AGP: Graphics & Illustration – Week 2


Using Adobe Illustrator, create a series of four graphic icons that attempt to boil down stories into four icons while keeping the narrative intact. It forces you to re-examine some of your favourite stories and gain a deeper understanding of them.

Full Response

4 Icon Challenge-01



As with the first week I found this assignment really good fun, and because it is testing both visual competence and narrative understanding/delivery, I believe the task holds real currency with my Media Production students. I’ll be sure to implement this into their design workshop activities where appropriate.

In terms of learning new skills I actually didn’t learn anything new and I feel the tasks for week 1 and 2 are the wrong way around. I shall attempt to explain why as I discuss the development and process I undertook when generating my response:

Selection of Movie
I thought that selecting a movie would be easy, after-all, movies are about as visually-oriented as you can get! But when I started breaking them down into their actual components they fell into 2 categories: too obvious and nothing of symbolic visual significance.

For example, some film titles featured individual visual components that I could have directly replicated (such as ‘E.T.’ – the character or the bike in front of the moon scene). These would have made generating the icon set easy but the temptation would have been to faithfully replicate them in all their detail and this breaks the first rule of an icon. It should be simple.

Then there are films where you naturally associate strong imagery within them. Take ‘No Country for Old Men’, the most memorable aspect of that film were the vast sweeping vistas of the Southern States. Something visually poignant. These would be difficult to try and generate an icon from. Yes, in that movie you could maybe use the oxygen tank weapon Javier Bardem uses but then you’re back to the first problem.

It also became apparent that it was difficult to think of a movie that spread any meaningful imagery evenly throughout it to try and capture a sense of plot communication as requested by the brief. The imagery either came all together or was spread so far apart that what I was thinking about creating icons from didn’t really communicate much of the narrative.

The Perfect Response…
… would be a film that featured 4 significant and iconic visuals equally distributed across each quarter of the film that weren’t too obvious nor too obscure. The film would feature visuals that lent themselves to simple representation whilst relatively easy to identify as key to the delivery of the narrative. I tried for a while to think of such a movie. I failed.

My Response
I couldn’t really think of a film that met the criteria I established for the Perfect Response above, well not in the time I have allocated for this task anyway. I therefore came up with a film I knew had certain poignant imagery, some from items, some from locations and all that tries to tell the story of the film. Yes, the pacing of where the visual appear along the narrative is not evenly spread, but I feel I captured that sweet spot the brief is looking for between simplistic imagery and visuals that need a certain amount of thought to decipher.

I knew from the off I wanted my icons to be just that: icons. They had to be simple. I didn’t want to fall into the mistake some of the responses I’ve looked at for this task have made. There’s plenty of great work and nicely drawn graphics but I don’t feel too many of the examples qualify as ‘icons’.

To this end I decided to show 3 stages of development to demonstrate that even without the details I’ve added (to compete with those who have very detailed components such as colours or textures), the icons still work as small visuals which should still clearly communicate their message at small or large sizes.

fig.1 – demonstrates the outlines of the icons. It is this version that I feel qualifies the graphics I’ve created as ‘icons’.

fig. 2 – I decided to play around with adding some colour detail to see if that made a difference when attempting to communicate the object/location from the movie.

fig. 3 – I felt that the solid blocks of colour looked a little too much like a cartoon or bad clip art so I decided to offset the background fill colours to give the icon set a unique sense of style.

Overall I am quite happy with the outcome. I really enjoyed working on this task. It’s such a shame it came at a week I was very busy. Very much looking forward to the Typography Class next week as that is my favourite aspect of design.

UPDATE: I decided to test if my icons would work as a symbol font so I created a 4 glyph font file based on the 4 icons I created. Attached below is a screen grab of me using the font in Photoshop. Works really well, even at small sizes. You can try it too by following these instructions: