the sort of images I’ve been looking at.  I like the idea of having a simple greeting on the inside, and a card that opens out to reveal the greeting, but will also work with a greeting on the outside too.  Size is important too – structurally, but also for the sentiment ie. not too big and flashy, but neither too small which may imply you’re not quite appreciative enough!  Square is a solid shape, and about 10×10 to 12×12 cm a good size to aim for, in terms of the material, the technology, and the sentiment.

First pass on shapes

Experimenting with square cards with two front flaps that overlap, and various simple shapes for the flaps.  Stability was an issue with the first option (below).  The third option with both front flaps cut away looked good but isn’t really what I was looking for.  I decided to take the set of three options in the second picture and work with these.

shapes first pass - 1
shapes first pass - 2
shapes first pass - 3
shapes first pass - 4
shapes first pass - 5

Adding pattern to the shapes

I wanted to look at the options for adding stripey palettes and patterns to my chosen shapes to see how they would all work together.    I also had a thought about maybe putting some text on the right hand flap – which might work on the diagonal flap, as it’s smaller.  The diagonal flap looks like it’s going to be the most tricky, but it works best with the stripes.  Like the curve best.  Getting the right balance between stripes and patterns is going to be important, and this will be a useful reference set I think…

adding patterns - 1
adding patterns - 2
adding patterns - 3
adding patterns - 4
adding patterns - 5

Getting a system together

The next stage was to work with Gimp and get a set of templates for the shapes I want to use, so I can quickly trial the various image, colour and text options etc.  Then for a quick test of the system….


The flowers sample in the centre is the electronic version of playing with patterns and stripey palettes.  The black and white one uses one of the textile images, and would look nice with soft colour on the inside of the card.  The landscape idea doesn’t quite work with this image, but it might with others. Printing them out and playing with them, it’s obvious that the dominant image has to be on the top front flap for this setup to work properly.  And for the photo, this means a good foreground.  And… have just noticed that I’ve got the stripes vertically on this sample – horizontal is definitely best.

Notebook pages on shapes

Notebook page on shapes 1

Notebook page on shapes 2

Cards – patterns, palettes, images

This was all based on gut reaction.  I gathered up samples of patterns, images and colour palettes that felt like they reflected the sentiment and the neutrality of it.  Neutral middle distance landscapes became woodland, mountains and beach – urban ones had to have people in them, but in crowds and no eye contact, which became tricky so I abandoned it.   Birds were good, leaves ok but not flowers or fashionable curliness, abstract patterns were best.   They’re gathered together into themes.

Birds and trees theme

Birds and trees

Fabric theme
This is based on my bag of print and batik fabrics, and features spots, stripes and more abstract shapes.  The colours are richer.


Mountains theme
This is a bit more of a mish-mash but I think the strong diagonals and shadows might be an idea to go with here.  Also have an idea for playing with splitting the images along the card opening line to give the effect of walking into the view.  Not sure about mixing patterns and photos though – think this will get too busy or maybe it’s just a matter of getting the scale right?  Think the fresh blueness of these are the thing to pick up on, but note that pictures of people on mountains kill the neutrality.


Mountains less clutter Sea theme
Possibly a beach as here….  Again it’s neutral space and colour, and can play with wave and water patterns.


Basically, there’s far too much stuff here, need to rationalise it drastically

Cards – ideas

Research point – what’s out there? Checked the assumption again that there really isn’t anything available.   Checked Hallmark Cards and several mass-market e-card companies, looked on the market and in Paperchase.  Art cards don’t have greetings.  Fizzy or fluffy, pink and pastelly dominates the mass-market.  Paperchase as mid-range has better designs, but don’t put much energy into it.   Could find one or two cards from each brand, but no real choice.  Also checked Moo designs to see what’s trendy and noted the idea of making cards out of colour palettes.

Visual research point – what am I looking for? The sentiment is appreciation and the phrase that expresses the sentiment is ‘Well done, I’m impressed’.  The tone is neutral, simple, light and interested.  How to express this in terms of colour, shape, pattern, images and text.

Looked at

  • Colorlovers to play with palettes and patterns
  • a bag of fabric for patterns and colours
  • through my photos for images and thought about line drawings and cartoons
  • to play with fonts

Dogs and dots

Initial ideas were:

  • quirky but not cutesy – abstract, collage or textural background with a line drawn dog/bird/ and speech bubble ‘I’m impressed’.  Decided can’t use dogs or cats here because they evoke strong love/kill feelings which would get in the way.  Birds and fish are safe.
  • collage of fabrics featuring rich colours and batik guinea fowl with speech bubble…
  • appropriate photo background with foreground line drawing of cartoon bird tweeting ‘Im impressed’ – possibly a Picasso pigeon, swallow, or something.  Photo background could be urban or landscape – which opened the question –  what’s an appropriate photo for this sentiment?

Cards – analyse

Assignment 2 ‘Thinking of you’ – a range of greetings cards expressing a sentiment.  On the brief, start with the keywords…
Primary keywords

  • range
  • sentiments
  • events
  • not catered for
  • happening
  • worth celebrating
  • worth commiserating
  • personal landmark
  • worth sharing

Secondary keywords

  • calendar events
  • obscure saints days
  • sporting calendars
  • life’s other landmarks
  • first grey hairs
  • release from prison

The sentiment… that is missing from the card racks, is that of showing appreciation for someone who’s done something that impresses you. It can be for a long struggle with something, taking a risky and/or life-changing decision, raising a load of money for something needed, walking the whole Appalachian Trail, finally sorting out dodgy electrics. Big or small, the point is you want to be able to send them a card and say ‘Well done, I’m impressed’. I’ts a bit tricky and easier to define by the negatives – it’s not ‘Congratulations’ because it’s about appreciating the cost as well as the achievement, and it might still be ongoing. It doesn’t want to be trivialised, but it’s not heavy and serious either, and it certainly doesn’t want to be pat-on-the-head patronising. There’s a bit of solidarity about it, a hint of inspirational, but it’s neutral in terms of religion or spirituality type sentiment.

Mindmap on the sentiment

What isn’t out there? It’s more than ‘Congratulations’ or ‘Let’s Celebrate’, it’s not necessarily about driving tests, exams, weddings and jobs (Hallmark), and has a bit more depth than ‘Completely totally proud of you’ (Paperchase) or ‘You are very special’ ( It’s a generic sentiment that has a certain amount of depth to it, and covers the gaps between more specific greetings.

Who’s it for? People who buy cards with greetings in them, and people who probably wouldn’t but who are finding it difficult to show their appreciation for someone verbally, and for whom a card might do the trick. It’s also got to appeal to people who normally buy blank cards. It’s for adults, but it’s not gender specific.

Successful outcomes? A set of about 5 or so cards that work together, express the sentiment accurately, and that people will want to buy.

Potential pitfalls? Getting the pitch of the sentiment wrong and producing something that is heavy or sycophantic or patronising.   Therefore needs to be neutral and simple, light but interesting!

Point of sale exercise – the results

These are the results…

Display boards
Fruit v1
Veg v2