Graphic Design- The UPC Problem

The UPC Problem (from “Visual Literacy” by Wilde and Wilde)

The Symbol:

Here is a link to a SMALL UPC SYMBOL and the LARGE UPC SYMBOL. Right click to save them to your folder and use them in your final product.

The Project: The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is one of the most widely used marks in the world, appearing on packaged food, magazines, books, CDs, and other mass-market products. Indeed, the UPC symbol has become a symbol of consumerism in the world. But because this image is seen so frequently, it is almost always taken for granted and consequently not really seen at all- it has become part of the invisible fabric of our daily lives.

With this in mind, the student will be using the UPC symbol as a building block to create a personal, political or social statement. The student will create four preliminary canvases using paper and pencil/pen/marker to experiment with the possibilities of the mark. Once those preliminary canvases are complete, the student will choose one of those canvases and execute it as accurately as possible on a larger canvas. There are no limitations on the work, except the boundaries of school appropriateness.

Analysis: The ever-present UPC symbol serves as a point of departure for a design activity that calls for experimentation with a familiar image. As with the Road Sign Problem seen on the Fall Semester exam and the Black Square Problem completed at the beginning of the year, the inherent familiarity of the subject gives a certain tangibility to the problem, but the success of the solution ultimately lies in the articulation of the graphic execution of the problem.

WORDS OF ADVICE: This problem calls for a light, playful solution. Remember that the key to this problem is one of COMMENTARY. The solution should make a statement about the way the student views the world.

An inherent aspect of the UPC symbol is that a "double entendre" comes into play, where the symbol retains its OLD meaning as a sign of consumerism, but will also take on new meanings, depending on the ideas of the student.

CANVAS SIZES: Students will be given a page with four open squares, in which to execute their preliminary sketchwork on this project. Please try to create four completely different works that reflect your view of the world from a social, political or personal standpoint. Students will then execute the final canvas in Photoshop (or Illustrator) at 1000 x 1000 pixels. The student may alter the shape of the canvas to be taller or wider, as needed (see samples below), but please keep the general size in the 1000 pixel range.

SYMBOL MANIPULATION: Students can manipulate the UPC symbol in any way that the wish.


Submission: Put your name on your preliminary canvas page and turn that in, it will be worth 50 points towards this assignment. As always, convert your completed final canvas to a JPEG and copy it to the class DROPBOX in your folder!

Grading: This assignment will be worth 150 points, 50 points for the creative and thoughtful preliminary canvases and 100 points for the well-executed and thought provoking final canvas. Sloppy, uncreative and rushed work will receive half credit. Uncompleted projects will receive 0 points.