Icon Essay

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Herbert Marshall McLuhan, born in Edmonton, Canada in 1911, was a professor of English, teaching at Saint Louis University and Assumption College (Ontario) until 1944 when he became a philosopher and teacher of communication theory in the 1950s. McLuhan’s reputation grew drastically over these years, being offered many a selection of jobs at various Universities in the United States. In 1963, as an attempt to keep him at the University of Toronto, the Centre of Culture and Technology was created, being made the head of department, where he began presenting the ‘Communication and Culture’ seminars, of which were funded by the Ford Foundation. From 1967, he spent the remainder of his life teaching here. McLuhan’s influences came from the New Criticism movement, the faculty of Trinity Hall College, Cambridge, with major influences arising from Hugh Kenner and Harold Innis, of whom he worked with at the University of Toronto.

McLuhan’s interests lied within structure, utility, function and experimentation within functional environments, displaying great enthusiasm in how technology drives different cultures and their ideas. The core theme running through his work looks upon how technology affects the forms and scale of social organisation and individual lives. He introduced many new ways of looking upon media theory, showing the world how technologies are enabling devices, which extend human ability, as well as predicting the World Wide Web 30 years before it’s creation. McLuhan’s work is considered one of the cornerstones of media theory, contributing largely in this area of work.

McLuhan is most notoriously known for his theory “The medium is the message”; this was one of his many McLuhanisms, as they began to be called. The theory was popularised upon the release of his book ‘The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects’ in 1967, becoming a bestseller.
McLuhan’s perspective was that a medium affects the society in which it acts within not by the content, or information, delivered over the medium, but instead by the features of the medium itself. McLuhan defined a medium (often being new technologies) as any extension of our bodies, minds, or being, though with an extension comes an amputation. For example, the wheel is an extension of the foot, though also amputating its use simultaneously, inhabilitating us from performing it’s original function of walking.
McLuhan forces us to re-analyse what we all know by “medium” and “message”, where “message” can be defined as “information” or “content”, though with this McLuhan believes that one of the most important elements of media is neglected, that their ability to alter the course and ability of human activities and relations. McLuhan appropriately redefines the “message” as any change in pattern, pace, or scale that a medium causes in cultures or societies. This is very evident, specifically in today’s day and age with computer technologies, looking upon the digital age children and the profound effects it’s had on the generation, for better and for worse. Using the Internet as an example, on one hand it’s used as an amazing tool, which is used to extend our knowledge vastly, allowing for an extensive array of things to be learnt that would otherwise be unknown to people. Though on the other hand, there is the largely unproductive, darker, side to the Internet. Here is where people can slip into a cycle of unproductivity, procrastination, and an escape from reality, where individuals often substitute organic human interaction for Internet use and cyber interactivity, using technology to socialise.
With McLuhan’s new definition, “content” becomes a mask for how media interact, working in couples, where one medium holds another (and another within that etc.). E.g. a book contains printed word, which contains writing, containing speech; the contained medium becomes the message for the containing one. There are however two exceptions to media working in doubles, the first being speech – speech contains thought, but the chain of media abruptly ends there as thought is a pure process, and non-verbal. The second single media is the electric light – this light source allows for people to perform activities hat would otherwise not be able in the dark. The activities themselves can be considered the “content” of the light, but the light itself contains no medium.



McLuhan’s second most known theory is that of the “Global Village”:

“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”
– The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962

This theory describes of an interconnection with everything, to an extent where it hypothetically shrinks the world into a village via electronic technologies, allowing for instantaneous movement of data and information from every corner of the globe. In McLuhan’s time, this theory was applied to the telephone, though the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s meant that McLuhan’s theory could once again be seen, and in a big way, this resulted in the revival of McLuhan. The Internet connects people all over the world at an instant, compressing the world where distances from one another feel much smaller, becoming a “global village”.
A sort of smoke signaling effect was apparent; this is amplified by all these broadcast technologies, interrelating the worldwide community.
This theory differs greatly from the extensions of man, which is a seemingly more intimate concept.

Another popular media theory (though not as well known as the previous theories mentioned) is his idea of “hot and “cold” media. In McLuhan’s eyes, all media is classified as “hot” or “cold”; referring to the various sensory effects connected with “high-definition” and “low-definition”, where he adopts the terminology used within television. Like the name would suggest, “high-definition” media are sharp and detailed images and audio, including photographs, movies, lectures, print, letters of the alphabet, and radio, otherwise known as “hot” media as these supply us with large amounts of information, leaving us with little to do as they do the talking, we simply listen.  Furthermore, “Low-definition”, or “cool”, media are forms that are ill defined; these include cartoons & sketches, television, telephone, and speech. With these media we are granted a rather small amount of information in comparison, making us have to investigate what is visible, then fill in the gaps so we can fully understand the media.
McLuhan puts forward the concept of our physical senses and perceptions being associated with media; “cool” media are high in participation where as “hot” media are low. When referring to participation McLuhan isn’t only talking about our intellectual involvement, but instead to how engaged our physical senses are with different mediums.


