9 Signage: Final decisions and Reflection



Looking at the past few weeks I noticed that I had learnt much more than I had imagined I would. This could be because I ended up experimenting twice, but apart from that, experimentation became necessary for the most part on almost every step of the process to ensure that few things went wrong. Although things always go wrong, no matter how much you experiment and test. Something I noticed after putting the sign up was that my choice of not completely sticking the felt down let the edges ‘adapt’. They would remain in position, but if someone touched them or wanted to lift them, they could also be bent over.

Positive critiques I got were on the typeface that I had created. I used weaving to create a pixelated/bitmap type of typeface. If I think about it, some of it must have been inspired by the research I did for Arduinos. People found it interesting that I created a digital looking typeface using physical materials and the fact the materials being used together itself was unexpected: hence adaptation.

Suggestions for improvement were that I could consider a checkered background for the wooden text, like how weaving tends to look. The wooden base peaked through the edges at the top and bottom, I could trim those down. Some people had problems with the legibility of the type, I could have considered black felt or the green felt I was initially using, to increase the contrast between the background and the type. Or I could have even used darker coloured wood instead of settling for…wood coloured wood that was available in the woodshop. Something Levi had said during critique was that

it’s a dangerous practice to let the design be set for you. A good designer should always ask questions.

I learnt a huge range of skills, more than I had anticipated. These included drilling, using the band saw and laser cutters and working with the laser cutter software. Learning that plywood can be a pain to work with. So, learning about the limitations of different materials in general. Wax cooled faster than anticipated, it didn’t stick well to some surfaces, how quickly and efficiently wax can be melted and through which methods. How to test and the importance of testing whether two materials stick together or not. Quilting, weaving and working with different types of felt were things I touched on.

Apart from learning these technical things, I learnt skills like bargaining…My most important lesson probably came from what I struggled with the most…

Psychological struggles. I struggled mostly with the idea of moving on from one idea to a completely different idea. To be honest, it took me less than a lesson to switch ideas as soon as I realised that the second weaving idea would work better. I must have been hesitant to try something new after I had been trying so hard to make the wax work. I learned that it’s important to be able to move on…and adapt to the situation. If something doesn’t seem to be working, it’s okay to work hard to try and make it work, but it is also a good idea to try something different.

Something I had noticed and that was brought up during the critique was how the background board peaked through the top and bottom edges of the sign. I would trim that out. To work on the legibility of the type I could experiment more with different colours of felt/wood or weaving techniques. I would also like to see if I could cut slits in the wood strips to be able to weave through it with the metal strip.


8 Signage: Putting it all together (dealing with hiccups)

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 I finished cutting my strips of felt only to find that 37 fit on the wood and 3 strips didn’t. I recalculated everything and found nothing wrong with my calculations. I considered altering my design; removing the arrow or shortening it, but there was no aesthetic way to do that. After inspecting closely I realised what the problem was. Most of my strips were just 2 or 3mm off of 1.5 cm. That was it. Millimetres made the huge difference. Thus began the journey of recutting every single piece again (remeasuring and trimming). So much pain. A friend rubbed salt on open wounds as said “measure twice, cut once”. Thanks…Anyway, buy the time I was done all of them fit and I had room to spare.

Problems with the weaving was that strips of wood that had a lot of felt strips folding over and under them popped out more than the rest of the wood.

Another problem that occured that I didn’t realise at all was that I couldn’t weave the horizontal metal strip through a horizontal piece of wood. To do that I should have divided the wood strip or created slits in it. Here I altered my design slightly to have the metal cover the wooden parts and go under the felt inside type, mostly because I could solve the problem in no other way at this point:
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^Considered using wood glue to glue the wood pieces together, but it would be difficult to clamp them together if I was just gluing the sides and with felt it could get really messy.


Final day of working I decided to get advice on how to fix the gap problem:Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.25.24 AM
^ It was suggested that I simply screw the wood pieces into the board in the back (for which I needed to get a thicker board). Picture on the top right is the first ever screw that I ever drilled and put in place all by myself. I used the drill bit, the screwing attachment thing AND the part that makes a sinkhole! Achievements! These tiny achievements can make me feel better than the sign itself. I thought I could get away with 1 screw in most pieces of wood, but most needed 2, if not 3, because of the way the plywood warped. I can now proudly say that I can use 2 types of drills. I no longer use them like an amateur (I think).

