Isla Pedrana

Master of Design (Interdisciplinary)

My name is Isla Pedrana. I am a graphic designer who has spent her career to date in corporate design  / in-house design roles with various projects in between. I am also a graphic artist who loves experimenting with materials, texture and typographic treatments, I do this always from the starting point of an impression of a place or person.


Design Fragments

Design Journalism / Design Fragments

whisper : a design journalism proposal

Reflections on Fall/Spring

Looking back on the two semesters so far, in order to do the Interim Thesis Presentation, I had a moment of realisation that my work is based on visceral impressions of the city and its peoples, and that it was therefore fitting that it should have a fragmentary aspect to it. This is how a city works: impressions, cultural overlaps, creative overlaps, fragments. It is fitting then that the design provocations I want to produce should be fragmentary also.

Street Photography

Credit: Joseph Sternfeld ‘ Landscape as Longing’
Credit: Robert Frank ‘Snapshot Aesthetic’

Street Photography

This has been quite an influence on me recently. Chatting with Romane Baldou has reminded me that photography is a medium that lends itself to capturing fleeting impressions, overlaps, moments in time. I used to do a fair bit of urban photography but at the time I didn’t know how to progress it beyond the urban gritty / industrial imagery that sometimes becomes the specialism’s default. I don’t know that I know better how to achieve something more subtle but I know now that there is a way out there, I just need to work on my skills through practice on the streets and reflect on what I capture each time.

Summer Thoughts

I plan to seek out those other designers tuned into the rhythms of their environment, aided by my design journalism proposal ‘whisper’. I aim to have these stories gathered and distilled over the summer so that I can then produce a range of provocative design fragments that will then provoke others to look at their city afresh, to encourage a different, more subtle form of creative response to their city. When I say subtle I don’t mean quiet as the word ‘whisper’ might suggest, I mean simply a creative response more attuned to the rhythms of the city – it could be gorgeously vibrant graphic design or textured black and white photography or anything in between. We will reflect as we go along whether ‘whisper’ is the right word but, for now, let’s stay with it.

Practice based research is one way that I will record and reflect on my own reaction to the city that I am in at a given moment, and this will feed into my own journalistic drive to seek other designers and other creative / environmental rhythms.

My aim is to create alternative narratives of a city, based on my own observations and reflections on others’. Where their own existing work or their graphic design responses to my probes comes into this is yet to be determined. I suspect it will form its own path once I get cracking at a new set of interviews (in the works).

It is dawning on me that exploring what contributes to independent cultures in one location will be dependent on how graphic designers in turn respond to this. Each of them will have their own sense of themselves, their environment, their local culture. This the space I will be working in, and their versions will be different to mine.

So it will be about what makes up their sense of themselves in that place, how this feeds into or is visible in their work, and perhaps comparing a range of these perspectives.

A final note to methods of capturing the city. I will use urban poetry and photography to record and gather, and together with interviews, distill all of this into design fragments as described above. I had thought that I might collaborate with a film maker to explore another way of recording interviews /and the city itself. If I do this for the interviews I may separately record the city itself as the former will be an objective recording of the interview, while the latter is a more subjective capturing of the city…to be decided…


visualising other voices

After our Design Walk (explain), I took the pictures I’d taken on the day and collaged these together with handwritten quotes from the first interview. The aim was to convey a flavour of the walk, the landscape, that it had been raining, how I got there.

I took a photo of the map at Scott Street, printed it and used that as a backing page for a pen drawing of the spot on the Fraser River where we’d chatted.

This is Sahil himself, and this picture sums him up: a warm and friendly person! I wanted to feature a picture of the designer himself and then overlay quotes in a photocopied, analogue way to avoid the A4 page, and traiditional Adone software – for now at least.

Before I started this course I had been experimenting with my version of neon writing – using el wire to replicate its effect at a smaller scale. I love the strangeness and loneliness that neon writing conveys – for me it captures the oddness and giddiness of coming to a new city. One of my works is below ‘giddy’. My aim is to ask Sahil to handwrite one of his quotes from the interview which I will then render in this neon-esque style. My aim is to play on the individual in the midst of a neon city, neon being one of the key typographical languages in many cities, but especially Vancouver.

Interview 2: Catherine Falk

This interview was carried out over the phone, it was a getting to know you conversation and should be followed up by a Design Walk.

Interview 3: Sarah Hay

This is my third interview and will be a stand alone as opposed to the two stage process. I’d anticipate in future that I would interview certain people a few times, to build more of a narrative.

Reflections so far

  • What is the connection between a person having a sense of place and this showing in their design output?
  • Can someone tell this or is this better seen by outside observers…so is gauging this better done by viewing their work ?
  • How would I gauge this? Do I have a sense of Vancouver? Not yet…so how would I tell this?
  • I think I can sense a different vibe in French graphic design but Vancouver specific is much harder for me to tell, so how do I recognise this in someone elses’s work? If I saw a range of independent design work fromVancouver designers would I sense a common theme?
  • I have the idea that great independent design is like fresh fruit sourcing. You have to get to know locals, find out the spots. What if is just as simple as asking lots of designers for local recommendations from their own backyard? Is it a matter of gauging if their work is influenced by sense of place? And then working out how to promote this wider?
  • Is what I am doing a form of Design Enthnography?

