Project 2 — WT Summer Camp Rocks!

[Note: written entries are in chronological order, so more recent updates are at the bottom.]

My final poster and mobile iterations for P2. Read on to learn more about the process!

Week 5 (3/2–3/4)

This week, we kicked off Project 2. I had experienced a similar type of project in Communications Design Fundamentals a few years back, but it’s been a while since I’d taken that course, so I was looking forward to diving back into the world of typographic hierarchy.

The first 4 sets revolved around working with individual type characteristics. It was hard to resist the urge to adjust multiple characteristics at a time, but I did appreciate how the exercises forced me to adjust slowly. As I would soon learn, the 4 individual breakdowns would better help me approach the later exercises. Here, I’ve chosen to break down two of my produced outcomes:

Stroke Weights, v2

For the stroke weight exercises, I had to determine which pieces of info were “more” important and thus worth bolding. On my second version, I decided to bold the organization name (what I deemed to be my title), the daily times, each camp’s name, when each session was, and the org website. I felt that the names of the instructors were slightly less important when deciding what camps to attend, so I chose to leave those unbolded. After hearing feedback in class, I ultimately came away with a few takeaways regarding stroke weights:

  1. I had originally only used 1 degree of stroke weight separation (55 to 65), but I learned that when holding all else constant (including font size), it’s important to have 2 degrees of separation to improve visual contrast.
  2. I was encouraged to rethink what the focuses of my poster should be. Originally, I had thought the organization and camp names should be the primary emphases, but I wound up reconsidering this when hearing feedback about my next version…
Horizontal shift, v2

When considering the target audience for Winchester Thurston summer camps, I had correctly determined that it should be the parents of kids Age 3 — Grade 12 and not the kids themselves, but I quickly learned a valuable lesson about truly understanding the motivations of my audience. As mentioned, I had originally thought the focuses of the text should be the camp names. That’s why for my Horizontal Shift exercises, I had mainly left the camp names alone on the left-most column, with the dates and instructors indented rightward. However, after sharing my work in class, Vicki pointed out that most parents don’t look at the camp name first when trying to figure out where to send their kids for the summer. The first thing they typically want to know is the dates of the camp because that helps them determine their schedules, as well as their kids’. That was a big “ah ha!” moment for me, because it really made me reassess what I knew about my target audience. I had to better empathize with my target group and understand its primary motivations in order to produce a more successful typographic design. Thus, my main takeaways for this exercise were:

  1. Focus more on the dates of the camps; find a way to keep them high priority alongside the camp names.
  2. Reconsider how large I want my indents to be. It’s okay to make my indent as large as I want (as long as it’s consistent throughout), but it’s important to find a balance between too small (where you can’t visually tell a difference) and too large (where the different text elements begin to look really disjointed).

The next exercises began combining different elements (weight + spacing, etc). It was very liberating to be let out of the single-element constraints, but I still didn’t want to go too off-the-rails with my designs just yet. I’ll show two more examples below, one being mobile view and the other print.

Stroke weight + spacing (v3)

My favorite iteration of stroke weight + spacing for mobile was my third one. In my first two versions, I had tried bolding different elements including the top title and camp names, but with last session’s feedback in mind, I chose to focus more on the dates. I wanted to keep it simple; too much bold on a page can lead to visual striping, and I didn’t want the viewer to get distracted. And so, I made all the changes I had gleaned from last class. What particularly helped was adding 2 steps of stroke weight difference (from 55–75 this time) because it made it easier to notice the contrast, and continuing to cluster the common elements together using spacing. I noticed that combining spacing and stroke weight really allowed me to better utilize typographic hierarchy, and the bolding helped establish which pieces of info within each cluster are most worth looking at first. The mobile view also encouraged me to play with character size and spacing more. Noticing how the page was more easily filled up helped me realize the linear aspects of my body of text.

My original interpretation of “scale” (L) and my revised version (R).