Screwing the wood pieces in place meant that I didn’t need to glue most of the felt into place, it was held into place by the wood. I did, however, use dots of super glue on some of the excess parts of felt. I didn’t glue all the way to the edges, leaving them as ‘loose’ edges, to give a less-controlled, more organic feel. My only concern was that once it was vertical, the flaps on top would flop down, because of gravity. They didn’t, they would only do so if someone purposely moved them. This design choice also let me drill the sign up, and hide the screws behind the flaps:
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Far right, Amreen’s sign being put up.

7 Signage: Sudden change of plan…

So the fact that I had been on target with my ‘action plan’ was good. But then the fact that my whole plan was being flipped upside down 3 classes before the final made me very frustrated. When I was suggested to try weaving with another material my instinct was to retort with how there was no other weavable material that looked good. Just tacky ribbons. Then we thought of how the material doesn’t even need to be fabric or flexible. Weaving felt through a rigid material would catch more attention, be more dynamic and portray the concept of the word better.

I began with getting strips of wood from the woodshop. Okay, I didn’t just ‘get them’, I had to relearn how to use the…belt saw[?].
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First I literally just weaved the two materials together. The checkered effect was pretty and all, but how could I show the letters of adapt on this? I googled weaving for inspiration, to see what kinds of weaving exist. Initially, they were all very pattern oriented and looked very technical. I googled ‘weave typography’ to get better results (top right). This inspired me to create pixelated type. Having the felt as the positive space was clear, but it was also too simple. Having the wood as the positive space was more interesting and I think the only reason it is not as clear is because the wood pieces weren’t cut evenly…

SO, despite inwardly hating on the professor for making me experiment some more when I was so close to finishing my initial plan, I hate to admit that wow am I glad I did that. This idea looks tons better than the first one. TONS. After this, I felt very little hesitation to change my plan completely.

I started by trying to split the meta type into squares. It wouldn’t be possible unless I divided the frame into an impossible amount of tiny squares. Instead, I decide to keep it 40×20 squares and roughly follow meta, but focus on creating my own kind of type:Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 7.50.55 AM copy

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 I knew that I wanted some kind of directing device in my sign from the beginning, because signs often show directions and it gives the word extra layers of meaning (adapting is like growing in a certain direction). To incorporate an arrow, I saw a third material I could use (a thin sheet of mirror that a friend had to spare). It would add flashes of contrast in the work and would look good with grey felt and wood. I also considered whether I wanted the wood to be horizontal or vertical. I picked horizontal so that it flowed with the direction of the arrow.

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 Plywood because it looked more like wood. MDF looked dull and fake, didn’t have the patterns that plywood has. I was running out of my original, textured grey felt and when I went to buy more, they had run out. I considered bleaching it to get the look I wanted but got success.  In the end I was able to cut my strips in a way to get enough.

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^Laser cutting was an experience in itself. I thought I could use the band saw (THAT’S WHAT IT’S CALLED!), but the wood strips wouldn’t be even and I needed them to be perfectly even. Also, I initally thought I needed 40 strips of 1.5 inch by 60 cm of wood, so for that the table saw needed to be used and Shankar said it would be more efficient to just use the laser cutter. The plywood was difficult to cut because it warped and had to be taped into the printer, even then there were points where it didn’t cut through completely and I had to go back with an xacto knife.

Initially, the wood was organized randomly, but I organized them in the proper order to capture all the knots in the wood. Lastly, I needed to experiment with adhesives to see what would stick to what.
Felt and metal sheets stuck to wood and each other with super glue. Wood to wood didn’t stick with super glue, oddly enough, wood glue did the trick.

5 Signage: Cement Factory

So…the factory was…eventful. Approximately an hour? was spent listening to a lecture about concrete. Concrete. We even went into details of what percentages of rocks ‘aggregates’ are used to create a certain consistency of concrete. Again. Concrete. An hour long, intense, presentation on concrete and how it’s mixed with other rocks and chemicals.
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 Somehow we were released from the lecture to actually see the creation of concrete in the practical world. It was interesting to see how very different concrete could be, in terms of consistency and colour.

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We ended with looking at how the strengths of concrete was tested, and looking at special types of porous concrete and sinking some objects that we brought with us into concrete. Coolest part of the entire experience? Glow in the dark rocks.


4 Signage: Experimentation

Something that I remembered Richard mentioning, was that raw felt (not in sheets) could be mixed. I decided to try turning my sheets into fluffy felt (by scratching it). I used stuff ranging from screws, to a plastic cafeteria knife, to velcro to get the stuff to separate into ‘wool’.

