Visual Hierarchy: Women of Broadway

Project Background

We are to explore visual hierarchy by creating a poster for a local Pittsburgh event. My event is Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway Concert Series presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Constraints

8.5 x 11-inch paper, vertical orientation, content in text form, flush left, rag right. Neue Haas Grotesk Display Pro (Light 45, Roman 55, Medium 65, Bold 75).

Part I: Stroke Weight

A screenshot of my iterations on Adobe Illustrator. Some pages have a dot in the corner to mark the compositions I think were successful.
Most effective use of stroke weight.

Part II: Line Spacing

For this exercise, I struggled with how to categorize and separate my blocks of text. For example, in the 4th composition, I grouped text by Title, Streaming service, Featured Performers, and then the Website. In the 2nd composition, I categorized the Featured Performers even further, creating three separate blocks of information for each artist. In the 5th composition, I wanted to highlight the “Women of Broadway” title by letting the line stand alone.

Most effective use of line spacing.

Part III: Two Flush-Left Margins

For this exercise, we were to keep one stroke weight but change lines of type horizontally to the left/right to create two flush-left margins. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to separate the information without the composition becoming too confusing and cluttered. Consistent across most of my iterations is the shift for the date and time for each performer.

Most effective use of two flush-left margins.

Part IV: Three Flush-Left Margins

With three margins, I was starting to think the compositions were getting a little too complex and confusing. I played around with indenting the dates and times to demonstrate that they were “subcategories” under each performer, as well as indenting the event title under the “presents…” and the streaming studio under the “streamed live from…”

Most effective use of three flush-left margins.

Printing them Out

After completing the exercises, I wanted to see how the text looked in print. I selected a few compositions and annotated some notes down.

Researching Women of Broadway

Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway is a virtual concert event with “beloved Broadway tunes, lesser known gems, heartwarming tales, and live Q&A with the stars” (https://papermill.org). It features two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, and Emmy-nominee Vanessa Williams.

“These concerts will feel like intimate, cabaret-style experiences, from the comfort of home.”

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

PCA is a non-profit organization working towards expanding the arts in Pittsburgh. Their work focuses on the cultural and economic development of the Cultural District—a once “downtrodden red light district that now thrives as a vibrant center for culture, art, food, and community” (https://trustarts.org/).

“…the Trust strives every day to enrich the city of Pittsburgh’s vibrancy, diversity, and prosperity.”

Three Adjectives

To describe this event, I chose these three adjectives:

Intimate

Dramatic

Bold

Women of Broadway Event Branding

I also looked at the event’s branding and marketing materials, such as their advertisements and digital posters. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find too much information, and the design style was quite bland, although very bold.

Screenshot of the event on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust website.

Putting it Together

11. 9 . 20

  • The fewer bold moments, the more impactful → what’s too much and what’s too little? If you bold too much, what are we supposed to look at?
  • Minimal vs. lengthy tabs → play around with different sized tabs! Don’t use the standard, try playing around with a small and large tab.
  • Fewer but larger groups of text may be more impactful
  • Experiment with text out of the top left margin!
Linespacing & Stroke (left) Margins & Stroke (center) Margins & Linespacing (right)

Part V: Color

Our next step was to play with color and explore how it complements our hierarchical decisions. I began by ripping out some of my favorite color swatches from magazines.

Part VI: Scale

The Color/Scale compositions I selected for class on Thursday:

Feedback from Class:

Left Scale Exercise:

  • Interesting and effective to quiet “Concert Series”
  • More playful to jog title rather than stacking text on top of each other, like right exercise.
  • Can the text on the bottom be even smaller? Do you need to use the whole horizontal for the title “Women of Broadway?” Maybe it only jogs 3/4 through the page. Do the three columns on the bottom align with something (like the title letters)?

Part VII: Image

Now we were allowed to add images into our posters! I was pretty stuck on what imagery I wanted to use—I wanted to convey the intimacy of the event, but broadway shows are… well… usually pretty public. I started off with stock image searches of “broadway,” “theater,” “curtain,” “show,” etc, but that resulted in images of the city, the concert hall, or the grand theater stage. I also searched for “microphone,” but that resulted in very static, centered, and “expected” imagery.

Some images I found from my initial searches.
Images of Patti LuPone on stage.
Images of Laura Benanti on stage.
Images of Vanessa Williams on stage.

Imagery Poster Explorations

I realized that all of my images have a black background to mimic the dark theater environment, as if you were viewing a performance on paper. I chose bold and vibrant colors for my text to pop on the page, and played around with scale and color of the title. I liked the compositions with LuPone in red singing on stage, especially when she’s placed to the left side of the page, although I had some issues with image resolution (all photos I found of Patti in this show were too pixelated). I also liked the St. Regis photo—a scene from War Paint starring LuPone. I loved the colors—especially the pink—the drama and mystery of the three women, and the symmetric *but slightly* asymmetric composition.

Feedback from Vicki:

  1. Experiment more with type layout and hierarchy → make what’s big small, and what’s small big → flip things around, just for exploration
  2. Is there a way to include all three women in one composition? Photoshop them all into one image? Or, a series of three posters featuring one artist per poster.
  3. Yellow text of names on bottom reminds of stage lights.
  4. St. Regis Photo → nice asymmetry in the photo but the text is very symmetrical. Like the richer, more magenta pink color (has more personality than the softer pink)
  5. Screenprint Style → none really working quite right just yet ;(
  6. Smallest type too big, tracking too tight.

Critique 1:

After my meeting with Vicki, I explored and created more compositions. I came into class with these five posters:

Feedback from Class:

  1. Eliminating the “St. Regis” from the rightmost poster was a good move → creates more depth and gets rid of that distraction.
  2. Experiment with white text; if you had to highlight only one element with the bright white, what would it be?
  3. Movement of the performers in the three-image poster is interesting, but the composition isn’t quite there yet.
  4. Second poster → movement of the crooked text works well with the style
  5. Strongest posters are the second and fifth.

More Iterations…

Now with a focus image to iterate on, I explored more color usage in the title and bottom type. I had been using a magenta pink color in the titles for almost all of my iterations, but I wanted to try and bring back some of the previous yellow from my past explorations. I also added a little movement to “Women” to make the composition more playful.

Feedback from Jaclyn:

  1. Brighten walls → from a distance can’t tell what they are.
  2. Too tight “of Broadway” → separate the words a little more.
  3. EVERYTHING IS TOO CENTERED!!!!! Try bleeding words to one side, pulling stuff down so you get a big negative space on top.

NO MORE SYMMETRY

With Jaclyn’s suggestions, I played around more with the cropping of the image and breaking the margins of the page. I also photoshopped out one of the back walls to help create asymmetry. I explored compositions by stacking the names, tilting the names, cropping the title, and putting the title and image on the bottom. In the right image, I had an idea of adding a dark gradient to the text as if it were glowing on a dark stage, but I couldn’t figure out the colors and it printed out stripe-y and muddy.

Feedback from Vicki:

  1. Try a gradient with orange or red tones for the colored shadow (if you go that route).
  2. Try the names in the middle and the dates on top; try the dates in all capitals?
  3. Definitely more energy having the text bleed off on the side!
  4. Yellow color is better than pink.
  5. Crop first chandelier and maybe even the left wall panel.
  6. How can “Live from the West Side” have more impact?
  7. How can the website have more impact → maybe add the third pink into the website.

The Final Stretch!

Printing out my poster to check color!

Feedback:

  1. The text feels like it’s glowing as if it were in a theater! :D Good job improving on the symmetrical composition.
  2. Top left type still feels too scattered “Live from the West Side” to “Women of Broadway” has too much of a gap.
  3. Maybe leave just the website in the top left corner?
  4. Really nice color on the text that is cohesive with the image.

Final Refinements

I made some minor adjustments—nesting the “Live from the West Side” and moving “PCT presents” up and increasing the stroke weight.

Reflection

This project was pretty difficult, but I had a lot of fun exploring and iterating and seeing my final poster develop over these two weeks. I learned a lot about how small nuances such as the shade of colors, the cropping of the image, a slight crook in the text, or a push of the margins can completely change the composition and energy of my poster. I’m pretty satisfied with my final poster, and I definitely think it improved from the previous static, center-aligned iterations. Throughout this project, I learned a lot about how to “activate” areas throughout a poster with color, imagery, and text, and how I can guide viewers eyes to places of emphasis with contrast in scale, proximity, and color.

Our class’s final posters pinned up on the wall.
It’s pretty cool to see how the black colored background from the color exercise translated into the final poster.

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