My next exercise to discuss was the one on scale. I actually realized that I did my scale exercises incorrectly initially (I had adjusted the scale of my entire bodies of text on the page, as seen above), so after class, I went back and revised them appropriately. Playing with contrasting scale on the same page was a really intriguing experience because I was essentially introducing another level of hierarchy to the existing stroke weight contrast. In the design I liked most, I wound up making the dates the biggest points of emphasis (my “primary” elements) while still keeping the camp names bolded (my “secondary” elements). I personally really liked this decision because I felt the dates being scaled up in size didn’t feel garish or jarring; there was something soothing about the way numbers typed out in Neue Haas looked at a larger scale.

I came away with a few key takeaways:

  1. Too much scale can muddy info, so don’t create excessive amounts of scale variation on a single page.
  2. Scale, when used correctly, can help guide the viewer’s eye all over the page.

Some great thought points as I head into the weekend; excited to work with color for my next iterations!

Week 6 (3/9–3/11)

This was the week where, as Vicki put it, “the wheels came off.” It was a lot of fun exploring with color; as someone who has historically been fairly conservative with color choices (I really like monochromatic color schemes), I wanted to find a way to take risks while still achieving the feelings I was trying to convey.

After pondering what kind of emotions WT Summer Camps might elicit for their intended target audience, I decided to start with a split-complementary color scheme involving blue, yellow, and orange (as well as slight variations to their hues). My first thought was that a summer camp—even if online—should convey feelings of warmth, sunshine, and fun. And so, for my first attempts, I wanted to utilize orange and yellow to capture that cozy, upbeat feeling. I tried a bunch of variations (using orange in different spots, different shades of yellow, etc), but these were the two color schemes that stuck out to me most:

These were the two color palettes I primarily worked with for the initial color exercises.

While I did play around with scale and text placement on these iterations, I was mainly focusing on color, so I didn’t do too much with the text to start. However, I did keep a few elements constant from my past exercises, including keeping the dates prominent, the day/time highlighted, and the camp name accentuated in a not too in-your-face way. For the left version, I chose to make the dates the main foci by making them both orange and in bold/larger text (but as I would soon learn, that was a little too much emphasis on the dates; more on that later). I decided to go with a darker navy background color to help the light-colored text pop more, but instead of using other complementary colors, I decided to go with monochromatic shades of blue in order to make sure the orange text stood out as much as possible. For the title and the website, I increased the scale but lowered the opacity so that they were noticeable, but did not stand out too starkly relative to the rest of the page content. The scale was magnified and slightly cut off at the bottom edges of the page to try and take advantage of Gestaltian theory.

For the right version, I flipped the color palette around so that the background had the cozier, warm feel. I played around with multiple shades of yellow but eventually settled on one that had a pastel-yet-golden feel to it. I still kept some elements that utilized orange (in this case, the orange was analogous instead of complementary) such as the names of the camps and the camp time. However, for the other text, I used different shades of blue, once again utilizing a split-complementary scheme. For the dates, I used the darkest shade of blue on my page so that they would stand out more relative to the rest of the text. For the title and website, I used less opaque, more muted shades of blue so that, once again, they didn’t dominate visually. I figured that if the scale was ramped up, I could tone down the color so that they weren’t both happening at once.

During the class crit, I wasn’t able to get individual feedback on my poster due to time constraints, but it was really insightful to hear thoughts on other peoples’ posters and their color choices. They helped provide me with good thought material going into my next iteration. More importantly, however, Vicki did give me some thoughts on my image choices. While some elements were intriguing, like emphasizing the digital element of this summer’s camps, she mentioned that some of my images were too “kitchy” and tacky. In hindsight, I completely agree; the photos I had picked of kids at their computer looked straight out of generic stock photos. There was nothing emotionally appealing about them. Thus, for my next set of exercises, I went back to the well and completely rethought my image choices.

Left: a bad example of a “kitchy” photo I had originally chosen. Right: a better (but still imperfect) example of a photo I chose the second time around.

With these new photos and thoughts on color in tow, I set about working on my next iterations for my individual meeting with Vicki on Thursday.

I wound up with two versions of my poster (+images) that I liked best going into my individual meeting with Vicki. The one on the left is the tabloid/print view of V1, and the one on the right is the mobile view of V2.

I enjoyed the process of overlaying text and colors onto images because it encouraged me to think about space in completely different ways. To start with the left example, I wanted to find a way to work around the kite so that the text could work in tandem with the focus of the image (the boy and his kite). That’s why I chose to slightly stagger the two columns of text. While this wasn’t a perfect image (it was lighthearted and whimsical, but Vicki pointed out that it didn’t exactly capture the sense of freedom, exploration, and originality I was hoping for), it definitely conveyed the feeling of a summer camp better than the stock photos I had previously picked out. Parents want their kids to explore and have fun, and this photo harkened curiosity much better than my previous ones.

When thinking about color in relation to the image, I wanted to keep the blue tones of the kite and sky, but I felt that the original image’s blues were a little too bright; they’d be difficult to decipher text against. So, I overlaid a darker blue shade at 70% opacity over the entire image so that I could lay text on top. I think this was an effective choice because it allowed the full-saturation text (which was, by comparison, much brighter) to better stand out. However, for the camp names, I decided to use a dark navy instead of white because I thought the white from the previous exercise was a little too bright. But, this backfired because the camp names simply weren’t emphasized enough against the blue background.

The original image I wound up cropping and using for the iteration on the top right.

On the right iteration (which was the mobile view for a different image choice), I decided to utilize an image I had found of a digital 8-bit summer camp. I thought it was a really unique image with some really nice textures, so I was curious to see how it would play with text in the foreground. Because the original image (pictured on the left) was so busy, I used a dark green/blue overlay to reduce visual clutter. While one of the reasons I picked this specific hue of green/blue was it was similar to the dark green/blue of the tent in the image, I also noticed that it reminded me a lot of a dark computer screen from the 1980s. In that sense, I thought it would be fitting for my color palette to subtly read like text on a computer screen given these are online camp offerings. To go along with the dark green/blue background, I decided to stick with orange as the main text highlight color (so a split-complementary theme instead of a direct complementary one like with the kite version). For the camp and instructor names, I chose to use a pastel baby blue that read similarly to white, but not as blinding. Overall, I really liked this color palette, but some modifications needed to be made with points of overemphasis and scale.

During our individual meeting, Vicki gave me some really great suggestions on how to improve upon my iterations. I’ll summarize them briefly below:

  1. The kite photo is interesting, but it doesn’t quite convey the sense of imagination and originality that parents want to see their kids attaining. It’s almost a little too… subdued? Static?
  2. The dates are important, yes, but so are the camp names! With the way I have them right now, the dates stand out way too much. It’s fine to have them in orange as a highlight color, and it’s also fine to have them bigger to emphasize them through scale… but not both! Together, it’s too much. Find a way to tone it down and emphasize the other elements on the page.
  3. My designs are still a little too adherent to a 2-column grid structure. Find a way to break the grid! Play with expanding the scale of the title, or camp names, or something else!
  4. Don’t overemphasize the word “Rocks” in the title; with the way I had it both in all caps and in orange, it almost seems as though “Rocks” is the most important thing on the page. But it’s not—it should read as a statement (“WT Summer Camp Rocks!”), not as a weird ode to rocks.
  5. Think about the way text takes up space on the page if it’s broken into different lines (e.g. the title being one big word per line); make sure line spacing still lends itself to high readability, but try playing around with different scales and ways of breaking up text.

With these excellent suggestions in mind, I started to further refine my poster designs. I was nearing the finish line, but I still had some big, exciting changes to make.

Week 7 (3/16–3/18)

The final week! My iterations had already come so far since exercise 1, but I knew I still had ample changes to make. I started by identifying the new images I wanted to try. Vicki had helped me realize that summer camps should convey a feeling of imaginative exploration, and although my other photos were visually soothing, they didn’t really get people excited about what their child would be able to do at camp. After a good 30 minutes of Google searching (and trying very random keywords like “kid + imagination +cardboard box”), I located a few more images that I wanted to test out:

All three of these images involved a child exploring their full imaginative fantasies with the help of goggles, a cap, and some variation of cardboard boxes or self-defined aircraft.

After fiddling around with the cropping for each one, I was immediately able to eliminate the photo on the far right because the resolution was too low for me to work with on an 11x17" poster. But, I was quite intrigued by the cropping for the other two, so I pursued those further. And so, including the 8-bit camp image from before I now had three total images I was working with (and 8+ different variations in total…). At my next checkpoint, I wound up with three iterations that I liked most, one for each of the images. The print versions looked like this:

Left: the image with the 8-bit camp, Center: the image of a child in a box, Right: the image of the child pointing to the sky as an imaginary pilot.

The main changes I made at this stage were:

  1. Scaling the name of the camp waaaay up to try and break the grid I had inadvertently confined myself to in past iterations.
  2. Scaling the camp names and dates down so that they wouldn’t conflict with/distract from the main title. I wanted there to be sufficient negative space on the page still.
  3. Toning down the font size of the dates, but keeping the orange color, so that they don’t completely dominate the page.
  4. Adjusting “Rocks!” so that the title reads as a cohesive statement.
  5. Turning the hyphens between the dates into en dashes to better separate the numbers.

It was really interesting to step back and look at my collection of three posters. To be honest, I liked all three of them for one reason or another, but it was time for me to be as critical as possible so that I could start eliminating options.

For the leftmost poster, I liked how the 8-bit camp scene felt like a texture or pattern that faded into the background; it wasn’t distracting, but it was still visually interesting. However, an issue was that the image just didn’t work with the text all that well. It felt like what it was: a background, and nothing more.

For the center poster, I liked how the child was gazing leftward with a sense of clear excitement. There was also a nice amount of empty space on the top 3/4 of the poster for me to work with, especially if I wanted to leave my title up there. However, I didn’t like how crowded the bottom right of the poster was; with the child, the box, the camp names, and the patterned floorboard all there, the legibility was heavily impacted. Because the image (more specifically, the direction the child was looking/where he was placed) didn’t lend itself well to recropping or other orientations, I decided to scrap this image option.

For the rightmost poster, I had to consider how exactly to utilize the image with the space. This image had the child posed fairly largely, so I didn’t have much negative space to work with in either direction. After pondering the cropping for a bit, I decided to introduce a solid block of color below the image. This served two purposes: 1) it helped cut off his legs at an appropriate spot in a visually clean way, and 2) it helped separate the two bodies of text in a more overt manner. The title was on top with the image, and the informational text would all be underneath. It was interesting notion, but I wasn’t fully sold on the solid block. So, I decided to keep working with this option and the 8-bit version.

My next iterations for the two options I chose to pursue.

For my next iterations, I decided to make some big changes. I had reviewed my posters, and although I mostly liked them, I still felt I was being a little too conservative. The title was bigger, yes, but it still started in the standard upper left; in addition, when squinting at the posters from afar, I realized they were all set in the exact same structure, just with the images swapped out (and a color block added in).

So, for the 8-bit version, I started to explore different placements for the title text. I took the scale even further and tried expanding it to the point where it cut off the page (top left image), and when I did that, I quickly realized there was a nice pocket of negative space between “WT” and “Summer.” However, if I kept the title in the top left, that negative space would be wasted. That’s what compelled me to shift the title to the bottom left; in doing so, I was able to open up space for the informational text in the top right. Below the camp names, which I placed in a fairly neat grid still so that they wouldn’t be too distracting, I placed the Zoom info and website in a visual manner that reflected the grid above. I was quite happy with this iteration; the title spoke clearly to the viewer, but the camp names were still very easily navigable. I was pleased with the unique sense of hierarchy conveyed by having the title in the bottom left.

To infinity, and beyond!

Soon after I started to fudge around with the right iteration (henceforth known as the “flying child iteration”), I hit an epiphany. Why was I constraining myself to the dimensions of the original image? Photoshop is my friend! I wanted to place the kid more near the bottom of the poster, so I used content-aware fill to add additional sky/negative space above the kid (pictured on the left). With a little bit of additional positioning and cropping, I had a new version of the image to use.

Upon placing it into my poster, I realized that it worked well to have the child looking upward with his hand held out. It almost felt as though he was looking up at the content above him. But, when looking at these two versions, I immediately realized that only the flying child one gave me the feelings of imagination and exploration spoke about. I was pleased with how the 8-bit one looked visually and spatially, but it didn’t captured the emotion I wanted it to. And so, I chose to move forward with the flying child iteration as my final.

Left: my restructured version after combining elements from the 8-bit and flying child versions, Right: my final print poster after a few more hours of refinements!

For the final refinement stage, I honed in on spacing, placement, hierarchy nuances, color, and even lighting for my background image. I really liked how the title looked in the bottom left on the 8-bit version I scrapped, so I decided to move it there for the flying child version as well. However, I chose to reduce the size a bit so that it wouldn’t interfere with the kid’s face. I placed the camp names in the top right and the Zoom info in the upper left in order to convey a sense of visual balance on the poster; there was no glaringly empty or overcrowded space, which I think helps the eye move easily around my poster. It was also nice the child was now looking upward at the meat of the poster—the camp names and info—instead of just the already-large title.

With the help of Vicki, I played with a couple additional intricacies like aligning the Zoom info with the left margin so that it didn’t feel as cramped, and I also explored making the dates smaller and on top of the camp names, but keeping them highlighted in orange; this turned out excellent, and contributed to the easy readability of the camp names while still clearly conveying when the camps would occur. I also added an effect (“Hard Light”) to my overlay so that the child in the back was more visibly highlighted, and I toned down the opacity of my overlay a bit to ensure maximum visibility. Finally, after Emily pointed out that the stacked website URL was a bit funky during our final crit, I straightened it out for my final version.

My final mobile iteration! (Sorry for poor quality; had to screenshot it because the original JPG was too large. See the final PDF for details!)

Much of my color, type, and image explorations carried over to the mobile version, but I did make a couple of key changes hierarchically. I realized a few main alterations that I wanted to make:

  1. If users were looking at a mobile poster, they likely already found their way to the website, so the URL didn’t really need to be up top. So, I moved it to the bottom.
  2. If scrolling on a phone, users will likely want to see the title of the poster first; it’d be confusing to see the title at the bottom once done scrolling.
  3. I placed the Zoom info at the top of the mobile view, once again taking advantage of the nice pocket of negative space between “WT” and “Summer.” I put a thin pale line between the price and other info to separate them.
  4. When scrolling downwards, it’s nice to see the info you want to identify on top so that it shows up first when the page moves; so, I chose to keep camp names on top of the dates for mobile because that way, users would be able to read camp name, date, then instructor, in that order.
  5. I chose to keep one camp name for each line so that as the user scrolled, they saw one new camp name at a time.
  6. I had to make sure I kept a little bit of the child in the original frame so that the user would be compelled to keep scrolling and see the whole image, which influenced how I cropped the image.

After testing it out on my phone a few times to make I managed to visually convey everything I wanted to, I was done! It was time for the final crit.

Post-Crit Reflections

I was delighted and relieved when during the final crit, Emily and Brett were both really complimentary of my poster’s use of the blue/orange color palette, image choice, hierarchy, and readability. One design choice that was validated was my decision to go with the blue overlay; Brett specifically pointed out how even though I used a really visually engaging image, it wasn’t too glaring on the page because it was “tucked” behind the overlay. That way, the eye still goes to the poster title first before moving over to the young child’s face of delight, at which point it follows his outstretched arm up to the rest of the poster’s information. Emily was really kind when she said that she “would sign her kid up for the summer camp right now!”, a sentiment that made me really proud of all the work that I had put into this project.

It’s pretty crazy to reflect on how far my posters came from type exercise 1, but I wouldn’t have traded any of the steps for anything. It may have felt tedious at the time, but incrementally working through spacing, weight, indents, scale, color, and image really helped me better grasp the contents of the text I was working with. In exploring different images, I better empathized with my target audience, and I was able to more effectively understand how to convey the feeling of originality and wonder I was going for. Overall, this was one of my favorite type/communication design-oriented projects I’ve ever worked on, and I’m really proud of how I didn’t settle for a more conventional design or layout. I’m really grateful to Vicki, Emily, Brett, and all my other friends and peers that offered insight throughout the process; looking forward to P3!

It’s crazy to see how far the final version came from Exercise 1!