When creating my Icon book I went through six logical steps to develop it:
1. Look at current Icon books – this would gain me a basic understanding along the lines of what I have to produce, looking upon the style and structure that the books use, the content they hold, and the illustrations that demonstrate theories appropriately.
2. Look at contemporary examples of Icon books, or similar, that illustrates ideas and images in their own style, rather than following the in house design style of the Icon book series.
3. Roughly plan the content of my own Icon book – here I would choose my theorist, apply relevant biographical and historical context, look upon their core theories which I would illustrate accordingly, then choosing what and how I’d illustrate the imagistic qualities of the Icon book.
4. Planning the textual content of the Icon book – for this I used Microsoft Word, this would allow for easy application of text into Adobe InDesign when the designing process began.
5. Reading through the text I’d use, gaining ideas of what kind of images I’d use to represent my theorist and their theories, then actually creating them using photo manipulation techniques.
6. Finalising the Icon book treatment – here I would plan where the images and text would sit within the final document, treating the typography, image size and location, finally exporting the document.


The front page of my Icon book shows Marshall McLuhan’s portrait within an old television screen, abstracted by heavy white noise and television distortion, as well as the SMPTE colour bars test screen which would appear in a previous generation of television broadcasting. This is all a play on the general occupation of McLuhan, being a media theorist, as well as his theory of “The Medium is the Message”, where in this case McLuhan is the message. McLuhan’s name as the title is textured with television noise also, to further the media aspect of his work.

The second and third pages focus on his core theory “The medium is the message”. The second page playfully illustrates McLuhan’s idea of the extensions of man. I display these extensions in a witty literal sense, also displaying how we focus those particular sense and activities toward those mediums. The wheel is an extension of the foot, the computer is an extension to the central nervous system, and the radio is an extension of our ears, where I’ve utilised a portrait of McLuhan in his younger years. The textual image occupying the majority of the third page is another portrait of McLuhan, created using the words “THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE”. I chose to do this to play on the idea of content, mediums within mediums, and so on, by repeating the quote over and over. The cyclist simply illustrates the idea of amputations while an extension is in use; here the cyclist’s legs are occupied by the moving of the bike pedals. To clearly demonstrate this concept I reduced the opacity of the cyclist’s legs so you are able to see straight through them, then adding a stroked red line along the edges of his legs to illustrate them being amputated, or in use, therefore losing the ability to use them for any other function.

Page 4 moves onto the theory of the “Global Village”, the image shows Indians waving a fire emanating from the logo of the Internet browser Firefox that is producing the smoky words “GLOBAL VILLAGE”, with an Earth made from human figures in the background. This is referring to the smoke signaling (being the first form of contact at distances by the Indians) effect that broadcast technologies have, but I use it in a more contemporary context, doing so with the Internet. I use the Firefox logo for the evident reason that it is made of fire, but also that it encircles the Earth in its grasp. The smoke produced from this fire creates the name of the theories’ title.

The final page quite clearly shows the “hot” and “cold” media theory. The name of the theory instantly brings to mind the feelings of hot and cold senses, the result of this brought me to simply showing various hot/high-definition and cool/low-definition media on fire and frozen. The final two images situated at the bottom of the page illustrate high and low definition media, shown by the simple means of a photograph, and a cartoonised sketch of the same photo.


Icon Book

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

My Icon book I’ve created for Marshall McLuhan

Click this hyperlink (or any of the below images) to view the PDF version

McLuhan Icon Book McLuhan Icon Book2

McLuhan Icon Book3

McLuhan Icon Book4 McLuhan Icon Book5

Expressive Visualisations

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Expressive visualisations of my two theorists / practitioners

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Mind Maps

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Mind maps for Marshall McLuhan and William Morris

Click the mindmaps to expand them

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Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 17.41.42

Brief: Project Management + Seminar Notes

February 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Today we were assigned a new brief by Pete, this project focuses on project management, testing our knowledge on what we’ve learnt in his previous business lectures. We have been given two options to choose from, both of which require a project management file, showing a clear planning or resources, financial structures, and time management.

Hand in for project is the 26th March, submitting it in person at the usually lecture location [Canal Side East lecture hall], I can hand it in early, but the latest possible time is 4pm on that day (supposed to hand it in during lecture).

