The Art of Art Direction
- why is it important?
- what is it?
- How is it different to design?
Art direction is important as it connects with people on an emotional level, it doesn’t need tone complicated, it can be simple and tangible, it involves all aspects of design taking into consideration the bigger picture and what feels right – not always what looks right.
Here is a good example taken from: http:/http://noisydecentgraphics.typepad.com/design/2006/09/art_direction_w.html “Once we were preparing to brief a photographer for a shoot. The shoot wasn’t spectacular, it was an old guy walking through a wood. The Chairman made loads of great suggestions that morning that helped to form my opinion of what Art Direction is. Here’s one example. I’d visualised the old guy in the photograph wearing dark blue trousers, the Chairman changed them to red. I protested, “Why red? Who wears red trousers? It will look silly?” His thinking was that the red trousers would form a nice contrast to the browns of the wood and would help the main character in the picture stand out. He was right. And it didn’t look silly.
Somehow what is ordinary in real life looks lifeless in print or on TV. Visuals often need to be larger than life to just look ordinary. Images need the spectacular turned up to 10 to have any chance of catching your eye.
I’m not being very clear.
To me, art direction is just that – directing the art. Making sure the images you produce are as beautiful, meaningful and rich as you can make them. Great art direction can evoke emotion and is the difference between this
and this. Does that make sense?
A simple example of art direction is Instagram, if used thoughtfully choosing a filter can be a form of simple art direction, whatever filter is chosen will enhance the meaning of the picture, effects are the tools of art direction – altering the viewers perception of the image to what the art director is trying to create.
Is it visually attractive? Does it fit with the subject? are questions that should be asked, different colours are associated with different words/subjects and will ultimately affect the image created, when faced with the word FOOD and trying to decide a colour for the background, a cool blue would be ill advised as it is better suited (and associated) with medicine, a brighter/exciting colour would be much better – it would be visually appetising.
Jan Tschichold, a typographer stated – “A principle of identity between content and expression” – Art direction elevates and enhances the meaning of what is being created, it feels right, this quote can be seen as summing up the role of an art director in the industry.
Tandem design in Belfast were faced with the task of designing interpretive typography for the inside of the Titanic building in Belfast, http://www.tandemdesign.co.uk/index.php/tandem/heritage_detail/titanic_belfast/
We were delighted to win the tender to supply the interpretive graphic design for the whole of Titanic Belfast, which allowed us to work with several international creative teams such as Event Communciations, Paragon Creative and ISO Design. This project required us to use our expertise in interpretive graphic design to inform and engage visitors and to sustain their interest and attention across the 11,000 square metre area of Titanic Belfast. In our design, which ranged from panels to diagrams to infographics, we needed to strike a balance between the celebration of Belfast’s shipyards and the sensitive treatment of Titanic’s sinking.
We designed and produced 210 panels and 1089 individual graphics for the exhibition, including 700 square metres of window graphics. We proofread and typeset over 24,000 words that were supplied to us by Event Communications. We were also responsible for all the image research, selecting and captioning the best 540 out of 2000 images researched.
Titanic Belfast has been a huge success, already drawing more than 200,000 visitors in its first three months. It has had a major impact on tourism to Northern Ireland drawing holidaymakers and cruise ships alike and on the economy and redevelopment of Queen’s Island and the Titanic Quarter.
The result is their interpretation of history in design, they had the chance to try and transport the audience back to the 1900’s through their choice of indoortypography.
Tilden Freeman, an interpretive designer, defined the 6 principles of interpretation in his book entitled, ‘Interpreting Our Heritage’
- Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
- Information, as such, is not Interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based upon information. But they are entirely different things. However all interpretation includes information.
- Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are scientific, historical or architectural. Any art is in some degree teachable.
- The chief aim of Interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.
- Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part, and must address itself to the whole man rather than any phase.
- Interpretation addressed to children (say up to the age of twelve) should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best it will require a separate program.
The art direction should provoke a reaction from the audience, the reaction that the art director is aiming for.
The image below shows great art direction, through the design of the image – the scaling of the subjects, the angle of the image and the composition all have a greta impact towards the meaning of the poster – road safety!
The image above is inviting and appealing to viewers/potential customers through the hand drawn style of the typography combined with photographs of real objects, resulting in a rustic and wholesome atmosphere being created.