Sarah Hay

Walking along beside False Creek, a stunningly beautiful day with the grounded, calm, designer extraordinaire Sarah Hay. She was so clear in her values of mindfulness, calm and peace and living in harmony with the landscape. And when one of her favourite designers is Charlie, Whisky, Tango – a group based in Brooklyn – you might wonder what the connection is to Vancouver. The answer is simple: durable design made to last. And suddenly one aspect of Vancouver was clear. Yes the place influences local design, design thinking, the movement of sustainability in design. Not the same as the vibrant graphic design of Montreal but no less meaningful.


  • My impressions of Vancouver are forming around a city deeply affected by sustainability. The proximity of mountains and Pacific Ocean foreground the landscape here – and the outdoor opportunities it affords – and Emily Carr has drawn sustainable designers keen to be around a vibrant design group keen to change design for the better. I am going to diagram or trace or map or sketch / document the rhythms as I see them here, tuning in with nature as it happens and searching still for what graphic design means here. There is an aspect of independent cafe culture here and I need to tap into that. I wonder if the relaxed ( is that the right word?) vibe feeds that independence?
  • I think I need to be more specific with my enquiries. If I contacted graphic designers in Montreal, Asia or New Orleans and found distinct design, how would I celebrate and promote that – materially/visually etc

finding other voices

How does one whisper find another?


Interview 1 – Initial Chat

Sahil Mroke/Experience Designer from Delta, BC (speaking about Vancouver)

The idea behind the first interview was for it to be of someone interested in design processes and collaboration and who has worked in BC all his life. The setting was to be Emily Carr as this initial interview was made up of general place setting questions, so sitting looking out of the school to the mountains behind seemed fitting. Sahil was already primed – he knew what I was looking into, someone unknown would need to be asked to read the Whisper presentation first.

The interview was recorded, the questions asked listed below. The plan was to then do a design walk in a setting closer to Sahil’s home, a setting of his choosing in Delta.

  • Describe in as much detail where you are from/ where you live?
    (sets the scene, grounds it and hopefully gets him talking)
  • How would you describe yourself as a designer? What words would you use? What do you hope to achieve?
    (links it to profession)
  • Where is your favourite design space? // What environment would you say you need to be successful as a deisgner?
    (links it more precisely to ways of working, what effect environment has)
  • How do you feel the city of Vancouver influences your design thinking or design practice?
    (What affect the city (specific to him) have on his work?
  • How did your experience of working in Vancouver differ from working in Los Angeles?
    (Does he have anything to say about the different cities?)

After listening back to the transcript two quotes held together as interesting contrasts (illustrated below in a neon typeface as homage to its predominance in Vancouver but also I like the way neon has the power to simultaneously convey excitement and a kind of strange loneliness which my interactions with cities seem to generate).

‘There is an underbelly of students trying to survive’

A note on this typeface / quote choice. If I were to develop this into an object, a neon installation, I would consider wording carefully and typeface choice, this above and below is more of a shorthand to sketch out the idea.

‘I’m lucky to have this as my playground’

So after much reflection and questioning what I am trying to find in another voice, another whisper, I think I would need to significantly narrow down my questions for our design walk. Proposed questions are below. Also to note that the place itself would almost be a participant in this interview, yes there would be suggested questions as below but really you would want the designer to reflect and be in the place, so that they start talking about wider inspirations. So that they, in effect, relax.

  • So tell me about Delta?
    (General question about the area to get him talking)
  • What is it about this specific place that draws you back here?
    (Gets him talking about his relationship to this personal place)

    This is where the issue becomes is the personal space (outside) there as a device to show the designer’s connection to the landscape/city or is it a device to relax the designer so that you can then ask him/her/they the following and get a more open answer (say that sitting in a busy coffee shop in the city).
  • If you could pick any place in this city and do whatever you choose design to be, without constraint on resource or budget, what would you do in that space?
    (To encourage a more experimental and affirmative mindset, a more speculative design mindset)
  • What are some of your favourite spaces/places/art spaces/works by other indie designers in this city? And why?
    (To encourage them to talk about their local inspirations)

next steps…


How on earth did Anthony Bourdain do this just so well?!

I think you would be able to guess that this city was Vancouver from this transcript. (Still considering how to visualise the whole thing.) I think though that you would need to dig deeper into what makes Vancouver independent design, what does the interesting stuff here look like? Is the way to do this to to ask Sahil for his favourite local designers as in the suggested second interview questions above?

What criteria are you using for ‘interesting local independent design’, is it the stuff that comes out of small agencies R&D budget? Is it artists’ or designers’ residencies (for example working with Labs like Material Matters?). Is it work not happening in this space, but hyper local gig posters, is it super niche metal artwork?

It takes a while to research who to interview, set it up, consider questions, read the transcript and reflect on changes for next time. So I plan to research publication design/possible typographic treatments and stock to work with in between interviews.

Possible Other Interviews:
(Intention being to do the two interview method if possible)
Sarah Hay
Charlotte Falk
Julien Langois
Cameron Neat
Paul McDonnell

Possibly someone from Occasional Press…?

I also plan to do a design walk myself in order to relate this research to my own practice. I’ve taken street style photography before in other cities but perhaps now is the time to revisit this part of my practice. I am looking at publications as a practice to highlight the multiple voices in local design. Interviewing as a method is a large part of my overall practice at the moment, I am doing this for Directed Studies also and so I’m hoping that this will inform my interviews for this Whisper series.



This term so far has been about me going between ideas of nature and ideas of traversing or creating a sense of place in the city. I was struggling to reconcile these two themes, how does nature fit into the city experience, how do they align?

