© 2018 MELANIE EGAN. All Rights Reserved.

Montclair State University

SIGNS & SYMBOLS

The assignment for this project was to create a set of five signs for Montclair State University to use in five areas around campus: the library, bus stop, the Global Education Center, the Center for Writing Excellence, and the Center for Advising.

 

The Breakdown:

My first iteration of different directions I could take this project in were based on various structural and architectural attributes found around the Montclair State University campus. I leaned away from using the arches as the focal point because that was a route that had been explored already. I wanted the overall design to be something unexpected.

 

My first thought was to look at the University Hall building structure, and mock up a basic interpretation of it, as well as adding stairs (another element I found consistently around campus) flanking sides of the design. I felt the stairs framed the building component. I chose a variety of symbols to represent each institution of Montclair State that we were assigned. I liked the idea of using objects as symbols (rather than people) because objects were all inclusive, not just of all races and genders, but also inclusive to visitors and professors as well as students.

 

The second approach was to go for a bit of a different angle, and put the Montclair State directory (kiosk) in perspective (in which I bolded its basic framework to create a letter “M” for Montclair). This mock up is down as the middle option out of the three shown in the image below. I ran into an issue with this one, namely, figuring out where to position the symbol to keep it from appearing awkwardly thrown into the sign, almost like an afterthought. The only solution I could come up with was to put each symbol in the middle, with that center structural line running directly through it. Each symbol was thus, designed to be symmetrical. But I just didn’t care for the way that the symbols looked from being cut in half in this way.

 

The final approach was to use another of my favorite components of Montclair, the lamps outside of College Hall, to frame the symbols, which were created to appear like the contents of the light bulb. It was tricky to design the symbols because I made each symbol appear as one continuous line. (However, elements like the stickers on the suitcase and lines on the loose-leaf piece of paper were added later for clarity.) This design was appealing, but it seemed to lack a “punch” and a respectability that Montclair State’s logo needed. In addition, the symbols weren’t really inspiring and were crammed into the space of the lamp, leaving the overall design with no room to breathe and uncomfortable negative space. Therefore, I decided to move further with my first concept.

This was what came out of the next stage in the process. Initially, I had drawn the basic design of the signs, but I now had to solve the issue of balancing black and white within it. The first iteration had been essentially a line drawing, but I knew that in order to be a successful sign my designs had to look more like deliberate symbols.  

 

In order to do so, I darkened the stairs for all the designs in black, but kept the center region white. I added black to each symbol to in a way of alternating black and white so to be sure that each symbol was easily understood and boldly contrasted enough to catch someone’s attention.

 

I later realized the design of the building in general just didn’t say “Montclair” to me (it didn't look much like any true building we had on campus), and the symbols within the building lacked consistency. Other than the building around each symbol, there was nothing unifying them. They were shown in various perspectives and directions that were all over the map, as well as occupying different regions in space. The bus was the only symbol planted on the ground, and the plane was the only symbol breaking the plane of the building. I went into my next iteration knowing that I had to figure out a way to make read specifically like “Montclair,” while also improving upon my design to include more elegance and finesse which I think is more along the lines of my personal design style.

With the final iterations (at top), I switched my structural inspiration to a more recognizable and elegant structure, with was our bell tower. I drew its image from life this time. 

 

I originally made the entire bell tower black, but I felt I had packed too many components into one black mass. It needed more space, to not be so crammed, so I spaced out specific elements of the bell tower with a thin white line of separation (negative space) between each component, and the design took on a completely new form. Keeping with that theme of space, I moved the stairs slightly away from the main building. I got rid of the structural spires completely from the building, since in my original research I had noticed how they were almost too thin to see in real life. I did, however, keep the circle components which shoulder the building, to help break up the very straight-edge quality of the design.

 

The symbols had needed help, too. I made them more unified firstly by having all seen from the side view, as opposed to the first couple iterations, which had included a very cartoon-like front view of a bus. I also wanted more than just the plane to break free of the space of the building, which would add more dimension and interest to the design. I figured the check marks on the clipboard of the first Advising Office iterations were too small to see clearly, so I altered it to be one big check mark, emerging from its page and out into space. Similarly, for Center of Writing Excellence, I simplified the original design of the computer and pages, which felt too cluttered and in an awkward perspective compared to the other symbols. Instead, I made it into a simple pencil-to-paper.  I then flipped the direction of the plane around so it would match the direction of the extended pencil and checkmark I had created.

 

I was satisfied with the transformation my designs had made, from the first to the final iteration, in balancing black and white, direction and perspective consistency, and especially their refinement.