Paint the Pavement Branding System

Process documentation for Paint the Pavement (a.ka. Designing for Complex Communication Systems), project one of Communication Design III Studio

First day of Class (8/30)

Today’s class was different from usual. The first part of class was a short design sprint to draw a letter ‘C’ drop cap letter that was supposed to communicate the meaning of the children’s book The Hungry Caterpillar. In the second part of class, we came together as a class and brainstormed things that make up a healthy community. We wrote words on the whiteboard like ‘parks,’ ‘safety,’ and ‘schools.’ We covered the whiteboard with words until we had too many. We then narrowed them down until there were two words for each student. We took turns picking our two words. Our first assignment was to make icons that would represent the words, 50 sketches for each. We would then pick our best three for each to present at the next class.

I had Gardens (top) and Water (bottom).

Second Day of Class (9/1)

We put up all our icons on the whiteboard for critique. We put post-its on ones that were confusing, then ones that were scary, then ones that used shapes that were too complicated. We then split up into groups to further workshop the icons.

Workshopping my icons

The class began to think about making our icons look more similar so that they could work in a system of icons. We pinned up our refined icons, and narrowed them down until there was one per person (around 25 in the class). We were then assigned someone else’s icon to refine. Kristin, our professor, still won’t tell us what the project is going to be. I’ll be working on the ‘dog’ icon this weekend.

Refining Another Icon (9/5)

Over the weekend, I refined the ‘dog’ icon. I first made 50 sketches to iterate as widely as possible and make small changes.

I took my favorites from here and made further changes.

I pinned up this one for our student-led unofficial crit.

During the unofficial class crit, we critiqued the communication strength of individual icons (how they viewed at a distance, efficiency of form), but also how they fit together. We decided on line weight and other ways to standardize the set.

After the crit, I moved from paper to the computer and made my icon in illustrator, with 2 slightly different versions to show in class the next day.

During the crit, the feedback that I got on my icon was because the paw print was an impression and the bone was a physical thing you could hold, it was hard to believe that they could live together in the same space. Kristin said that “the computer killed you.” She elaborated that they didn’t have enough shapes in common, and that I should reference a more true to life dog print rather than a cartoon one. Perhaps I’ll have to move away from these and move toward a dog or a more general pets icon.

During this class/crit, we finally recieved the prompt — the icons we’ve created will live as a set that we will incorporate into an identity system for a program called Paint the Pavement. Paint the Pavement is a nationwide program that chooses one city every year. Within the city different communities can get together to paint the pavement of an intersection in order to make a community space, decrease traffic violence, and to be generally uplifting. Our job will be to brand the intitiative for Pittsburgh in order to spread the word and make people want to bring the program to their respective community.

Group Meeting, Paint the Pavement Wordmark + Icon Refinement (9/7)

The anchor of most branding systems is a wordmark. I began sketching out different word marks, which are supposed to be strong and not illustrative.

Along with the prompt (which included the wordmark), we recieved a long packet from the city of Pittsburgh that outlines every step of the Paint the Pavement process. All of the information is important, but it’s not organized in a people friendly way. In order to be able to understand what we need to do for our individual project, we first got into groups of 4 make sense of the packet and use LATCH (Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, and Hierarchy) to organize the information. Our brainstorm session helped us translate all of the information into a process that people could understand.

I pinned up these for the critique.

The feedback was that the first one with unreadable, and the other two were missing some artistic element. They also didn’t encapsulate the fun community spirit of the program. Back to the drawing board! I started brainstorming during class.

I started with a word list and went from there.

I think that the paint brush painting the road might have some potential, but at the same time, it might be too literal.

Getting Messy with the Wordmark

I bought some paint brushes and paint and let myself really explore.

I found one that I thought I liked, and followed it to see where it would go.

I continued sketching until I ran into something I liked.

Then I transitioned to Illustrator. I considered carving out my wordmark from an existing font, but it proved to be easier to make the shapes myself. In addition, making the the wordmark out of simple geometric shapes would work better with the icons that I’ll have to use.

In addition to the word mark, I started thinking about how I might organize the application packet. I wanted to go with the idea that my group got during our whiteboard brainstorming session — framing everything in simple questions. I whipped together a dummy book so that I could start working through hierarchy and organization.

While surfing the web looking at campaigns and community organizations and everything in between, I found a report by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about traffic violence. I liked how they started their report, and I’d like to build my story around this.

Every year, more than 200 people are hit crossing a street in Pittsburgh. We’ve spent millions on traffic lights, new sidewalks, and bright crosswalks. So why is this still happening?

Paint the Pavement has been proven to decrease traffic violence. I could work the above quote into my hook, and then pivot to a hopeful message and outcome, like “Let’s Change this Together.”

I also finished up the icon I’ve been working on — I switched a paw and bone to a dog profile.