In looking at the last blog post at ‘breathe’ and ‘deep in the brightest shades of green’ I realised that the former didn’t work to relax or create room for pause outside of the activities of active meditation or minfulness, and the latter seemed a little heavy handed on reflection. I also found myself steering towards the natural world part of the theme too much, to the exclusion of the stimulating city experience. I wanted to combine both themes but wasn’t sure how.

The city, for me, means culture, experiences, designed streets and signage, independent makers etc. And I’ve always wanted to hear more from these independent makers to see how that culture forms in a city.

What I shorthanded to ‘nature’ is really pausing in the city, observing it. Thinking about what aspects of it contribute to a sense of place.

So what if you took ‘whisper’ as a persona. One that observes the city. It ‘observes’ by occassional urban poetry to set the tone and then seeks out those graphic designers who also work to that tone, who identify with the feeling of a sense of place within their city. This influences their work and they feedback into that independent design culture. What if ‘whisper’ became a collection of curated graphic design interviews?


Well, not quite Spring

Project 2: Part 1:City versus Nature

I am will return to clothing and garments later, but for the moment I am focussing on the idea of connections between city and nature. One of my preoccupations at the moment is finding ways to connect myself with nature, whilst in the middle of the city. It centres me, reminds me of where I am from (a rural island in Scotland) and gives me a second to catch my breath. I started looking at View Corridors here in Vancouver and that led me to Manhattenhenge… I had considered doing a range of pictures of Mount Baker but it’s very frequently foggy around my apartment and it would more often than not be shrouded in mist. And I wanted to get outside and find my own way of connecting to nature.

Steveston. I wanted to capture how vast the sky was, and how wide the marshes, and how very small they made the massive tanker look. Just by considering compositions you can reverse the impression that industrialisation has taken over.

I started this week out with the camera. I’ve walked lots of city streets looking for pictures but this time I wanted it to be a little different. And the sun was high and bright that day so I took the camera and faced it right into nature to see what happened. It meant that the light became the dominant thing – not so much the city. So I then went around, looking for compositions that would capture nature/the sun/light etc as the dominant subject in the picture. For me, this captures a fleeting sense of space. Nature equals a sense of space. I also liked how you could again play with compositions so that the sun and the trees – often just seen as necessary inclusions in cityscape planning – are the dominant form in the photo.

Part 2: Disruptive Books

Well maybe we need to clarify that. We want to shake the reader gently from passively inhaling content from every angle and remind them of the moments of stillness possible in the city. For me the city is a necessary creative stimulant. I love it for the independent creatives and international cultures fostered. For the publishing and magazines and any forms of books. Collections of knowledge.

I read Patricia Alvarez Astacio’s Tactile Analytics: Touching as a Collective Act, and her use of carefully chosen artefact, interacted with in a considered sequence, made an impact on me. It made me realise that I am interested in sensory experiences, because this is a lot to do with how we process the impact of specific experiences and how we build memory and attachments. I also appreciated that she felt that she needed to develop her sensory literacy – I myself feel that too.

I’ve been keen to take communication design off the page and I began thinking about the possibility of designing an exhition, designed around artefact or textured surface or graphic design visual…a set of sensory experiences that would take the participant on a rich journey, from their place of being in the heart of the city, back to the quiet of nature.

I started this off by looking at the above picture and while looking at where the sun should be in terms of where it was that day and where it should be on my square lay out, I realised that I was feeling more relaxed when I looked at the image where the sun was indicating it was mid-afternoon in winter (the middle one above) and I realised how many ques we take from our surroundings and wondered could that be played with in terms of using graphic design for good? I felt more relaxed with the late afternoon sun, as opposed to earlier or later, because for me I feel I have done my work by mid-afternoon or at least my brain certainly thinks this!, before I get a second wind later. I wondered if something like composition could cause is to relax more, is there scope there?

I took this photo last Spring/Summer, when these beauties come out. For the next ‘sensory object’ I had been planning on creating a 3d surface design that would – when interacted with – feel like a flower pattern. I wanted to have an element of subtlety to it, I didn’t just want the artifical feeling of a cartoon daisy, and I was considering this blossom shape. But then I realised a few things. Firstly you would be better using an actual blossom and inviting blind folded participants to touch it. And through the soft blossom and fragrance they’d likely realise what plant it was. But then I thought actually I am wanting to connect participants with a feeling of nature outside the city, and so blossom isn’t right. So I would need to consider what kind of plants I used, and whether it was quite right to remove them from their natural surrounds in order to feature in my exhibition. TBC….

Sensory Object 3

This would be for the wall of the exhibition, not sure yet what the overall order of the ‘publication’ (i.e. the exhibition as exploded design publication)would be but for now the focus is on that wall.

So there is a pleasing sensory experience when you view a well set out bit of typography. So if you had a simple word or phrase, likely something like ‘breathe out’ or ‘deep in the brightest shades of green’….something evocative…the former might be a little ubiqutous as a short hand for meditation and, as such, not work to relax, outside of actual meditation. This could perhaps be where other’s stories come in, those stories that talk about loved places, preferably outdoor places in this instance. ( I think I am seeing now where you can use one methodology for lots of experiments like Alvarez Astacio). Perhaps if you think about ethnographic or investigative design, you can use one methodology to explore different facets of cultural life.



This is all part of orienting or placing ourselves in a city, helping create or find a sense of place in a busy industrial environment. I need the stimulation of city life (the culture/media etc) but also need the space nature provides. This is an exploration of both threads.

