The people of letters

Today, we went to Men of Letters – the yearly instalment of Women of Letters, that is the one male-only edition of each year.

A singer, travelling the world in his youth, writes a letter to an idol, repeating the mantra of Dear <idol> at the start of each paragraph – creating a series of short letters – revealing inspiration, growth, discovery, travel, and his blooming sexuality.

But I won’t say who he is.

A well known actor pens a letter to his future daughter. Building a story of the life he wants to give her, he weeps, opining the harsh treatment of so many wonderful women in his life – and how his daugher, and her generation and beyond, will break those barriers. Real tears, brave words.

An honest man telling a heartfelt story of future hope.

A national icon and champion of the less fortunate in society, tells the story of his own realisation of the difficulty of addiction and mental health issues experienced in his own family. That no matter what good work you do, you can never know what it’s really like until it strikes at home.

His story stays with us….

An indigenous man, singer, and poet, writes a letter to his mother, speaking of his birth, his generation, and showing three key photos from his childhood. His raw emotion on remembering the separation of he and two of his siblings from his family, under a government policy to ‘protect children’, strikes the audience hard. His song, written in jail, of a friend who wanted to write his wife a letter. seals the pact.

You’d need to have come along to hear that private story, too.

Because Women of Letters, Men of Letters, and People of Letters, all ask the audience not to record, photograph or say too much of these stories outside of this hall of hope and memory. These are personal stories, wishes, and dreams, of memory, better times, times to come… shared just with a few.

There were more of course – 10 letters altogether, each bringing laughter, hope and tears.

What a powerful medium.

Thanks to Marieke Hardy for creating this incredible forum.

You really should go sometime…

Week 1: Concept summary

The first round of research and planning

I’ve chosen to focus on the topic of sustainability, as I did during Contemporary Design issues, when I studied that last year.

My essay there compared three products against McDonough and Braungart’s 5 rules of eco effectiveness, and interestingly, two of the three were very particular uses of cardboard as an eco effective solution to a design problem.

The first was Recompute – a computer design that combined eco-effective replacement of metal with cardboard, and design for disassembly, in that once the computer is ready to be recycled, it can be broken down easily into component parts, and the case itself returned to the biocycle.

The second is Shigeru Ban’s use of the paper partition wall system to erect simple emergency housing in the Phillipines after an earthquake.

The overall concept of this publication is on the use of a product that is considered generally to be a throw-away short-term use material, as a possible long-term use product.

This also promotes the idea of exploring unexpected use for materials considered otherwise inappropriate. Who would expect to build a small house, let alone a cathedral, out of cardboard?

The target market for this is product designers and/or architects seeking insight into unusual materials as stimulus for future projects. Case studies, in effect.

I’m currently widening research into other cardboard products, for two reasons – one is that there is possibly another product that could be used to replace one of these, and the second is that a ‘side-bar’ could be included in the final publication, showing some other interesting uses, in brief.

My essay for CDI was tightly written and comprehensive, and can be pulled apart and used as the core of a 3000 word article, with additional writing that creates an introduction to the topic and why it might be of interest, etc. and expands on each subject as well.

The plan

Revising previous research, as well as reading more widely, has led to a completed text and clear plan of action:

1. Introduction

Methods of design and manufacture based on the Industrial Revolution are aimed at quick and profitable production, which usually ends up in landfill.

2. Wasteful waste

The cradle-to-grave philosphy of nearly all products means that landfill is composed of enormous amounts of usable material that is wasted. Surely there’s a better way?

3. The need for sustainable design

The serious environmental effects of resource depletion demand a more sustainable approach. How can we find it?

4. Cradle to cradle

In describing a system of material flows where waste is carefully cycled back into creation of new materials, “waste equals food” provides the outline of a solution.

5. The five steps of eco-effectiveness

A methodology for improving production processes that provides a way of moving toward a true cradle to cradle system.

6. Design for disassembly

In order to ensure clean materials re-enter the appropriate material flow, designing a product to be disassembled as well as assembled provides a clear path to material recovery.

 7. Implementing methodologies

An introduction to two case studies that use the simplest of organic materials – cardboard – as a clever way to manufacture cost effectively, and disassemble easily.

8. Recompute

A computer design that replaces an external case requiring enormous production energy, with one that is light and easy to disassemble and recycle using cradle to cradle principles.

9. Shigeru Ban – the paper partition system

A simple and light material is combined with adaptable local materials used to construct shelters in emergency/disaster situations, returning to the local environment afterward the need has ceased.

10. How effective are these solutions?

How do these solutions match with the steps of eco effectiveness? Does their method of design for disassembly work?

11. Reaching for change

What challenges lie ahead for designers looking to implement these strategies?

This summary reflects the content of the individual sections, and lays out a general narrative.

Wk 7: Type choice

Type choice for this project needs to balance the historical content with a modern context.

I researched, on pinterest, some “Western” style movies, as these are the closest in style to The story of the Kelly gang.

A selection of posters from the last 20 years or so include:

movie posters westerns

While these are modern in style, they still reference typefaces of the time, or at least evoke something similar.

Having read the transcript and also some of the original Jerilderie letter, which was dictacted by Ned Kelly to fellow gang member Joe Byrne, I was struck by the handwriting itself, so evocative of the period.

I searched the transcript for the word “Kelly” and found only one reference, mid-way through. I downloaded a high resolution scan from the State Library, and located that word, as well as a couple of other instances of the letter “K”, in order to establish style.

I felt that using this would be a strong link back to something written by the gang. This would give a stylistic and literal focal point for the title itself.

I then matched the handwriting style to a few typefaces:


I feel that Houston Pen is probably most likely, followed by Memoir.

To match these, I tried some condensed and/or bold sans faces:


I didn’t feel any of these were close enough to evoke the period. In research I had noticed the ‘wanted’ poster from the period when the Kelly gang was still at large:


This condensed typeface is quite similar to modern Helvetica variants, however I wanted a close match and isolated the word “Reward” and put it through a font identification website, which indicated a great match in Bellfort:


In particular, the “rough” variants seemed good.

Taking these samples, I applied some of the type weights as very early combinations with two of the script faces identified earlier:


While there is some work to do, I feel this is an appropriate match. The primary decision is which script face to use. The “K” on Memoir font (shown on the left of this preview), is not quite as easy to read, so perhaps some modifications may help. I feel that overall it is the better choice of the group.

Wk 7: A3 poster sketches

After making a couple of false starts with this, I decided to keep it simple, and black and white. I’ve already decided that the colour will be textured black for the entire background, with white overlaid text, and the eye-hole rectangle will be a slash of red – in both posters, which are variants on a theme.

Poster variant 1

In the above version, the title and billing block are balanced left and right, and the small scribbled circles are the bullet impressions in the mask (if I can get these to work, visually).

The ‘eye-hole’ slot of the mask is simply red, with blood dripping from the left hand corner. The positioning of this approximates the position of the eye-hole slot on the actual Ned Kelly mask, based on traces from a photograph.

The concept is simple and evocative.

Poster variant 2

The above version uses a similar base, re-sets position of the type and billing block to a traditional centred layout, and the eye-hole slot contains silhouetted figures facing off against each other, creating scale through contrast of the close-up eye-slot on the evocative sense of the poster as the helmet, while the figures are in miniature ‘in the distance’.

Wk 7: Moodboards

Here are my moodboards: I purposely did much of the research on other movie poster styles, rather than just standard visual research. On the whole, many of these examples give great reference as to visual impact, some with fantastic sense of scale.

Had difficulty finding goof reference for this, but it’s a start.

Mood boards-1

Mood boards-2


As shown in the moodboards above, I feel there is some good inspiration or reference in some of the wanted posters of the time. Many used slab serif ‘wanted’ style fonts, which are pretty average in style, but some used compact extra-bold sans-serif faces, which remain in style today.

Having read the Jerilderie letter, which was dictated to Ned by one of his gang members, I realised that one way to get a type style for the title, even if just for the word Kelly, was to reference the style of hand of Joe Byrne, who physically wrote the letter for Ned.

I searched the online transcripts, and only one occurence of the word “Kelly” appears in the text…..

From this page:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 9.39.43 pm.png

we can see this:

Crop on kelly

I believe I can recreate the style of this in such a way as to make it strong, bold and evocative of the era, in just one word, while linking back to the actual events by using this type.

That seems pretty amazing!

On to Illustrator….

Wk 7: Sketches

I went through a few rounds of sketches to reach these nine, which were re-drawn at the last.

I’ve discussed this through a little on the discussion boards, and it’s true that Kelly’s helmet is both iconic, and perhaps too easy a call when producing the poster.

However, I feel strongly that unless some amazing other angle occurs to me, it is still the best reference that is culturally known, even if it is used in the abstract. It is effectively the Kelly “brand”.

Inevitably, simplicity of style appears to be the key to getting these posters right. Clumping of information, clear hierarchy, especially between the title and other information, and effective use of shape and colour to direct the eye, are highly important in this process.

These are very rough. The finals will work on the typographic style, more clearly.




As I moved through these, the elements stripped away a little. I can see a vivid red ‘slash’ of sorts representing the eye slot in the mask, which to me is recognisable when combined with the natural shape of the poster.

This is how Sidney Nolan represented it, although he used a more squarish ratio….

So in the final three, I think there may be some good merit. I like the idea of a slash of red, dripping blood or blood spatter, and also that of the guns.

Most of all though, I like the scale of using that slash of red, etched into it a scene of conflict in miniature, shown only in silhouette.

I got a little lazy with the type at the end, but that will be sorted out in due course.

Wk 7: Concepts

Today I did some brainstorming, may revisit this after I finish reading Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter, as that may reveal more about Ned.

I feel that while there is possibly more than one description for this film, it is primarily a drama. Ned and his Gang suffered persecution and mistrust, as accorded to many Irish immigrants at the time. They were seen as second class, dirty and ‘no good’.

The film paints a kinder picture than most, and gives the impression that the film makers agree with many that Kelly was a man made into a criminal by desperation and poor situation.

first brainstorm

From this, I definitely take an emotional stance of anger through injustice and oppression, resulting in necessary violence. So it’s a drama about the injustice of the situation.

  1. What feeling should the poster convey?

A glimpse of the man behind the mask. Anger, injustice, and some fear. An intelligent man forced into a situation.

2. What emotional elements will the poster convey?

The crux of this film is the ending, the man brought down, in spite of his armour. And the man inside revealed as being just a man after all. But regardless the emotion here is anger. Red, raw, anger and self defence from judgement and persecution.

3. How will tone and drama be created?

Always a fan of simplicity, I think that simple outline, shape, colour, strong type in defined clumps with good hierarchy will help ensure the starkness required for this. Focus should be on a single strong graphic element, that may be supported by some outlines.

4. How to promote this film as if it were being released today?

Strong film posters today, leverage refined hierarchy that links firmly to the associated image, and leverages a key point of interest – indeed a brand. That brand may be a director, producer, actor(s), protagonist, film series, or some other point of differentiation to lock onto as a focal point of difference.

In this case, the Kelly name is well known, both in Australia and abroad, and the story is known as a powerful one.


This poster should leverage the Kelly name strongly in the film title. The visual imagery of the armour is so well known that it’s almost essential to include it, however the simplest possible form would be best. Just an outline, and maybe using the eye hole as a window, to either a portion of the face, or perhaps events in miniature…. Colours should be strongly contrasted, and include the red of anger. Clear visual space between elements will add a modern style, utilising asymmetry and hierarchy to ensure clear presentation of information.