When I took these to Richard to ask him what I could do, unfortunately he said that synthetic felt couldn’t be mixed to make sheets. And how do you make sure if it’s synthetic? Burn it indoors! Ok, not necessarily indoors, but burning the fluff made it clear the it was synthetic, because it burnt like melting plastic, instead of burning like wool. He gave me samples of ‘real’ felt for me to experiment with:
I could use felt needles to clump the wool into balls, or I could simply roll it (with a bit of water or dry). In the end I saw that I didn’t like the way the felt wool when I tried to manipulate it in any way. Richard had suggested that I could do a lot of things with the felt sheets themselves (didn’t need to work with the wool).

I conveniently found this:
 I can’t believe it took me this long, but the felt could be rolled like this to create interesting mats/patterns. And if mats can be made this way, then why not signs?

I also came across a company called ‘lamaconcept’ that seemed to specialise in designing things with felt and embedded LEDs:
The way they cut and join the felt could be something I try.

Thinking about all the things I could do was cool and all, but I needed to start working on prototypes, to see what could actually work:

 Started by making a cut out letter. Moved on to creating a ‘mold’.

Working with wax:
 To test out the two ways of clay, I started melting wax. First came plugging the unlucky thing in, first it needed a transformer, then it needed an adaptor (which I didn’t personally have). After all those troubles were sorted, I started melting. The most fun part of the project so far, way more fun than spending 2 hours pulling fluff from sheets of felt.

 UMMMMMM….blood…? Ok, so coating results in a crackling texture, which isn’t bad. It looks cool. But the red…just looks like the letter is bleeding…

 Problems with filling the wax into a mold-like thing to create a marbling look…The wax cools too quickly. I needed to find a way to reduce the melting point of wax. There were ways, but they seemed to be too technical for me to do:


I ended up attempting to melt two colours at the same time, and using a hairdryer to keep it hot and direct the direction of the flow of wax.

^again…blood. Congratulations, Asma. You have succeeded in creating a wounded letter.

After the weird experience with the filling technique, I finalised the idea of coating the letter:Signage00011
 Next came figuring out how I could fit the coated letters into the felt. Using the spiralling mat technique didn’t look very plausible or nice.

 I considered quilting. To do that, I asked my friend to give me a crash course on how to sow the patches for quilting.

 I also considered weaving. I could weave the letters into a background of felt.


2 Signage: Material Hunting

The day the project was introduced, we also went down to the materials library and then to the woodshop and FabLab.

Some of the materials that caught my interest:
I got the idea of using carpets or similar fluffy materials by looking at the cluster of samples. The tinted glass that reflected at certain angles and showed through at other angles could be used for a conceptual purpose.

 Objects that have holes in them or are slightly see-through look drastically different from different angles and on different types of backgrounds/lighting. It could be replicated using straws? Objects that are bubbly/blobby or layered could be gotten by melting different kinds of plastics or wax.

^ Found this chained up armor-like material. Apparently it’s hard to get and is used for large-scale construction work. Similar materials could be hacked to get it (like the traditional arabic headdress for women).

Material shopping in around Doha! By the weekend I had decided that I wanted to work with felt, wax and clay (maybe wood but it’s unlikely). Clay I was sourcing from friends that had loads to spare. Wax and felt we had to go out and find it (we went as a group).

First stop, Souq Waqif:

After unsuccessfully walking around Souq Deira, the abaya and fabric areas of the souq, we went to the familiar Rawnaq. Lo and behold:
Rolls and rolls of different colours and thicknesses of felt!!
I picked out a bright green, which I thought went with the idea of a sign (like a fluorescent sign), and a greyish sheet that would balance out the brightness. Another concept was that because the word I had finally chosen was adapt, the green and grey mixed together would show the adaptation of nature and manmade, or nature and technology.

Next stop was Ikea. Bought green, white wax (candles) keeping the colour of the felt in mind. I bought blue and red as well in case I wanted to experiment with contrasting colours as well.


1 Motion Type: Project Intro, Recollections and Title sequences

We started the project by discussing the brief and sharing ideas on what we could do. The initial homework was to think about an ‘impactful’ event and research title sequences. I considered a few events that I had strong emotional attachments to, but none of them felt ‘life changing’.

It was only after me and a couple of friends discussed moments of our lives—and had a crying/weeping/bonding session—that a memory was triggered.

The Event:

I used to take my younger sister down to the parking lot to play on the swings. Whenever it was time to come back upstairs she would, of course, resist coming inside.