Edit: It’s only after hearing Yej talk about the ways of working the land and the associated calendar of time that her family has used for generations that I have realised and acknowledged how much my own island upbringing has affected my way of looking at life. I miss that connection to the land and sea, weather and animals. I am often looking for that quiet in small moments in city life. I am always striving for a balance between the needed inspiration of the city and the respite of nature underneath or behind that city environment. I also loved the phrasing she used to translate from Chinese or Korean (she referred to both). It was different to English and wonderful for that. It reminded me very much of when someone like my father would translate from Gaelic (spoken on the island). It made me want to ask him about how he and his father grew up, what were the ways of the land, and what did he watch out for in the weather etc.

Inspiration- Olubiyi Thomas/Vivienne Westwood

Project 1: Part I: Surface/Fabric exploration

If we could wear a garment to protect us or sheild us or help us traverse the busy city what would it look like? What would a protective texture look like, could you have a soft armour that you wear?

Musical Armour

The first exploration was done as an extension to my Reframing/Memory Holder project in Fall semester. I had made a clothing tag tie using black ribbon and deliberately frayed the edges because the result looked harder, edgier and fit with the metal t-shirt. Looking back at that I loved that metal music has that air of musical armour for the city. I thought perhaps that ribbon could form a neck piece that forms a subtle but there signal.

The second was looking more broadly at armour and seeing what that would look like as a surface texture. Although I lke the metallic texture it seemed a little out of sync with the ribbon.


I had started this paper texture study by aiming to create a garment made out of alternatives to fabric and white paper. This was, in part, in order to allow me to write on the garment as a form of journalling. I also wanted to examine the disruption in reading process that happens when you create clothing out of paper (i.e. non traditional materials) and similarly create a book out of non traditional materials (i.e. paper etc). If you use a fabric or surface or material that is different from the norm it causes dissonance, it can recontextualise the idea of a book, it can take it outside the traditional space. It can also make you take the concept in anew, look at something with fresh eyes, and make you pause or pay attention to what you are reading. I did some quick studies of what various paper types looked like together in order to see what could be the front of the ‘garment’, the lapels, the collar etc. I pivoted at this point because the textures spoke to me more themselves than the combinations. Looking at what armour would look like, I liked the idea that the clothing you wear changes as you get to know a city, from coat to perhaps t shirt. Some of this is seasonal but some is due to the fact that you relax and don’t feel the need for the coat. What would that look like in a fabric or surface, could you do some modelling with tracing paper with it’s opacity to suggest this; the moulding shape to suggest the structure of protection, the opacity to suggest that the armour is almost disappearing as we get comfortable and feel a sense of connection.

I’d hoped that the tracing paper would have more transparency as it didn’t translate to a softer armour the way I’d hoped. I opened the shape up to explore the armour concept in that way.

Project 1: Part II: Journalling: the city at height

Taking a bird’s eye view of the city, snippets of words written down as soon as they came into my head. The exercise was just to write as I saw it, as quickly as possible. Free from typeface, layout and material surface considerations.

And still he climbs up, red frame against the grey sky, dragging the building up behind him.

The placing of careful gesture against the flow of the train, under the trees, pushing arms slowly through the air

When she finally opens up those blue skies and my Mount Baker friend peers under the cloud blanket to say hello. I breathe out.

Reflections/Questions for the next project…

I would like to continue to examine the creation of sense of place in a city. How we connect to the cultures there, the natural environment running through the bones of the city.

I would like to examine clothing as preparation for what the future city holds/what does that look like? I love the idea of the Highland Warrior not just as a historic way to dress and live but the collection by Olubiyi Thomas.

We could extend that out to question what graphic design would look like as a preparation for the city…would it be a calm counterbalance or would it represent a warrior cry to battle?

One of my aims on coming into this course was to push graphic design, perhaps with material textures…part of this project feels like a way into that…


Design Storytelling: Gathering

How can materials of city act as vehicle for narrative and how can this build connection to the city? How do we tell and record the stories of the folks traversing our city? What can we glean about the cultures that make up the city from gathering a wide range of interviews, and how can we develop these into designed objects that give us pause to appreciate, comment or see the city anew.

Introduction: Material Storytelling

This project started for me very broadly looking at what might Vancouver’s material be if it had one? My first instinct with cities is always metal due to my associations with industrialisation. Would Douglas Coupland with his City of Glass agree?

I caught up with Ian Rhodes at the Metal Shop and we talked about various metals, where to get scrap metal, and how to transfer type onto it.

Finding out the best ways of transferring text in the Metal Shop

Gathering Stories

I decided to pause in my material search briefly because I knew from experience that the material choice usually comes about once I’d gathered my stories to tell. So I researched those who gathered stories with the aim of finding out the best ways to gather a large number…the aim being that through this number of narratives certain characteristics of the people in the city would emerge.

Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York

I had heard a little about Humans of New York when it started but hadn’t realised it was still going, and had taken place in other cities. I loved his everyman approach to the city, asking contributors to name someone who deserved to be featured, for example.
What could we learn from this hugely successful series to get to know the city of Vancouver? What can we learn from StoryCorp, from Craft of Use, from The Pattern Project? What can we learn separately from Douglas Coupland and City of Glass and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities…I’ve emailed Brandon Stanton to see if he would be up for an interview so maybe one day!…

Local Stories

In the meantime I thought I’d look at my local area of New West, the local tourist board has investigated all the small ways that locals are trying to stay connected, especially in the pandemic. This felt a little surface for me. I am very influenced by Anthony Bourdain but unsure how to bring this into my own practice. Bourdain worked by asking notable people to sit and have dinner with him, somewhere interesting.

Photo courtesy of

At this point the research, although interesting, was moving further away from making and as I was keen to get back into that I took a step back and looked instead at those designers whose work I am interested in.

Material / Making Research

Nukak, Spanish Apparel/Accessory company

Nukuk, based in Spain, they create products out of old PVC signage- advertising banners. I love that they find a new use for gorgeously designed original banners that otherwise would be thrown out. That seems like such a waste of the original design and an opportuntiy to produce something new from it.

The Pattern Project, London

The Pattern Project, based in London(UK), they sell garment /accessory kits that include the fabric cut into the rights pieces with a guide on constructing the finished item. I love the DIY aspect of this, the drive to get people more involved in the making of the garments they wear so close to their skin.

Part of Vanish (a UK cleaning organisation) x the British Fashion Council’s collaboration shining a light on a range of clothing designers who take alternative approaches to fashion design. What’s interesting to me is their take on finding and reusing imaterials: the clothes are interesting and aesthetically pleasing and have a story behind them.

Reworked Graphic Design Surplus

With all of this in mind, and getting back to making, I decided to set myself the challenge of making something that I could use (potentially) with the materials I had in the house, in one afternoon. I love good packaging design, especially event materials or coffee packaging, and so I found this coffee wrapper I had saved and decided that the simplest thing I could try and create would be a version of a Nukak wallet. A simplified version.

I had no pattern to follow and so I proceeded to form the shapes required intuitively, this would be a 3D sketch of what was possible. The making, the pushing through, eyeballing the proportions based on the material and graphic elements that I had to work with, as well as seeing what design elements are needed to make a wallet from was my priority. Usually what you make sparks off more creativity, you surprise yourself, and it breaks the inertia that theoretical research can at times bring on.

I wanted my wallet to look like a designed piece, with distinctive graphic marks and logo type. Bearing this in mind I’ve outlined in yellow below what I thought might work, part of the overall design swoosh and some of the brand name and location as they looked interesting and graphic in themselves.

The initial inspiration: a Nukak wallet.

This was the prototype half way done, with everything ‘tacked’ in place with masking tape. I also found another coffee containor in the house which is where the metal ‘clip-fastening’ in the main picture below came from….it works well as a closing mechanism for the wallet. I trialled a few of the graphic elements of the original packaging in the reworked wallet but found that less was more in the final design.

One of the main ideas for my thesis was to ask a group of creative makers to use a similar methodology: use materials of the city to create an aesthetically pleasing garment or wallet that you will use, journal into and then pass onto the next person to do the same. In their case they would have vintage or surplus fabrics as well as graphic design surplus.

To complete the process on my wallet I edited down the metal gig quote and trialled this on the wallet, where you would only see it by opening it. The text reads, “The venue was packed and hot, the music was loud, intense, repetitive and heavy, lulling you into a trance.”

Rendering this by hand makes it look like a note written down so there is a journalling aspect to this but I think I would need to take time to consider what the best methods of journalling would be if this project were to be developed. Is it better that the writing is hand written or would a more typographic solution be more effective, would it look more like a graphically designed part of the whole wallet if it were in a specific typeface? But then how do participants transfer this type onto their garment or wallet? (Screenprinting isn’t usually an option at home.)Especially if the garment or wallet has already been constructed…it adds space and layout constraints, particularly if others have already filled the available space with their journal entries.


In a bid to see what was available as materials in the city of Vancouver I have contacted the Museum of Vancouver to see if they ever had any surplus. They have suggested that we chat over zoom as although they don’t have anything at present they are due a refresh in Q1 of 2022 so there maybe some materials to play with there. I had wondered what they did with specific exhibition materials once the event was over and imagined that the MOV would have a high standard of aesthetic output and this would provide for well designed graphic design surplus to rework as I have done with the coffee container above.

I have also contacted The Pattern Project as I would love to see why they chose the patterns they did for their customers to construct at home. I think this would better inform my own choice of pattern if I was asking participants in my thesis to create something themselves.

I wanted to attempt to make something usable from a material of the city and I did this. I do however feel that there are aspects of my Design Storytelling project that I would like to revisit and bring somehow into my thesis, perhaps comment on the materials of the city in a more subtle way, like with the reframed shirt and the graphic design comment on the t-shirt as holder of memory. I would like to learn the art of garment construction as I feel there is pontential for this kind of work in this space, whilst still communicating a narraitve. I have learned to trust my instinct, not to let my difficulty in articulating a research question hold me back from intuitvely making. I admire Hussein Chalayan for his approach, with his oversized labels encouraging the wearer to appreciate the garments they own. This is the type of subtle graphic design comment that I would like to look into in my own work.


Design Storytelling

Sense of place, Culture & Wellness: Work In Progress
We form connections through storytelling. How we tell the story, in terms of what material, media, form, words (or not) matters.
Whose story we tell matters.

binary comment


I chose two papers to react to: Manzini’s (2013) Resilient Systems and Sustainable Qualities and Verbeek’s (1998) The Things That Matter. The first because it reflects my upbringing and approach to resources and the way you build community. The second spoke to me as an extension to that mindset, imbuing meaning in objects so that you connect to and hold them dear.

