Materials, methods, media

theory topics


the physical stuff of visual communications - introduction


What do they mean? (coming: links to separate pages)

click to visit the page on media click to visit the page on methods click to visit the page on materials
Can you create a definition for each term based on this illustration?


  1. Why learn about materials, methods and media?

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1 why learn about materials, methods and media?

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for visual analysis of visual communications


Just as we analyse the use of design elements and principles in visual communications, the materials, the methods used and the media used in making visual presentations are also expressive forces in visual communications. For example; on the cover of a beautiful fashion magazine, the use of photographic techniques, inks, the surface quality of the gloss varnish on the paper all contribute an expression of mainstream, 'big league' glamour. Similarly, loose, flowing strokes of watercolour landscape fading softly over roughly textured hand made paper tell a story perhaps of nostalgia, individuality and humanity.


I like to use the following story to explain the significance of materials, methods and media. Imagine the graphics on the fuselage of a big jet airliner. Visualise the side of the plane. Think about the kind of type used, the alignment of the type, the way an image is formed, the edges of the graphic elements - are they harsh and crisp and consitent? Now you have a picture in your mind, think about what effect does this give the traveller? It is usually one of professionalism, dependability, solidity, safety. All the qualities you want from an airline. Materials and methods tells this story.


Imagine the same plane with a child's hand drawn airline's font and images. Imagine the graphics were cute, lyrical, sensitive and unpredictable in their use of colour, contrast, size. How would this look to the consumer? Maybe fun but it certainly would not inspire confidence in a product such as safe air transport. It would be a great example of the wrong method and media for the purpose.


can a method communicate information?

If a child painted a plane, would you fly this airline? What would the use of the drawing method I've used tell you about the company?
Or when it's done professionally? At least it looks like it will get you there safely.
This is the real logo for 'Clean up Australia day'. What does this method and media tell you about the day and how we should approach it? Would this child like pencil drawing get you out to pick up rubbish? (City of Canterbury NSW website)
Or what about a computer made logo? I did this to see if a change in method and media would create a different tone to the message? Do you think it gives a different impression about the day or how it migh be organised?


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The choice of material, method or media is yours


It all depends on what you want to 'say'. Do you want to say?

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For the production of visual communication folio pages and presentations


aesthetic opportunities


During the production of your folio you will be asked to demonstrate the use of a range of materials, methods and media. There are several reasons for this requirement. One key reason is that when one is making an artwork or visual communication using a given combination of material, media or method, for example, then by changing only the material, media or method (but retaining the motif) this will create an image with different aesthetic or expressive qualities. This will then enable a student to develop their idea or concept by deepening or broadening it by allowing a method, media or material to 'push back' at the student's idea and help shape new and unexpected results.


How much courage do you have?


In order to really show that the student has trialled a wide range of materials, methods, and/or media he or she needs to try repeating their image or motif using methods, media or materials that may first appear unsuitable for the job. Swap from 2d to 3d methods, from computer to hand drawn methods, from sketching to ruled drawings, from pencil to paint, from photography to lino cut printing! Wow! if everybody did this they could have 20 different design suggestions for every idea they had! Every student would be blitzing Generation of Ideas and Development without even trying!!


Materials, methods and media form artworks themselves.


All portraits but different methods used

Billy Ocean 'Suddenly' record cover is a tonal colour pencil on paper rendering by Linda Fennimore, 1984.
Charlie Parker 'Bird and Diz' is a simple pen and ink drawing with flat tones by David Stone Martin, 1952.
The Clash 'London Calling record cover shows a black and white photo by Pennie Smith, designed by Ray Lowry, 1979.


Look at the three record covers above. Consider what effects the methods and media used make? How has each method then helped shape the way the image looks? How has each method created the individual aesthetic quality present in each cover?


Could you try each of these methods in the visual communication you are making now? What other methods would you like to try to help find more unusual effects?


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physical requirements of a presentation


The decision about which material, method and/or media a designer should use for a visual communication is also made by taking into consideration the physical requirments of the presentation format. In choosing materials, in particular, designers need to consider where and how the visual communication will be located and/ or used. A design located outside must be durable and resistant to the effects of weather including wind, temperature and humidity. A large poster or the cover of a booklet must be printed on paper stock thick enough not to crease when handled or displayed.


In addition, designers must make their original artwork (image, etc before reproduction) using a method that is suitable for production or reproduction in materials or methods that will be suitable for the final presentation format. For example, an airline logo is usually drawn with a hard crisp edge so it will be possible to manufacture from metal for a gate display, paint accurately on the tail of a plane, laser cut from self adhesive vinyl sign writer's sheet for vehicles, print onto low cost paper cups, screen-print using 'spot' colour on to T-Shirts and embroider onto cabin staff uniforms!


when location dictates the materials which inturn dictates the design method used

Automotive paint on laser or plasma cut aluminium sheet, 2008.
Ofset lithography on myla , 2009.
Laser cut vinyl sheet on aluminium sheet, 2009.


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