These are the notes I acquired from the lecture:

– Aim of assessment is to gain a better understanding of project management – all about planning.
– All justification based – rational answers, ask ‘why?’
– Must be bound in folder
– Must supply a digital copy also (to be put on a memory stick which will be passed round)

For both of these options I want to firstly get the aspect of time out of the way, then look upon  resources and finances

There’s no real word count, just required to create a detailed report

Option A / Business:

Resources – computer, programmes, desk, room (location), supplies, will my current resources (such as macbook) be enough, or will I need to upgrade? Need to discuss the costing of all of this.
– How will I initially afford all of this?
– Realistically how much work will I receive?
– What are the good/bad/ugly situations (gaining work instantly vs. no work for 6 months)?
– How many hours will I be working per week?
– When and where?
– Must plan for contingencies (saving 10% of budget for emergencies)
– Networking: talking to other businesses, establish relations, gain the benefits of networking, external input
– Must plan all cash flow
– (small business) loans
– external income e.g. part time jobs
– generation of revenue and profit
– need to understand all issues that need planning for
– Develop my unique selling point (USP)
– understand what I’m good at/strengths
– why should people come to you?
– SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
– real world problems I could run into
– What’s the competition like in my local area?
– what can I offer/do to better them?
– How will I promote myself?
– portfolio; showing people, online portfolio
– networking
– Time
– how long will it take to gather all the elements for the business?
– business cards, portfolio, speaking to people etc.
– Can create a simple list of dates & actions or a graphical plan
– *action* > *comment*, *problem* > *action* > *comment*
– timeline to initially see what I’m doing
– ALL of this must have justification
– and all in a logical format
– Cover everything up until business opens at my decided date


Option B / Gap Year:

This option is considered the more difficult one, as it requires more tedious planning.

– Where?
– A to B to C etc.
– When?
– Passport & visas: do I need to get these?
– how will I obtain these?
– how long will it take? time lag
– where?
– prices?
– how long will it last?
– Funding
– travel
– jetlag
– accommodation
– MUST be realistic (as if I were really doing this)
– Can’t realistically travel to a different country everyday
– Locations of choice
– what are the implications of that destination?
– policies, rules, regulations, laws, politics e.g. calm & relaxed country such as Italy, or Egypt, where there’s lots                  of turmoil
– Insurances
– travel insurance
– item insurance (for valuables)
– Planning of:
– transportation
– journeys
– flights, airport travel > from airport to hotel + other locations of importance
– buses / trains / public transport
– Money
– required amount for stay in different countries
– overall cost
– cost of food, travel, spending money, emergency money etc.
– different currencies
– carrying money
– keeping money safe
– support/backup plan?
– Risks
– How do I fit things in?
– people
– places
– jobs
– money
– times
– events
– Leeway
– parties / festivals : how to fit it in (justify + implications) (maybe not relevant to gap year?)

The project doesn’t require the execution of the plan, just needs the plan itself – assume what’s going to happen (not dealing with it hands on)

The suggested format of the project is to begin with an introduction, then plan, explanation, resources, and finally finances. This will show I have an understanding of project management issues.


Seminar Notes:

For the introduction of the project I discuss the question that I’ve answered, then the intent of the plan is to ‘…’. ‘I’ve chosen this option, I plan on doing this type of gap year…’

Use a graphical method to display the finance (sheet) layout

Finances – Income, how to pay, how I’m meeting my goals
– What must I do?
– Resources needed, where are they coming from?
– Job
– Interferences e.g. visa’s time to obtain
– process (going places like the bank, embassy etc.)
– what are these things?
– what do I have to do?
– Where am I going to be?
– Accomodation
– Costs

What I’m doing + Where I start = fundamental

Mind map of stuff I need to do
sequence stuff – to meet a deadline (deadline for this being going abroad)
– Times (working backwards)
– Things that can be done together

Take out weekends / bank holidays / graduation / holiday / birthdays / festivals / family
Stick all of ^^these^^ days in > this is what planning is about
– Logical structure + things that will/can go wrong

How will I take my money? How do I protect it and myself?

Go over my plan several times (3/4?) to get a solid plan and understanding of it.
Get the sequence right, then justify it – money, resources etc.

Explain what I’m doing in a gap year,and how I intend to tackle it:
– am I packing on the go (buying en route)? Heavy? Light? – bag size. Am I bringing clothes to dump later to pick up souvenirs and new clothes? Electronics (?): laptop/tablet (?), phone(s), camera (multiple storage discs?)
– voluntary work?

Resource based issues that could occur + how to tackle this
– when/if bringing electronics such as camera, laptop etc. then these things need to be looked after, and monitored, as in if I were staying in a hostel then I’d need to look after it, maybe purchase a locker, have an individual room (this goes against sharing and meeting new people though) vs. dormitory? Security issues.
– uploading images to cloud/dropbox etc. to keep data up to date on not just my person, then if I lose my camera/break storage, then I’ve got it backed up
– understand the problems before I go, so I’m ready for them

Medications & vaccinations:
– What do I need?
– How long do I wait to get them?
^^all of this goes in plan^^

Who / What / When / Where / Why / How

Ask myself ‘What if?’ > for the plan/journey.

Have a plan B also, e.g. volunteer, work, work on farm? What if I don’t get a job/volunteer work I wanted?

Look and think about the wrinkles and creases in my plan and journey

Pete just wants to see a project management plan, not a business plan.


Peter Norris – The Client and You

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment


Design > Ability related to the job
Health of relationship between you and the client

Commissioning manager
Reason for work > Market/Finance/Management
Corporate ethics

The longer the project the more likelihood that it will get cancelled, e.g 3 months.
Keep a strong record of cost and time spent, will get projects that get cancelled and you need to make sure they pay you for what you have done which is why it’s important to keep costings.

Place in Economy – Micro & Macro issues
Government attitude – Help or Hindrance? Regulations?
Financial strength of firm
True market standing
Intent of project – Link to other aspects?
Attitude/ethics of management & company

Capability of firm
Capability of designer(s)
Risk understanding
Project management abilities
Financial strength
Ethics and attitude
Other work

Design Phase – You/others?
Execution phase – Others? If so, who? How long? Their work load? Priorities?
Implementation Phase
This infers CONTRACTS

When talking to people who may want to take you on you have to show confidence in what you do so they have confidence in you.
Be yourself, dress yourself, be comfortable/smart and you’ll be relaxed and it’ll show in the interview.

Tracy Lannon / The Creative Brain

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Talking about work placements, doing research to find what is available out there, I want to do something that genuinely interests me. The dynamicity of graphic design is big, there’s a whole world of design out there, with many career paths to take other than free lance work. I don’t wish to pursue a freelance career, so it will be refreshing to hear about other options. I can concentrate my work somewhere by possibly taking an MA after my degree, if I want to do that.
Tracy’s PHD – in design can introduce us to learning and educational programs, interface design, design for interaction gaming and play.
The physical structure of the brain
Neuro-Plasticity; Sensory Brain Maps Localisation / plastic / changeable / evolving / re-wiring
Our understanding of cognition (thinking, perception, understanding etc.) is that it physically changes in response to learning; continuously practicing a new skill strengthens the connections within the brain. Over time, without practice anything new, our mental skill will deteriorate, this is why it’s so important to be constantly learning. If we don’t practice our mental skill, becoming creatures of habit, the mapped areas in our brain changes it’s function; for example, if we were to lose our sight in one eye, the neurons would then move to the sensitivity in the shoulder, putting them to use elsewhere. By mentally training, it increases our brain’s capacity, replicates, and extends neurons, helping them increase in size, branching out. Constantly stimulating our brain with new education allows for the development of new branches and neural pathways, allowing for more knowledge to be stored; the older one becomes, the slower the process becomes, however.
Michael Merzenich
  • Learning to learn
  • Brain training : restructuring brain anatomy
  • Practicing new skills
  • Lasting plastic change
  • Increased brain capacity

“We’re natural born cyborgs” – Andy Clark We adapt, especially when we’re young.

With these points stated, one needs to be open minded, experience and learn as much as possible to allow our brains to be freed up.
Paul Bach-y-Rita
  • Sensory devices for brain rehabilitation
  • Brain rewiring
  • Late recovery
  • Alternative
  • Neural pathways
  • New functions

Bach-y-Rita’s father had a stroke; he was taught, by his son, how to properly live again, with constant training from his sons.

We see with our brains, not our eyes. The brain reorganises itself using a brain-machine interface.
Bach-y-Rita developed a chair, where the back was made of moving pins, which would press the shape of an object into the back, the person then recognising the object in question. This has also been created as a miniature version for the tongue, which is far more sensitive to touch; this allows for a revival of vision in the brain for people, but through an alternative sense. This is called a ‘Brain Port’
Hubel & Weisel

  • Micromapping
  • Visual cortex (by environment)
  • Shaped by experience
  • Rewiring visual information


  • Constraint induced therapy
  • Learned non-use
  • Long term neglect
  • New learning
  • Intensive training

These guys performed experiments that would be heavily frowned upon in today’s society; they would sew the eyes of kittens together, finding out how they’d react; these experiments were all about the rewiring of visual information.

Another patient we looked at had lost all the nerves within one arm; going to an intensive therapy programme where she would be forced to use her unable arm, whilst having her fully able one strapped behind her back, the result of this allowed for her to retrain the brain to use this arm:

The brain doesn’t see, the eyes send the information which is why we can retrain people to see again, through other means.


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