Working on the Wordmark (9/13)

During the pin-up during class, I noticed that my wordmark didn’t have as much presence as the others. I’m going to try making it bolder. It’s also missing a little bit of presence and energy. Maybe color will help with that later on.

Considering the Whole System (9/16)

With the wordmark and icons coming along, it’s time to consider the whole branding system — from grids, to color, to visual elements. I set out to do this by asembling all of my ideas onto a big piece of poster board, so it’s out of my head and on the page.

Thoughts and explorations
Brainstorming around the handout for kids and the brochure for parents

I then assembled all these ideas onto a big board.

After meeting with Kristin, I found a more specific direction — my system would be a call to action, about creating safe roads for the walk to school. I would have the school do all the logistical, application related things, and then raise awareness through the PTA, with a take home activity where parents and kids would make a picture that describes what they think a safe walk to school looks like. At some point, there could even be a school wide contest! Parents will do anything to ensure their children’s safety, so I have a captive audience. This is not as much about fun, and good times painting the pavement, but getting together to make sure kids have safe roads to walk to school on. I went back to my components with this new direction in mind.

My word mark, color ideas, type, inspiration, grid explorations, and possible take home handout for kids and parents (which makes use of the icons from earlier)
Possible type treatments and a paper dummy for a parent brochure
Handout for kids and wordmark + color
Pin up for critique!

People were receptive to my concept and liked its strong focus on traffic violence. My job this weekend is to continue to flesh things out, especially the deliverables like brochures.

The Application Packets and the Whole System (9/20)

Because the application packet is going to be part of our deliverable, I went back to the work that my group of 4 had done to decipher it. Although we were able to break it down into some clearer groups, I still felt there was room for a better information architecture.

I started out at my desk with, working off of what my group had done.

I then moved to the floor, marking up the existing application text and conceptualizing how the new one might be organized.

I then cut up the application text and rearranged it the way I thought it should be.

I then decided that the packet would be delivered through a large fold-out poster — so that the principle could put it up on the wall in a conference room or in his or her office and everyone could gather round. In addition, its presence on the wall would be a constant reminder of the project.

I taped together the poster and was able to fold it in and out!

…and on the wall (post-critique)

I’d like the poster to live in a folder with a hand-written letter to the principal.

In addition, I updated my style guide.

I might want to add a neutral into my color palette

After discussing my idea with Kristin, I have a couple options. I could go with the poster and make distinctions between content (not all the application text should be dumped onto a poster), or I could scale down. I feel like grappling with the properties and size of the poster could detract from the other things I should be learning through this project. I also need to go back to the Purpose, Goals, and Objectives of the packet and make sure those align with my own message.

In addition, I need to think about my grid. Either I find a grid that fits conceptually with message, or use something more traditional and functional. And I can’t forgot the actual application form aside from the packet — what they mail in. How will that live in my system? I have a lot of questions to answer.

Class Work Session (9/20)

Moving away from the poster, I began to think about a box that could contain the application packet. That would allow for pockets and other things to be contained as one, to separate all the information.

A fold out box looks a lot like an intersection. I’m going to see where this goes.

In order to know which deliverables I need and what variations will have to be between them, I have to know who’s involved. I sketched another diagram to think it through.

Although I’m being pulled in many directions because of the complexity of the system, I can see things coming together.

Sticking With It (9/22)

Over the past two days, I’ve continued to mold and shape the application packet content into a booklet.

Looking at the poster I had mocked up helped me see all the information at once. It helped me see redundancies and the different major groups of information. I don’t think all of the information should belong in the packet, so I have two groups now — “in the packet” and “out of the packet.” Anything out of the library will be attached to the box/container that the packet will come in.

After setting up a grid in inDesign, I thought about visual elements, like using colored shapes in for each section instead of a traditional table of contents with page numbers.

I then made a quick mockup of the box/container to see what that would look like.

Prototyping the box

The information that I’ve moved from the packet to the box is information that they need either to stay on track (timeline/process overview) or to stay inspired (goals/mission). They put the unfolded box on the wall of their office to remind them about the project everyday. It’s more accessible and collaborative.

Now that I’ve made some headway with the form, I need to get back into the visual elements. Lots of work for this weekend!

Now that I’ve zoomed into one part of the process, I need to bring myself back out. I also need to sharpen my message because I think I’m losing touch with it a bit. In addition, I need to tie it back to the original brief more effectively.

Going back over the project goals, objectives, and purpose, it seems that I am not emphasizing the art and paint aspect enough. I need to work on communicating that.

For Tuesday:

Black and white, to scale, application package. Really focus on typography and the grid system.

I’m going to look at a lot of work that already exists like Philippe Apeloig, lots of layouts of complex information design to get inspired.

Bringing the Application Package Together (9/22)

In my last post post, I was a bit stuck when it came to visual elements. I was able to work out some of these issues and came to the critique with a mockup of the whole package, even if all the components weren’t 100% fleshed out.

