FMP: Evaluation & Reflection

For this blog post, I will be evaluating and reflecting on my Final Major Project, the BBC Stargazing book. I will take an overall look at what did and didn’t go well, thinking on a wider scale how this links into personal development and where I will be heading in the future, as this brings me to the end of my graphic design studies at the University of Kent/K College.

The Designs

What are the design’s strengths? Why is this the case?

The book conveys through text, photos and illustrations the basics of astronomy, the Solar System as well as stars and constellations in an accessible manner that can be understood easily, but also provide enough knowledge and depth that keeps the readers interested.
The design is suitable for the audience, and I have received lots of positive comments about the book, which I obviously appreciate.

What are the design’s weaknesses? Why is this the case and how could I improve it if I repeated the project? 

I would not say the book has a weakness, but as for the content, it was very hard to get the amount and tone of it correct. It would not have been difficult to make this book twice the length. Some may wish for more detail, some may be satisfied. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of personal opinion.

My working practice

How was my time keeping? When did I work best?

Time keeping has not been acceptable for this project, but then there have been elements out of my control. The majority of time was lost in the earliest stages of the project, I once went 4 weeks behind schedule at the project’s worst point. Since then, it has been a ferocious battle to regain the time and while the quality of the design has not been impaired, I have had to put an unhealthy amount of time into this project.

As usual, for when I needed to really get on and put together the design I worked best at home, but I found it valuable to work at college when I needed feedback as I believe that by asking others what they think can help to progress a design. However, with the exception of the tutors and a couple of other fellow students, everyone at college was so preoccupied with their own tasks that getting suitable feedback was very challenging.

Was my brief realistic in size and focus?

Realistic in size but the focus changed significantly as the project evolved. My brief was realistic as I managed to achieve everything I set out. As for the focus, for much of the project, the plan was to create a book and poster/print, but as the book evolved, it became such a strong design that the poster/print wasn’t needed to fulfil the brief. Then, when the schedule slipped, it became easy to scrap the poster/print idea before it dragged the quality of the book down.

Was my research useful?

It was extremely useful to see how information could be simplified and made enjoyable to take in. There was quite a bit of design that inspired me throughout this project, and whereas usually this influences the design heavily, here I found the project was never aesthetically influenced by much, it was more the content that changed to match.

As for the subject, it took an enormous amount of time to find the information, process it, and write it up in a suitable format for the book. This took a lot of time and was a shame as it took away from the time I had to design.

How did I experiment and create ideas? Was this effective?

There were more sketches than usual for a project now, but the main focus was on experimenting in InDesign, trying different options and constantly refining the designs (think of Kaizen, the Japanese process of continual evolution through many small steps). This was effective for the most part, but was incredibly frustrating while I worked out what was the best design solution.

What parts of the project did I enjoy? Why was this the case?

Once I settled on the layout for the book, I would say I enjoyed placing all the content into it and sorting out the finer details. I also enjoyed making the information suitable to read. I found the subject fascinating and learned a lot aside from the designing phase. Once I had found the right method of illustration, then they were really fun to create, if challenging at times, trying to make something like a goat-fish out of the star patterns… I still don’t quite get how the Ptolemy and the Ancient Greeks came up with what half the constellations looked like!

What parts of the project did I not enjoy? Why was this the case?

Working out the order of the book and editing the text to be concise and fit into the aesthetics of the design was very hard. It was very frustrating to get everything into place. Also the proof-reading was painful to say the least, at over 6 hours with myself and someone simultaneously checking and discussing elements. However, it was worth every minute to iron out any imperfections.

How did you make sure feedback gained was effective?

By finding people who could be bothered to spare me the time, and only asking when strictly necessary. Targeting questions also worked differently depending on whether I was speaking to audience members or tutors/students. For example, when collecting feedback from audience members, I focused on readability and a understanding of the book’s contents, whereas with the other designers I would focus more on aesthetic features of the design and typographic features.

What to think about for the future?

The three years I have had at K College on first the HND course and then the BA course have gone so fast! I can’t believe how much I have learnt and that’s thanks to the tutors. I have also learnt a lot from many of the fellow students on the course. I think in general having such a strong and talented group of people has pushed me to constantly raise my standards, as after all, everyone wants their designs to be the ones people look at and go ‘Wow!’

I will now be using all the experience that I have gained from these three years and using it to get a job in the graphic design sector. I have learnt a lot about design, design history, software as well as how to think about allocating time within a project.