DS106 on the couch

Tag: prisoner106 (page 1 of 2)

I did two posters yesterday for the Daily Create

It was such a struggle. We were supposed to be wax lyrical about rain and I could not find it in me to make anything positive about rain. jjgifs had made an image showing just how wonderful (not) UK summer can be. 

I looked at many options and nothing appealed. Back to basics. The series of typography posters I am working on. Find appropriate words that did not praise rain as that is how I was feeling and templates I have used in the past. Add lovely Noun Project icons and  John’s photos  – Bob’s your uncle. Done. 

Another poster with wisdom from @everyadage and for my typography collection. I did not play with font and kept it Village Plain so we can use it around the village. 

Source of image: A targeted Sociogram by Mary Northway of a first grade class, drawn by hand by Grant, one of her students, in 1952. I am writing a post about what I feel this expresses about open online learning and social networks elsewhere but here I want to talk about how I got this into a shape I could use.

I originally found this:


As you can see not much could be done with it. Yet, I knew I wanted the contrast of Twitter bot wisdom with a human social network not an impersonal set of nodes. I had the idea that this could be ‘then and now’ not just in terms of evolution of visualisation of networks, but also ‘then and now’ as in childhood playground network and the online networks of today. 

I searched and searched. I found a better image but not a great one and decided I would learn about how to restore and image in photoshop. There must be something the mighty photoshop could do beyond just image size, which was all I could think of doing. I searched some more. I found a tutorial about giving old pictures new life. I followed it. It was awesome. I even managed to highlight one little girl at the edge who had only two unidirectional arrows, I wanted her to be the focus for the ‘those who break’ part  of the adage. You cannot read them, but can see that each ‘node’ has a name as well as a face. How human and touching was that way of analysing interactions? 

The poster speaks to the shadow side of online connecting – not all belong and some break and leave. Often early on. 

I think this is worth many work units and should keep electricity on in my tree house ( I know the transporter uses up a lot of it getting back and forth to Bovine). I am so pleased with the result even though it is so subtle and in some sense changes nothing of the original image. To me, it is like it has come back to life!

I am really taken by bot wisdom of late. We did one daily create with @everyadage and I have been following it ever since. I love the nonsensical prompts that almost make sense. A couple of DS106 participants have been playing along with me @JanWeb3 and ds106ronald and we have been taking a few of the adages and making creative edits with the prompts. 

So here is: Is it not unimportant to have trumpets coming from a bitter tulip?

I tried so many possibilities for showing this visually! How do you show a bitter tulip? In the end I settled for shrivelled equals bitter. What background is appropriate? In the end I settled for showing wonderful music coming out of the trumpet being played by the bitter tulip. 

The idea here was: Is it not unimportant to have trumpets coming from a bitter tulip when they make such wonderful music? 

As it is a saying (we have many sayings in the village) and I used village plain font, I am having it count for a few credits in #prisoner106. 

How? All images CC0. I used Photoshop and mainly played with embossing and skew tools. Got texture somehow in the background and made a nice frame for it through render > picture frame. 

This was challenging in design and made me play with new tools in Photoshop – had never used skew before. Hard fun! Thank you Ron and Janet for playing!

“A reasonable alternative is to complete a piece that incorporates two different assignments for a sum total of 4 or more Credit Units.” 

So I did the ‘I can read movies assignment’ and ‘the one story 4 icons’ assignment in one cover. The electricity in my tree house is on for another week as I am clocking 6 Credit units and another 2 for the extra hard work to combine two assignments into one. Although to be fair, I took this on thinking it would be easier than doing two. The new number two is clever with words. A reasonable alternative, indeed. I think I should get an extra 2 Credit Units for doing the whole thing rather than just one episode, but that might be pushing it a bit. 

Behind the scenes

I wish I had used my notebook as I intended to keep up with all that I tried. A little like our resident artist  futzing was a key ingredient. 

I started with the idea that I wanted the cover to embody the sense of ambiguity  that is the hallmark of the series. I read an amazing blog post today that spoke about the series as it “constantly offering us a seeming chance for escape, then pulling the rug out from under us.”  Nothing is as it appears. 

The post explores a Prisoner computer game that never tells you that you can escape the game by pressing the ESC key! The tag line of my cover comes from the end of this game. You win and it tells you: To win is to lose. Sheer genius.

The 4 icons are from our friends at the Noun Project. How awesome are they? I bought them all ‘cause I love supporting their artists.

I have been using their icons in my Prisoner posters series as comas and full stops since this run of DS106 started. It occurred to me that may be the ones I had chosen over time would embody key themes. I was right. 

Birds singing seem happy and free, and yet the noise may attract attention when it is not wanted.

A prisoner in jail might seem a negative icon, yet prison is not always a bad thing. (I will not explain the photo below to avoid spoiler for participants still watching episodes).

The fish escapes the fish bowl and is free then it dies as it lands.

The sad ghost represents death and suffering and yet, if ‘to win is to lose’ may be to lose is to win?

The cover is for book 1 and it contains the story of 6. Hence 6 is 1.

I used Photoshop as usual. Started with one of the covers from the I can read movies series that was cleanest to get a clean black background with the clone tool. I started with a lot more text which disappeared as the 6/1 tension shaped my thinking. I discovered you can search google by ‘type’ of image as well as usage rights and this can find you components to use in a creative edit. The lapels from the jacket came to me that way. I pulled them out of original image roughly with quick selection tool and then added it in with screen blending option to blend in with the grainy black background. My little friend the colour dropper did its job to blend all the colours well. A little blur tool helped me along.

For the first time ever I grouped some layers so that I could line them up properly. The little icons and its background were a group. I used the Emboss Texture blending option to create a rough look to the background.

I feel I have got as close as I can to the essence of what makes this my favourite series of all time. It is to do with the ‘nothing is at it seems nature’ of it. The kind of story that destroys mechanisation by remembering that what makes us human are non-googlable questions such as why. Awesome.

This constant tension is even shown in the way the prisoner dresses. The lapels of the blazer showing that we have a prisoner dressed in a suit, highlighting perhaps that we cannot tell from external cues who is the prisoner and who is the guardian. 

Total time spent: several days to get the bits and this afternoon pulling it together. I wanted to challenge myself so I did my best to attend to small details  I might ignore in the usual run of things. Cool challenge, Number 2. 

Be seeing you. 

Well, working with the ancient code for The Village web club has led to this shrink going back to basics. I kind of need to do more than just copy and paste code I do not understand, so learning HTML from scratch. Still,  my little hideaway under the village is coming along. I even managed to learn how to do strikethrough in ancient code (not trivial as we are working with HTML 3 as I understand it)  HT to Christina for pointing me to the Code Academy. It was easy to get started and get going. I want to understand something about the overall structure of a web page, else I am never going to be able to make my village hideaway cosy and comfy. 

“I just love his idea of introducing this space as one folks who are creating on the web and pushing to teach themselves new things within a focused community might explore together. It’s fun, it’s personable, it’s focused, and it’s educational!”

Yes, Jim. You are on the money and John is finally getting me to do more than just copy and paste code I kind of understand but not really! Cheers, John!

We could create a text based adventure game underground?

See the awesome one at Gfycat as usual!

I decided to try an assignment Michael Branson Smith submitted to the bank a while back. I have been thinking about it for a while. Could not think about the tools I would need and had to read Michael’s own example a few times to understand it. In his post he refers to the subreddit Behind the GIFs which is hilarious! We chatted about it on Twitter the other day and I thought my Homer gif might be an easy place to start creating a comic strip like this. 

This is my result. 

Behind the scenes

The thinking to get to the panels I cannot fathom. Michael was going with the forks but I decided to go with Rover. I thought about actually drawing it IRL. I thought about some app or other. I thought about online generators. I went back to Photoshop thinking it would be easier. Was it hell!

Found Rover’s photos and that part of easy. Yet they all looked different. I remembered I bought a sketching plug in in Photoshop – thought this might unify the images. Bingo. I went with black and red because black and red on Prisoner site. Then I had to get everything in on place, sizing, behind, in front, linking frames so that I could move the gif around, blah, blah, blah. There must be an easier way. Michael suggests using MS paint app, may be I should go with that next time. When I loaded the gif in it had some grey pixels – had to fix that and it looks funny if you look closely. Don’t look closely. 

Back to Basics – Poster Design

Strictly speaking breaking a few rules this week. Don’t tell Number 2. 

Poster design would normally fall in design week. Yet, I feel a need to explore this a little more to help me with my series of posters ‘Signs of the Village’. 

I have a plan to create a kinetic typography movie by the end of the summer. I started with the idea of looking at type and signs in the work I am doing at both villages this summer: The Burgeron Family and Prisoner 106 Village

All is going well. I am learning. Yet there is so much to learn to make anything of quality. I am learning about the connection between typeface characteristics and meaning with the Lyrics Poster Assignment. This is fun and I have done e few of these. I think that in order to progress with this I need to revisit basic poster design principles. So I went to the google to get some guidance. 


I found a post that offered some heuristic from professional designers.  This was as good a place to start as any. I am trying to find ideas to help the design of my series improve. In what follows I am reflecting on this post and how it applies to the posters I have made so far. I also hope it may be of use to others looking for design advise. I am no designer and I understand it takes forever to grab hold of the principles, yet I also am with Ira Glass on the need for practice,

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this

My taste is why my work disappoints me. I keep telling myself this. I like my posters so far, but they are still disappointing. Let’s see if I can improve a little over this DS106 village summer. This was the first one I made with the idea of signs. I am watching the episodes with a view to creating signs I had not noticed on first watching. 


Let me now look at the design heuristic in this post and see how these apply to my task. 

1. Find a focus – an overarching idea for one poster or a series of posters 

Well, I did not know I was doing that. Using the square sign template for my signs and the background of jjgifs photos for another template are my attempt at a focus. Not yet clear purpose though. Originally it was going to be existing signs in all the episodes would be square and would use basic colours washed out as in the series. John’s photos were to be for favourite quotes from the series.Yet it turns out that I am finding statements all over the place that sound like a prisoner slogan. So my sources are confused. Should I make a choice? Have 2 templates? does anyone care? I also note my frame does not show on white, does this matter?


2. Make an impact

Designer on post I am exploring says ‘I like minimalist design and simple lines. I try to convey what I want with a few elements that make an impact and have a lasting message’ Yes, this is my aim too.  I made a choice to use the noun project icons to replace punctuation only. Then I broke the rule. 


Who could resist a Blek le Rat rat for the Prisoner bar sign? I think it meets the minimalist principle, the colour should perhaps be less alive and free. Can the little rat count as punctuation?

3. Be consistent with detail

This is about consistency of typeface choices and having a rationale for background choice. I hear consistency as create a red thread for the poster or the series of posters that the viewer can perceive.  Like my choice of the unclear and surreal backgrounds by John Johnston because I felt they captured something about the essence of the series. Or keeping the colours ‘like’ those on signs in the village. My lava lamp background might fit the song of the final episode but does not belong to this series of posters. 


4. Choose references carefully

First step here is to actually choose references. In our case this is easy as repetition of themes is such a big part of the staging of The prisoner. 

Yet, I had not consciously seen that just choosing to focus on the signs and how to manipulate typefaces to show meaning is an example of choosing a reference. I even learnt here the difference between font and typeface – same as mp3 and song, font is the delivery mechanism of a typeface. How about that? 

5. Have fun, but stay tight on the details 

This I take to mean that you need to find a design rationale that is clear in your poster or series. The example in the post is a poster that has interchangeable human heads to show an element of a film genre where the heroes are alike across films. What unites (or differentiates) but holds true in the domain you are trying to illustrate? And if you rationale is a little obscure it helps to use accurate details from the domain so that viewer can understand. 

For me this is still fuzzy. I was planning to stay accurate and only include in the series signs and quotes actually used in the film. But I have deviated from that in making up ‘prisoner like’ quotes. May be I should delete these from this series and make a different for the non-acurate quotes?

6. Balance the composition 

Think about POV of viewer and where their eyes will go. Use a grid. Beyond that find a way to show that this poster says ‘my composition’. Can you tell a story with your poster? I guess this is like the visual version of the sound effect story. Pick elements that tell it and that the listener can recognise.

7. Balance type and image and sometimes go crazy

This is the old adage ‘know the rules before you break the rules’ and I find this idea slippery when thinking about visual poster design as there seems to be so many different rules. It seems to be about balancing opposing elements. In the example from the post, we have a poster set in one typeface but the designer allows himself freedom with the styling of that typeface. 

Yet, the usual guide seems to be that you aim for the image to be noticed first and only then the typeface with the details of the event.  In my last poster I have started to play with that – how can the style express meaning when typeface stays constant? 


So I tried to use position, kerning (get me using kerning and knowing what it means), italic type, capitals, inner shadows, etc. to emphasise this quote by the main protagonist. I think it is so important as to explain the set up of all the episodes. But that is another story.

8. Mix up your typography 

What? But 7 just said….yes, I know. 

Sometimes contrasting fonts can work. Graphik and SF Movie poster fonts – one bold the other condensed are used as examples in the post for contrast. I tried the many font thing, I think you need to know more about the aesthetics of fonts if you don’t want it to look like a circus. ( see poster under 3 above).

9. Spend a day with it

Take time off and then come back you will see it differently. Yes. I teach this in creativity workshops. Cognitive psychology finds that ‘sleep on it’ has value. I also learnt here that often designers will do image or font but not both. So I am setting myself as big aim here wanting to learn both. May be I need to keep background constant and just dive into typeface?

10. Your theme equals the composition 

Drawing ideas for your composition from the theme of the event/domain you are illustrating. In the post the example used is a bold capital W with many threads to show the idea of many themes within one world or discipline. Then add a frame where the lettering ‘spills over’ to show crossover of ideas. 


I don’t think much of the end product, but I can understand the design rationale. 

Kicker TK

I promised Christina some ‘footage’ of her last stay at the hospital. Here she is relaxing in the therapy room with other prisoners residents. Her knees got a little tired and so we had to put some bright tape to support the knees and let them recover before she went back to her bungalow. She is much better now and her attitude towards the village as cheery as ever.


The inspiration and the assignment. Sleep. No more information.


The village psychiatrist was inspired by our resident dreamer’s calming morning announcement into creating her first full track of calming music. I have titled it ‘Something mental to aid sleep’.  Here at the hospital we are always concerned with the well being of our prisoners residents and this track should be safe to listen to just as you are settling into bed after soothing day of passeggiata in the village. Enjoy.

Behind the scenes

I have been meaning to learn how to use the new Garageband for a while. So after several tutorials and muttering that the old one was better, I managed to stay with it and learn. It looks like it will even teach you how to play an instrument now. But that is for another day. 

Today I just decided to make on track. I had forgotten how much I like to edit sound. Up here, down here, left a bit right a bit….much fun.

Credits to: Ms Talky Tina with material from the archives, to 

Riccardo Colombo for a lovely background to all my craziness from Jamendo. The rest is my own bits an bobs and GarageBand’s own amazing new sound effects and loops. I had like 10 tracks mixing and blending. Rest well after you listen, if you dare. And I note that Ms Tina did actually put a coma in. Who is N1? You are, number 6. Mystery solved as Ms Tina knows the truth. 

And you know what would help us great deal? If both village committees got together and we had to practice the same type of thing each week. This week design in fairy tales and then audio with the prisoners. This shrink is pooped. 


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