To begin this phase of the project, I went to the library and found some nice looking magazine that had a lot of content to organize. I overlayed tracing paper and investigated the structure of the pages. I noticed transitions between 3 column to 4 column to 6 column, among other things. I also looked at the horizontal grids, because these are important in helping navigate the user from one page to the other.

I then got back into inDesign to refine my grid. In addition to thinking about my horizontals, I thought about visual elements. I put in a sketch in a children’s books illustration style to see what that would look like.

While playing with the grid, I realized that my type wasn’t working. There’s something about Brandon Grotesque as a header that just isn’t versatile enough for my needs. In addition, I realized a sans serif might look cleaner, especially with this much copy.

I liked the feel that the hand drawn illustrations gave the packet — some of the quick feedback that I got was that it made the process, and all this information, seem a little less overwhelming. I continued to play with type, grid, and illustration.

I took out my supplies and began to iterate on some illustrations, drawing some that would directly correspond to things mentioned in the packet.

I moved on to the next phase, using a brush tip pen to better capture the Paint the Pavement vibe.

I then brought all of these things together to form the application packet

My intent is to have the recipient of the packet put it up on the wall so that they have easy access to the information (including application forms) and it can continue to inspire them.

During the critique, we discussed the importance of guiding an applicant through the piece, and making sure that the whole thing holds together and holds their interest.

Kristin wanted us to think about

  • Dominant flow line
  • Entry point and journey
  • What holds the piece together (image? quotes? subheadings? “visual anchors”)

We also got a chance to test our packets in groups of 4. Members of the group would think aloud their interaction with the piece, giving honest thoughts about what they think each part is doing. We made sure to give our thoughts as if we were applicants, to reveal navigation and communication issues, and then afterwards as designers to critique things like figure ground and line spacing.

Things my classmates thought I could improve on

  • Sequence of how applicant navigates the whole package.
  • Easing them in with an explantation of what’s going on instead of hitting them with too much information
  • Harmony between illustration and text
  • Can the illustartion interact with text to further help guide? (i.e. drawing on top of text, underlines, arrows)
  • Resolving white space issue
  • Text doesn’t have enough weights, hard to know where to go

Additional concerns

  • Illustration: Who are the characters and what roles do they play in the narrative
  • Color!!!
  • Indicating that the package can be pinned up on the wall
  • Rest of the system — art class activity, handout of drawing intersection for kids and parents (the icons!)
  • Pocket for forms
  • Re-doing word mark
  • Possible use of a calendar
  • Inclusion of encroachment permit application form

Diving into Typography

At this point in the process, I realized that my typographic system wasn’t as strong as it could be.

The beginnings of my typographic system

I knew that stronger typography would make the page come alive, structure the user’s journey, and integrate the illustrations. So I did some type studies to better understand what was to be done. I combed through magazine like Communication Arts and replicated their type systems.

These studies had an immediate impact on my spreads.

I began to add more hierarchy and more contrast to the page. I began a process of trial and error and showing my peers, on the quest for the right layout.

Should the bold type bleed onto the other page? How will I fit my illustrations in?
How can tabbing in content help clarity? Where will the application forms fit in?

Although I was headed in the right direction, there were a lot of typographic issues to work out before I could even get to illustration and color.

Selection of spreads with notes from Kristin
Selection of spreads with notes from Kristin

Summary of feedback from Kristin

  • Copy is clunky and repetitive (who wants to read the words “a recent report”?)
  • Awkward placing of text boxes
  • Margins and other structural elements aren’t consistent across spreads

I began to mock in my illustrations to get a better sense of the whole piece.

I realized that using Univers bold as my header was sucking the life out of what was supposed to be a fun piece. I looked for other options, considering Futura, Meta, and Museo. I went on the hunt for a humanist sans serif, something that would look clean and modern but would fit in with the loose style of my illustrations. I settled on FreightText and FreightSans, the fonts that this very website uses. I also put in some illustrations and photos.

After diving deep into typography, it was time to broaden my scope and look at my system. Kristin wanted us remember that our deliverables didn’t exist in a vacuum — we had to consider how they would reach our intended audience and what they would do with them. I conducted a visual brainstorm of my system.

I considered making one of my deliverables an art class activity for elementary school children. I drew the icons from earlier in the project to match my illustration system.

However, I stopped exploring the idea because I didn’t think the template would be too exciting for children. I decided instead to make poster driven that would double as a handout to be colored in.

Now that I had made progress on this part of the system, I went back to my application packet, drawing all the illustrations I would need.

I finally went back and updated my wordmark.

Going back to my poster, the type and the illustration weren’t fitting together — they seemed to belong to completely different worlds. I decided to get rid of the type and replace it with handwriting, and push the information onto a postcard instead.

Now that I had my typography and illustrations in place, I was ready for color. My spreads came together as a formal document with a children’s book feel.

There were a couple of other things that I needed — postcards to round out my system.

Drafts of the personal letter to the principal
Program goals
Postcard for kids to take home to their parents