4: Cafe Reflections

On a level of difficulty scale, this project ranked pretty high. Not because creating the objects and implementations was hard, but because the thinking that went behind the project and designs was hard. How do I make a clear visual system while creating an experience for the user and without placing the logo and making the designs redundant:

What I struggled with was the initial concept. It took me a while to come to the conclusion that I wanted to create an experience that wasn’t angering, frustrating, or impractical. But I wanted to create just enough of an imbalance for the customers that it made them uncomfortable.

I went from crazy ideas of ridged tables and see-saw chairs to more subtle ways of creating discomfort by changing small things on regular objects; tilted pockets, words that are cut off, boxes that look that they’ll tip over. Again, I considered tilted glasses and mugs, but those already exist, so instead of creating them I used them as inspiration. It was finding the balance between too complex and impractical, and not uncomfortable enough that was the challenge. Technical challenges were showing the implementations in a presentable way; image quality and improvement on photoshop was needed.

What I feel I really succeeded with were my menu and box. Visually, the apron and napkin may be slightly bothersome, but in terms of really creating the experience, those two were the most successful. No matter who I asked was bothered by the box. They saw it, were confused, and then acknowledged that it annoyed them. I didn’t test the menu in a similar way, but they layout looks professional and the fact that reading it requires extra steps of tilting the menu (or your head) seems like a not too annoying way of annoying someone.



4 Packaging: Reflection on Samosas


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In terms of applying everything we had learnt so far, this project wasn’t that challenging.
Except it was. Because languages can be treacherous. And forms make life harder. And colours.

Okay, the initial part of deciding how and where the type would be placed (and matching the typefaces) was simple. The Type Manual project came in handy here, because I was able to make a type system relatively easily and quickly. It was picking the colour scheme and the final tweaking that took much longer time. What made it more complicated was that I couldn’t decide my own type. If I needed and extra word to fill in a line, I couldn’t, because I don’t write malayalam, or hindi, or arabic. I was relying on many different people to get my type accurate and grammatically correct.

It was this repeating process of double checking the visual form of the type as well as the content and grammar of the type that was difficult, but was also a major part of what I learnt. That, and I had this feeling from the beginning of this semester but this project confirmed it, I’m pretty bad at picking colours. It’s really annoying that it took me as long as it did to pick my colours. What’s good is that I got their eventually. Eventually.

3 Packaging: Realising how bad Google Translate is and Refining the Type

Once I had decided on the colours, I was able to refine the cover some more. I got rid of the edges of beige, so that the colours visually flowed down the edge of the box better and also doubled the strokes of beige that crossed on the surface. I was advised to keep it the thickness of the rim, but it looked better this way, especially when I decided to put a floral motif in the centre of the intersection. I was inspired by motifs used in henna designs and rangolis.
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After finalising my design and visual system, I moved on to double checking the chunks of text that google translate had given me. I had to reach out to everyone I could to get help with hindi and malayalam (hindi because I can’t read or write the script and malayalam because I know nothing about it).

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Malayalam gave me a hard time because of the script. One word would take up an entire line, giving me either really long character lengths, or really crazy rags or just problems in general. Making the type fit and connect with the other languages was way harder than I had imagined. A line that would be 1 and a half lines in english and hindi would take up 3–4 lines in malayalam.

This unevenness was picked up when I went for further feedback. There were widows and orphans that I had missed and was sacrificing the way the type looked to make it align with the shapes I had created. I had to go back and alter the grid I had created for myself to lessen the line lengths and get a more normal rag. The problem was, I had to treat each language differently. I was using the same lengths for each language, but it wasn’t working, especially for malayalam and arabic. I had to adjust everything and re-check to see if it looked balanced or not visually, without the gridlines.

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The other problem was the way I was aligning my type around the edge. It looked disconnected because of the up-down composition I had done, and because of the change in size. The thought here was that if I centred everything and it all looked the same, then it would seem dull or boring. I was advised to consider stability as well. Because I had so much going on in the rest of the box, so many colours and languages, it was already far from dull. I needed some kind of consistency to give the readers eyes a rest and some kind of balance to follow. 