For me this project has been a real challenge in a number of ways: getting to know the current field of design; situating myself amongst it; developing my practice as a reaction to this. I am going to investigate materials: what are the qualities of discarded industrial materials such as textiles or metal that you can draw out to create objects that connect to people. What techniques can you use to interact with or change the function of those materials so that they can be used again. Then, from a communication design viewpoint, how do you market this practice as gorgeous use of materials, as opposed to re-using materials, in short, in a high end fashion.

Ideally I would also like to try to create a 3d printed textile as a long term aim. In terms of creating pieces that provoke connection due to their physical texture, colour and form.

Comfort means different things to different people but Ilse Crawford would describe it as providing a sense of dignity. Creating this through careful use of texture, materials, composition of an interior space.

Kate Fletcher talks about the clothes that we feel connected to and the ways in which we can deepen that connection and how, if we do this, we are more likely to take better care of these favoured objects and, by extension, the world around us.

To me reading Fletcher’s (2016) Craft of Use reminded me of a specific Vogue article where a writer wrote about her favourite yellow dress and how many times she had worn it and why. It had become a treasured possession and something she cared for and looked forward to wearing.

In Research Methods we are taught to start looking at the slightly terrifying thing in the corner of the room that is our thesis. We talked about how we can start the conversation by saying what we are not looking at. So I am not looking specifically at sustainability because that is already a part of wellness.

I am not looking at the process of publishing a magazine but perhaps the idea of a magazine, or a collection of outputs or designed objects, about the role of materiality, colour, words to help the viewer form a bond…to evoke a fragmentary impression…something like a memory…

Making as Reframing

Reframing the script of a standard garment for a woman in the office (this was my office shirt) from something that signifies menial roles to one that suggests a different type of office, one on board the New Shephard rocket in space. I used the story of Wally Funk, who is the oldest person to reach space, having trained in the 1960s but been denied flight at the time because of her gender.

I wanted to suggest the intimacy of the relationship that we have with clothes by hiding the story inside the back of the shirt so that only the wearer reads the message when she is putting it on. It is an aspirational message and one that should change how she feels when she wears the garment.

Making as Holder of Memory

Looking at clothing as mementos, holder of memories, ways of belonging to subcultures. This time I wanted the interaction with the clothing to be different, to be a reminder of what we take part in when we go to gigs, when we support a part of culture.

Open Studio

The clothing below is the final work for our Discourse prompt where we discussed ideas of storytelling, mementoes, objects holding memories and reframing through making.

A message to the wearer that only she can read. (Screen printed onto the inside of the shirt)
The visceral feeling of being at a metal concert, held memory in a garment.


Looking back at this I would like to explore both the reframing and garment as holder of memory ideas. I would also like to explore the various ways of making a garment but it would have to be strongly related to communicating a story. Hussein Chalayan works within this sphere, creating oversized labels for clothing to encourage the wearer to reflect on their clothing. I feel that there is a space between city people, (thank you Cameron for the Fred Herzog reference, his work and the air of hidden in each image is beautiful), garments, how we wear them and storytelling.




I’ve been drawn to metal for a while, looking to play with the strength of it, the associations people have with it, how you can interact with it. When I say metal, I mean the metal to which I could get access, right there in my store cupoard – aluminium foil. One day I’d like to play about with the patinas you can create when you heat metals like copper up, and perhaps create surface design that reuses discarded metal sheeting in an interior setting. Perhaps that or create figurative sculptures. For this project I stuck with aluminium foil.

I’ve used it as a surface for a lettering project once before and this project felt like a good excuse to delve a little more into that. Al foil is the ideal version as it is as thin as paper and so the perfect alternative to use as a base. The downside being that it holds every mark you make, it has very little structural rigidty, and it being oxidised it is hard to get below the surface of the sheeting, so every material that you use to mark make (pen and ink or paint washes) is going to sit on the surface and be easily wiped away, and it is easily ripped.

For me though I liked the combination of this version of metal being such a delicate material to work with, ‘delicate’ isn’t something you would normally associate with metal, unless it is rusted and on the point of breaking down naturally that is.

Daily Making: Week 1

I found the daily / new material aspects of this prompt very helpful in that you have a strict timeline to create something quickly, less time to over analyse and produce nothing, and the freedom to make mistakes with a new material. My daily making practice involved three steps:

  • Interact in some way with the al sheeting
  • *Separately, bring to mind words that you have written before about people you have seen on the street, you can edit these down to a succinct phrase – fewer words have more impact on the reader and it is easier to render fewer words in the daily time you have. (*I say separately as I didn’t want to be restricted by trying to match the imagery in the words at this point)
  • Combine the experimental surface with the words in a graphic composition

Here are a few examples of what I achieved in the first week, along with learnings on technique that I picked up as I did these.

Day 1: Metal folded over in square composition +
Blue wash with salt seasoning

Blue wash with salt seasoning
I folded the foil to create a square composition to see if the folding would add to the eventual graphic effect.
I then washed over this with a blue ink wash, scattered sea salt over the surface which produced the thicker texture on the surface that you can see above. I did love this effect but as it suggested a maritime theme, and my idea was based in cities, I didn’t take this forward into the final composition stage.
Ink washes do work, I had hoped that the salt would scratch the surface or break it down but it sat on top. It did produce an interesting surface, although I would say that this wasn’t an ideal surface for pen and ink writing (my chosen medium for lettering transfer).

Day 2: Lightly folded + Black washes with baking soda

Black washes with baking soda
Lightly folded foil, black washes and left to dry over the day /night.
The overall effect to me was more graphic on this one, I think I added more paint overall and achieved more of an effect.

