Design As Problem Solver

Since I haven't been shooting much I may as well post a few tidbits about a couple of the things I have been working on that are photo related. First up - an explanation of the image at the top of yesterday's post. Worst case it plants a seed for some of you to address some of your own needs.

Both the image at the top of yesterday's post as well as today's are a few product photos that I shot of a very small part of a larger project I have a lot of time on this summer. These happen to be thank you gifts that will be given to donors that have contributed to a significant project. We happen to be providing all of the artwork for that project.

The requirement for the gift was that it not be too extravagant, elegant, and reflect some of the artwork that will be displayed. We chose to produce a portfolio of some of the more prominent work that will be installed. Without going into all of the excruciating details of how we arrived at all of the elements that are self evident I do want to describe just one tiny thing that can be seen but really has to be handled in person to get the entire feel of it. Specifically the lowly interleave sheets that will separate individual prints.

First let's define the problem to be solved. The portfolio will contain about 15 individual prints, a small write up by the photographer, a thank you letter to the donor from the institution and finally an index prints with a few specific details about each one. It certainly would be nice if one could actually figure out which print the index was referring to, wouldn't it? It would also be a big win if we could incorporate the photographer's branding in a subtle way. There are a bunch of obvious solutions - most of which we produced in various mockups and trials to illustrate and evaluate.

  • Little thumbnails incorporated into the design of the print index - nope too busy, too small, detracted from the overall feel of the rest of the piece, etc.
  • Information printed on the print itself - uhhhh no - looks cheesy and mass produced, absolutely did not fit with the materials used for the prints, destroyed the lavish white space in the design - awful. NO - the prints must stand alone.
  • How about on the back of the prints? - NO, not obvious, looks bad, not creative, adds nothing to the effect we were looking for.
  • I'm sure you can imagine all the permutations of this line of thought. Maybe not but they were bizarre.

I was about to be overridden on my position that the prints themselves should remain unadulterated when the solution hit me. The problem was that we were attacking this problem without looking at the whole. We were too focused in on dealing with the index problem and the only thing we were looking at were that index we were currently working on and the prints themselves which we had already decided on in terms of size, material, white space, etc. A tiny way down the road was making decisions on interleaves - in our minds we only had to decide on materials of which we had a few candidates. Hold on a second - let's match the interleaves to the individual prints and put the relevant info and branding on what normally would just lie there and do nothing but separate the prints.

As you can barely see in the included image, the solution was simple and effective. We printed a screened image of very low opacity on translucent velum material that mirrors the matching print for the interleave sheet. The image is the exact same size and position as the print itself and fades from transparent to nothing from left to right. Overlayed is the name of the print in a large dark gray typeface as well as the location of the scene in lighter gray at a smaller size. The photographer's branding logo is printed in a position that overlays the white space of the print behind it on the lower right. Problem solved - more importantly solved in a way that actually adds to the overall feel of the piece. The effect is extremely attractive, self-evident in use, and disappears when the interleaves are in place over the prints.

Hopefully this kind of post helps at least a few people when approaching production or design needs of your own.


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