Western Design

Viewing western movie stills along with western movie posters underscored how design has grown and changed over the years. Older movie posters were bright, colorful and “popped”. They attempted to grab the audiences attention. The same can be said with movie stills of their titles. While some films were in black in white, it still did not prevent them from utilizing wild fonts that filled the whole scene.

Duel_in_the_Sun winchester-73-title-still-small







More modern films took on more simplistic colors or images within their movie posters. Their color scheme never seemed to go beyond black, white and a few other basic colors and their posters were not as “flashy”.

Django_Unchained_Poster django-unchained-title-card







This possibly could be the development in design where in more modern times there was a wish to convey mystery and tragedy with the dark and serious tones whereas in the past the main goal was to capture the attention of the viewer. Throughout all the movie posters found in the previous wikipedia link, not one poster lacked an image of a western character on it.

Response – The Vignelli Canon

Semantic, Syntactic and Pragmatic

Let’s examine them one at the time. Semantics, for me, is the search of the meaning of whatever we have to design.

Maybe it’s because I’m not exactly the most artistic and creative person, but I found his discussion regarding design semantics to be entirely too pompous. What happened about creating design that is merely for viewing pleasure? What about something that is enjoyable for individuals to look at and appreciate the structure/process of the image? While I certainly agree that there are powerful designs and creations that convey emotions and meanings, quotes like – “Semantics, in design, means to understand the subject in all its aspects; to relate the subject to the sender and the receiver in such a way that it makes sense to both. It means to design something that has a meaning, that is not arbitrary, that has a reason for being, something in which every detail carries the meaning or has a precise purpose aimed at a precise target.” – seems to mitigate any other creative process that has been performed. Is it possible to call these artistic creations and processes for an individuals viewing pleasure as meaningful? According to the author, no. “How often we see design that has no meaning: stripes and swash of color splashed across pages for no reason whatsoever. Well, they are either meaningless or incredibly vulgar or criminal when done on purpose.”

Mies, my great mentor said: “God is in the details.” That is the essence of syntax: the discipline that controls the proper use of grammar in the construction of phrases and the articulation of a language, Design.”

I do agree that detail and proper layout are essential for creating an beautiful/well thought out image. Simply regarding my design projects this week I worked hard to create balance within the image so that any mistakes did not overly distract from the original image.

Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort. We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless.”

 I like to view a design as being pragmatic when the image is clear/understandable. Maybe it is the authors tone of writing, but I don’t view it as necessary to have to convey meaning. If there originally is meaning in an image and it fails to be conveyed, then of course there has been a disconnect between the artist and the audience, but the persistent demands that art must possess meaning and is otherwise useless if it doesn’t is not something I can agree with.

Discipline, appropriateness, ambiguity, design is one, visual power, intellectual elegance, timelessness, responsibility and equity. The author argues that all are essential to creating proper and well meaning design. I guess I grew tired of this article. I found it exhausting to read. While I understand that “Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best”, it seemed contrary to me to be required to fulfill all of these requirements in order to create a successful design; it seemed to take the creativity out of it. Maybe it’s because I didn’t like his overly critical writing style (he came out really strong in the beginning), but what I got from this was that creating design responsibly can suck the fun out of the creative process.

Design Blitz

Unfortunately my camera has not been functioning. A solution? Use past photos from my trip to Chicago. I actually enjoyed this aspect because it allowed me to go through my saved pictures and really analyze them for different aspects of design.

I will also take this time to vent about my frustrations with flickr. I just can’t seem to understand it! I really struggled to embed my photos within this blog post. Even when clicking on “share” and copying the link provided my post did not recognize that I wished to embed images. My solution was to upload each image and manually insert/edit a link. It was time consuming and I know there is a much easier/better way to do it, I just couldn’t seem to figure it out. End rant.

  1. Symbolism: In my mind, with the fence, it feels as if the viewer is caged off from the beauty of the image.


2. Dominance: Dominance can be shown by point of view. If you are required to look up at something, that object is a prevalent structure that cannot go unnoticed.


3. Balance: I felt this image conveyed balance due to the shared space between the sky and the lake. In between those two elements, the boats bob and balance on the water.


4. Minimalism: The sky fills this image whereas the sailboat mast and the sun, while not completely in the shot, still convey what the scenery contains.


Audio Storytelling

Audio can make or break a story. It can shape appropriate moods for the underlying story or create awkward and uncomfortable pairings. One of my favorite movies is Interstellar, this is in large part due to the soundtrack (and the visuals are pretty fantastic).

While many critics have joked that the soundtrack is just Hans Zimmer falling asleep on his organ, his musical compositions complete the fantastic job of conveying the moods of the on screen characters to the viewers. If the movie stars are freaking out, so are you. One of the many stressful scenes involve the characters attempting to escape a high gravity planet. At first they think they are viewing mountains, but soon come to realize that these perceived mountains are giant waves. The music swells with their realizations and the viewer is left gripping their seat in excitement. Another beautifully composed song is S.T.A.Y. Snippets of this song are frequently used throughout the film. These scenes most often contain the main character and his daughter. The song not only signals that their relationship is important, but is moving in such a way to convey their stress and sadness. Have I said I love this movie already?

The absence of sound is equally as important. The horror movie Dead Silence utilizes the lack of music to indicate when the horrific element is nearby. It serves the movie well because, unlike other horror films, the soundtrack doesn’t necessarily give away when the scare will happen. You just have to wait in silence.

In response to Moon Graffiti, I found some of the sound effects distracting. Specifically the sounds of camera clicks, creating ripples in the sand and placing the flag into the moons crust. This might due to the fact that since the moon has no atmosphere, sound cannot travel. I guess it’s nit-picky, but I think it represented an instance where sound is actually distracting and unnecessary. Otherwise I found the story and acting captivating.

I really enjoyed the ds106 radio show. I made a comment regarding how I appreciated the narration in the second show due to the fact that it allowed for easier understanding about what was going on in the story. I struggled to follow along with the first one and distinguish between characters. I believe the first story displayed an instance where too much sound occurring (specifically on it’s own) can create confusion for the viewer.

The above examples regarding sound in storytelling show the major effect it can have upon them. To once again reiterate my first point, audio can make or break a story.

Radio Show Ideas

Have you ever heard of the podcast “Stuff You Missed in History Class?” The two presenters pick out fun/interesting historical topics that aren’t well known. I was thinking why not do that with our western theme! An older western story, character (real or legend) or scene could be broken down and explained. Any one like that idea? (Or at least enjoy the posted podcast from above?) Let me know your thoughts!

Cinematography – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I enjoy a film with good cinematography and was excited about this assignment. Although when I began watching “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” I realized that the cinematography that I had grown to love was quite different from black and white pictures with older technology and techniques.


Characters wore contrasting clothing from one another to create differences between them. While this is done in modern times, it is essential with older film for the purpose of distinguishing groups of individuals.


The camera did not pan out as much on scenery (compared to the frequent shots/panoramas done in modern film) and always contained action or purpose. There was never just a shot of a mountain on it’s own for imagery’s sake.


And the bad guys possessed the stereotypical “dark image”; they were placed in the shadows, filmed at night, and wore darker clothing. Once again, while this is also done in modern film, it seemed essential in establishing character roles.

While it was different from what I was expecting, I appreciated this assignment because it once again exposed me to a new (at least to me) version of an already much beloved art form.

Visuals of Storytelling

I’m not one to whip out my camera to capture a moment. On the rare occasion that I do do that, it’s because it is something I wish to share with a friend or family member. Due to this realization, I’m finding it difficult to answer the questions asked for this particular blog post assignment.

I don’t own a camera of my own, so the only way to capture an image would be through my phone. I often try to stay off of my phone when around company because I don’t want to be rude. This usually means that I don’t take out my phone when maybe a photo worthy moment is present. What is a photo worthy moment? I’m not sure, maybe it’s when a group of friends are together and they wish to remember it through a photo.

I guess I don’t view myself as an individual with the ability to capture a moment well, so instead, I leave that to other, more capable people. I try to be a part of the moment instead and hope that other individuals photo abilities can preserve that period of time.

I guess that was just a rambling post, and it didn’t necessarily answer what was asked. I feel like I came to a realization about my own visual capturing abilities and what it means to me.


  1. Take a photo of something that you are envious of (physical or metaphorical).
  2. Take a photo of two related objects of drastically different sizes.
  3. Take a picture of fire or something that represents fire.
  4. Make a photograph that illustrates the weather where you are.
  5. Find a pool, puddle, or other body of still water. A photo of a reflected subject.
  6. Make an abstract or literal photo that expresses how you feel.
  7. Features a repeating pattern.










Response – The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky

Even “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” didn’t offer me a gun battle! I highly expected one, especially with imagery often seen in Western movies:

The barkeeper went to the door and locked and barred it. Reaching out of the window, he pulled in heavy wooden shutters and barred them. Immediately a solemn, chapel-like gloom was upon the place. The drummer was looking from one to another. “But, say,” he cried, “what is this, anyhow? You don’t mean there is going to be a gun-fight?”

The story follows a newlywed couple traveling back to Yellow Sky. At the town, a man known as Scratchy has become belligerent. He is known for his violent attitude when he is drunk. When the new couple arrives and is confronted by Scratchy, Potter disarms him by informing him of his new wife. The two individuals part ways without any bloodshed or violence.

So far the stereotype of Western’s as purely gun slinging dramas has not been met. However, the idea that white men are superior is heavily mentioned, along with the idea that women are valued for their skills at home.

Response – Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

I enjoyed watching Kurt Vonnegut’s video regarding the shape and course of stories, specifically his use of humor regarding the topic. After reading and responding to the short story, “Ice Man“, I struggled to fit a shape Vonnegut described to the story.

The main character starts out well, but upon meeting the I.C.E agent (the Ice Man) his story line begins to decline. At this point the protagonists story line never recovers, as in the end, his rodeo earnings are taken from him and he is arrested.

I drew a picture (taking from example Vonnegut’s drawing) of the story line for Ice Man:


It’s a bleak story.

The other story “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” also didn’t follow the story line that I expected. It failed to meet my preconceived idea of a Western theme involving dramatic gun battles and good vs. evil.

Here is a picture of how I viewed this story line:


It starts out slightly better than normal, then gets worse with the introduction of Scratchy. The story is then returned to slightly better after Potter disarms Scratchy.