Day 3: Folded and cut through to paint underside + First typographic trial

‘Stotin’ through the crowd’ : Walking with great confidence through the crowd

Folded and Cut Through I
For this I used acrylic paint (just in blue as that is my favourite colour and I wanted to get to making) and folded the foil over a couple times. I wanted to see what acrylic would do to the surface and then once this dried, I cut through to reveal the colour below. I liked how this cut through echoed the character walking through both the crowd and traffic.
Typographic Transfer: Overall
I have transferred lettering onto al foil before but this time was different. In that instance I had hand drawn a typeface and then traced it onto the foil, and as the character of the person I was looking to emulate was a little rough around the edges it only added to the effect that my lettering was as well.

For this project though I wanted to choose an existing typeface that I felt represented the character and then accurately render that onto the metal. There were a few lessons from this.

  • With every tracing you loose a little detail, so you have to accept that your tracing will give you a loose outline on the foil and thereafter you will have to freehand complete the lettering, looking to match the proportions and intricacies of the original print out by eye.
  • The tracing paper will shift slightly with the action of tracing, therefore kerning is going to be a little challenging.
  • The more the surface is textured the harder it is to use pen and ink to accurately render a detailed typeface.

Typographic Choice: Overall
A quick note on typographic choice. There is a whole history on each genre that I couldn’t explore here due to time constraints but also because I didn’t realise I was looking for something to represent a modern person inhabiting the street until the end of the project. I had an instinct that that was what I was doing for each person and so that is why I chose modern serif typefaces, because these people were people I had seen recently. One might argue that a sans serif typeface might have been a more obvious choice to suggest the modern person but the end result tended to look like either a political statement or some form of commerical branding project. Also, on a practical legibility level, serif typefaces are generally easier to read, particularly when the background becomes busier.

I liked this typeface but it felt a little too refined to fit the character of the woman in question. At this point I was trying to find the right modern typeface to match this one character and so I tried a different typeface.

Day 4: Folded and cut through to paint underside +
Second typographic trial

Folded Over and Cut Through II
This time I wanted to bring every element into context. So I folded the foil again to get that extra graphic effect. I then used orange and green as the cut out colours to reflect the Irish flag as I saw this woman in Dublin.

Typographic Choice
I chose another modern serif – Zachar Book, this one because it looked more strident and less refined.

Day 5: Folded at intervals to suggest pinstriped material + Third typographic trial

‘low slung pinstripes sauntering down the street’ : Man walking in downtown Ottawa wearing basketball shorts made out of pinstripe material.

Day 6: Surface + Fourth typographic trial

‘dozing, her cheek resting against the Ottawa street’ : A homeless woman taking a nap on the Ottawa sidewalk

Daily Making: Week 2 – Origin

I love words but the word ‘Origin’ made me think instantly of origin story, the past that formed the character. And when I thought of the characters that I have seen I didn’t like the idea of finding out their past or even their future, I had seen them in that moment and in that moment they were happy. Looking into anything other than that moment felt like a judgemental choice, and I didn’t want that.

Cameron suggested I look wider, what was missing or what connected. Well at least that is what I took from our catch up. I thought of people watching, of people being at ease with themselves in their surroundings, in the street of all places. Where everyone is on display but nobody cares, where there are rules and noise and chatter. You have to be pretty at ease to do your own thing, to be as at ease as if you were at the beach or in the mountains. So I thought the common thing is that they are at ease on the street.

I then thought, this is a snapshot, like those street style blogs that used to be popular. What do people wear when they are being themselves and asserting their identity out there. And the end point for that thought was the magazine. It captures a set moment in time and places it in the most interesting layout to let you people watch, let you take a moment and see what is happening in that cultural slice. So I thought I would try and see what happens when you try and do this with the results of my daily practice.

Zine of the Street: Trial One & Two

So I wanted to try and produce an elegant slice of street life, an aluminium zine, and as that material has many of the same properties as paper I thought I’d give it a try.

On the right above is my first try, a simple folded piece that has 6 interior pages and then would fold out to a larger poster on the other side. The left above is my second try, a much larger sheet folded down like an older style OS map. The issues I had were a few:

  • Was I going to redraw the phrases on these new pages, playing about with layout, and if I was to do that was pen and ink still the best type of transfer method?
  • Alternatively, should I simply find a way to incorporate my existing pieces into a zine like format?
  • I had done the first pieces through a quick estimate of what looked the right size of type on the screen, before printing the words out and tracing them more or less first time around, making the best of the compositional choices available to me left by those restrictions. The decision to make a zine felt like it needed a more considered use of space and type so I would need to factor that time in, perhaps making this a longer term project.
  • How much should surface texture / folding come into the composition of this zine? Would it just be distracting?

The issues were time constraints and also surface marking. It would take a lot more time to redraw and play with composition. Al foil is obviously highly reflective, one side more than the other. The matt side is easier to work with that way but it also shows a lot of marks. I played with an ink wash on the OS style map folded zine but it became quite distracting and grungy and was moving away from elegant. I also felt like it might be more interesting if the wash was used with discretion as part of an overall composition. So I went with single al sheet ‘pages’ to ‘hold’ some of my existing pieces as below.

