Assignment 1 Signs & Symbols #edtechcca1

Here’s an insight into my creative process.

Music ‘Pinball Spring’ Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0

First I start mindmapping, with the main topic at the centre. I almost always use paper and pencil as it’s faster than using a computer and I find that the computer just gets in the way of the thinking process. When I run out of ideas I do some research using various search engines. If the project is quite big, and will take some time, I will keep copies of images I like and make a scrapbook or mood board for inspiration. Eventually I start drawing thumbnail sketches – lots of them, sometimes dozens and hopefully start to discover some ideas that I like best. I’ll then take those ideas and play around with them and develop them further. Once I have a fairly strong concept I’ll move onto the computer and use tools such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to tidy up my designs, sometimes scanning a sketch into the computer to act as a template. The computer doesn’t figure in the process until near the end.

Here’s the sign I made for one of the courses I teach…

Photography course sign

It’s pretty obvious that it’s for photography. I went through a bunch of different ideas and excluded some things. I thought about using a strip of film in the design, but 90% of our photography is digital now and it won’t be long until no-one remembers film. The camera is an obvious choice, by I also chose to add a tripod as it is a piece of equipment more associated with professional photography.


Here are some ideas for a department ‘sign’. Can you guess which college course or department they are for?

p.s. The video was recorded on my compact camera. The screen recording was made with The video was edited in Windows Live Movie Maker. The sound came from which has a lot of Creative Commons licensed music. I used Adobe Illustrator to create the signs as I couldn’t get access to Aviary’s Raven editor for some reason.


About colinmaxwell

Creative Industries lecturer. Photographer, designer, game developer, film maker. Scotland.
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6 Responses to Assignment 1 Signs & Symbols #edtechcca1

  1. Pingback: John's World Wide Wall Display

  2. Joan Walker says:

    Colin – a great video of the processes you use. I’m almost ashamed to say that I much prefer to watch a short video than read about a process – just my personal preference but I do think it adds so much value for me to see a process. The speeded up version is great because it keeps it snappy and engaging. I’ll have to have a go at something like this.

    I guess that your signs are for the hairdressing and beauty courses.

  3. Firstly thanks for the video Colin. As a newbie to the ‘design process’ this helped me see a different (and doubtless more effective way) to approach things.

    Thinking about the symbol for film becoming redundant, one of the things I noticed as I undertook some research (thanks to you) was the little electrical appliance on/off symbol of a circle with vertical dash. I assume that’s representative of the old ‘knob’ we used to turn to switch things on … a long way from the touch sensitive switches we use today, but it has transcended the boundary between the analogue world and digital to achieve a commonly accepted meaning.

    • colinmaxwell says:

      You may be right, Ian, but I’d always thought the circle and dash icon was based on electrical symbols representing an open and closed circuit or a digital 1 and 0. I agree that a symbol can transcend time even though the original concept is gone. It’s a question of whether a sign should be learned or is instantly recognisable. The cross as a symbol of Medical Aid is an example of something that must be learned. The ‘standard’ men and women signs for toilets also need to be learned, whereas something like this sign is pretty obvious!

  4. Loved your ideas video. I’ve never attempted editing anything with windows movie maker but you’ve inspired me to try 🙂 Thanks

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