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Presentation on theme: "A FAMILY PEDIGREE A JOURNEY THROUGH THE DESIGN PROCESS by SUE GUNN."— Presentation transcript:


2 INITIAL INSPIRATION Tracing your family history is an increasingly popular pastime and calligraphers are often asked to write out family trees and pedigrees. I have been looking into my familys history for some years and, when I could get no further with one branch, I decided to write out the pedigree. One of the most fascinating people in my family was my Great Grandfather. He was killed in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War when his son, my Grandfather, was only two. This pedigree is the result of research into this branch of my family with the name of Castle.

3 WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE? A family tree is usually a formal piece of work, the essential function of which is to present information in a clear and legible manner. At the same time it should be pleasing to the eye and decorative. In formal work such as this, I find that beauty is intrinsic to the function of the piece rather than being imposed by usingdecorative techniques. That is to say, that if the function is the most important consideration, the rest will follow. Originality comes from necessity. A pedigree should present information about individual family members as well as how they relate to one another in the wider context of the family and its history. A selection of family history documents.

4 WHERE TO START? One of the most difficult decisions is what information to include and, perhaps more importantly, what to leave out. When working with a client, decisions made at this stage are vital. If major changes are made later on it can add a vast amount of time to the project and, therefore, increase the cost. Family trees can take several forms and it was at this point that I decided to place the generations horizontally, with the most recent generation at the bottom. I also wanted to include as many of the direct descendants as possible. The handwritten chart above shows direct ancestors only with each generation placed vertically.

5 INITIAL DESIGN THOUGHTS When I had decided who I was going to include and how I wanted to lay it out, I began, as I often do, with pencil sketches. Roughing out who might go where and seeing what the general shape of the tree might be in pencil is quick and effective. Everything is very loose at this point in order to keep my options open and to explore all possibilities.

6 HIERARCHY OF INFORMATION When beginning to design a piece of work, I find a technique I was taught as a student always works for me. The Hierarchy of Information helps to set out the different types of information to be included in a design. Each piece of information is then numbered, 1 being the most important and, in this case, 6 the least. This acts as a guide when choosing how to write out and arrange the various pieces of text. I can now see that the most dominant piece of writing should be the title as it will tell people what the work is about, the next most dominant should be peoples names and so on, right down to the least dominant which might be a key to the symbols used.

7 DESIGNING THE STYLE OF TEXT My intention is to keep the design formal and traditional with the main writing in black and the introduction of one other colour, possibly red or blue. My first instinct is to use Roman capitals with Foundational, as above. The standard layout for married couples is to put them side by side linked by an equals sign. Children are then linked by a line from the equal sign. In this example the styles work well and are very legible but the nib sizes used will make the panel extremely large.

8 MORE TRIALS I tried Italic which is more compressed and wont take up so much room laterally. The introduction of the red was an attempt to lessen the impact of the biographical information. In actuality, the red increases the impact and makes it more important than the peoples names. The italic writing is also much harder to read than the Foundational.

9 EVEN MORE TRIALS Smaller nibs were used along with cerulean blue lettering which is less dominant than the red. I have also returned to Foundational writing instead of the italic. The smaller Foundational works better but Im not convinced about using blue.

10 JUST ONE MORE TRIAL… The same size nibs are used here but I have gone back to red and Foundational again. All these trials were written very quickly without drawing lines or making measurements. At this stage it is enough to get an overall idea of how it will look when done properly.

11 FURTHER DOWN A BLIND ALLEY Back to the blue but this time cobalt blue mixed with a little black ink to try to improve the colour. But it didnt work and was very difficult to get to flow through the nib. It became clear that the use of any colour for the biographical information was too much. There is a lot of information and colour makes it too dominant. I decided to keep it all in black stick ink.

12 I decided to save space by not repeating the surname Castle for every person and to only include a surname where it differed from Castle. And also to place spouses beneath people where there are no children as this will save space laterally and means that I could go back to larger writing which is more legible. This was starting to work now. MORE DECISIONS

13 LAYOUT AND SPACING There were approximately 80 individuals to be included in this pedigree. It was a daunting prospect to try to work out how they would all fit onto one sheet of paper. I used Saunders Waterford HP 90lb paper in a sheet measuring 56 x 76cm as my maximum size. A good starting point for the design is to take the generation with most people in it and to work out how they will fit comfortably. All the smaller generations can then be fitted around that. I wrote out each persons details, cut them out and laid them onto a sheet of paper, spaced evenly apart. When I was reasonably happy, I pasted them down using a glue which allows for repositioning. The sheet was then stuck on the wall so I could view it from a distance and many adjustments were made over a period of time.

14 LAYOUT ADJUSTMENTS Until this point I had been centring all the individuals information under their name. However, I found that married couples worked better as a unit if they were centred as a pair, using a narrow gully between them. This made more sense as the line came from between them to their children. But, this meant that the person on the left had to have all their information lining up on the right hand side. So, where do you start writing to make sure you end up at the same point on each line? I resolved this by writing the lines upside-down. It gave me the right appearance and I could measure the lines to ensure I started in the right place on the final piece.

15 THE TITLE From the Hierarchy of Information, I knew that I wanted the main title to be the most dominant feature. When work is framed and hung on a wall, something has to catch the viewers eye to tell them what its all about. The title will be the hook to bring people closer to read the smaller information. In any design, if theres no hook, or focal point, people wont bother to look at it. Having experimented with various letterforms, I decided on fairly large roman capitals. It is easily read and fits well with the rest of the text. At this stage I also developed my ideas for colour. I settled on a terracotta mixed from Scarlet Lake and Ivory Black gouache.

16 GENERAL LAYOUT When all the individuals are laid out in their correct generations, it became apparent that the design didnt balance. There were areas with no people and this created holes. As can be seen on this rough, there is a large hole on the top right and another in the bottom right corner. There is also a smaller area on the right beneath the 4 th generation. For the piece to work, it must be balanced and that means filling the holes in such a way that they dont compete with or dominate the rest of the text, whilst also giving that sense of balance.

17 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The holes in the design offered a good opportunity to include some details about specific people and to give a flavour of the family history. I decided to do the writing in italic using a very small nib and with generously spaced lines. This gave a texture which didnt compete with the main information. The sub-title was terracotta and in small roman capitals. The rough above was quickly written to judge the effect when pasted up with the rest of the design.

18 OVERALL APPEARANCE This rough shows how all the elements work together and how effective the hierarchy is. The most dominant feature is the title, followed by the names of the people and then the additional information. I also decided to do the linking lines in the terracotta and its only when this goes in that the design really comes together.

19 THE FINAL PIECE When I start on the final piece of any design, I often rule up and work on two sheets. This takes the pressure off slightly because if I make a mistake on one, I know I can carry on with the other one. This design was extremely complex and needed many measurements taking and transferring to the final sheet. Because of this I decided to work differently. I began by ruling and writing the title first. When I had one I was happy with I ruled and wrote the top generation. I took another piece of paper and taped it beneath what I had already written, ruled up and wrote the next generation. I was then able to check if it looked right before writing it on the actual sheet. If it wasnt quite right, I could make alterations. In this way I was fine-tuning as I went, allowing each generation to respond to the previous one. Once the main people were done, I wrote the small pieces of extra information in the spaces left. Finally, the lines were ruled using a ruling pen. My workings out for some of the measurements




23 FOOTNOTE One of the most common questions I am asked is how long a piece of work took to do. In this case, I can give an answer as I kept a record from the beginning. The total hours worked over a period of some months was 72 hours. This does not include the many hours that the roughs were stuck on my workroom wall in order to judge what changes were needed. Nor does it include the innumerable times I fiddled with moving text a fraction here or a fraction there as I passed by.


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