Zine of the Street: Work in Progress

For this prototype layout for my zine I considered a few things:

  • I wanted the feel of a composed page and so what graphic elements did I need to have in there – page numbers?
  • How should I hold the pieces on the page. I used discrete metal strips and feel that they became part of the page graphics.
  • I would have like to add a few more graphic features such as some notes to place each phrase in context, like where I originally saw each person.
  • Long term if I continue this project I would like to make this metal magazine something built of layered graphics, composed layouts, all combing together per precisely cut sheet. Likely perfect bound as I think metal rings would be too industrial.


‘Vancouver’ in Arabic script

Partnered with Fajer

I was partnered with Fajer, she is from and currently based in Kuwait but very keen to get here toVancouver.

We have a love of typography and letterforms in common, so I decided to focus my gift in on that. Fajer loves the idea of combining Arabic and English and so my take on that was to use the Arabic to write a welcoming phrase in English. I started by looking at Arabic script, it is very beautiful and so I was looking forward to working with it for this project.

Working in 3D

My background is in digital graphic design in in-house roles but my personal practice has been based largely on 3D modelling, experimental print making and photography based on the work I have made. I knew for this project, given the time constraints, and also the fact that it was a gift, that I wanted to create a crafted object that would sit on Fajer’s desk. I therefore resolved to work in 3D

My most recent work has all involved 3D foamboard modelling and so it was my go to material. In a previous life I studied architecture and used balsa wood to model to-scale projects, but for me foamboard is much easier and much quicker to finish with paint, although it doesn’t have the strength of balsa wood.

Design Process

I started the design process by considering ‘Welcome to Vancouer’ as an option but could see that this phrase in Arabic script would have many parts and as I wasn’t sure how I was going to present the gift I thought this a little ambitious in the time given – especially given the complex shapes in the script. I had two ideas for how to present the final piece: the first being as a collection of letters that I could present in a parcel or small bag, to be assembled on the flat desk in real time, to read out the message to Fajer online; the second was to have the whole piece as a freestanding form. Both of these would have to be simplified in order to complete a gift that took into account the time it would take to cut out the beautiful but complex Arabic phrases. I therefore edited the whole phrase to simply Vancouver. I still thought this would be a nice gesture to Fajer, paying homage to the stunning letterforms while tying into the city that she was very keen to call her next home. Having decided to focus on Vancover I knew that the first task was the scale I would do it a


The first scale trial was to do a rough cut with the scalpel to quickly gauge what size the lettering would need to be in order to achieve the smoothest finish possible. I knew from experience that this size, scales shown by the metal ruler shown, would likely be too small but it helped confirm this and allow me to quickly move on to a larger scale as below.

Second Scale Trial

This sizing made each phrase much easier to handle in foamboard and much easier to cut down with my scalpel.

Colour Choice

Initially for the colour I was going to use the bright green of Vancouver as Fajer is keen to get here and into the hiking culture. On reflection I wasn’t happy with the way the colour looked, either the tone or finish, I wasn’t sure it conveyed the outdoors aspect I was going for (it might have needed a layering of various greens such as you actually find when out in the forest) than just bringing to mind the apple type Granny Smith. I had a further chat with Fajer and discovered her favourite colour was purple and so, after a lot of colour mixing and trials, I went with a deep purple.

Support System

The next issue was to present the lettering as a gift and I resolved to make it a freestanding structure to sit on the desk, to remind Fajer of home when she is here in Vancouver. That presented a number of challenges. How to create a base to sit the letters on, how to then connect each phrase to this so that it all sat together as one. How to connect the accents of each phrase to the letters below in order to have them suspended in the air at the right height, as there are subtle variations that need to be paid attention to and incorporated.

Support System

In order for the lettering to stand as a freestanding piece it needed to have a base, and each of the phrases had to connect. I created two key black strips, one at the base and one connecting the 2nd and 3rd pieces at their horizontal base (shown in purple lines above). Luckily as the piece is only 23cm x 8cm and made from foamboard it is very light and so the cantilever effect doesn’t happen at all. Then I created 3 metal supports to hold the accents in mid air above each letter (shown by the green diagonal lines above). One key aspect I mentioned above was that the accents differed in height above each letter. I was able to accommodate this in the metal rods simply by adjusting how deeply I embedded the rods into each letter below and therefore how much rod was left in the air to hold the accent. The aim was to make the supports as discrete as possible so as to make the Arabic script itself the main focal point.

The Completed Gift

The final piece for Fajer – ‘Vancouver’ in Arabic Script, measures approx 23cm x 8 cm

The completed piece – free standing Arabic script of ‘Vancouver’.

Close up of the support system designed to make this a freestanding model

Close up detail of the support system in place: the black base and thin black support as indicated by the horizontal purple strip; the metal rods as indicated by the diagonal green strips. For me this level of detailed design was a way of considering how the piece would work as perhaps a larger scale model and the support system that would need to be in place to support much larger and heavier base pieces, and also what I would have needed to do for the whole ‘Welcome to Vancouver’ phrase if I had done that.


If I could have developed this idea I may have taken my two earlier ideas and combined them. The earlier one was to present Fajer with a bag of letter treats and assemble them online, flat on the desk to reveal the message in real time.

If I had commited to a hybrid of the two ideas I would have adjusted the assembly method and built on the supports system I devised for the completed piece above in order to support the whole ‘Welcome to Vancouver’ in one full free standing model.

The finished piece in that case would have been the performance of me putting each Arabic phrase together in a single freestanding structure to reveal the final phrase to Fajer when she saw it all together. The intention would then be for this complete form to sit on Fajer’s desk for when she gets here.