Borrowing Design Elements From The Everyday

In the same spirit as the last post on a design topic - namely some of the things related to the ultimate production of a final photographic product - I thought I would share another recent design endeavor. As you might expect for photographers that sell prints, the topic of the infamous limited edition comes up quite frequently. A photographer that I work with whose business is primarily selling printed images in one way or another was wrestling with the concept of if and how he was going to produce limited edition prints.

Today I am not going to attempt to start a discussion of what that might even mean in the digital age. In fact I am not going to offer an opinion on the subject at all. I'll bet that surprises you - doesn't it. Instead I'll just cut to the chase and tell you that this particular photographer made some decisions on his own work and his products that I am not entirely opposed to. After a lot of thinking and soul searching he decided to produce a few limited editions. What I am going to discuss is what must come along with the print itself. The COA - for the uninitiated in the world of fine art - that means the Certificate of Authenticity.

As the person that does all things print related that means I must now produce these COA documents. After taking a look at the various links to other photographers' and artists' COAs supplied as examples, I decided that there was no way I was going to make anything as hokey as what I had seen on the web. I am not saying that every COA ever made is hokey. The ones I happened to see looked like something that a 4th grade teacher would produce on a limited budget, with limited time for the winner of this week's spelling contest - truly awful. I have no idea where the examples I witnessed came from but if I were forced to guess it would have to be some sort of template included with MicroSoft Word or something. Bizarre.

Fast forward - I don't have any large amount of time to deal with this and there really isn't a budget but there is no way I am going to be associated with something undeniably horrible. What can I do really really quick? Well we happen to have nine metric tons of that translucent velum we are using for the print interleaves as shown in a previous post. Let's use that. Now all I need is a little bit of design inspiration to produce some sort of feeling that I am aiming for.

When faced with things like this one of the best ways is to annex some design elements from things you see and use everyday that convey the same feeling as you are looking for. What I was looking for is something that felt official, something that had authority, something that conveyed value, something that had cool details that also happened to provide function, something that had intrinsic design purpose of being hard to duplicate - or counterfeit. That sounds a lot like money, paper money that we all use every day.

I stole a few of those characteristics from various countries' currencies that I have handled frequently based on my memory and lingering impression alone. Then I adapted those elements for the matter at hand and slapped together the 2nd or 3rd draft of my take on some of those design elements.

Here are a couple of those elements - not the best photography of paper but hopefully you will get the gist of it…

The embedded strip with the denomination of the note. My take using this paper was a strip of black with the associated "One of Ten" text. The twist was that this is printed in reverse on the back side of the paper so when facing the page you are actually reading the text through the transluscent paper.

The word "TEN" printed at a low opacity that is actually made up of little tiny repeating "original" text offset at angle. This is actually hard to see in these photographs because it verges on needing a magnifying glass in real life. That low opacity "TEN" provides the background for the next couple of elements. The signature but instead of a reproduction signature - this is a real one done by the photographer - and to finish it off one of those security hologram stickers that is tamper proof (not shown).

The treatment of the associated image is also very subtle. A slightly larger very low opacity version with an oval fade serving as a container for the smaller full opacity version. The image title, location, and small paragraph of material specifications, etc. are all done in various shades of a very serious gray and a corresponding very serious serif typeface.

I'm not saying that my take on it is the best - or even as good as it could be. I just wanted to share some of the way my gears grind hoping that it might help you think in a different direction on some of your design and production endeavors. At least I know these won't look like any other photographers's COAs.


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