I considered a few ways to incorporate hierarchy, like varying changes in size and colour. I was advised by friends that enlarging keywords didn’t work with arabic and hindi and just by looking at malayalam it was clear it didn’t work in that language either. The only place it worked in was in english. Which is why I decided to keep all the type sizes constant, and just subtly adjust some of the words in english. It made sense, since english is widely spoken, and I also didn’t  want to emphasise it too much, otherwise it would create a hierarchy of languages.

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Printing presented it’s own nightmares (in the epson printer). Initially, the colours were way off, even though I had exported it as CMYK, it printed in RGB (far right in the image). It seemed to be something to do with exporting it as a pdf. I tried to reexport it into photoshop and then export it again, but alas, no success. I don’t know why I made it sound so dramatic, but it was really frustrating. Even when I did get it to work (by exporting the files as a high quality jpeg, and then saving as a high quality pdf at 300 res), the colours were SO deep. It made the pink look very close to red (far left in the image). I wanted the bright happy colours that I had chosen (centre in the image), so I decided to use the inkjet printed to print. I could have experimented with the tints to adjust how much ink was used, but it would have wasted a lot of paper and time to test and get the exact colours.

I could have experimented with tints to adjust how much ink was printed by the epson, but it would have wasted a lot of paper and time to test and get the exact colours.

 I also made a last minute decision to round the corners. It clashed less with the rounded motif in the centre.

2 Packaging: Initial sketches and Colour scheme

It was while I was shopping for examples of bad/mundane packaging that I found the box of sweet samosas. To start off I made sketches of the shapes that I could use and the materials that would be suitable.

I decided on a metal tin box (cirucalar or hexagonal/octagonal) since paper would absorb the grease and be impractical. Glass is fragile, so metal seemed the best, it’s reusable and recyclable.

I picked these languages:

English and arabic were obvious. I wanted to include hindi since a lot of the people that would be interested in these samosas (in Qatar) would be hind speaking people, the next most common spoken languange (and target buyer) would be malayalam speaking people. I considered Tagalog, but the script for tagalog and english is the same, so I thought it wasn’t necessary.

I picked typefaces that have modulating stroke weights, since when I tested typefaces that have a constant stroke weight, it didn’t look very appealing. The modulated strokes  look more desi, or ethnic/traditional. Especially when you look at Latin type, it looks more like food. It’s hard to explain but the modulating stroke weights reminded me of flavorful Indian food.

I discussed my initial sketches with the professors and they suggested that I try organising the type in a less typical way i.e not aligning it with the edge. If I worked just in black and white, it would help I also needed to pick better for the arabic and hindi type. They didn’t match the english and malayalam very well, the arabic looked too formal and rigid. I was easily able to find a better match in arabic, finding one in Hindi was harder because of the limited number of choices, but also because of the rigid nature of the script itself. I was able to get closer matches:
 I needed to work on a colour scheme to organise my type better, since it was really busy with not a great enough sense of hierarchy. I tried a maximalist style, where I was inspired by broadsides to really fill in the lid with type, but it didn’t work out. It was too busy and chaotic.

Colour schemes:
I really really struggled with picking my colours. I found palettes on Pinterest, design-seeds.com and got some inspiration from Rangolis/Kolam. In fact, the colour palette I ended up choosing was from a rangoli design. There were two I really liked (the two in the bottom centre of the image). One looked too artificial, lemony and neon. It gave the flavour of zest. I was attracted to it because it had green, and I was biased towards green throughout the process of choosing colours because I was focused on the pistachio filling of the samosas.

It was after I broke away from the notion of the colour scheme needing to be literal that I finally decided on the colour, and bright colour scheme.
 Next came matching the shade of the spray painted tin (courtesy of Quality Street) with the colour on the screen. It wasn’t simply a matter of using the eyedropper tool, since a photograph of the tin didn’t capture the actual colour. And I couldn’t just work from the screen, so I printed loads of sample palettes and used lots of paper to get a print as close to the colour of the tin as possible.


1 Packaging: Intro and Research

New project: Package design. It sounded like it’s got not a lot to do with typography and more to do with the form and the material, but apparently type plays a huge role. It can be seen in the examples I found where most of them have prominent logotypes:

8 Motion Type: Motion Type, Consequences, Reflection

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/161391009″>Consequences: Motion Type</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user36144689″>Asma Hasan</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Critique went great, with Oman chips and cake. Perfect.

And of course we watched each other’s videos too. After watching each others videos we briefly discussed each one. I felt like some worked better than others, especially when it came to the choice of music. In some stories (where I knew the story), the music seemed too happy for the content. In some, a good choice of music really added to the impact that the video had. As mine played I realised that I needed to adjust and increase the volume. What sounded loud in my earphones, or from my laptop speakers, was lost in the large atrium.

Most of my difficulties came with the initial set up of trying to understand how to film through paper and then trying to find an interesting way to embody a word, without making it redundant. This is probably one of the reasons why I abandoned the idea of shrinking words like ‘abandoned’ or ‘vulnerable’. The end result captures the concept and feeling, without having it as obvious as changing the scale of the word. Choosing words was a task too. I kept wanted to explain more about the story and was tempted to include a frame where I had ‘I left her’ appear around the time that abandoned appeared. Decided against it, because again, it would let on too much, and really felt cheesy. I like cheesiness sometimes, but not when nothing else is cheesy, for example: in a cheesy bollywood movie, the entire thing is cheesy, so it doesn’t seem as bad…

This came to the problem of how I was going to end the video. It kept feeling like it was ending in an incomplete way with just remorse. Adding something to the end, like an apology felt cheesy, especially if it happened for too long. I probably spent more time picking different rates and length of time at which the words ‘I’m sorry’ showed up than on the rest of the editing.

As always, I learnt a lot. Usually, there’s a lot of technical skills that I learn related to software. This time, I did learn a bit more about premier, but more than that I learnt way more about filming and working with light. The importance of syncing movements with audio, and how it’s done, was another learning point.

Conceptually I realised that less is more. Somehow I always end up forgetting that rule, whenever I start a new project. Too much information can make this kind of a video seem predictable and boring, especially if whatever is being shown is redundant. And then there’s the importance of just doing lot’s of different things and taking LOADS of films, because you never know what will end up fitting the final edit. And by doing things, unpredictable effects can just happen.

I will focus more on the loudness of my audio. I adjusted it pretty easily after the critique, just had to pull up the decibel bar. It’s something to remember, because even though I had kept it in my mind, the sound still ended up sounding too low in the hall. So something else to keep in mind is where the video will be played: small room vs big room. Aside from that, I really like working in this way, with the lighting and shadows, it’s highly likely that I’ll use it again.

7 Motion Type: Editing and Finalising

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Editing took longer than I had imagined. Mostly because I had to edit my sound to fit my films, despite filming with the music. The audio was very long, and the parts that I needed to use extended for longer than I needed. The problem was, there was no way I could cut and edit inside Premier and had to export into Adobe Audition whenever I wanted to make the slightest change.

Apparently, there is a simple way to edit sound directly inside premier, through keyframes and the waveform is visible when you expand the bar downwards. I should know this from Time Studio in freshman year. But I forgot…

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 Fiddling with the exposure and white balances helped me hide the frame edges if I needed to, instead of masking it out. Had to find a balance between the frame being visible or the overall image being too dark.

It was nice to see that I could do so much in Post-production. I was able to layer films over each other ‘tears’ and ‘confusion’ by using blending modes and opacity, almost like photoshop. I could change the scale if I needed to, if a film was too yellow, I could change the tinge. Computers are magic. Tape, and computers.

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^ Last minute experimentation. I thought it would be interesting if I introduced colour shifts, where the frame is tinged from yellow, to red, then to bright white (in the tense parts), then back to red. It didn’t look interesting, looked pretty gross actually. especially the yellow.