design Tag

I know, I know – there are a million and one posts about the ‘best portfolio sites’ or ‘slickest website designs for artists’ – but I come to you with my contribution on the topic: Not merely a list of Excellent Portfolio Sites (based on content or design), but also Associated Lessons You Can Learn From Them! Are you excited now?


1. Jesh de Rox –

(I know it’s flash but give it a chance!) This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful portfolio sites I’ve seen in a while, that I think quite exceptionally tells the story of Rox’s work (which is very much based on experiental photography and loving life).

Lesson: Design for your client – know who they are and what will appeal to them. Rox’s site is beautiful and exceptional because it does this (but it probably wouldn’t be as effective if he specialized in sports photography).

2. Erik Ryan Anderson –

Definite props for the simplicity here, I think, but also the variety of work and how it’s portrayed (the order of the scrolling images tell a story of their own). He’s also got a blog that’s worth checking out.

Lesson: Include personal work! What you spend your own time working on is a good reflection of what you’re passionate about. If people see this work, you’ll be more likely to get hired to what you love!


3. John Keatley –

I think one of my favourite things about this site is that the photos speak for themselves, but for each photo there is also a link to ‘Read more on the blog’. It’s not forcing people to read, but gives them the option to feel more involved and respond. It seems actually rather friendly.

Lesson: Keep it simple but show your visual style. Think about how the design and can best complement your images – sometimes it’s okay not to use words, let the work speak for itself!

That’s all for now, folks – stay tuned for (a possible) part II in the near future!

Otto Neurath’s contribution of the ISOTYPE (International System of Typographic Picture Education) system represents an important development in the area of communicative visual design. The success of this system demonstrates the necessity for a means of communication to cross linguistic, cultural, and other barriers – in this case, visual. While Neurath himself was not a graphic designer, much of his work revolved around the study of sociology, and his contribution of the ISOTYPE was a response to the idea that ‘visual methods–even the most careful charts and the most elaborate exhibits–are frequently confusing rather than enlightening, because their elements are unfamiliar’ (Neurath, Visual Education: A New Language).

I feel this thought is largely intriguing also in relation to the familiarity of photography.

To break it down further, the ISOTYPE system is a graphic language that was specifically designed to transcend the boundaries of cultural and language barriers. It is essentially a set of symbols that represent common concepts and send simple messages, which we see and decode near daily in the context of crosswalk signs, etc. It builds on a fundamental human understanding of reality and utilizes simplistic renderings of people completing various activities, where the symbols used are designed with qualities that make them universally understood.

So how does this translate to photography? Especially in light of the recent development of the digital camera, I would argue that the photograph has itself become a universally understood concept.

Because a large percentage of the population are familiar with the concept and process of photography, more specifically because they have personal experience with the medium , they are more likely to interject their own ideas of realism into a given piece of photo realistic visual communication, almost placing themselves within the scenario that the photo was taken. It’s almost as if photography has become its own language of subtly interactive visual communication, the implications of which could be limitless.

Granted, photography has been used as a means of visual communication for years, but if we understood its power as potentially universally understood conversation of sorts, how could we use it more effectively within the broader field of design and communication?

I think the big question is, how can we embrace digital processes within photography while also maintaining this fundamental connection between the viewer, the photograph, and understood reality?

As a photographer, I have a love-hate relationship with camera phones*.

On the one hand they are generally not stellar quality and are quite limiting when it comes to technical settings. On the other hand, my phone goes everywhere with me, which is more than can be said for my 4lb Canon DSLR. Likewise, with size comes intimidation – if I aim my phone at people they smile, but when I whip out my 5D Mark II, people tend to hide.

Personally, looking on my phone, all my photos were taken using various apps which simulate the look and feel of old school photographic post-processing methods. In other words, it took a lovely Springy afternoon and made it look like this:

Sure, it’s just another picture taken with a camera phone, but on another level entirely it represents a hugely interesting phenomenon – why are we choosing to use our new technology to recreate the feeling of the past?

It’s almost as if the tinted colours (in all their oversaturated glory) with added vignetting or sprockets somehow inspire the perception of an added feeling of authenticity. Or an extra layer of creativity. Somehow, they seem to make something taken with a crappy camera phone into something interesting.

Granted, a crappy photo is still a crappy photo, but if nothing else, these apps are inspiring people to look at the photos they’re taking in a new way. To use, yes, an ‘added layer of creativity’ to force them to frame what they see in an interesting way, to attempt to turn the content into something visually interesting.



Taken with Retro Camera Taken with Retro Camera


While Hipstamatic is perhaps one of the most popular for the iPhone, countless others are also abound and available on other platforms (personally, I am a fan of ‘Retro Camera’ for the Android). The beauty of many of these is that you can select both the lens and the film to manipulate your image with a seemingly endless combination of your choice.

I’m willing to wager a fairly decent percent of the users of the aforementioned apps wouldn’t have even known what an Instamatic or Holga or Diana was, and yet they are using some of the latest-and-greatest technology to recreate the look of these very old-school analog cameras.

If we are romanticizing the future through media, then what is this saying? That we love our technology, but we want it to do exactly the same thing as our beloved traditional processes… just faster and with less work?

It would appear that technology really is helping us manufacture nostalgia.

*It’s about 80% love, 20% hate.

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