Missing Words

I am planning a project about words in other languages which do not have a direct English translation. If you know a word – whether it’s an everyday mundane word or something more exciting – please get in touch and tell me about it!

You can:

All help will be greatly appreciated!


Research and Creative Practice Module: #1st Post!

I chose to do the ‘Research and Creative Practice’ module this year, for semester two. I have a small flicker of interest in research careers but very little experience so I am hoping this module will help me with that. I never considered myself doing – and enjoying – research until I came to DJCAD but thanks to my experiences with generative research (from my design studies module) and from lecturers and speakers, who have spoken about their own research, I am now really intrigued by it.


For the module we have to pick a topic we would like to look into and identify a book from the library to get us started. Over the course of the semester we will further our reading and investigate the subject more broadly. We will then give small presentations about our research in seminar groups. Together with this we will be introduced to research techniques and practices in both seminars and lectures. The final goal being a 2,000 – 2,500 word literary review about our findings – eeek!

So, the aim of our first seminar group was to think about what things we would like to research. We all noted our ideas down on post-it notes which we stuck on the wall under headings such as ‘Education’, ‘Politics’, ‘Environment’ etc. My main area was education as  I would really like to look into creative learning. I would particularly like to look into  helping people re-learn or remember things.

I have a few topics under this umbrella however so I need to work out (quickly!) what to focus on:

  • How layout design can enhance understanding/learning

I really love layout design and getting right into the nitty gritty of page folios and paragraph styles. I would take InDesign over Photoshop any day. I have a lot to learn about it however and realise that it’s not just about making a magazine look nice. During my advertising and branding module we seen a video about eye-tracking which, as a graphic designer, I found a bit disheartening. She hardly paid any attention to things I could have imagined the designer spending a great deal of time on. I would like to look into this more together with how people actually read and view things on a page and how this information influences layout design – particularly of educational and information based publications.

  • Helping trauma victims learn to communicate again

I watched a programme about a soldier who had suffered a severe head trauma and he basically had to learn how to eat, walk and talk again. I noticed that a lot of the things he was using to learn to communicate again were for children. I wondered if this was necessary or if tools and books could be designed for adults?

  • How police/councillors help children/adults to talk about and describe an experience accurately

I would like this to overlap into service design because a lot of the process involve getting people talking and describing things. But getting people to talk about an experience can be critical in some cases, especially if it were for a court case for example. I would like to investigate why people sometimes recount things differently to how they happened e.g filling in things unconsciously; then look into how design could perhaps help this.

  • Communication to children/adults with autism and how to design for them

I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell over the Christmas break and was fascinated by his research into how a man with autism perceived a movie. The main issue was he could not mind-read which is a skill Gladwell talks about as he explores the main theme of the book: rapid cognition – the thinking we do (without always realising it) in a blink of an eye. I would like to learn more about autism and either think about what a designer would need to consider when designing for someone with autism, or think about how design could help them to understand the world around them.

  • Communicating to children/adults with learning difficulties

Communicating messages is a key element of graphic design but I would like to think about the people I am communicating to a little bit more – particularly children (and even adults) with learning difficulties. How could you ensure your message talks to everyone? Or how can or does design help children/adults to communicate?

  • How design is taught prior to further education e.g in secondary and even primary school

I could not really have told you what design was when I was at school – was it just me? What’s the situation today? Since coming to DJCAD I have been overwhelmed by how broad and important design is. I would like to investigate how design is currently taught and whether it is of any use to children. Would it be helpful for them to have an understanding of design, the design process and how to apply it early on?

Cheap Pop Song

I have no idea what the lyrics to this song are so I hope they are okay! I had to post it because the Elmo finger at 0:50 seconds is simply wonderful. It was made by Rhett Dashwood, a graphic designer who is currently the Director of Wade Studios in Melbourne, Australia. His personal online portfolio has a really clean look and his work is very sharp – particularly his show-reel for Wade.


‘The Force’ of Volkswagen

One of the most shared adverts in 2011 was ‘The Force’ advert by Volkswagon which racked up 4.8 million shares across social networks since it was realised online. The advert features a young boy dressed up as a ‘mini Darth Vader’ testing out his ‘force’ on household objects and indeed the family dog – but with no avail. His father comes home, driving a new Volkswagen Passat and teases him with his remote control central locking.

I wanted to talk about this advert because it’s very different to the car adverts we normally see – where the car is the main focus. We are so used to seeing elegant cars being driven around hillsides or cities or country roads (often with sleeping children in the back). This advert features the car being driven for literally four seconds and parked in an ordinary driveway. Its appearance does not even take place until halfway through the advert. This approach, of not forcing the car and having something else going, would have greatly contributed to it going viral. In fact there is so little focus on the product that you could probably miss that it was a car advert. From what I have learned about viral advertising, this lack of product or brand is a very important aspect of the medium. In true viral spirit the Volkswagen logo appears at the end in a black screen but the advert would hold it’s own as a video and story without it.

Other than that fact it has remote central locking, comes in silver and would be a suitable family car the advert conveys very little about the car. It’s a long way off from some of the original car adverts I have been researching where they were packed full of every feature possible. During my advertising and branding module my lecturer has stressed the importance of advertising the benefits of a product – rather than it’s features. I have picked up on this before, but it basically means show people what it can do for them, rather than how it does it. You could say this advert shows that you can have some fun with central locking…

Anyway, In theory, it’s merging together two modern day associations, almost stereotypes you could say: men, cars and star wars. By using a (very talented) young boy they manage to combine all of these in a very charming way and rather than the cliché being forgotten, it’s enjoyed. Volkswagen’s communications manager, Danny Hill commented:

‘It’s a charming ad with great music and has the universal appeal of Star Wars. It captures the imagination and ties in well with our message about the Passat’s clever technology. It was such a success in the States that it seemed a shame not to share it with a wider UK audience.’

The decision to show the advert in the UK would have been easy since they knew how popular it had been, not only in America but online as well. Unfortunately I cannot find any information about an online pre-test of the advert before it aired on television in America. I believe that one of it’s first television appearances was during the America Super Bowl. The decision to air it in this very expensive time-slot was not just because of the amount of people watching it but instead because a large majority of the people watching fell into their target market.

A blooper video of the advert was also released by Volkswagen (clever idea!)

Listerine Zero Advert – Simply Illustrating

I really do not have an awful lot to say about this advert, other than the fact that I think it’s really, really good. It’s simple, gets the point across – with not a lot of fuss and has a slight quirkiness about it. The screen splitting between to opposites, represented by two woman keeps the momentum going – and your attention.

I had a lot of bother finding the advert on the internet and it would not embed but if you click here you can watch it.

Neither woman’s taste is criticised and they put across that we all just have different tastes – without implying that one is better or more acceptable than the other. The product is kept until the end and whilst it is a bit of a surprise that they are talking about mouthwash you understand that it is perfectly related to the advert.

I bought Listerine a few years ago and whilst I did like it, I found it too strong. On seeing this advert, I immediately thought I am going to try that. It’s a long time since I did that – seen an advert for something and decided there and then that I would buy it. This demonstrates that sometimes simple, effective communication in advertising can still do the trick.

The Failure of La Femme

I have been reading a lot about how car advertising changed after the First World War. The development of efficient mass-production for munitions during the war allowed car manufacturers to take advantage of the technology after it. The result was reduced production costs that in turn lead to reduced car prices – making  cars more affordable. American car brands in particular even tried to push the idea of the ‘two car family’ as you can see from this Chevrolet advert below:

From this advert (published in Driving it Home by Judy Vaknin (2008)) you can see that the consumer is clearly a woman, the wife in the family. The customer however is a man, her husband, who will purchase the car. The photograph shows two woman with the car, one of whom is at the wheel; yet the advert is speaking to men: “Is your wife. . .”. In fact they even say “The wife finds it of every day utility for shopping, taking the children to school. . . etc” They are talking directly to men and telling him what his wife will use it for. They also presume that the man they are speaking to already owns a car but uses it himself to go to work.

The advert also backs up the need for a second car by saying that it is a perfectly reasonable concept, so much so that modern houses are already being built with twin garages. In fact it is a ‘must’ that they are.

Overall you can see from this that at the time of this advert, (1923) the decision to buy a car was made by a man, both when it came to buying his own car and that of his wives. Fast forward about three decades and things had changed quite considerably. The levelling out of the sexes that occurred in the years following the Second World War seen advertisers starting to market to woman directly.

They did not always get it right however as I have been reading in Brand Failures by Matt Haig (2003):

Apparently Chrysler created La Femme, the first car designed specifically for woman. They believed that the car should have flowers, accessories, a girly name, seats decorated with a rosebud tapestry and a burgundy carpet… I found some images of the car and a couple of the advertisements that were used:


Dodge sent out a very enthusiastic letter about the car which Haig includes in the Brand Failures book. It finished off by stating that the car was a ‘drawing card’ which no other dealer group had. The letter produced a few orders from dealers but the majority of the cars remained in the showroom. The car was a complete flop. The printed advertisements and indeed the car itself was seen as patronising by the majority of woman. Haig comments:

‘This was, after all, appealing to a classic male ideal of femininity, rather than how the 1950’s woman actually saw herself’

He goes on to say that the main lesson from this brand failure is not to patronise your customer. I would also say that the importance of talking to your customer and doing market research is highlighted by this example to. Design for your customer, not yourself or indeed your vision of your customer.

I would also note that from this research I can see that it was society which changed, rather than the car advertisers changing society. It was the World Wars, both the first and the second that caused the market to change and the adverts of the times simply followed the changing culture.


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