Something really wicked!

Something Wicked This Way Comes - hideaway book box
I was contacted in December last year by talented artist Ruth Fabiano, who designs and sells wooden boxes that look like real books. She was keen to create a box using my artwork for Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – one of my favourite fantasy stories from the master storyteller. I was more than happy to see her use my design to make one of her fabulous boxes, and as you can see above she has done a great job in capturing the cover with her wood-burning and hand-decoration techniques.

Here’s my original cover design:

Something Wicked This Way Comes
You can check out further images of the box here on Ruth’s Etsy site, where you can also view her many other designs for such books as The Lord of the Rings, Peter Pan, A Game of Thrones, The Mists of Avalon, Alice in Wonderland, and many more.


Gone Troppo: Sands of Time

Gone Troppo_Sands of Time
Cover designs for a new track by art-music collective Gone Troppo. This was an interesting design process, due to the songwriter requesting the investigation of an alternative approach that further referenced the ‘sand’ element from the song. My initial thoughts were that without the high contrast of the original blue & yellow design, the overall impression created by the thin linework would be too diluted and therefore not stand out enough at the small scale of an icon, which is where this artwork would mainly be viewed.

As it turned out, the design still works well with a lighter textured background and my concerns were proven incorrect. This is always an interesting part of the design process for me, and something I’ve regularly communicated to clients when changes are discussed. Many requested changes are often very difficult to judge accurately before simply trying them to see the actual impact on the finished design. Experience has shown me that some small adjustments can have a significant negative effect on a design, dramatically changing the flow, appearance or readability in a way that myself and/or the client will not accept. Current digital production methods certainly make it far easier to alter artwork and investigate options, especially compared to when my artwork was mostly hand drawn and assembled – but any changes incur extra time (and usually money) so the designer is responsible for efficiently advising a client and resolving all queries without futile and costly exploration.

My design features various elements from the song itself: a diamond, travel, a broken heart, the universe and a sunrise. The track is available to download at CD Baby.

Australian bushrangers: bolters, brigands and outlaws

Recently I’ve been researching the early history of Australia as part of a script writing project, discovering many interesting facts and stories from this colonial period, particularly regarding the difficult life facing those arriving in the new colony under chains, and of those who became the first free citizens to be born in the new Australian nation.

After the arrival of the First Fleet into Botany Bay in 1788, the convicts were set to work building their own penal accommodation and the infrastructure required for the new settlement. Conditions were very harsh and punishment was brutally swift and extreme, which soon saw escapees bolting for the bush in the hope of surviving long enough to reach unknown settlements or to make their way across the seas to distant neighbouring countries. These ‘bolters’ were hopelessly inexperienced and ignorant of the vastness of the Australian bush and many perished from exposure, the lack of sufficient food, violence from their fellow absconders (including a number of victims who were killed and eaten by their desperately hungry freedom seeking mates) and deadly encounters with hostile natives.

By the 1820’s bushranging had become a widespread problem with many men choosing to take up arms and lead a life of horse, sheep and cattle stealing, raiding of settlers’ homesteads and farmhouses, and bold highway robberies. The Bushrangers Act was introduced in 1830 as a deterrent to those committing or assisting others to commit unlawful acts, giving powers to anyone to apprehend suspected criminals, or to search any suspicious individual thought to have firearms or other instruments of violent nature hidden or concealed about their person.

Capture of bushrangers
These brigands were often aided and supported by those who still sympathised with the plight of the outlaws after completing their own sentence and having been granted their freedom. Many citizens also continued to hold little respect for the authorities and governors of the colonies and were easily persuaded to help the bushrangers evade the lawmen, especially when they profited themselves from the goods looted and then offered cheaply.

The shocking, sensational and violent stories of men such as John ‘Black’ Caesar, Michael Howe, Alexander ‘The Cannibal’ Pearce, Thomas ‘The Monster’ Jeffery, Mathew Brady, Martin Cash, and Jack ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ Donohoe were eagerly devoured by a populace desiring for local stories telling true and engaging tales of undeserved injustice, criminal adventure and villainous acts to satisfy their need for diversionary entertainment from their lives of tiresome labour, constant struggle and hardship.

Gold was then discovered near Bathurst, New South Wales in 1851, and also in Victoria later that year, which soon saw many bushrangers taking to the roads to hold up the rapidly increasing numbers of ‘diggers’, gold convoys and coaches travelling across the country. Bail ups were now common across the goldfields and robbery under arms was a constant danger for everyone using the roads by foot, horseback or vehicle.