It was one of those days where the lift had travelled up to our floor, and she refused to leave the lift. On a summer day that was feeling the feverish Doha heat, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her tantrums. I threatened to leave the button of the lift and let it go back down, with her inside, if she didn’t get out of the lift. The hall outside was cramped and lit by dim fluorescent tube lights. The heat plus the claustrophobic atmosphere didn’t help. She kept a defiant face. I let the lift close. She wasn’t old enough to reach any of the buttons. I don’t know if this is my brain messing with my memories, but I feel like I saw something change in her face as the doors closed on it.

My plan was to get down to a lower floor via the stairs and pick her up from there, but for some reason the doors didn’t open. I started to hear her crying. Could it be fear? But she had looked so brave! Panicking and unsure of what to do I ran up and down the dimly lit stairs, hoping to catch it open on one of the floors. There were windows on some of the floors and bulbs on others. Lights flashed by in a blur as I ran and the narrow space felt like it was closing in. By this point, I was crying as well and regretting what I’d done. Usually, her cries would irritate me, because my child-self knew when she was faking it. This time, I could hear the terror in her voice. I imagined her feeling lost, helpless and abandoned, all because of me.

Since I was panicked and young myself, I didn’t have the sense to simply push the button to call her back. I ended up finding that she had walked out on to a random floor. We shared a sweaty and tearful embrace as I carried a sniffling toddler back home. What hurt the most was that she didn’t hesitate for a second to embrace the one behind her torment.

Even now, when I recall this event, I feel the remorse I had felt then. Never in my life had I felt more wicked and evil. The only thing preventing me from feeling vile is that I know that I was young and brainless at that age. I’ve become more attentive to peoples’ emotions since then. Despiting having a brave face, she was distressed. An action that I thought was insignificant ended up impacting her in such a huge way. What was small to me, was huge to someone else.

The experience in words:

 play, feverish, heat, grumpy, cantankerous, cranky, cramped, dim, (dingy, gloomy, murky, dark), claustrophobic, restricted, fake, irritate, aggravate, exasperate, annoy, threaten, bluff, menace, intimidate, pressure, defiant, bold, resistant, gallant, brave, crying, fear, lost, helpless, vulnerable, powerless, weak, unsafe, abandoned, neglected, terror, fear, distress, despair, panic, frenzy, alarm, confusion, run, rush, race, hope, flash, bursts, glows?, beams, rays, blur, hazy, narrow, tight, closing in, regret, remorse, shame, apology, wicked, evil, vicious, ugly, vile, brainless, distress, sweaty, tearful, poignant, underestimate.

play, feverish, heat, grumpy, cantankerous, cranky, cramped, dim, (dingy, gloomy, murky, dark), claustrophobic, restricted, fake, irritate, aggravate, exasperate, annoy, threaten, bluff, menace, intimidate, pressure, defiant, bold, resistant, gallant, brave, crying, fear, lost, helpless, vulnerable, powerless, weak, unsafe, abandoned, neglected, terror, fear, distress, despair, panic, frenzy, alarm, confusion, run, rush, race, hope, flash, bursts, glows?, beams, rays, blur, hazy, narrow, tight, closing in, regret, remorse, shame, apology, wicked, evil, vicious, ugly, vile, brainless, distress, sweaty, tearful, poignant, underestimate.

^ I emboldened words that I felt I could work with to capture the feeling I had in that moment.

Title sequences and Motion Type:We were given Saul Bass and Cooper?? as starting points.  Watching the title sequence for Se7en was actually probably the best way I could have started this project. Apart from that I watched a bunch of others for inspiration.

We were given Saul Bass and Kyle Cooper as starting points.  Watching the title sequence for Se7en was actually probably the best way I could have started this project. Apart from that I watched a bunch of others for inspiration.

My favourite title sequence (although it’s not very type-based at all):

In terms of manipulating the type, Cape Fear split the type to match the forms of the water ripples:

My second favourite was the Title Sequence for Thank you for smoking. It was really clever the way they integrated the credits with cigarette packets. I noticed it when the name “Maria Bello” was specifically integrated with a design that resembled the Marlboro packet:

Official Title Sequence of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Reminded me of some of Saul Bass’s sequences, but with heavier manipulation/motion of the type (shattering, hierarchy of appearance, style of entry/exit, type turning into an illustration)
^This kind of title sequence is probably the kind of style that I found the most inspiring, aside from Se7en

These are examples I found of Motion Typography done by a student called Stephen Elliget. His work looked inspirational as well for looking at ways to put type in motion: