Design 4

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For our first project we will explore the creation of pictographs based on our own faces.

Our goal is to create a system of symbols that are easy to understand, in a style and format that is consistent.

When making pictographs, we should be looking for symbols that capture the bare essence of an object, idea, or process. The symbol needs to clearly and simply communicate the information to the viewer. For our project we will first create a a pictograph of our face with a neutral emotion, then using this as a template we will explore expressing six different emotions, each in their own pictograph.  Surprise, Fear, Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger.

As we approach this project consider the following:

  • Analyze and utilize only the essential facts about the concept or object being turned into a graphic. In this case facial elements and the attributes of emotional states.
  • Design should be uniform throughout the graphic.
  • Symbols should be visually simplified.

Personal Pictograph by Ashley Lathon Kimbrough

Design by Ashley Kimbrough

Assignment Notes

Create a pictograph of your head and face. Then explore ways to express six emotions in a set of pictographs.

Take a digital photograph of your face and using drawing, begin to simplify your facial features to the basic elements.

Size: 3×3″

Use a grid of thirds to organize your pictograph.

Color: Black and White (C=0 M=0 Y=0 K=100)

Materials and Tools: Camera, Scanner, Paper, Pencil and Black Pen, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

Photograph of your self

Photoshop. Make it a black and white image and square.

Using the contrast tools break down your facial features to more simple areas of dark and light. Play with filters, and image adjustment tools.  Try to find multiple ways to break down the elements of your face so you can arrive at a visual vocabulary that you can then begin to refine and apply to your designs.

Once you have done this print out a copy of the black and white version of your face onto white paper. Sketching over this print out with pencil and tracing paper, look for more ways that you can simplify your face to a more iconic representation of you. Often times working on paper helps to loosen up our visual language and helps us to discover new types of marks and approaches to the design.

By Sally Baek.

Transfer this new traced and simplified image to a new white piece of paper. You can do this by creating transfer paper (take a blank piece of paper, fill in one side of the paper with the graphite marks of a soft pencil until the sheet is completely covered in graphite. Place this transfer paper graphite side down on top of your new white paper which will receive the transferred drawing. Then place your newly traced image on top of these two pages. Tape this in place on one side so the three sheets of paper do not, but so that you can flip the pages back to check on your progress.
Now using a hard pencil or ball point pen, draw over the traced image lines; pressing firmly so that the transfer paper transfers the graphite onto your white blank paper on the bottom. When you are down you will have traced your new image onto the white paper.
Discard the top two pages, and using an eraser and soft pencil lightly make any adjustments to your new pictograph. When you are satisfied use black ink to line and fill in all the areas of dark and light.
Create six additional versions of your pictograph expressing the emotions of joy, surprise, anger, disgust, sadness, and fear simply by changing some of the elements of your pictographic face.
Scan these this into the computer and bring the original digital photograph, your hand drawn pictographs and the digital scan of that pictograph to our next class.

We will review the designs in class, and make revisions resulting in a final set of seven pictographs one neutral and six expressing emotions.

Use Adobe Illustrator to create your final pictographs.

Create a new file.
Your file should be 3 x 3″ artboard, CMYK color setting.

Under the preferences menu select Guides & Grid and set up a grid of thirds with 1 column per inch subdivided by 24.

On the view menu select: Show Grid and Snap To Grid

Your artboard should look like this.

Place the pictographs into the illustrator files, use Live Trace and/or the Pen Tool to revise and refine the design so that all of the elements are vector graphics in Illustrator.

If there are shapes that overlap, Merge them, if there are multiple shapes throughout the design Group them.
Save each file as an SVG file, AND save each file again for the web as a jpeg or gif file.
Post these latter files to your blog, along with all sketches and preliminary designs, photos, etc to your blog.

Submit all your final files, and your blog post documenting all your work.

Selected Student Examples

By Sally Baek

By Andres Iga

By Kelsey Conophy

By Grecia Malave


By Cina Rosen


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Welcome to the Design 4 Blog

This blog is for inspiration and education related to the Parsons Design 4 Information Design and Visualization course taught by Andrew Robinson. The objectives of this class are to help students in the Strategic Design Studies program to learn how to create effective information design as a tool for communication. Beauty in form and function, which communicates ideas effectively, is our goal.
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