Morgan and GardinerA chase after Morgan
Gangs of bushrangers would stop travellers with threats of violence and death, rob them of valuables and then tie them up off the road so that they could not continue to raise the alarm at the next town. The bushrangers were often talented horsemen who stole the fastest horses and regularly led the police troopers on embarrassingly protracted and unsuccessful chases through their ‘home’ of endless mountain ranges and dense bush territory. Bushrangers like Frank ‘Darkie’ Gardiner, Black Douglas, Frank ‘Captain Melville’ McCallum, John ‘Bogong Jack’ Payne, and Daniel ‘Mad Dan’ Morgan had escaped from numerous attempts to apprehend them with their superior mounts and greater knowledge of the land. It was only when using the expertise of Aboriginal trackers that the police seemed to have any real hope of quickly catching their quarry.

The new colony was soon to see its first native-born bushrangers and amongst the locally born citizens feelings still ran deep against the English rule. The settlers were keen to see an end to further transportation of convicts to Australian shores and desired the federation of the individual colonies to form a commonwealth. These free Australians asked for greater personal rights and a larger say in the formation and direction of the nation, and as the gold rush continued to swell the numbers looking to find their fortune, unrest intensified at the high licence fee demanded by the government to access the goldfields and of the generally poor living conditions and often severe punishment handed out to the unlicenced diggers. This widespread disagreement would eventually come to a head in December 1854 when the ‘Eureka Stockade’ battle took place at Ballarat, Victoria.

Ben_Hall_bushrangerHall, Gilbert, and Dunn sticking up the Mail at the Black Springs
The government responded to the escalating lawlessness of the bushrangers by introducing the Felon’s Apprehension Act, which decreed that any criminals named in a general summons were to give themselves up and to stand trial, or they could legally be brought in by any person – dead or alive. Wanted felons like Ben Hall, Johnnie Gilbert, John Dunn, Harry Power, and brothers Thomas and John Clarke would now be officially outlawed and face possible death from any meeting with the police or public.

By the 1860’s a new breed of highly popular bushranger had emerged due to the introduction of the electric telegraph. News and information now flowed quickly from communities across the nation and people were eager to hear the exciting tales of Andrew ‘Captain Moonlite’ Scott, The Kelly Gang, and Frederick ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ Ward. It was to be the Kellys who would come to define the Australian bushranger, with brothers Ned and Dan Kelly, together with friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne, providing a lengthy and ongoing saga that would famously culminate in a siege at the Glenrowan Hotel – the scene of Ned’s early morning attack on the police wearing his heavy suit of steel armour. Ned was captured alive for trial and the rest of his gang killed in the shoot-out and subsequent fire. Ned Kelly was found guilty of murdering Constable Lonigan and sentenced to hang on November 11th 1880 at the Old Melbourne Gaol in Victoria.


Ned+Dan Kelly
As the 19th century came to a close the bushrangers no longer frequented the Australian bush as they had before. A murderous gang of three, led by brothers Jimmy and Joe Governor, murdered and robbed their way across New South Wales until all were captured or killed by early 1901. The dramatic days of the colonial bushranger were all but over, although the young nation would continue to know many more rebellious outlaws and freedom fighting heroes for personal justice throughout the following centuries.

All images courtesy of Trove – National Library of Australia, State Library of Queensland (Ben Hall portrait) and the State Library of Victoria (Power capture).

Rain, rain, go away

Stangate House, AldgateUnfortunately, our community event at Stangate House had to be cancelled due to constant rain during the period required to complete the set up for our outdoor activities. It’s always disappointing when a lot of work goes into coordinating an event, and you don’t get the opportunity to see it all come to fruition – but that’s the nature of an outdoor event. As they say, one element you can’t control is the weather.

Even though we didn’t appreciate the falling rain, the gardens certainly did!

Fukushima and the nuclear legacy

CofC_1 CofC_2 CofC_3 CofC_4Musical collective Gone Troppo have finally created a presence on Bandcamp, so I’ve updated my old print design from the original CD release of Children of Chornobyl, to now be available as a pdf download in a revised format more suitable for the screen.

The disaster at Chernobyl happened back in April 1986, and the Fukushima incident occurred 25 years later, in March 2011. Once again the true scale of the radiation contamination is being downplayed, official reports are written to deceive and mislead, and the ongoing effects will be buried under a wall of silence that disrespects all those displaced and harmed by the nuclear spill.

We are unfortunately leaving another significant and long lasting destructive legacy to our children – one that will continue to cause grief, pain and severe financial hardships for many years. What have we learned in the 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster?

Passion for social justice

Passion for social justice

“Growing inequality undermines the international community’s progress in lifting millions out of poverty and building a more just world. The fault lines are visible in falling wages for women and young people, and limited access to education, health services and decent jobs. We must strengthen and build institutions and develop policies that promote inclusive development.

As we seek to build the world we want, let us intensify our efforts to achieve a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development path built on dialogue, transparency and social justice.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

*  *  *

All across the globe people are fighting for freedom from tyranny, the creation of just policies ensuring basic human rights and social welfare, respectful adherence to civil liberties, and fairness and equality for all.

Unfortunately not all countries and governments believe in transparency, accountability and democracy. As globalization and technology rapidly continue to contract the world and the global economy, it is all to often up to the people to make a stand, voice their concerns and demand that leaders allow access to justice, prosperity, peace and security.

We should all have an active passion for social justice. Be part of the resistance, rather than just a passive observer.

Passion for social justice itemsItems available from society6


1991 Australian Formula One Grand Prix

1991 Williams-Renault FW14, Nigel Mansell

1991 Williams-Renault FW14, Nigel Mansell


Equipe Ligier Gitanes and Leyton House Racing teams, pit lane, 1991 Australian Formula One Grand Prix

Equipe Ligier Gitanes and Leyton House Racing teams in pit lane


Mark Blundell in his Brabham-Yamaha

Mark Blundell in his Brabham-Yamaha BT60Y


Inside the Fondmetal-Ford garage

Inside the Fondmetal-Ford garage


A casual Nigel Mansell

A casual Nigel Mansell


As I’m currently in the process of moving house again, I’ve just come across a collection of photographs I took at the 1991 Australian Formula One Grand Prix, held on the parklands circuit in Adelaide, South Australia. This was the famous race held in torrential rain which was won by Ayrton Senna, who only completed 14 official laps before the race was stopped. As you can see above, the weather was fine when I was there on the first practice day, but not so on the Sunday!

Year of the Snake

2013: Year of the Snake

The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, begins on February 1oth 2013 and will continue until January 30th 2014. This follows the Year of the (Black) Dragon in 2012, a year which was predicted to be unpredictable.

2013 is the Year of the Snake – or, more accurately, the Year of the Black Water Snake – a year to show caution, plan diligently, act responsibly, and work towards your greater goals.

The snake is the 6th of the 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac. Snakes are considered to be a good omen, and people born in the Year of the Snake are considered to bring good luck and prosperity to a household; it is said that having a snake in the house will never see you short of food on the table. Beware though – for all their financial thoughtfulness, careful planning, charm and intuition, snakes can also be somewhat devious, materialistic and greedy.

The snake mainly contains the fire element from the 5 elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth) in Chinese Astrology, and is therefore in the fire group. As 2013 is a water year and the snake is a fire element, it is possible that both good and bad fortune may be experienced – so, what else is new!

My illustration celebrating the New Year is a coiled snake symbol, created with an ink brush pen on Canson Pastel paper. This sketched design was scanned into Photoshop, where I used various layer styles to highlight the ink effects of the original sketch (areas of wetter, heavier ink coverage showed as a separate tone on the scan), and I also added additional textures to create the finished effect I desired.

Also included in this design were references to two of the lucky components for the snake: the colours of yellow and red, and the directions of southwest and northeast (as seen in the background texture patterns).

7 things I’ve learned from Lance Armstrong

SINNER – Lance Armstrong

  1. Don’t lower yourself to the unprincipled standards of others.
    If the game is a lie, then eradicate the problems or find another game to play.
  2. Maintaining a lie requires a serial approach to falsehood and deception.
    The road you choose will be very long and is unlikely to be fully supported by others for the entire journey. Rumour and innuendo will eventually expose enough of the truth, particularly when financial gain is involved.
  3. At what cost?
    If you opt to cheat and have a responsibility for others, be prepared for substantial consequences for all involved.
  4. Sport absolutely requires a level playing field for all participants.
    To knowingly cheat, regardless of circumstances, completely disrespects competitors, officials, volunteers, sponsors and spectators. Without adherence to set rules it is no longer a sporting contest.
  5. Don’t overcome a major life hurdle and then simply lose your footing at the next obstacle.
    Fight with integrity and learn from the experience. Be fully prepared for future challenges and use your recent knowledge and inner belief to overcome without hesitation or missteps.
  6. Win without sin.
    Accept all the adulation and the rewards of success without a closet full of gruesome skeletons.
  7. It’s really, really not about the bike.
    Sport is passion. Life is emotional. Better yourself through effort, dedication and a commitment to standards and accountability. Attempt to positively influence those around you through honest self-management and just doing the right thing.

    * I’ve updated the background of my previously posted Lance Armstrong illustration to reflect his recent downfall: from an admired winner to a disgraced sinner.

Animal photography with added Flare

White-Cheeked Gibbon

White-Cheeked Gibbon



Oriental Small-Clawed Otter

Oriental Small-Clawed Otter

I recently purchased a copy of the Mac App Flare – a great little program, which through the use of photographic effects and filters allows you to easily apply a range of stylistic alterations to your imported images, and then save those setting combinations as a collective preset. Any of the existing application presets can also be altered or added to, plus there’s a growing community of people creating and sharing their own presets via the web community – neat!

I’ve selected some of my recent photographs taken at the Adelaide Zoo, and after checking out options, have happily added a bit of life into a number of images that needed a little spark. It’s a lot like my familiar Photoshop process for editing and enhancing images, just handily assembled all within one easy to use interface, with a variety of options just one click away. Many of the rather funky effects that are available don’t work for these types of images, but there are a lot of visually bold directions to take your photo in, if you wish to do so.

Enjoy the pics!



Brazilian Tapir

Brazilian Tapir



Barbary Sheep

Barbary Sheep

baby White-Cheeked Gibbon

baby White-Cheeked Gibbon

September Soapbox: our forgettable media forgetting our past


History is more than just the past – it is a valuable teacher and educator, providing fascinating insight into real events, noteworthy characters and the important theories and discoveries that shaped our current society and way of life.

Too quickly we seem to be losing touch with what truly matters and are disturbingly overvaluing information possessing no long-term benefit or insight. Our history has determined how we live in the present and will directly influence our future too – never a trivial or worthless concept to disregard. As we rush forward with expanding technology and pervasive social networks, we should consider our place in time and take advantage of the opportunity to wisely use our advanced capability to access and share our valuable experiences.

I fear that the suffocating nature of today’s media and publishing landscape, which is currently dominated by superficial and disposable talent, paid advertorials, lightweight lifestyle programming, and unthinking commentary, has shifted attention well away from content of interest and historical importance, by significantly decreasing the available space and time for genuine in-depth reporting and intellectual discussion regarding significant events and concepts.

A shameful ‘entertainment first’ mantra, where only the instant fix is desired, is now prevalent throughout many media platforms, an outlook which causes major recent events to be quickly forgotten, whilst fluff and nonsense remain in the spotlight for weeks or months. The growing buzz of trivial and banal infotainment masquerading as important and factual news has now become a constant and tiresome drone of worthless self-promotion and shameless posturing, hyped by media-made mouthpieces and flagrant peddlers of highly questionable content. Do we really wish to be so undesirably shallow and deceptive?


The History of the World


We are constantly told to live in the now, be on the edge and ahead of the curve. This attitude creates decreasing opportunities to reflect on what has been, and to acknowledge the lessons from the past that will help guide us into the future. Our history holds so much of value and substance, particularly now as across the entire globe we continue to struggle with key life impacting issues such as poverty, industrialization, sustainability, equality and justice.

It would be extremely irresponsible for us to neglect the great deeds, shocking tragedies, discoveries and mistakes that form our collective history, and to blindly march forward unaware of where we have come from and the noteworthy details of that journey. History is much more than just a series of dry old facts, left only to those who wish to seek them out. It is inspirational, humiliating and all emotions in-between; a knowledge base of infinite value, provoking thought and intense discussion well beyond insignificant celebrity headlines and paid promotion.

We need to enthusiastically teach and share the stories that make up our history in this complex world. Their guidance, entertainment and contemplative quality offer us all the capability to understand and determine our path ahead, without simply repeating the mistakes made previously.


Perforated Cultures: Neville Assad-Salha

I’ve recently started volunteering at the Barossa Regional Gallery in Tanunda, which this weekend officially opens a great new exhibition of outstanding ceramic art by Neville Assad-Salha. This is part of the 2012 SALA (South Australian Living Artists) Festival – South Australia’s community based visual arts festival.

Neville is currently a Professor of Fine Arts at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and has a home here in the Barossa Valley. About his work he notes:

My work over the past several years has looked closely at cross-cultural references. I have traveled extensively to many countries working with other artists. This has given me the ability to work across different cultural identities. My works look closely at space (not what space is but what it represents – a metaphor to space). Many of my works relate to the vessel form. This in turn, reflects the image of the human form being the vessel, along with some structural sculptural forms looking at architectural constructions being the tomb (a place of birth, a place of living, a place of death). Many of my pieces are constructed from steel, clay, bronze and sometimes stone. These in turn become a diagram of space.

Neville Assad-Salha

Neville Assad-Salha

After assisting with the setup, I decided to take a few photos (couple of hundred!) of the items on display and eventually had the thought of creating a small video presentation of my photography. The music was assembled in GarageBand, titles were designed in InDesign, and iMovie was used to edit the video.

Neville Assad-Salha

The global race to the bottom

The global race to the bottom

In our rapidly shrinking commercial world, corporate responsibility in business affects us all and makes a tangible social difference. Respect as a genuine belief is lost once those who should show responsibility decide to blindly chase inflated profits and obscene personal benefits.

Standards are in decline worldwide as professions are decimated by careless management practices, and decisions are made to retain influence and sales through careful deception and financial bullying. We are now seeing the clear trading of values such as honesty, quality and accuracy, for misleading and insulting corporate double-speak, unethical short-term decisions, and a moral reluctance to work towards outcomes that benefit many.

A large community debt is owed to those who contribute to the bottom line – yet often they have no voice and never receive fair reward. An unconcerned attitude towards individuals is unfortunately a common result for those discarded in the eager chase for financial gain. All too easily many workers are finding themselves playing in a game with questionable rules.

Is the journey really worth it, when you deliberately leave so many behind?

Kodak: a fading photograph

The announcement that Kodak and its US subsidiaries had filed for chapter 11 business reorganisation, led me on a search for a bit of information regarding the history of the Eastman Kodak company, and it’s founder George Eastman. The portability and everyday ease-of-use that Eastman personally brought to photography (and ultimately motion pictures), changed the course of recording our history, and allowed the general public to embrace picture taking for and by themselves.

Eastman was a very deliberate, focused and surprisingly generous man, who found success through following his personal interest in the photographic process. He was a remarkable pioneer for supportive conditions and enhanced benefits for his workforce, and was a keen philanthropist, particularly supporting educational institutes, medical schools and dental clinics.

Below are links to a few stories that describe the current troubles of the famous Kodak company, and the life of George Eastman, with further detail and comment. It’s very unfortunate that numerous missteps and lost technological opportunities have led to the current financial situation, but their impressively long and significant history forever places Kodak as an important global contributor to much of what we regularly use and enjoy in our lives today.

Page 1 of George Eastman's patent no. 388,850, for his film camera and roll film – 4 September 1888. – Focus on past glory kept Kodak from digital win – History of Kodak: George Eastman – George Eastman: The Kodak Man – In pictures: Kodak’s development

Optical illusions

I thoroughly enjoy viewing optical illusions (although many of the ‘moving’ illusions give me strong headaches) and am fascinated about the insight they give into human visual perception, and exactly how our brain interprets the incoming data to present the physical world around us. This particular broad description for these types of illusions actually covers a wide range of individual perceptual interpretations, and a great number of simple illusory tricks.

So, here’s a bit of introductory ‘edutainment’ to start you thinking, tickle your imagination, and open your eyes to the visually confounding and remarkable universe we inhabit.

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A technique fashionable during the Renaissance was the use of distorted perspective, known as anamorphosis, to add optical elements to artwork that demanded the art be viewed ‘unconventionally’ from a specific angle, or with the help of a reflective device. German artist and printmaker Hans Holbein (the Younger) produced one of the most quizzical and widely discussed anamorphic examples with his 1533 painting ‘The Ambassadors’, which now hangs in the National Gallery in London. The foreground of his double portrait contains an optically concealed skull, which to be seen correctly requires the viewer to be very close to the plane of the painting and to the right hand side – only then will the solid three-dimensional form of the skull appear as intended:

'The Ambassadors' skull seen correctly

A large high-res interactive version of the painting is available to view here.

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The relationship of grouped colours and the effects one colour can have on another are of key interest for all designers and artists. Visual context will determine the colour that we perceive, regardless of the actual colour, and fool us to believe we are seeing something different to actuality. These samples below show how neighbouring colours can easily confuse our colour perception system to create a powerful illusion.

Although the left square appears as orange, and the right a deeper brown, both are an identical colour

Both of the lower squares show an identical dark to light blue gradient

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This neat geometrical illusion is a variant of the Ponzo illusion (named after Italian psychologist Mario Ponzo), which shows how our mind perceives an object’s size based on present background information. This illusion highlights how linear perspective within an illustration suggesting convergence, produces the belief that an object in the distance must be larger than that in the foreground.

wall illusion

The two green lines are exactly the same height

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Impossible objects, such as Schuster’s clevis (below) are some of the fantastical ambiguous figures, which have confounded and amused people for generations. The Schuster ‘devil’s fork’ and other grand impossibilities such as the ‘impossible staircase’ (made famous by the M. C. Escher lithograph ‘Klimmen en dalen) are fabulous examples of paradoxical two-dimensional forms bewildering viewers when they attempt to construct them in three dimensions.

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One of my all-time favourite perceptual illusions is Charles Allen Gilbert’s 1892 illustration ‘All is Vanity’ – a classic visual contrivance:

'All is Vanity' by Charles Allen Gilbert

Also, this German postcard from 1888 (artist unknown) requires us to ‘switch’ between perceiving either a young or old woman – visual data that the brain must interpret and construct from the ambiguous information present within the image.

Old or young – which do you see?

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Let’s now take a look at the moderately disturbing anomalous motion illusions. WARNING! – many of these images can cause feelings of sickness and dizziness, due to the effect of rotating movement in what is only a static image. These images ‘move’ due to their combination of very specific element relationships and their relative reflected luminance. A particular intensity of contrast causes our visual system’s motion detecting neurons to react to shape edges, and thereby perceive motion where none exists. Some of these motion illusions create a very uncomfortable viewing experience, but are equally interesting to behold.

Rotating rays

Rotating rays

Primrose's field

Primrose’s field

Staring fixedly at a particular point will slow or stop the movement, but any minor vision shift will start it up again!

The above examples are files created by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, who studies visual perception and illusion at the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Further brilliant examples are available at his comprehensive website.

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Finally, there are the popular art illusions seen on streets around the world as street paintings and wall murals. There are a great number of fantastic street painters in countries all across the globe, transforming our urban areas from every-day dullness into wildly imaginative visions with mesmerising illustrative technique and some very clever visual ruses.

Siete Punto Uno

John Pugh’s mural ‘Siete Punto Uno’ – Main Street, Los Gatos, California.


Edgar Müller’s ‘Phoenix’ – City Art Gallery, Grand Rapids

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There you have it – my brief tour of the spellbinding world of optical illusions. Many illusions are deliberately set to mess with your mind and have you believing the unbelievable, however, our interpretation of visual data isn’t always the most reliable and trustworthy process, so be on the alert. Seeing isn’t necessarily completely believing!


Designers regularly embark on journeys into the unknown, deal with shifting and transforming project parameters, and discover that the road ahead reveals technical and creative difficulties set to test even the most skilled of design professionals. Successfully positioning yourself to negotiate these uncomfortable twists and turns can be an advantageous practice, that is not always adhered to by creatives.

The process of creating for commercial clients requires that many tangible, positive outcomes result from the investment, and this therefore necessitates that a series of considered steps be followed. Sound future planning, prediction of likely outcomes, and risk reduction strategies are all key elements involved in the generation of successful concepts that meet the dynamic needs of commercial clients. By developing a considered rationale and adhering to logical design and branding rules, any project encountering serious challenges, should be comfortably able to flexibly manage these altered conditions.

DON'T PANIC!Easy left, hard right

As an example of necessary preparation, rally drivers ‘recce’ stages and create accurate pacenotes, enabling them to foresee every significant curve and corner, so that they can safely take them at maximum speed. This methodology of pre-planning and noting the course is a useful example for designers who need to consider multiple factors when creating within strict timeframes.

It can unfortunately be all too easy to find yourself without options or clear answers when the project takes an unexpected turn and an unmovable deadline looms large. Without having previously addressed many common technical pitfalls, or the generally understood realities of commercial life, thoughtless panicking, and ill-considered rushed solutions, may be the harmful result.

Designers need to work from applicable project certainties and use their problem solving abilities to create an adaptable framework capable of dealing with a changing or evolving brief. Anticipating electronic file requirements, delivery methods and other possibilities for current day technology and new information delivery platforms is a must for anyone producing creative work.

The ability to positively think on your feet and apply well-grounded options or feedback will be largely based on the consideration and planning processes undertaken as part of the creative concept and early project construction. A bit of design thought and preparation can help to navigate troublesome obstacles, and then avoid the unwanted, and unhelpful, panic response.

Return on investment

Return on investment (ROI) is typically used as a decision-making concept regarding the determination of bottom line suitability for activities such as business models, retail product development and various funding schemes, but is equally applicable when discussing creative pursuits and the resultant impact in comparison to the actual time and effort involved.

There can be no favourable ROI if the undertaking consumes a vastly disproportionate amount of time and/or cost to arrive at a completed product – this imbalance can absolutely destroy any creative concept that simply doesn’t match effort with reward. Even when there are no financial implications and the pursuit is realistically only a hobby or pastime, extreme amounts of unrewarded effort surely do not meet most practical criteria for true personal reimbursement.

Finding the balance between art and commerce is always pertinent when discussing commercial artwork, illustration or graphic design. Determining the intrinsic relevance of purely artistic decisions within design projects is a key component of producing long-lasting quality work, and is also a helpful guide towards building genuine cooperative relationships between designer, client, and the needs of a consumer. Deceiving yourself with notions of artistic importance and neglecting solid design fundamentals is one thing – deceiving others via your own vanity or stubbornness is quite another!

Efficiency within the creative process, based on careful and considered planning and structuring, is the greatest influential component that a designer or illustrator can make to create a balanced ROI. Technical competency and conceptual skill will obviously ensure that the return or reward equation is more likely achievable, however it should also be noted that the shifting client goalposts often encountered within a project can easily scuttle even the most meticulous preparation from a conscientious individual.

Creative streams regularly produce unexpected communication difficulties and disagreements over visual elements – something widely accepted as an unfortunate evil that can only be suitably managed, rather than neatly eradicated. Possessing a realistic rationale and maintaining a professional overview should help to hasten processes and allow the attainment of a justifiable ROI.

Colour vision deficiency

Japanese ophthalmologist and Professor at the University of Tokyo, Shinobu Ishihara (1879-1963) developed his colour vision deficiency test, first published in 1917, to test for colour anomalies in human vision. His collection of 38 plates (known as pseudisochromatic plates) consist of arranged coloured spots, varying in size, colour saturation and brightness, within which are numbers or lines.

Visible to people with normal colour vision, the patterns are difficult to detect by those with ‘colour blindness’. Approximately 8% of Caucasian males suffer from the most common type of deficiency, which is an inability to differentiate between red and green hues. As this condition is linked to genes on the X chromosome it is much more common in men than women, as men have one X chromosome, compared to two in women. Less than 1% of women have the red-green deficiency.

Ishihara’s test determines whether an individual has colour perception difficulties, based on the lack of light absorbing pigments within the retina. These photoreceptors are known as cones and if their spectral sensitivity to short, medium or long light wavelengths is altered or lost, then it will cause a limitation in recognising hues accurately, particularly when discerning colours similar in saturation or brightness.

Colour recognition is an often neglected component of professional design (graphic, product, directional, informational) and should be considered as essential when forming concepts and structures that require clear definition and easy recognition, regardless of actual colour. Attention must be given to creating elements with high contrast, non-similar saturation, and variation of shape and form – something that will also aid definition and readability for people with normal colour perception too.

Various design resources are available online to assist this process, with one of the best being the free program Color Oracle, which simulates how a colour deficient viewer will perceive your work. This software can be easily applied to any available design, highlighting areas of concern and aiding the designer to produce results not solely reliant on correct colour perception.

Below are four of Ishihara’s 38 plates – can you read the numbers?